It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
That’s the opening line of a song that inspires us to share God’s love. And two people who inspire and encourage us on our journey of sharing hope and love are our own minister, Rev. Joanne Lee, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s Malawi liaison, Rev. Joel Sherbino.
Sherbino, who is posted at Paris Presbyterian Church, has a heart for building God’s kingdom one person at a time. He understands that the work is about relationships and helping others step out in faith.
“God values partnerships. Why? It’s not just about what God wants to accomplish. It’s about the partnerships He wants to build,” he said.
Like teaching his own children to make pancakes for breakfast, Joel knows it’d be much quicker and much easier to just do it himself. But that’s not the goal. He wants to build his relationships with his kids and help them learn new skills and share new experiences.
“One of the greatest gifts God gives us is the opportunity to use our lives to make a difference,” he said.
And so it is in the New Testament as Jesus feeds the crowd of thousands.
“When you don’t have food, a common thing happens: you start to get hangry. Your hunger turns to anger. I love what (Jesus) does. He turns to Phillip and asks where we should find bread to feed all these people.”
Imagine you’re Phillip. The cost? Where to get enough food – and quickly enough? The obstacles seem insurmountable.
“If Jesus wanted to call down bread from heaven or turn stones into bread, He could have. But He didn’t.
“God begins to look around and asks ‘Who will join Me?'”
And so it was in Malawi, a very poor country of 18 million people, most of whom are subsistence farmers. Food and health care, soap and clothing are scarce.
With 22 prisons, Malawi has thousands of individuals incarcerated.
Initially, Joel acknowledged he saw only obstacles. Still, he tried to see what God wanted to happen.
He began, along with two other people, to do weekly Bible studies in the prisons he could access.
“The No. 1 prayer request? Please do not forget us.”‘
The program has expanded to include theological education and personal development programs.
A prisoner released last January has joined the ministry team.
“It’s amazing to see what God is dong despite the challenges and obstacles. Do you believe God can use you to make a difference?
“God wants to partner with us. It’s in the midst of obstacles where the greatest opportunities are.
“Regardless of how old or how ill-trained or how ill-equipped you feel, God is inviting you to partner wit Him — in your family, in your church, in your community.
“Will you respond to the nudge and step out in faith?”