It is my great privilege to share with you Living Bread Ministries, an organization which exists to plant churches among the desperately poor. Having begun their work in South America, Living Bread is seeking to reach out to the poor in other areas of the world, as well. This includes a specific focus on victims of human trafficking. People in poverty live with a very high risk of being abused and exploited, whether sexually or through forced labor. As other posts have mentioned in the past, the best way to attack abuse is at its source: sin. We believe to assist someone physically but leave them without spiritual hope ultimately reflects a limited view of what people need. The whole person must be cared for physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually; the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate solution to mankind’s spiritual need.
Patrick and Barbara Hubbard began Living Bread Ministries almost ten years ago. Barbara was kind enough to answer a few questions in order to give a greater understanding of what Living Bread does, how they do it and, most importantly, why they do what they do!
For more information, the Living Bread website and blog are linked above. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook to receive updates on what they’re doing as God leads them to reach the at-risk and poor of the world.
Q: The vision of Living Bread is to expand an interdependent church planting movement among the global poor. What did God use to give you and your husband a heart for the impoverished peoples of the world specifically? Also, can you explain what “interdependent church planting” looks like?
A: We’ve had a burden for the poor for quite some time, even before we came to know the Lord. In the early 90’s we were in Brazil and that was the first time Pat saw poverty with his own eyes, the images of the homeless, the favelas (slums), of the poor and suffering in general really broke him. It wasn’t until a few years after we came to know Christ as our Lord and Savior that we were given a vision to minister to them. After starting Living Bread Ministries and beginning to work in Brazil the Lord fine-tuned and broadened our vision to reach the global poor.
Interdependency, we believe, is what true partnership looks like. In a true partnership, both sides bring to the table what they have to offer: skills, manpower, funds, time, etc. The contributions are considered equal and no one lords over the other. Roughly speaking, the work the Lord is doing through LBM would not exist if it were not for the investment of our local leadership; their contribution may be in the form of knowledge, experience, skills and time, while we invest our knowledge, experience and funds. Two sides working interdependently to accomplish the same goal just like the body works: the foot is useless without the leg, the leg without the hips and so on.
Q: Part of the mission of Living Bread is to enable the global poor to reach out to their communities. Would you expound on that? What makes that a unique approach?
A: We believe that as believers we are to love the Lord with all our soul, heart, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. Therefore we equip our church plants to disciple their congregations to do just that, as they love the Lord, they love their neighbors. This may look a bit different in every church plant as communities’ needs vary. We assist the churches with their feeding ministries, aiding widows and children, caring for the sick and elderly. Because the people in these communities struggle to provide for themselves and their families, the church assists them to care for their neighbors by providing food kits that will keep a family from eating from the garbage one month, or by providing the special food and diapers needed to care for someone with a feeding tube and paralyzed. The community becomes the hands and feet of Christ. LBM cannot accomplish any of this without their hands and feet, their investment is much more difficult and costly. This is interdependency in action.
Our approach is unique in many ways: our partnership is interdependent (already covered), our church plants are holistic in nature, and we are setting up local agencies and taking a learner’s posture. I’ve already covered the interdependent partnership; so let me explain the other 3:
- Our church plants are holistic as they are not just focusing on evangelism or aid; we are teaching them to care for the whole person as James teaches in 2:14-17: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
- We are setting up local church planting organizations, led by nationals, empowered to make decisions and spread the word of God and about Living Bread in their own country, raising awareness and support. By setting up these organizations, as the ministry grows these organizations can grow to self sufficiency and there is no transition of power, passing the baton per se, because they have been involved since inception, there is ownership.
- Taking a learner’s posture means that we do not use our perceived position of power that comes from being Western. We come alongside them seeking to learn from their experience and cultural expertise. Together we decide the best way to apply the talents and funds available for ministry.
Q: What was it that drew your attention to Thailand?
A: We have dear friends who have moved to Thailand to do Business as Mission (BAM). Through them and their experiences there the Lord burdened our hearts for the Thai people and began opening doors for Living Bread Thailand. We are now in the final stages of the legal process to begin working there.
Q: What did God use to give Living Bread a passion for victims of trafficking, specifically?
A: I don’t know that there is one thing in particular that God has used. Since we have a heart for the poor and they are very often the most vulnerable to trafficking it makes sense that we would care about this issue. The fact that people who find themselves in a vicious cycle of poverty and desperation are targeted and exploited for financial gain is utterly revolting.
Q: Why does Living Bread believe that it is so important to fight a social injustice like modern day slavery through church planting? When the typical approach involves (often secular) charitable organizations, how does a missional approach strengthen the cause against trafficking?
A: Every human being was created in the image of God. They are loved and worth the ultimate sacrifice: Christ’s death on the cross. When you have a church planted among the poor and needy that is teaching them what it means to be created in the image of the Father, transformation begins to take place as people come to know Christ and begin to understand and gain a sense of value and worth. When you have a local expression of the body of Christ (a church) loving each other and carrying one another’s burdens, a level of protection arises to care for one another and the vulnerable among them.
A missional approach seeks to attack sex trafficking at the source. As the poor and needy come to salvation and are disciple to be a functioning member of the body of Christ, they find hope, strength and self worth. They learn to trust in the only One who can meet their needs and bring them joy. Families no longer need to send their children to find jobs in the city (where many are lured into the sex industry with false promises) as they learn to place their trust in God’s provision and learn to work together as a body to help one another.