William Kamkwamba was born in Dowa, Malawi, and grew up on his family farm. He was a bright child. But in 2001, the year that he moved up from his primary school to a secondary school, extreme famine ruined Malawi. His family couldn’t pay his annual school fees, that was only about 80 dollars. William was forced to drop out of school a few months into his freshman year. For the next five years he was unable to go back to school.
However, rather than accepting his fate, William started borrowing books from a small community library in his former primary school. One of the books was an 8th-grade textbook from the U.S.: Using Energy. The book had wind turbines on its cover. And that picture captured his eyes. Reading the book, he decided to build a windmill to power his home. So he built his first windmill out of junk using a radio motor, a broken bicycle, tractor fan blades and old shock absorber. After hooking the windmill to a car battery for storage, William was able to power four light bulbs.
It was just a beginning of his greater projects. His windmill was later extended to 40 feet to better catch the wind above the trees. He even studied how to use solar power and generated more electricity and served his village to pump clean water, to provide lighting for the six more homes. His windmill project inspired many people, drew visitors from other villages and countries, and made great changes in people’s life. These days, William works with various non-profit organizations and continues to serve underprivileged communities around the world. And this year, a movie based on his story was released by Netflix with the title, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.” I recommend it if you are interested.
Reading the story, I thought, what we are doing as Christians can be compared to building a windmill like William does. If William finds the power source from the wind, we, Christians find our power source from a different kind of wind, which we call, the wind of the Holy Spirit. We believe, this wind, this life-giving Spirit, has the power to turn on the light of Christ in each person’s life and empower them to love God and love neighbors. But to use this power, we need to do our parts. We need to build our humble windmill. We need to build our church. Then through us, I believe, God surely works for the people around us, for our community. And through our church, the Holy Spirit channels the power of grace to inspire people’s hearts to have faith in Christ, awaken them to follow Jesus, and impassion them to join us to do God’s holy mission.
William’s life could be just another unfortunate life of a secondary school drop-out in a poor town of Malawi. But he didn’t give up. He saw a different possibility. He dreamed of making changes in his village. And he did his part, although it seemed small and insignificant in the beginning. Today’s Epistle lesson also urges each one of us to do our part. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching…. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully” (2 Timothy 4:1-2;5). Do your part in God’s mission. Even though your work seems small and insignificant, even though circumstances are not favorable to you, do it with persistence and carry out your ministry fully. Then, what? Then, God will work through you. The Holy Spirit will use our church to empower more people and enlighten many with Christ’s love.
Today is Laity Sunday. This is the day that we celebrate the ministry of all Christians. We embrace our shared vocation, as lay persons and clergy alike, to proclaim and embody the good news of saving love of Jesus Christ. And we reaffirm together the priesthood of all believers, our common call to ministry. As we do, I would like all of us to remember the story of William and his windmill, and faithfully do our own part as we build, nurture, and grow our church together.
When we say our parts, our works, in the Methodist Church, it particularly means two things. They are the works of piety and works of mercy. What are they? Let’s read them together.
Works of Piety
1. Individual Practices: reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting,
regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others
2. Communal Practices: regularly share in Holy Communion, Christian conferencing, and Bible study
Works of Mercy
1. Individual Practices: doing good works, visiting and helping the people in hardships, feeding the hungry, and giving generously to the needs of others
2. Communal Practices: seeking justice, ending oppression and discrimination, and addressing the needs of the poor
Methodism, in all its roots, has a long history of celebrating and recognizing the ministry of laity. In the early days of American Methodism, it was the lay members that served and maintained congregations between visits of the circuit riders. And I think this is true even today. I know, every one of you here, is taking part in our church’s ministry and doing your part by praying, by teaching, by dedicating time, treasure and talent, by serving leadership positions, by cleaning and cooking, by feeding the hungry, by joining various mission projects. I also know, every one of you here is the front line of daily ministry at your workplace, in your home, in your relationships, and within your community. For this, I give thanks and praises to God.
Indeed, you are the builders of this church, builders of the windmill through which the wind of the Holy Spirit generates power to change lives and transform the world. Each one of you is holding this church and keeping the doors of this church open until today. Without the ministry of laity, there is no church. Thank you for being faithful to relentlessly seeking hope and tirelessly putting your efforts in reviving our church. Thank you. Your dedications to this church’s ministry truly build the kingdom of God here and now. May God richly bless you as you continue to do your part—it may look small, but it’s not small, because you are building God’s windmill, God’s holy church, by serving one another, by carrying out God’s mission, today and every day. Amen.