Normally, when I get complaints about my speaking, they are of the “You spoke too long!” variety. Nearing the end of our school-year today, I delivered a short, impromptu chronicle of the year to our school community. So much has happened. I was surprised, however, to discover how difficult it was to fill my ten-minute window. How odd, I thought, walking home. And then the reason came to me this afternoon in conversation with my wife, Tess. For obvious reasons, this year has been short on big events – which usually fill school chronicles and make for interesting stories – and long on the kind of relational drama that you cannot talk about in front of everyone. “Like what happens to a family in quarantine?” Tess offered.
In past years, Trinity STM (School of Theology and Ministry) has been engaged in outward mission weekly by:
- Prison visitations
- Praying for the sick in hospitals
- Taking Bible studies into people’s homes
- Preaching and singing in the marketplace
- Reading portions of the liturgy on festival days in other villages
The value of this has been unmistakable. But this year we were given something different. Stay at home. Work together daily at close quarters. See the same faces every day for weeks on end.
At the best of times this has looked like: Wake up for prayer. Go to class. Go to work session. Pray before the evening meal. Study. Sleep. Repeat.
At the worst of times it has looked like: Be annoyed by someone. Gossip about them. Be alarmed at the relational chaos that ensues. Say sorry. Repeat.
It has not been easy. But we have, like so many this year, learned some important things in the process. Outward mission, taking the Gospel to places where it has not been heard or is not yet believed, is not total mission. Outward mission can assume a dimension it should not for the Church. We can overlook the work of God that is taking place in our homes and churches among people like us who have believed the Gospel already, but who need deepening. When this happens, we pursue shoots at the expense of roots. The outward and visible replaces the subterranean. Far from preventing God’s mission this year, the coronavirus has opened up to us afresh its grandest scope. God is at work everywhere, but chiefly in the Church.
Jonathan and Tess Hicks, NZCMS Mission Partners in the Solomon Islands