Life in New Zealand is starting to feel more normal for many of us. Recent months have been hard, especially for those who have lost jobs, but there is also a strange sense of normality – we can visit cafes, go shopping, and gather at church. However, there is also a sense of disjuncture knowing that even as life goes on here, in many countries COVID19 is causing untold a suffering.
What does it mean to be part of the global Church at this time?
This question stirs us. In our church calendar this week we celebrate Trinity Sunday. We are reminded of the community of love in God’s own being: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is a relationship and community that extends beyond the Trinity to include us – the Church. Like the God in whose image we are made, our identity is communal. As a member of the global Church we are part of the one body of Christ. This is language that we are used to hearing, and it has become very familiar. But the implications of living into this reality are radical.
When we are baptised, we become united with Christ and we become a member of Christ’s body, the Church. At baptism, this membership becomes our primary identity: “for in one Spirit, we were all baptised into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). Our identity as a Christian, part of the body of Christ, comes before our nationality or any other human marker of identity.
We are ultimately citizens of the Kingdom of God and this identity comes before what’s written in our passport.
Another implication of our membership as Christ’s body is “if one member suffers, all suffer together.” (1 Cor 12:26). When I wrote funding proposals for development projects in a previous role, it was common to use language such as ‘beneficiaries,’ or ‘developing countries’ that signifies the otherness of those in need. These designations, which categorise humans into ‘us and them’ are ultimately invalid in the Kingdom of God. There is no ‘us and them’: there is only one body. We are to experience the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters like it is in our own body.
As members of the global Church, we do not have the option of sheltering ourselves in a safe New Zealand bubble and forgetting the rest of the world. We are called to live into our membership of the global Church, a body with Jesus Christ as our head.
At a missions conference last year, I sat at the same table and prayed with Bisoke from Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tess Hicks, one of our Mission Partners serving in the Solomon Islands. Recently, I shared with Tess messages from Bisoke about the situation in Bunia, and she immediately wrote back asking how to give. This is what it looks like to live as the body of Christ: to live out this metaphor in our actions.
As a family with a heart for global mission, NZCMS intentionally looks out and engages with the global Church. New Zealand is facing an economic recession, and we know that NGOs like us will face financial challenges. At the same time, we want to not only look to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:4).
In this context, I want to share with you some needs from our CMS counterparts in Africa. NZCMS is part of a global CMS network - we are sister societies who seek to support and learn from each other.
The director of CMS Africa, Canon Moses Bushendich, shared with me recently the needs that their local partners are seeing and responding to. He writes:
“Many states have instituted lockdowns in response to Covid19 without capability to support those who live on daily wages. Many people have lost their jobs, a means of survival. Pastors in churches cannot get paid because congregations cannot meet and raise the usual offertory. Many families have a real threat of hunger.
Several communities, especially in Northern Uganda, have been suffering drought the last few months and when the rains came, there were fresh invasions of desert locusts that are ravaging crops.
In Bunia, DR Congo, Local Partner Bisoke has sent distress calls over war and killing that has hit him closely. Conflict has displaced 400 families coming to his peace centre for refuge. Normally food for the centre comes from the surrounding villages, but now there is no food coming which means that life is so hard. More children are developing malnutrition.
Images coming from Kivu Province in DR Congo show floods with many feared dead and hundreds displaced from homes. Our CMS Africa Local Partners are on the frontline all over the continent calling for prayer, for practical relief, and supporting efforts to alleviate suffering."
It hurts us to read and hear this account of our body suffering; it’s overwhelming, and it challenges our own sense of comfort and safety. Together we are brought to our knees in prayer as we bring our concerns before a loving, present, and redeeming God. We pray that God would show us how we can be the hands and feet in this world at this time, with whatever we find in our hands. We invite you to continue to pray for our brothers and sisters around the globe who are experiencing so many devastating challenges. We also invite you to consider how you might offer what resources you have to the global Church.
Relational Relief Giving
We are opening an appeal for giving to CMS Africa’s Local Partners who can distribute shopping vouchers to families in need.
Here is how a small amount can make a big difference: One shopping voucher worth KEs 2,500 (Approx $40NZD) buys basic food and sanitation needs for a household of 6 people for 1 month.
Directions for how to give:
- Go to the "What would you like to support?" drop down menu
- Select "Other"
- Go to the section"Name of Mission Partner or Project"
- Type "CMS Africa Appeal"
As a member of Christ’s body, we are on a journey of learning what our identity as citizens of God’s Kingdom looks like in this Covid19 world. We pray that God would continue to teach us what it means to suffer, reach out, give, receive, and see beyond our own borders. As we live into the reality of ‘one body and one Spirit,’ we ask God to shape our hearts and to be ever-transformed into the likeness of the triune God.
Your sister in Christ,