Visitors from afar

Staff_team_2015 Posted by Roger Cooke on Fri, 05 Jan 2018 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

They offered their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

To a baby… in a stable. Really?

Surprising and unsolicited gifts, presents for needs not yet realised, but presents pertinent and prophetic. These gifts could not have come from relatives, friends or neighbours; they could only have come from afar, from people of another culture and understanding, whose experience of God was so different. They brought gifts redolent with meaning, which would confirm and inspire.

The wise men crossed over from their side to his. It was a crossing fraught with danger, but they journeyed in faith in response to a calling literally from the heavens. In doing so, they bought significance and new insight.

Reflecting on the various visits from CMSI’s global partners over the past year, many very special moments come to mind – moments that only happened because of the new and surprising things that are generated by unusual cross-cultural connections.

Sharing gifts, making connections
Parishes across Ireland hosted visitors from their global partner links, contributing to the travel costs and opening their homes and churches in welcome. The visitors took part in CMSI events, including Shine, Ignite, focus evenings and the ‘Crossing Bridges’ event – events inspired by the unique gifts, experiences and perspectives that the visitors brought with them. They participated in parish life – in craft groups and bowling, Sunday school and outings, preaching, teaching and praying for the sick. They developed stronger connections and shared precious gifts of friendship, ministry and pastoral care.

Early in the year, we hosted Bishop Desire from Goma Diocese – a chance to deepen the growing connections with the DR Congo and shine more light on the quiet, vital work of the Church there.

April saw a visit from Kenya – Provost Sammy Wainaina from All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi came with Louise Githire from the Urban Development Programme (UDP). As well as spending time with link churches, they visited primary schools, leading assemblies, meeting children and discussing educational approaches with teachers.

In September, Rev Joseph, Viateur, Rose and Emilienne from Shyogwe Diocese, spent time in their link churches and reconnected with folk who had visited Rwanda. Rose and Emilienne were particularly interested to meet Mothers’ Union ladies, who in turn were challenged by the range of programmes run by the MU in Shyogwe: strengthening family life, literacy, poverty alleviation, and improving agriculture. Already there are plans for linked parishes to visit Shyogwe in 2018.

Bishop Justin and his wife, Mama Joyce, from Maridi Diocese in South Sudan, came for Ignite, where they shared about the challenges of ministry in the midst of civil war, upheaval and trauma. On one parish visit, a conversation led to the launching of a new Young Mothers’ Group, enabling women to befriend, support one another and pray together. Another visit was the catalyst for uniting all the town churches during a family fun weekend. People stood together in the town square and prayed the Lord’s Prayer for their community.

These incidents bring to mind a contribution from one of the Crossing Bridges participants:

Those who have experienced real trauma can, by listening, enable beautiful things to happen for others.

Many beautiful things have happened through these global partner visits to Ireland.

[This reflection is taken from a piece in the recent edition of inMission magazine.]

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