As a Partnership Coordinator, one of the things I often try to convey about CMSI’s approach is the reciprocity of partnering with each other as members of the global Church.
I have seen this in the life-changing visits that link parishes pay to their partners: when individuals have the opportunity to experience their faith in their partner’s context, they very often move into new spaces of devotional and church life. I have occasionally seen it when a visiting Global Partner speaks prophetically into a challenging situation in the Church here in Ireland; because from a different perspective something needs called out, or a path to healing is obvious. I have experienced it in the joy of worshiping with representatives of the global Church at our Ignite conference every year. At these times, I am reminded that faith does not box me in, but sets me free, as a tiny part of something huge that God is building.
Often however, this idea of mutual sharing is just something said and not felt. No one has ever disagreed when I say that our Global Partners have much more to offer us than an opportunity to give to a ‘good’ project, but sometimes it sounds like a platitude.
But over this past week, like many of us, I have been forced into a new routine by Covid-19. As I have struggled to concentrate on my emails, while wondering how my two home-schoolers are getting on with the work I optimistically laid out on their desks, I have been at times overwhelmed by the comfort and solidarity I read in emails from our partners.
There is no one who I would rather hear from at a time like this than the Archbishop of DR Congo who has led the Church through an Ebola crisis for the past two years. When he urges the Church to use this time for mission, his words hold authority because he has already led the Church in mission through an epidemic.
When the Diocesan Secretary of Yei, South Sudan tells me:
“God does not leave His servants and their flock alone. He is on watch and providing protection to you and the nations. Peace be with you with God's divine protection and guidance for all”...
..I believe him, because he has lived through war and because he says this to me while his wife and children are registered refugees in a Uganda, whose borders are now closed to him because of Covid-19.
Several messages from our Global Partners this week have talked of keeping the light burning. Archbishop Justin Badi of South Sudan put it so beautifully in his letter to the South Sudanese church: '..keep the light of prayers burning daily’.
And so, in this 'new normal', reciprocal partnership has shown itself more than a platitude: our partners are keeping the light of prayers burning daily for us, they have wisdom to share from deep places of painful experience, and they have confidence in God for our protection.
May God forgive us for the times when we thought we were the partner and ‘they’ were the recipients, and may we be humbled and comforted to be the beneficiaries of the prayers of the body of Christ who walk through these times with us.
This blog is part of our special 'Voices Of Hope' series - as we seek to provide stories of light during this time of uncertainty and upheaval.