“Our times cry out for a gospel-shaped spirituality that is both intensely personal and deeply aware of our suffering neighbor.” -Trevor Hudson
It has now been six months since I first arrived in South Africa, completely unsure and utterly terrified of the path that was ahead of me. I have faced some incredible challenges since then, but also met some incredible people along the way. There are times I have asked myself, why am I here in South Africa? I am sure that I am called to serve Christ, to care for my neighbor, and to love people. But why am I serving abroad? I could still serve Christ in my own community. Why am I not back in the safe security of Pennsylvania? How can I as an American, an outsider, begin to understand the lives of the people here? And what right do I have, as an outsider, to care for them?
The past three months at Espoir Centre have flown by so quickly, and before I know it the students will graduate in June and return home to their own communities full of knowledge and hope for the future. Malakia, age 22 from Namibia, is ready to build a vegetable garden outside of the center at his satellite project and teach orphans how knit and crochet. Regina, age 25 from Zambia, is excited to return home as a leader in her satellite project, proving to others that even though she is young, she is passionate about the people in her community and can make a difference. Agreeneth, age 60 from Swaziland, will return home in June to train up leaders with the skills she’s learned at the center so that her community can come together to combat AIDS with a new health center they are hoping to open by the end of the year.
All of these students are inspiring. They are real and authentic servants, unafraid to see the need in their own communities and work hard to see that their needs are met. They are working in their own communities. Why am I here?
A good friend of mine who works a lot with missions in my home church once spoke of when she was asked the question, “Why do work abroad? Why care about others who aren’t in your own country?” Her reply was simply, “Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, and they are our neighbor. “
We as a church don’t have a right to go into a community different from our own and try to help others improve their life from our point of view. But, we have a responsibility to respond to the cry of the needy. We have a responsibility to learn and listen. We have a responsibility to love.
As the church, God has called all of us to a life of service. As the church, we have a responsibility to be “deeply aware of our suffering neighbor.” Our neighbors are all around us. Where is God calling you?
This weekend, the Rethink Church team in the United Methodist Church is hosting an event titled “Change the World.” I thank God for all of my brothers and sisters around the world who are serving Christ this weekend in their communities. May you feel God’s blessing as you serve our neighbors together.