Greg's Weekly Word: "presence"
I grew up in the church hearing about, talking about, and supporting and doing "missions." We had missions offerings, mission projects, mission trips. I even went to a preschool program on Wednesday nights called Mission Friends.
All of these programs and projects sought to serve others, whether in our town, or in a nearby state, or across the country or across the globe. And much good work (the work of Jesus!) has been done through such efforts. But somewhere along the way, the important principle of presence was lost.
Most of the trips and projects I took part in growing up were what I've heard some call "parachute missions." We'd drop in for a day or a week at a time, do the work, and then leave - feeling really good about our service, and not really having to think about or interact with or engage with that work or those people again. It was more transactional rather than relational.
Most of the programs and offerings I participated in had the mentality of benevolence. We were going to help these people we were serving, and do something for them. Rarely was it any kind of partnership or equality. We were always the benefactors, and they the recipients. And most of the time, even if was subconscious, I think there was a desire for the people we were helping to become more westernized, or Americanized, or - if I'm being honest - more white (because most of the time, the people we were helping were not).
As I've grown in my faith and my understanding of faithfulness, though, I've realized the importance of presence. That's why I appreciate the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's emphasis on presence in their cross-cultural ministries around the globe.
CBF field personnel are "cultivating beloved community, bearing witness to Jesus Christ, and seeking transformational development," all of which is rooted in their long-term presence in their places of service. For instance, Jonathan and Tina Bailey have created an arts community and prison ministry in Bali, Indonesia, where they have served for over 20 years! As an Encourager Church, Augusta Heights supports their ministries with our direct financial support, but the Offering for Global Missions funds their presence - covering living expenses like housing and food and healthcare, so they can focus on their ministries with others.
Ours is a faith of presence - of incarnation - God-with-us, come to us in the person of Jesus. He shared the whole of human life (even death) with us. Should we do the same with each other? Even (especially!) as we seek to serve one another and share with one another the love of Christ and the grace of God?
I hope that you will consider giving to the Offering for Global Missions, or praying for the many people who are serving as the presence of Christ around the world during this week of prayer. See the videos below and this brief prayer guide to learn more.
Day 1: Global Church
Day 2: Global Poverty
Day 3: Global Migration
Day 4: Cultivating Beloved Community
Day 5: Bearing Witness to Jesus Christ
Day 6: Transformational Development