A letter from Dennis Smith in Argentina
November 25, 2012
Advent is the time each year when we wait for God.
Humankind has always longed for and sought God’s presence. When the time was right God, in God’s fullness, burst into human history in the person of Jesus.
During Advent we carve out within ourselves a space where God can be born anew.
And then we wait.
As we wait we remember that God comes to us, always, wherever we are and in whatever situation. We remember that, no matter what, we belong to God.
When we acknowledge that we belong to God, we understand more fully how we belong to each other. This is one of the fundamental lessons one learns as a mission worker: We belong to those we serve and they belong to us; we learn from those we teach, we teach those from whom we learn. When we live this way—the way of Jesus—we come to question traditional concepts of belonging to family or community or nation.
Recently I participated in an evangelism conference with the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil in the city of Vitoria, just north of Rio. When I was invited to share some comments, I remembered the 1910 Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. V.S. Azariah from India, one of the few delegates from the global South at that conference, said: “We ought to be willing to learn from one another and to help one another. Through all the ages to come, the Indian Church will rise up in gratitude to attest to the heroism and self-denying labors of the missionary body. You have given your goods to feed the poor. You have given your bodies to be burned. We ask also for love. Give us friends.”
As I shared with this Brazilian audience, I noted in the group a distinctly round, blonde, Midwestern face. As I approached her at the break I noted that she spoke perfect Portuguese and that her mannerisms were clearly Brazilian. It turns out that her name is Miriam Miller. She is the daughter of U.S. mission workers, born in Brazil. Now in her 40s, she works for Brazil's Ministry of the Environment. She is also an elder in the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil. Her sister is an urban planner for a Brazilian city. Miriam and her sister form part of the legacy of Presbyterian World Mission.
As I looked at Miriam Miller, a catch came to my throat as I thought of our own sons. One is beginning college; the other is not far behind. Where will they call home? Argentina? Guatemala? The U.S.?
It’s not that nation is unimportant: I am thankful to be a U.S. citizen, yet I have shed tears of pride when our youngest has stepped onto the gold medal podium at international speed skating competitions; in these cases, it was the Guatemalan national anthem that sparked the tears, it was the Guatemalan flag draped across his shoulders.
Perhaps learning to set down deep roots in very different places becomes a metaphor for the world God is birthing, the world we await expectantly. Little by little, we learn that there is no one we aren’t called to love and serve in Jesus' name, there is nowhere God is not present. At the same time, our identity—composed of family, nationality, faith, gender, class, culture—will always be incomplete, a work in progress.
We watch and wait for God to make us whole. While we wait, we remember that we all belong to each other because we all belong to God.
God waits to be born into your world this Advent season. Are you ready?
Under the Mercy,
P.S. A special word of thanks to all of you that support our ministry with your prayers and your giving. Your support for Presbyterian World Mission is an expression of how we belong to each other because we all belong to God. . .
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 2
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 12
Read more about Dennis and Maribel Smith's s ministry
God bless you and your family this Advent and Christmas Season. Thank you for the witness you make to those you serve and to those of us here who have sent you. May Christ's peace be with us all. Moneta
Dennis, you and your family have given so much. I thank God every day for your ministry. Janice and I hope your health will remain good, your missionary opportunities increase, and that your family will understand the tug on their hearts of "home."