A monthly update from Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission, on the impact of Presbyterian mission in the world and the issues that affect mission co-workers, the people we walk with and assist in service to God, and our partners around the globe.
Through Gwen and John Haspels, the threads that bind us together with the church of Jesus Christ around the world have shown themselves powerfully
As I’ve watched our best mission workers over these years, I’ve come to realize that, some are excellent public speakers, some attain native fluency in foreign languages and develop an amazingly deep understanding of the hopes and the dreams of the people they work with, and some are gifted in helping others hear the whisper of God’s sacred call on their lives. The very best are the ones who, by God’s grace, succeed in weaving their lives into the community they were called to serve.
I’m not in the habit of publicly lifting up specific mission workers for their extraordinary work or special qualities. Each of these servants does their best to respond faithfully in the name of our entire church to God’s calling in a particular community. But the events of Wednesday, 1 October on a road in western Ethiopia move me to lift up the way God has woven together the lives of Rev. John and Gwen Haspels with those of many Ethiopians of the Suri ethnic group. More than two decades ago, our sister church in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (“Dwelling Place of Jesus” in the Amharic language), asked Presbyterian World Mission to send the Haspels to help plant a church among the Suri, who had not previously heard the Gospel. Concrete actions like building a road, planning and executing an integrated development project, starting a church, listening to each other’s hopes and dreams—these were the threads God used to weave the Haspels’ and the Suri people’s lives together.
And so, when two armed bandits in the well-armed, but often lawless region in which they live attempted to commandeer their vehicle at gunpoint and the Haspels were both shot and seriously injured, the threads that bind them together with the Suri community—and with the Church of Jesus Christ around the world—began to show themselves powerfully:
- More than one thousand members of the community gathered at the airport as they were being flown from the airport in Aman for emergency medical care in a beautiful gesture of solidarity;
- Ato Solomon, the owner of Abyssinia Airlines, which transported them from Aman to the capital city of Addis Ababa provided the service for free, “because he said he loved the Haspels and so respected the work they were doing”, according to World Mission’s Regional Liaison for the Horn of Africa, the Rev. Michael Weller;
- Weller, along with Nancy Cavalcante and other colleagues at World Mission’s office in Louisville, KY worked around the clock in the early hours to make the arrangements to get the Haspels to expert medical care—a level one trauma center in Johannesburg, South Africa where, as of this writing, the Haspels are still undergoing treatment for their injuries;
- A pastor from our partner church, the Uniting Church of South Africa, visited the couple at the trauma center and provided pastoral care in the early hours after their arrival.
All of these vignettes remind me of how God continues to weave our mission workers—and our Church—into the life of communities around the world.
Different people describe “mission” in different ways. Mission can be a cup of cold water given in Jesus’ name. Mission can be standing in solidarity with the oppressed in a grass-roots campaign for justice. Mission can be helping a community to educate its children, plant new churches, or help it protect its women and children from violence.
But each of these very concrete actions are merely threads meant to weave our lives together with the lives of other people. Because mission is ultimately the “coming together of all things in Christ”, as the epistle to the Colossians put it. World Mission is deeply grateful for the remarkable individuals like the Haspels and many others like them who continue to offer up their lives to work for this reconciliation. We’re deeply grateful for congregations and individuals like you who continue to make this possible through your prayer, your efforts, and your financial support.
But ultimately, we give thanks to the God and Father of Jesus Christ for the beautiful way in which God enables us to love our neighbor as ourselves as the Spirit weaves our lives into the lives of people across town and around the world—the beautiful tapestry that results is the Church of Jesus Christ.
Mission Matters Archives
July 2014 - Abound in Hope: the 221st General Assembly (2014)
May 2014 - Training Leaders for Community Transformation
April 2014 - Ending Violence against Women and Children
March 2014 - 3 Critical Global Issues—#1: Quality education for 1 million children by 2020
February 2014 - CEDEPCA: Caring for God's Creation
January 2014 - Young Adult Volunteers: New YAV Sites Opening
December 2013 - We are truly better together
November 2013 - South Sudanese: Displaced by violence
October 2013 - Haiti: the Presbyterian Church is here to stay