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A Letter from Paula Cooper, serving as regional liaison for East Central Africa

Winter 2021

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Dear friends,

Do you like waiting? Let’s think about some situations where you may have found yourself waiting. Have you ever waited in line at the market, for your vehicle to be repaired, or on a repair person? Have you ever waited for a baby to be delivered or your wedding day, or for him to propose?

What have been some of your worst waiting events, those that brought on anxiety or fear? Could it be waiting at the dentist’s office, waiting to take lab tests or, is waiting on the results worse?

Waiting! It’s a part of life – isn’t it? You can’t live with it and can’t live without it! Waiting is all a part of our development.

What are we all waiting for now? Your answer is probably for this devastating virus to fade away as quickly as it appeared! It came like “a thief comes in the night”! I think we’ll all be overjoyed when this virus goes away and be a thing of the past. As Scripture tells us, “This too shall pass!” Well, when!? We’ve been waiting!

It’s worse than waiting on those lab results. It’s like waiting to hear the devastating news from the doctor or the police. We are all in this waiting zone – also like watching a Twilight Zone episode – oh, the suspense! So many mysteries during such a mysterious time!

Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA), preached a couple of weeks ago from the passage written by the Prophet Jeremiah, recorded in Jeremiah 29: 1, 4-7, 11, where God encourages the Israelites, who were in exile in Babylon, waiting to be delivered, to make themselves – more or less – comfortable!

4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Rev. Dr. Diane encouraged me by preaching from that passage but more so with verse 11.

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

It was an encouraging word for me because I believe that God’s plans include me ministering in East Centra Africa. While waiting, I will continue to work in the ministry that God has called me to by answering work-related emails; joining ZOOM meetings, trainings, and worship services; and connecting with our partners and pastors via WhatsApp and ZOOM. ZOOM is bringing our partners and us together for prayer events and meetings so that we encourage and strengthen one another to meet the challenges that they are facing in their congregations. I’ve been transferring grant requests for our partners; checking-in on the mission co-workers on my team; and joining you, our constituents, for virtual worship services and activities: Bible studies, Sunday schools, etc.

While waiting, I’ve noticed I didn’t have several needed items in the house – like strainers. On another occasion, I found myself sitting outside on my dining room chair; I went and purchased a small patio set with two chairs. Then I thought, what if someone comes to visit – in order to practice social distancing, where would they sit. I went out and purchased two plastic outdoor chairs and two small plastic tables. On various occasions, as I was sitting outside, I noticed that the lawn in the front and back of the house had bare spots. I asked the gardener what to do. He recommended purchasing some topsoil. I bought the soil, and the gardener placed it on those bare spots. Afterward, I started seeing that the outside needed a little more TLC. I purchased four tall orange flowerpots and two small ones. These joined the other four flowerpots in the backyard, now painted orange.

In my waiting zone, I’ve purchased seeds for the gardener to plant and supplies for him to build a cage so I can grow vegetables while keeping the birds away. I’ve been attending painting sessions twice a month while practicing social distancing. I gather monthly with family and, occasionally, with friends on ZOOM or WhatsApp. I try to make sure that I send out birthday greetings on Facebook. People need to know that someone out there loves and cares about them during these isolated times of waiting.

40 And the King will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40, NRSV).

What have you been doing while you are in this waiting zone? Are you checking in on your family, friends, and church members? How about your neighbors – that single mother or widowed man or woman across the street? Could you show them some TLC, while we’re in this waiting zone?

As always, I want you to know that I appreciate you being my partner through your prayers and support of the ministry of the regional liaison of East-Central Africa. I know it is a difficult time for everyone, so, I don’t take it lightly! Please, pray for the pandemic that hovers over our country and our world! I will keep you and yours in my prayers.

You can read about and listen to Rev. Dr. Moffett’s inspiring sermon on the PC(USA) website by looking up this webpage: “We arrived where we are now not overnight, but over time.” Here is the link on the PC(USA) web site: Presbyterian Mission Agency ‘We arrived where we are now not overnight, but over time’ | Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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With love and care in my heart, Rev. Paula Cooper

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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