Saturday, March 16, 2013

Imagine No Malaria-Lenten Devotion Day 32: March 16

Saturday, March 16, 2013: Go Into the World 

A church member recently inspired a time of pondering for me: “You know,” he said, “I’m getting a little bit tired of hearing about this whole Imagine No Malaria thing.” “Why you think that is,“ I asked? “Well, “he said, “It seems like we’re being asked to give a whole lot of money to people who are a world away instead of using that money to help the people who are right outside our doors.” 
We often fall into the trap of believing that our mission is to reach THIS person or THAT person instead of embracing the biblical mandate to go into “all the world” with the Gospel-not to mention the Wesleyan idea that the entire world is our parish. The church mission field is always “both/ and”-it is both the house next door and the house on the other side of the world, and both houses are inseparably linked in the beautiful and mysterious unity of the Holy Spirit. The body of Christ, in other words, cannot afford to be territorial in its mission and outreach. 

A few years back, I had the opportunity to visit and pray with patients in a hospital in the village of Ankaase (Ghana, West Africa). I prayed with a mother and her small child, both of whom were seeking treatment for malaria. We did not speak the same language, of course. However, in those sacred moments, we found unity in the shared vocabulary and intonation of prayer. The mother wept during that time of prayer. She wept, I assume, for the sick child that she held in her arms. Her tears became something sacramental for me-baptismal water that flowed into the depths of my soul. When I think about the Imagine No Malaria ministry, I don’t think first of dollars and bed nets (as important as they are). Rather, I think of that mother and child in Ghana. I think of their faces and souls. I think of their tears. Most of all, I think of the truth that, if one person in the body of Christ suffers, then the entire body of Christ suffers. 

In recent days, my wife Tara and I have prayerfully discerned some ways in which we sense that God is calling us to expand our personal discipleship to Jesus Christ. Our heartfelt commitment to Imagine No Malaria is part of that extension. Even as I type these words, I find myself thanking God for Imagine No Malaria, not only because of its life saving efforts, but also because of its impact on my personal walk with Christ. Through the ministry of Imagine No Malaria, I’ve come to understand in a whole new way that, if I do not see the eyes of Jesus looking back at me when I gaze into the face of a hurting human being (no matter whether that human being is right next door or on the other side of the world), then something is seriously wrong with my soul. 

Prayer: Forgive me, o God, for the ways in which I’ve often hardened my heart to your people and your world. By the power of your holy spirit, transform my thoughts and impulses that I may resist the temptation to walk away from a hurting or needy soul who may very well be showing me the face of your Son. Bring me more deeply into the kind of discipleship that will inspire me to look upon every portion of my life as my mission field and every portion of the world as my parish, all for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whose name I humbly and gratefully pray. Amen. 

Rev. Eric Park, Washington District Superintendent, Western PA Conference 

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