Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ministry of presence

A few days ago, someone used this phrase about missionaries who had been in Afghanistan through all the wars and civil unrest. They have respect and credibility because of this, but at a deeper level they are actually blessing simply by their presence with people.

I am starting to see that this is profoundly important here. We recently spent 3 hours each way travelling to Bweyeye, a remote community without phone signal or power. We are building a school there, replacing and enlarging one which is in terrible condition. There were 6 of us and we spent only 4 hours there. Actual “work” done was about 1 hour – we walked, we had lunch, we talked. At the end the pastor thanked us for coming because it was a long way and it was important for them to know that people had not forgotten them.

Those are the words and words are valued here, but the importance of presence is also seen in behaviour. It often feels as if there are too many people on these trips. The language barriers can mean that we have little to directly contribute. It can seem as if the time spent in travelling is not be4ing used effectively. This is not how people here view things! It is vitally important for everyone involved in a project just to be there, efficient use of time just does not come into it. Presence is highly valued.

“Ministry of presence” is a lovely phrase, but as with many spiritual truths there is a hard reality behind it. For those in Afghanistan, it meant facing constant danger and risking their very lives. For us, it can mean long, boring and uncomfortable journeys and wrestling internally with a different view of what is important. I'm sure, however, that it is one of the few things that we have to offer to Rwanda and that it is one of the lessons to be learned here.

1 comment:

Nodrog said...

I'm not sure, but think this may be your first post - at least to this blog. Or maybe the rest have failed to pass the test of moderation! Anyway, just wanted to encourage you (I came across you from the Ayrshire directory on Scotblogs) - I think it's great what you're doing and may God bless both the work and perhaps more importantly yourself and your wife.

Interesting idea of presence, will have to ponder that further. If memory serves, that's one of the distinctives of the (Russian?) Orthodox Church and their understanding of mission, that simply being present as a congregation is bringing Christ into the midst of the people.