(Posted by Laurence)
Every Friday morning at the EMI office we gather for sung worship – usually a mixture of traditional western hymns, contemporary worship and a few songs in Luganda. Yesterday, Advent having just started, we sang O Come O Come Emmanuel, one of my favourite Christmas songs.
It made me immediately nostalgic for candlelit carol services, the smell of pine leaves, and mulled wine, but singing this song and approaching Christmas without the familiar seasonal markers makes it easier to reflect on the true meaning of this time of year in Christian tradition.
Advent can be many things but for me, this year, it brings a sense of longing: longing for change in the world, longing for justice, longing for hope. These things can be brought about many ways, through the dedicated work of NGOs and activists, and through philosophies and religions. For me and Jane, however, true and lasting change is underpinned by God, and by Jesus, with us as his servants.
That is why I am working with EMI; that is why Jane has been teaching women suffering from sexual exploitation about Jesus. I don’t think that giving a sermon to construction workers will remove them from poverty; Jane doesn’t believe that just reading the Bible will enable these women to step out of a cycle of abuse. But we do believe that human strategies and programmes alone are not enough, and lasting change will only happen when people put their faith in God.
Missionaries: what’s in a name?
A year or two ago I would never have dreamed that I would be labelled as a missionary, and during our preparation to join EMI I was often careful to avoid using the words mission and missionary when describing our work, because they are such loaded words, layered with hundreds of years of stereotypes, misconceptions, misunderstandings and mistakes.
When faced with a label you don’t like, you can either reject it or redefine it. I currently do a bit of both, and if you are wary, sceptical or downright hostile towards the idea of mission and missionaries I would challenge you to reconsider what those words can really mean.
Have a look at Inside EMI (new issue coming soon) and see if you don’t think EMI is bringing lasting change; come back to this blog in a few weeks to hear more about how Jane has been bringing hope to women at Rahab Uganda.
If I’m going to believe in God, then I must also believe he can bring change in this world. For us, following Jesus isn’t about an agenda, and being a missionary (if people wish to use that label) isn’t about ‘converting’ people to our set of beliefs or practices. It’s about sharing hope, truth and, most importantly, love with those around us.
“Christ is the morning star who, when the night of this world is past, brings to [us] the promise of the light of life and opens everlasting day.”
Bede (673–735 AD)