thinking about mission and missions

So Forrest Hill are in the middle of “Missions Month”. A month for focussing on our individual and communal responsibility to give evidence for the faith we say we embrace. Traditionally all attention has been directed “off-shore” at work in other cultures and countries; eg our interest in Tibet and Indonesia. This is in the mind of many as “missions”, and yet since we live in a very secular society, with all kinds of spiritual overtones, where a minority attend some kind of Christian service on a “regular” basis, we need constant reminding that the mission field starts as we leave the precinct of FHPC’s buildings. Who are we the worshipping community here for? Can it really be that we exist only to send the message long-distance to far-off places most of us will never visit? Is it in any way true to our Master’s design that we look past the needs and issues in our neighbours’ lives while we try to save the pagans in Asia or Africa? Are the only injustices that we can help set right solely found in totalitarian dictatorships?

And yet this weekend we did see needs and possibilities for service in some amazing settings. The continuing work in Tibet, about which we can only pray it would seem, and trust the indigenous Tibetans and their Chinese neighbours to take up the cause; the ongoing struggle to recapture life for women socially disabled by fistulas in Ethiopia; and the tremendously varied work that reaches into many cultures and ethnicities with the life-changing grace of God in Christ. All this under a new kind of missions organisation that focus on what we can do to change the world around these people using what already lies to hand in the environment in which the work takes place. E.g. the La Mai coffee project in Northern Thailand and the cataract operations in Uganda.

And yet on our very doorsteps people are being persecuted by a very different kind of oppressor who ruins their lives and threatens in the end to drag them off to a miserable eternity. People without hope who can’t survive without extreme medications, who are imprisoned and enslaved to banks that in truth own their houses, their cars, and even their kids’ educations – banks from whom they need permission to go away for a holiday. People addicted to alcohol, drugs, lifestyle patterns, social pressures – freedom? democracy? liberty? Not in this life.

How are we going to reach them, let alone touch the need that drives them mad? What do we already have that is ours, from God, to give for their hope of liberation. In short what is our mission, our excuse for being a church right here, right now?

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