Holistic love: Bearing one another’s burdens
Posted on: 17th September 2018
CMS worker J (serving with her husband, L, in East Asia) ministers to international students in a busy megacity. With all the students living far from home and family, the need for the local church and Christians to care holistically for people is emphasised all the more.
In this megacity, our particular focus is the international students who come from every corner of the globe. This is the story of God’s work in the life of Eliza*, a Kenyan sister, and some of her experiences while living in this city.
Eliza and Roland
Eliza came from a background where priority for her education was not her parents’ concern in their large family with older siblings, and male siblings as well. Yet God in his sovereignty has provided for her to scrape through one educational opportunity after another, and here she is doing a masters degree in a foreign country, enabled by a scholarship. This great blessing also brings many hardships. The scholarship is basic and luxuries are not included. Black skin can lead to unwanted attention, or even scorn and rejection. She has had people stand up when she sits beside them as they do not want to be near her on public transport.
When Eliza discovered she was pregnant to Roland*, her Christian boyfriend also here in this city, she moved off campus to a small apartment they could afford, far from her school.
But sin cannot be kept hidden forever. Their child (and her tummy) grew, and eventually they confessed. They repented and were restored before our church community. Then the relationship I had been building with Eliza was able to deepen further. As a mother of four, I knew more about pregnancy than my Kenyan friend.
A plan to show God’s grace
One day I found myself on the metro going to visit Eliza in her apartment. The long journey to get there highlighted the challenge she faced when she needed to go to class or meet with her supervisors. My main objective was to go and listen to her, understand her world, and if it seemed appropriate, invite her to consider moving in with our family.
Eliza and Roland had come to understand more deeply than ever the shame and guilt we bear for our sin—but also the absolute forgiveness, newness and freedom that come with Christ’s blood and our repentance. But here they were, far from their home and with no relatives in the country. So how could they navigate this complex situation where Roland rightly desired to care for the mother of his child? To honour their King, living together was not yet the best option. They were stuck.
We embraced the consequences of their actions by giving them this new option, which involved cultural flexibility for all (it took courage to move into our noisy house for a pregnant thesis-writing student!). But we are so glad we offered and she accepted.
A triumph of God’s grace
A number of months prior to all this, I had been praying specifically with my husband for more opportunities to love African women in our community. We had also been praying about a new apartment, as our rent was being raised at the end of our lease.
God knew all this. He knew that he would provide us with an apartment on the same campus as Eliza’s university. He knew that this campus also has a large African population and that many of the women on it are friends with Eliza. He knew that I would have more than enough opportunities to befriend a wider range of African women.
He knew that although we were about to move house and that would be busy, he would also organise the timing of the negotiations between Eliza and Roland’s families such that they would give permission and bless the marriage the day after we moved house.
He also knew that my experience of being a bridesmaid multiple times, my husband’s upbringing in Tanzania and Kenya, and our own wedding organising would be very handy background for supporting this couple through their two-week engagement. He knew it would be useful in helping galvanise the wider international church community to walk with Eliza and Roland to a joyous celebration of their marriage.
My main objective was to go and listen to her, understand her world, and if it seemed appropriate, invite her to consider moving in with our family.
He knew that Eliza would need to defend her thesis before her wedding and organised this with days to spare. He knew that my home birth experiences and the friendship I have with one of my midwives in Australia would be very useful when Eliza endured a three-day labour.
He knew that it would be out-of-the-box strange when the local nurses asked me what my relationship was to this young Kenyan woman. These nurses watched while myself, her Kenyan-then-husband, her Kenyan best friend and my Asian-American mum friend together supported Eliza for three days and nights. He knew this would cause the whole nurse community at the hospital to scratch their heads, because in this monocultural Asian city, the blend of skin tones just did not make sense to be sharing such an intimate life experience as labour.
He knew. He saw all this in advance. He honoured the desire of our dear Kenyan friends to live for him and welcome their little boy into the world knowing about his grace and responded to with a life of thankful purity and holiness.
Our God is a God who cares for those who are not yet born. He cares for the sinner. He cares for the nations to love one another in their differences, for the disempowered and the struggling. He uses us as we are, in the peculiarities of our lives that he has given and shaped. May we be the nations that ‘bear his name’ (Amos 9).
Like L and J, all CMS workers are committed to wholeness in mission, regardless of their ministries or locations. As they serve in their various circumstances, please pray that CMS workers would always seek to care for the whole person, just as the Lord Jesus did throughout his ministry in the gospels.
Does your church have a link missionary that they support? Get in touch with them and ask how you can best be caring for them and supporting their ministries. If your church doesn’t have a link missionary yet, contact your local branch to find out how today.