Earlier this year I was fortunate to visit, first, Zimbabwe in March and, then, Taiwan, in May, in both cases going with United Reformed Church colleagues. Those two situations were very different, but one thing that they shared in common and that spoke to me was a concern to discern what God is telling them, as a church, to do.
We saw some amazing projects in Zimbabwe where there is great poverty and a huge challenge from HIV/Aids. For example, we visited Highfield Uniting Presbyterian Church on a Monday morning. We met with a group of lively women who form the nucleus of the HIV/Aids project that is linked to the church. They told us how they make peanut butter and floor polish in order to sell these goods so that the small profit can sustain the work they do in support of each other and others.
The creche that also uses the church premises was in the church along with a number of other local creches as some local dignitaries were visiting for a presentation event. This meant that we were able to go and look round the room where they usually play which was set up for their return. In many ways it was not unlike a UK nursery with a hospital corner, shop corner, nature corner cafe corner and so on – except that the things with which they could play were all home-made, though creatively so. But thank goodness health and safety hasn’t kicked in – as most of the things they play with would be condemned in this country.
In Taiwan we spent quite a bit of time visiting some of the indigeneous groups and seeing how the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan is working in those areas. One particularly impressive project was at Bunun where the minister, himself from the local indigeneous group, got so concerned about the migration from the area and the lack of opportunities for work that he has created a major cultural project, with local crafts made and sold, a restaurant and cafe, accommodation, a regular cultural show and a whole complex that showcases the Bunun culture and keeps it alive. And all this is done from a Chritian base and as part of the mission of the church.
Sometimes we get concerned about what we can do as a church. I understand why that happens, but I’m not sure that we should. What we need to do is to listen for what God is calling us to do – and we can be confident that God won’t call us to something that is beyond our capability.