On 14 February 2011, our visit to a squatter camp in Soweto initiated a love story with South Africa for twenty-six Peacemakers on the Road (POR). Soweto was our date. Two days later, a peacemaker who was overwhelmed by the impoverished sights, poured out honestly about the haunting thoughts that lingered from our visit to the squatter settlement, Motsoaledi. She was troubled not just by the state of impoverishment but also by the immensity (and impossibility) of the task of transformation.
When and how will these people be granted proper housing? We want to see the suburbs, housing estates or the government built flats of Singapore. I remember leaving Motsoaledi with these words parsing through my mind, “if only the Singapore government was here, they would clean up this place”. I could hear God responding correctively to my Singaporean arrogance that as one having no understanding of their history and culture, and the paths they have journeyed as a nation, what gives me the right to think that I have the solution?
Returning to the troubled thoughts of my fellow peacemaker, I had responded with a reflection on a colleague’s devotional on Matthew 25 shared just a day ago. It came alive again. It seems that with Jesus’ story about the sheep and the goats, he wasn’t telling us to fix the problem or to come out with a solution. He was simply telling us to participate. Our journey with the poor and needy, the impoverished and marginalized is to participate in provisioning and hospitality.
Jesus inaugurated participation in the “bringing of good news to the poor…proclaiming of release to the captives…recovering of sight to the blind…freeing of the oppressed…and proclaiming of the Lord’s favor”. Jesus did all of the above. It will be worth noting that during his stay on earth, while many benefited from his rescue efforts in Palestine, the world outside his world remained void of these salvific experiences. This void began to be filled for it did not take long for his promise of followers doing “greater things” to eventuate. They continued participating in bringing, proclaiming, recovering and freeing. Today, Jesus expects the same from us. Returning again to those troubled thoughts, another from our POR team responded in our discussion that world peace is not our call. Indeed, Matthew 25 is not calling for world peace but participators in peace-making.
We can be destination-driven but never driving. Knowing our destination provides us the assurance of safety and security with what awaits us. However, if we are never driving, we may never reach our destination. In a long journey, a good driver always focuses on the driving and there are hardly any moments for the driver to wander off in his mind and fantasize about how amazing the destination has been promised to be. Allowance for such moments can prove to be life-endangering for both the driver and passengers.
When we pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, the prayer calls us into doing heaven’s will on earth. But isn’t heaven’s will unstoppable? Yes, it is. But then the inevitability of heaven’s will does not excuse us from participation that aligns with heaven’s will. The stories of Eden, Israel, Jesus and the early church have always been a partnership of divine intervention and human intentionality.
More than a week ago, my colleagues and I with our families were given the go ahead to board a plane for Japan even though the breaking news of the massive earthquake and Tsunami that hit the northeast of Japan had already flooded the TV screens at the boarding gate. The takeoff was delayed and we were told to disembark from the plane and return to the gate. Following further waiting, the airlines informed us that our flight to Haneda has been grounded until further notice. Singaporeans were told to return home.
Our families and friends who knew about our trip were worried and subsequently thankful that we had avoided the trip. Our intended trip to Tokyo carried a purpose of settling some logistical issues in preparation for our endeavor to birth a community of Christ-followers. It appears that our journey with Japan has been stagnated even before it has started. However, I woke up the next day with sensations of affirmation that our missional intentions for Japan could not be timelier. In fact our journey with the nation does not begin with the yearend plan of planting a local church but our journey begins now. It begins with participation. Chui shared in her facebook’s status that “…being thankful that she has escaped Tokyo’s chaos or Singapore is not exposed to earthquake, tsunami or radiation is so selfish when thousands of Japanese are in severe conditions of bitter cold, with shortages of food, water and fuel: “what can i DO, Lord?”
We can participate. We can grieve. We can give. We can go.
(Chui had encouraged our kids to participate through praying for Japan and Jada got into a long-winded prayer that allowed her mum to record a segment of it.)
[The above is a post migrated from a previous blog]