Like the chambers of a heart, the four MWC commissions serve the global community of Anabaptist-related churches, in the areas of deacons, faith and life, peace, mission. Commissions prepare materials for consideration by the General Council, give guidance and propose resources to member churches, and facilitate MWC-related networks or fellowships working together on matters of common interest and focus. In the following, one of the commissions shares a message from their ministry focus.
Right now, the planet is in a panic about a strange disease: COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded from its evaluation of COVID-19 that it should be classified as a pandemic. This illness is infecting and killing people regardless of ethnic, linguistic or socio-economic background
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, has stated that COVID-19 is costing us dearly, but in addition, the WHO is extremely concerned about the consequences of the pandemic on other health services and what that means, especially for children.
According to Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as one of the worst that the world has experienced. Bárcena explained that this disease puts an essential global public service (human health) at risk and will impact an already weak global economy.
Hopelessness and helplessness
Scientists are working day and night to find an encouraging solution for humanity, but the complexity of the disease is hampering efforts and there is still no good news on this front.
This disease has sent us into obligatory social isolation in our houses as decreed by governments.
In a number of countries, clinics have collapsed under the weight of infected patients because their numbers exceed the capacity. Healthcare professionals are becoming infected and many die; in some cases because they do not have access to essential protective gear.
In some countries, there is insufficient space in cemeteries to bury the dead so they are being buried in mass graves or in their back yards, while some are even left by the wayside.
In a nutshell, more than 4 million people have been infected and close to 1.5 million have recovered. However, the most painful part of this tragedy are the more than two hundred thousand people that are sadly no longer with us. Suffering, hopelessness and impotence have taken hold of humanity.
Many churches that are doing all they can to continue encouraging humanity with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to serve in the midst of this crisis have had to close their doors in obedience with preventive social distancing measures. This reality has struck a hard blow to the faith of some, even more so when they have seen family members or friends die while ministers and pastors are powerless to do anything, even bury the dead.
The world appears to be without hope. But an answer for humanity today is waiting within the pages of the Bible:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2).
This plea at the beginning of Psalm 121 was probably called out by King David. It offers us hope in moments of anguish when all seems to be going badly, with no way out and nobody at hand to help us in the middle of a crisis.
It is a plea that inspires us to still believe in hope, that God in God’s wisdom will bring much needed help – and on time as well. It reminds us that when humans are unable to find a solution of their own accord that can transform a hostile reality into a desired outcome, the living God, the Almighty, can help us to understand what has happened, often without exempting us from suffering.
Understanding reality brings hope and nourishes our faith so that we can help others.
In reality it is only God who can sovereignly intervene and give insight to the scientists so that they can provide humanity with a cure to this disease as soon as possible. Alternatively, that they can miraculously save humanity from this lethal virus through some simple means.
Psalm 91 poetically proclaims the hope of being freed from the grip of a deadly plague by portraying God as a father or mother who clothes their children in protective love in order to shield them from cold and danger. Surely what the psalmist is expressing is based on communal experiences of something similar or worse than the coronavirus that happened at some point in human history?
“For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:3–4, NRSV)
Jesus goes out to meet humanity
Jesus Christ should be our only hope in moments like the one that humanity is living through today. It is precisely in situations like the one we find ourselves in that Jesus meets humanity, bringing hope, offering consolation to those that weep, healing the wounds of those who suffer from the evil that societies face at the moment. It is comforting to remember that when humanity was drowning in sin with no way out, Jesus brought salvation through his death on the cross.
In this global context we could mention the prayer of Christ’s disciples as they faced a crisis caused by the threats made by the powers of the day. Those powers put at risk the Christian community’s freedom to preach the message of Christ, even to the point of their lives being in danger.
“And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29–30, NRSV)
So, in the midst of these difficult times, it is possible for us as a global Anabaptist community to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to humanity as we pray to God for confidence and courage to live this reality while also offering help, love and prayer for health to those who are suffering and are without hope.
—A Mennonite World Conference release by José Rutilio Rivas Domínguez, a pastor-theologian from Istmina, Colombia, and a member of the MWC Mission Commission.