A year ago, our conference leader – whom you might remember as “the Hallelujah man” – Bishop Ambrocio Porcincula died due to stroke. I want to remember him today, because he is close to me like my own grandfather. As far as I know, he never skipped the MWC Assembly ever since he started joining. I know he would be here too if he were still alive, and he would be proud of me standing on the stage today.
Three days after my bishop’s death, my father tested positive for COVID-19 and got a severe pneumonia. It was one of the worst crises we ever experienced as a church and as a family because my father is the next person to lead the conference after Bishop Porcincula’s death. During our time of mourning, my father’s life was also hanging on a thin thread.
I thought we will lose my father too, because we could not find a hospital that would take him in. But even though me and my siblings were deeply distraught, we gathered our faith and agreed to take care of our father at home. We did our best to get everything he needed as much as we could to help him survive.
I could not imagine a second death of a loved one and a church father to all; it would be devastating. But, in the middle of our struggle, we found comfort in the knowledge that God is in control. We found peace in faith that whatever happens, it is God’s will.
After two weeks of home care, my father recovered and was healed by the Lord.
I believe my family’s COVID crisis story is just one of millions. None of us are free from crisis these past two years, but despite the presence of affliction and pain, our faith is our constant source of peace.
Many people are suffering — crushed by the weight of their troubles. But Psalm 9:9 says the Lord is a refuge for them, a safe place they can run to.
Our struggles are our constant reminder that God is our help. Now, we need God more than ever.
As a communion, we are praying about the struggles of our churches in India as they are facing persecution because of their Christian beliefs, In Myanmar, our brothers and sisters are suffering from political uncertainties that resulted in violence. And in Ukraine, many are displaced due to war.
But despite all of that, we are here: you came! For those who are online: you are showing up! (It’s either you need to wake up too early or stay up late, but you show up!)
Isn’t it beautiful to see each other again? Isn’t it beautiful to see the gathering of your brothers and sisters in this place today?
Isn’t it beautiful that despite the pandemic and war, we registered early this year and trusted that everything would be fine by July? That was a huge leap of faith!
As part of the registration team, I am amazed to see how a lot of you registered immediately as soon as we opened the on-site registration. You registered early despite the uncertainties happening around us. During that time, we didn’t even know how the war in Ukraine would turn, but still people from Europe were some of the first people to register.
Today, I want to remember our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Many of them choose to stay in the middle of the war and help with those who are in need. Anabaptist-Mennonite churches gather whatever they can to help the people of Ukraine. War is ugly but when people choose to come together, helping each other in times of need, it is a beautiful sight.
In times of trouble, we are the extension of God’s hands. The miracles of God come through us.
That is what living together in times of crisis looks like. We forget about our differences, our disagreements, and find our common goal for peace. Peace is not a destination, but a journey and on that journey, we cannot walk it alone; we need each other.
To everyone who responds to their brothers’ and sisters’ call for help; to those who give donations; for you who volunteer; to those who help people find justice; to those who take care of people that are strangers – thank you!
You already took one step closer to peaceful world we all desire. You are the extension of God’s arm
Now I challenge everyone to do the same for our brothers and sisters in India and Myanmar too, Let us try to learn more about their situation and find out how we can be the physical hands of Christ in their time of need.
A year ago, during our COVID crisis, my family needed to stay in home isolation for more than a month while my dad recovered from COVID. We needed to depend on the generosity of our friends and churchmates for all our needs like food, oxygen refills and medicine. Looking back on how God used people to provide for our needs during the time we needed them most still amazes me. Even in the middle of the night, there were people who did not hesitate to offer help. Even the most unexpected person, whom you think cannot give you anything because they are also in need, would knock on our gate to give us something out of genuine care for us.
Truly, crisis and hardships bring out the best in us. We see the hands of God working through all of us.
I want to end with Romans 15:13 which says: “I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace as you trust in him. Then you will have more and more hope, and it will flow out of you by the power of the Holy Spirit” (ERV).
Trust in the power of the Holy Spirit that there is hope in this difficult time. We, as a communion of churches, will be each other’s help in times of need. When the power of the Holy Spirit flows through us you cannot help but take action. The Holy Spirit is our driving force to reach out to those who are in need. And this is what living together in times of crisis look like for those who follow Christ.
—Ebenezer G. Mondez is the YABs (Young AnaBaptists) Committee representative for Asia and the Pacific (2015-2022), YABs mentor (2022-2028). He is a member of Lumban Mennonite Bible Church, Philippines.