Acouple of years ago as we were swimming upstream against COVID-19, hope seemed to be hard to come by. I don’t know about your churches, but we were forced to dive into the deep end of the modern digital age – or rather bellyflop into it.
Month after month, we worked tirelessly on learning how to film high-quality video, add the little subtitles and create engaging content to make the services dynamic and participatory for all group ages at the same time!
Eventually, we got better at it and we paddled through the two-year parenthesis.
At the beginning of last year, COVID-19 restrictions loosened up and we were finally able to return to “normal.”
But how do you “be normal” after such a long time? Our numbers weren’t what they were and our online participation was meager. On top of that there were significant financial losses among many of our members and deep pain over those who were no longer with us.
As a congregation, we didn’t have a special verse for this time. But if I had to say we had one – Galatians 6:9 would have been it.
“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”
During COVID-19, we hoped that the people would return.
And they did.
Then, we hoped that the first year back together would prove to be a year of growth and reconnecting after such a long separation.
And it was.
We now see the pews filling up with brothers and sisters, the children running through the yard in their Sunday School programs, the youth going out to local hospitals and doing evangelism, small groups meeting in homes and uplifting each other, etc.
On the other hand, paradoxically (and somewhat unconsciously), we had also hoped for some facets of our pre-pandemic lives to return. With a great sense of weariness and melancholy, we realized that we could never recover all that had been lost along the way. Not all that we had hoped for came true.
I can’t quite say what the secret is to finding or having hope. However, I think the Apostle Paul was onto something when he encouraged us to “not give up” as we strive – and hope – for what we desire. It was in our time of loneliness, isolation, separation and loss that we vividly felt the urge to hope for something else – something more.
Last year we were able to meet in person and celebrate MWC’s Assembly 17 in Indonesia. Our encounter felt like a true homecoming after a long time of separation. As we met, we harvested a global collection of testimonies, which we then took home to share with our communities. We heard stories, much like our own, filled with difficult challenges and joyful triumphs.
May we continue to be encouraged to patiently await and enjoy God’s plentiful harvest. And not give up on hope.
—Cynthia Dück is the MWC Regional Representative to Brazil and Paraguay. She lives in Asuncion, Paraguay, together with her husband and three teenaged children. They attend and serve at Mennoniten Brüder Gemeinde Concordia / Iglesia Hermanos Menonitas Concordia (Concordia Mennonite Brethren Church).
Cynthia Dück spoke at Renewal 2023 – Jesus Christ, our hope – in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada, 25 March 2023. This article has been adapted from her presentation.