When I contemplate the upcoming partnership with the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), I always go back to one of the core values of Global Ministries: Community. While this might be an obvious choice when reflecting and anticipating my time in the Philippines, I appreciate how Global Ministries words the value of community. Community is “Building interdependence and unity among all of God’s children.” The key word being ‘interdependence,’ which recognizes that my sanctity and well-being is inherently tied up with my siblings in Christ. It's an understanding that our world is much smaller than we ever realize or sometimes hope it to be. Because if our communities are interdependent, then people across oceans, across cultures, across religions, and so many other spectrums, become significantly more important. It is what makes the bright and vibrant contrasts of our amazing, messy, beautiful world.
This isn’t necessarily a challenging concept to grasp. As Christians we often talk about the Body of Christ and being welcome to a table for all. This is the call from Christ we so often hear in the pulpit and during Bible Study. But taking this true community, this true communion, out into our everyday lives is incredibly challenging. I often feel overwhelmed by the knowledge that the threads that weave our tapestry together are tightly bound, and if I pull too hard it might completely unravel. Truly living out the unity amongst all of God’s children plus the creation we live in is really, really hard. And I am honestly probably terrible at it. But I rest assured that we are all in this together. We are all in the struggle to be more Christ-like. We are all in the joy of creation and resurrection. When I arrive in the Philippines, I hope to be held accountable for the inevitable mistakes that I will make. But I also hope that I will be surrounded by grace and love. Grace and love that allows for growth and a deeper feeling of connection. Recently in worship, I was struck by the lyrics of a song, “We have been sent embracing love’s full joys and costs.” (Iona Abbey Worship Book) Being sent (in whatever our vocational calling may be) comes with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, plus all the stuff in the middle, with the foundation of love. Embracing the joys and costs of love will be part of my daily practice while living and working in the West Visayas at the Center for Education, Development, and Training (CENDET). Joy and love will be crucial while working at CENDET in support for justice, peace and human rights.
I hope to remember this interdependence, grace/love thing when I’m navigating through the world and not just in the context of the Philippines and working with our partners in the UCCP. The United States does not currently seem like a society that values community and interdependence as one of its core values. Our politics seems to divide more than unite. Our relationship to nature is more exploitive than mutually dependent. How do we live out this Global Ministries value in our own backyard? Once again, I’m not entirely sure, and I know it will be really, really hard. But I hope that as believers in the justice of Christ we do not give up because it is difficult. Instead, I hope we find inspiration through the struggle to truly uphold all of God’s creation.
I am blessed to be departing soon for the Philippines and joining the UCCP to expand my own community. Sewing my tiny thread into another colorful part of the story.
Andrew Larsen serves with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.