We returned to Lospalos in late September after a good vacation and a month speaking in churches in the U.S. It was refreshing and encouraging for us to connect with so many people interested to learn about what we’re doing in Timor-Leste.
Our theme during our church visits was “Restoring Hope.” We drew on Ezekiel 37:1-14, which gives us the image of a valley of dry bones. We feel like the situation in Timor-Leste is a bit like that valley of dry bones. The vibe among people here is frustration, uncertainty and shaky hope because so many are still mired in poverty and opportunities are so limited. People in the States seemed to resonate with this sentiment as well.
But alongside the image of the valley of dry bones, the Ezekiel reading offers a mandate and a promise. The mandate is for the prophet to speak a word of hope. The promise is that God’s Spirit will restore life. Restoring hope. That’s what global mission is about today.
I’d like to share two insights on hope from our time with congregations in the U.S.
At our home church in Duluth, MN, the youth minister Nathan Holst talked about how quickly we Americans tend to lose hope when things look dubious. This was compared to the Israelites’ multi-generational experience of exile and faithful hoping for a different future. They didn’t give up in despair but went deeper in their relationship with God whom they knew to be faithful despite the hard realities. That in turn motivated them to act in concrete ways for the future God intends.
At First Congregational Church in Cannon Falls, Rev. Glen Herrington-Hall said: “Hopelessness is a privilege. I can have a bad day and go home and eat, sleep and go to bed in a safe place and get up and go to work the next day.” He shared that he’d learned from partners in the Philippines that many people don’t have that option. For many hope is all there is. These are two insights I’m hanging onto these days.
We learn from scripture that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the ultimate source of hope. It means that despite appearances, God’s kingdom of justice and peace is the wave of the future. That is the hope we must cling to and act on.
Thank your for your continued interest and support.
Tom and Monica Liddle serve with the Protestant Church of East Timor (IPTL). Their appointments are made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.