Strangers No More

Isaiah 55:1-9  “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”

I recently traveled with Imagine No Malaria to witness a large-scale net distribution in Sierra Leone. After our morning visit to celebrate the progress of the distribution and hanging of mosquito nets in a nearby village, we returned to the city of Bo. As we drove, a mixture of images flowed through my mind: abject poverty, resident volunteers proudly committed to the well-being of their neighbors in the village, as well as the deep, joyful gratitude expressed by all whom we met. Stepping out into the blistering heat, I noticed a blow-up Santa perched atop the railing outside the restaurant. It seemed an odd contrast to see Christmas decorations when the sweat was running off my forehead, but then again it was the first week of Advent.

As we all sat there, uniformed in our white Imagine No Malaria T-shirts that boldly proclaimed “Saving Lives in Sierra Leone,” the contrast of the poverty outside and the reminders of comfort and commercialization inside stirred uncomfortably in my soul. Noticing my T-shirt, a young woman from another country introduced herself as a social worker with women in prison and asked how she might get some nets for the women. The news of the net distribution was widespread; she had heard of the work of INM and celebrated with us. As I introduced her to the others and we conversed, my eyes were suddenly opened to the Incarnate Christ among us. There we were - a diverse group of folks from places all over the world, most of us never having met prior to our gathering for this event. And yet we were there – intentionally gathered to celebrate, to equip, to encourage, and to hold accountable the work of our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone. Mysteriously, we were all joined in heart, mind, and spirit in the single-minded purpose of saving lives and offering the possibility of life abundant to the least, the last, and the lost.

What other force but the power of God could draw strangers from all over the world to work together for the sake of helping people who they will probably never know? What but the power of God can stir in the hearts of individuals, one by one, to produce a world-transforming reaction that will reverberate around the globe?

Prayer: Creator and Lord of us all, we are marching with you to Zion. Remind us again of your power to break through even the dissonance and incongruence of life. We pray for the people of Sierra Leone and all of our brothers and sisters on the continent of Africa who daily face the challenges of poverty and disease. In the words of Isaac Watts, may “we who love the Lord…join in a song of sweet accord and thus surround the throne.” May the harmony of our individual voices create a symphony of praise that gives life to your children around the world. We pray in the name of Jesus who died that all might have life. Amen.

Rev. Janice Griffith
Illinois Great Rivers Conference