As I was reflecting this week on my journey as a missionary, when Dad, who many of you know as Bishop Barry, ask if I would share how I stepped into the life of being a missionary.
It was a difficult reflection - as my mission work is not the way most people perceive a missionary’s life to look like. I have not picked up my life in relocated overseas. I actually only “go” on mission for a couple of weeks every couple of years. We are all called to the work of the missionary.
Let me introduce you to a lovely couple, Pastor John and Priscilla Andoh. I have had the absolute pleasure of staying with them in Accra, Ghana on many occasions over a 12-year period. I first meet Pastor John in 2008 when I visited Ghana with Dad.
Their hearts are so big and generous that it can’t be described in words. They are a couple with a vision for caring for those who have been widowed or orphaned.
The Ghanaians are so friendly with servant hearts, yet it is a place in desperate poverty where the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic have left many orphaned and widowed.
Freedom House is the vision of Pastor John and Priscilla to provide more than just care of women and children. The Freedom House community is a thriving community where orphans live, and it also a Widows and single mother’s training centre.
At present there are 40 orphans and 40 widows and 12 single mothers who are fed, clothed and educated.
Widows are taught bead work, baking bread, production of soap and Dettol. Business skills are taught to empower women. These micro- businesses give these women hope – hope to provide and to break the poverty cycle for their families and community.
Freedom House is a working farm where fresh crops of cassava, oranges, coconuts, and plantain are harvested to provide food for the widows and orphans. Pigs are also bread. Produce is also sold to provide funds to pay for resources and to cover expenses.
This week the Holy Spirit kept taking me to the scripture found in Matthew 25:31-46.
Now, why this reminder of something we know so well and hear so often? Because when we talk about justice and when we read this parable of the sheep and goats, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of asking ourselves, “Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right things?”
It’s so easy to look at our lives and start checking off the boxes:
“Yup, I helped a hungry person. Yup, I donated clothes to Thrifty’s or the Salvation Army. Yup, I was kind to a stranger and paid for their coffee. Yup, I’ve visited people in the hospital and brought a meal to my neighbour after she came home from the hospital. Hmm, the prison one...haven’t done much there, but hopefully all the other stuff will make up for it. But is it enough?”
Or maybe we look at the checklist and check only a few boxes:
“Yup, I gave to the Food Bank. Nope, didn’t do that one or the next one. Could have done more on the other one. Uhoh. I’m in trouble.”
This parable on faith and justice has not been intended to guilt us into doing more. It challenges us to reflect on the great commandment and the great commission.
We don’t obey any of these commands to earn favour with God. That’s ours, by God’s grace. We don’t love God or our neighbour or share the gospel so that we can stand before the throne on Judgment Day and say, “See what I did!”
We love because he first loved us. We love because that’s the expression of new life, of being born again. Love is living our God’s grace.
The love that John and Priscilla show is not some big miracle or publicly impressive example of profound love.
Jesus talks about the little things, little ministries in life. Food and drink, clothing and hospitality are minimum human needs. Visiting hurting people in their confinement, when they are not in productive circulation or attractive or strategic, is a ministry recognized as a commitment to Christ.
Providing food and shelter, making visits are all basic and mundane and un-flashy services. These ministries are within the reach of every one of us. We can do this. All of these ministries are given the highest honours by Jesus.
There are as many human needs as there are human beings. Every person John and Priscilla care for is dying for a drop of love. Basic help for each person’s need is what Jesus celebrates here.