Mission and Me: Windows on the World
Two different women, by simple statements, made a profound impact on my concept of mission. One was a woman from India who spoke of mission as a "window on the world.”
The other was a woman from Africa. We were sitting in a mission workshop at General Convention some years ago. Representatives from all over the world were there. We all listened to the heartfelt, but very typical, words about mission from people from the United States. After a while the woman from Africa stood up and quietly asked, "When will you let my people be missionaries to you?" You could have heard a pin drop.
Years ago a group of thirteen teenagers and six adults from our diocese went on a working mission trip to Ecuador, our Companion Diocese at that time. In the year prior to that trip, our young people took time to study the country to which we were going, but they also took time to try to understand our own Diocese of Southwestern Virginia and the people who live in it. They visited the coalfields, learning about the Appalachian region and the history of the people who settled here. They came to understand much about whom we are, what gifts the people in the various parts of the diocese have, and what problems are here. When we went to Ecuador we lived in homes, some modest, others in slum areas. The young people came to realize that you don't have to have money or things to be happy. You can share who you are with people of another place, learn who they are, and accept each other as God's children.
When some of the Ecuadorian young people later came here, they too visited all over our diocese and learned that we are a very diverse people with many strengths and weaknesses. But again, we are all God's people.
Throughout the years I've tried to remember the words of the two women and tried to apply them. They have made a profound difference in my life just as the lessons learned through the experiences of sharing our corner of the world with people of a country vastly different from ours.
Mission is the looking through the windows of our world to see the people on the other side, while they in turn look back at us. It is by opening that window, stepping through and truly getting to know other people from other places that we and they can discover and share the love of God through Christ Jesus.
Charlotte Fischer lives in Lynchburg, VA and has long been active in the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia.