This week I’m in Guatemala with a service team from my church. We’re beginning work on a multi-year sanitation system for a Maya community, Chuicutama, in the Highlands. Our reflections for the week center on the theme of Jubilee, the biblical commandment mandates forgiveness of debts and economic restoration as part of God’s New Creation.
Jubilee is what Jesus announces as his Gospel in his first sermon in Nazareth in Lk 4. According to Torah, a big part of the good news of the Jubilee is reconciliation of wrongs in the world- a theme Paul picks up in 2 Corinthians.
To complement this theme, I’ve asked Laina Schneider, a friend and college student at Virginia Tech to post her thoughts on Jubilee. Laina studies agriculture at Tech and has served as Aldersgate’s mission intern in both Guatemala and Cambodia. Perhaps more importantly, as a college student her wrestling with questions of faith and life are just what the Church needs to hear. I’d encourage you to subscribe to Laina’s blog here.
Each mission trip and organization that Aldersgate involved with is founded some level on the concept of reconciliation. Though how that element affects the overall purpose and role of the organization varies, we can see throughout, a tendency towards service with an oppressed people.
In Cambodia, the working class is one that only a short time ago was scarred by the powerful Khmer Rouge regime, who inflicted a genocidal wound in the kingdom no one could heal.
In Guatemala, the Mayans have been pushed out of their homes and told that their culture and language is lowly for hundreds of years. They have been forced out of their fertile fields and pushed into the last livable place high in the mountains. Their war-stricken country has taken the lives of so many men, leaving women and children to fend for themselves.
The Ft. Apache reservation was formerly a U.S. military post, chosen specifically to trap the Apache tribe and control their actions and interactions. American Indians, Mayans, and the Khmer people are all injured. They are calloused from a history that we today may not have had control over, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend it never happened.
Jesus’ message of Jubilee is centered on forgiveness, the forgiveness of debts, neighbors, and all wrong doings.
So what is our role in this Gospel?
Mission can serve as an avenue for reconciliation in places that we, or others, have done wrong. It is easy to say “sorry” or to act like because we are living now, that it wasn’t our fault. But it is our job as Christians to show love to these people. To reach out and show them that not only are we sorry, but we want to help them to help themselves.
Mission provides an opportunity for both forgiveness and tangible reconciliation in ways that not only provide relief and an apology, but also create a sustainable process to ensure empowerment of many generations to come.