The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
One of the promises we make when we sign a three-year partnership covenant is to communicate regularly with our partner church. It is the hardest of the promises to keep, in my opinion. The other promises of regular visits, weekly prayer for our partner church, even the yearly gift of money, all of these are more concrete than communicating with people you have never met.
Recently at my church, Augustana in West St. Paul, we tried a global mission activity of writing short notes to our partners in Guatemala and Tanzania. The result? Hmmm...mixed. Even with bribes of cupcakes, it was hard to entice people to sit down, pick up a pen, and write a note to folks they don't know.
I maintain that the members at Augustana DO know our partners, by proxy, through reports from groups that travel, from global mission reflections in our newsletter, and through visits from Guatemalan and Tanzanian leaders to our pulpit. But if one has never traveled outside of the U.S., perhaps it is a difficult stretch to imagine others in a different culture. "What do I write?" "How do I start?"
Even though it is a struggle to start that little 1/2 page note, I have seen the reaction of folks in Guatemala upon receiving a bundle of mail. Each note is touched, passed around from person to person. The translation to Spanish, though written on the same page, is read aloud for those who don't read. In some communities, where an indigenous Mayan language is used more commonly than Spanish, it needs to be translated a second time.
Regardless, each note is treasured. Each note is taped onto the cement block wall of the church so that it can be looked at for several more weeks before the tape gives way.
It's a promise we need to keep.
Chair, Guatemala Task Force