By Will Cumbia, Field Coordinator, Virginia Baptist focus:refugees
Like many in the world right now, I am tired of looking at my computer screen. I am exhausted by the extra emotional energy it takes to express myself when only my head and shoulders can be seen. I long to have a reason to wear something other than sweatpants the whole day long!
Yet, in the midst of our frustrations and fatigue, it can be easy to miss the abundance of blessing around us. I have a laptop to use as a powerful connection to the rest of the world, when others may only have a tiny phone screen, or no device at all. I have a safe, warm space where I can decompress after a day of screen time. And, even though I live far away from many friends and family, I live in an age that allows for such an amazing level of connection.
Looking at just the month of January, I can’t even begin to count the number of people I’ve connected with across at least a dozen states and probably 30+ countries. What an amazing time to live where I can go from a conference hearing about refugee work across Europe, to catching up with friends in the States, to a church staff meeting with people across the street, to seeing my little nephew dance around to his own version of “Baby Shark”!
I do not want to at all belittle the real suffering of our present moment or to say that virtual engagement is in any way a replacement for in-person interaction, however practicing gratitude in the midst of difficulty is a powerfully grounding activity. I give thanks for what I have, while giving myself space to recognize what is lost. I encourage you to do the same.
I would also encourage you to not forget missions in such a time as this. I realize we are all overloaded with content these days (well done if you’ve read this far in the post), but we have an amazing opportunity to connect with mission work all around the world in a renewed way. Rarely are we all so aware of a common human experience. Usually we focus on what divides us, but there is a powerful solidarity in our current moment as the whole world collectively experiences the pandemic together. As difficult as it is, the pandemic is a bridge that connects us all.
So consider connecting with our partners individually or as a church with one of the virtual missions experiences organized by the Missions Development staff. Our focus:refugees partners continue to work through the difficulties of the pandemic to love and work alongside displaced peoples. You can support them by learning about work in Europe in the Middle East as well as in Virginia by checking out past virtual missions trips and upcoming ones on the Partnership Missions Facebook page.
Then think about creative ways to deepen the virtual experience by pairing it with in-person experiences. Is your church supporting work of the Croatian Baptists working with refugees stranded outside in Bosnia? Consider committing to a time of outdoor prayer in the cold, asking God for protection for those without a warm place to go. Then see how you may be able to support those locally who are in a similar situation.
Or maybe something a bit more fun? Do some research on the food culture of one of our partners and see what you may be able to recreate at home. Want to get the full Lebanese experience while hearing about the work of the Lebanese Baptists? Grab your favorite hummus and pita bread and picture yourself in Beirut! Connecting with one of our church partners in Austria? I may lose my Austrian visa for saying such a controversial statement, but any piece of fried, thin white meat is basically a Wiener Schnitzel. Serve with some (Austrian) potato salad and end with some German cookies from your local Lidl or Aldi and you can hear the Alps start to sing. “Travel” to Austria as soon as this coming Saturday, February 20 at 10AM EST as First Baptist Alexandria visits our friends in Linz, Austria (check it out on Facebook or Zoom here).
I, and our partners across the ocean, look forward to welcoming you and your churches in person soon, but until then unmute your microphone, we can’t hear you!
May God continue to grant us patience, grace, and creativity in these times and may we stand in solidarity with each other, not forgetting those on the margins of the world.
Join our upcoming Virtual Mission Trips:
Linz, Austria, February 20 at 10AM EST: Register here or watch on Facebook live
Beirut, Lebanon, March 13 at 10AM EST: Register here or watch on Facebook live