I was away for a couple of weeks earlier in the month, in Egypt. Lizzie and I try to get out there once a year to visit our daughter and her family and share in their life as ‘mission partners’ with CMS (Church Mission Society).
When living in a different culture, there are some things that you know will be different, like the language, which my 7-year old grandson tried valiantly to teach me (sadly, I only managed 7½ out of 10 in one my tests).
But other things can surprise you. So I’ve had to get used to the fact that when I go there, I’m still defined as a pastor. I might think I’m having a break from all that, but not everyone in the Christian community there would understand things that way. A pastor is something you are, not just a role that you can pick up and lay down.
We’ve been going there since 2019, and I’ve begun to get used to it. Don’t get me wrong – I spent most of my time with the family, and a lot of it on the floor building train tracks and plastic flower gardens … But I preached and gave a couple of talks, and prayed with a lady who came to visit the apartment.
It’s a great privilege to share with other Christians across the boundaries of nation, culture and language. We might just hear a distant echo of the new song that John records from his heavenly vision in Revelation 5: ‘by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth’ (Rev. 5.9–10).
For me, it’s especially powerful to meet with those for whom discipleship is deeply costly in ways we would struggle to imagine. Many of the people with whom we share fellowship in Egypt have given up a great deal to be faithful to God’s call and sustain the church’s witness to Christ. Are there attachments that hold me back from responding with the same level of trust and obedience in my own very different – and rather more comfortable – context?
The international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity came to an end on Thursday this week. But let’s continue to give thanks for the oneness of the body of Christ, praying for our brothers and sisters ‘from every tribe and language and people and nation’, and asking that love would abound in our life together here.
The Revd Dr Jeremy Worthen