“Take care of God’s needy people…” Romans 12:13
The displacement of people from their homes, communities and countries has been a recurring story from almost the beginning of history. Families – mothers, fathers, little children, the elderly, and the wounded – risk everything to find a safer place because of natural disasters, famine and conflict. In 2015 the desperate plight of refugees became front and centre of the international news with the rising numbers of people fleeing from Syria.
As followers of Jesus we turn to the Bible for insight and wisdom. With many stories of refugees, from Abraham to Jesus Himself, there is a clear call to care for widows, orphans and the foreigner in our midst. There are also passages of Scripture that make us uncomfortable. Jesus’ encounter with the Syro-Phoenician mother is one that makes me uncomfortable. The Gospel of Mark writes that Jesus was longing for some time of quietness away from the crowds after a busy time of ministry. His retreat was short-lived as the Gentile mother of a demon possessed daughter tracks Him down, calling and pleading for help relentlessly until Jesus finally responds. While I understand the need for quietness – haven’t we all tried to find rest in the midst of chaos? – Jesus’ response just doesn’t sound like the Lord I know and follow. Yet there it is recorded in our Scriptures, Jesus dismissing the woman with the words “It isn’t right to take food away from children and feed it to dogs.” (Matthew 15:26).
Commentators offer a variety of explanations from the explanation that this is an example of Jesus being “truly and properly man” as His words mirror the tension and attitude of the day between the Jews and the Gentiles, to the suggestion that this was a test of the woman’s faith. I long for more information to have been included in the account providing us with a few more cues (tone or facial expression). I wonder though if the Holy Spirit wants to ‘stir us’, cause us to reflect about our attitudes and our actions.
The mother does not ask for justice but pleads for mercy, “Even the dogs get the crumbs that fall.” She only wants her daughter to be healed, the suffering to stop. Jesus then responds as we had expected Him to from the beginning, “Dear woman, you really do have a lot of faith and you will be given what you want’ (vs. 28). There are many in the world today calling to us for mercy and compassion in the desperateness of their circumstances.
As we begin the 2016 Partners in Mission campaign we once more have an opportunity to reflect on our response to the needs of others, particularly to the needs of the International Salvation Army. Those who had the opportunity to participate in the Boundless Congress in June 2015 will have vivid memories of the expressions of faith and service from the global Salvation Army. We have been reminded that the hand of God remains on The Salvation Army. Yet challenges remain, and we have an important role to play in the sharing of our resources.
The goal of the 2016 Partners in Mission campaign is $2.25 million. This year we are introducing our partner territory, Latin America North. I would encourage you to take time to review the material and plan your local campaign.
Thank you for generously supporting the 2016 Partners in Mission campaign.
Susan McMillan, Commissioner