2000 years ago, when the angels appeared to the shepherds and told them about the coming of Jesus that would cause great joy (Luke 2: 10, 11), this was good news for all the world.
The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."
His coming into this world was anticipated to bring justice to the nations (Isaiah 42: 1, 3 & 4) and joy to those who were facing injustice. This joy was also found amongst marginalised communities as they anticipated the Messiah to lift them up as reflected in Mary’s song (Luke 1: 52, 53) and in the story of Samaritan woman (John 4:4-26). It was also found among the poor, considered as the least and the lowest, when they realised this meant receiving dignity and being called the “inheritors of the kingdom” (Luke 6: 20).
Afghanistan, where I work as the Executive Director for Tearfund Australia’s partner Serve, has the highest Infant Mortality Rate in the world. Its Maternal Mortality Rate is also high, coming in at the 28th highest in the world. Serve works with pregnant women and infant children to improve their quality of life.
There is joy in our world, when we see the imagery seen in Isaiah 65:20, where “No longer will babies die when only a few days old. No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life."
Serve strives to help the poor and the marginalised in Afghanistan – like women and tribal communities – to have the resources needed for a better quality of life, to receive their entitlements and to restore dignity. We do this through community Self-Help Groups, income generation activities and raising up community leaders to champion change for their community.
When people are empowered and equipped to bring about their own transformation, this brings joy in their life, like it was assured to the shepherds who heard the good news first. Like the elderly widow in Shakar Dara who expressed her joy to Serve staff that now, she was able to survive after receiving a cow and some chickens through our project, and that finally, she was able to feel hope.
In Afghanistan, many people with disabilities are marginalised due to cultural beliefs. Serve helps to bring awareness to communities to bring about change and inclusion.
We also provide educational opportunities for visually impaired children and hearing impaired children to complete their schooling and university courses. The confidence and hope brought in the lives of these children and their families brings joy in our world.
When children speaking the minority language, Pashai, struggled to cope with their studies, Serve helped them by conducting pre-schooling classes in their own language to gain confidence and to continue with their regular school programs. The sense of achievement and self-worth this instills in the children brings joy in our world.
Serve also promotes environmentally friendly agricultural practices and works towards water conservation, provides solar lamps and promotes effective waste management. This resonates with the liberation cry of the creation (Romans 8: 21) and also brings joy in our world.
Let us join hands and give thanks that the message of good news and joy shared all those Christmases ago still stands true in our world today. We see it in the work of people like the staff at Serve, and through your support, generosity and faithfulness.
Kennedy Dhanabalan is the Executive Director of Tearfund Australia’s partner Serve Afghanistan. Kennedy was also the CEO of EFICOR, our long-standing partner in India, for many years.