I have been thinking more and more over the last year about how we are all connected, no matter where we come from – whether it is through our faith, our climate, natural disasters or economic systems. The idea hit me very strongly one day I was visiting a farm in rural Mozambique. I was there to meet a group of very poor women, and a few men, who have set up a commercial farm together. After we had talked about their farm, and what they had learnt from the team at TEAR’s partner Gaza Works, we joined hands and sang. The women sang that we are all one, joined as sisters and brothers because of the blood of Jesus
In our new COVID-19 world we are talking even more about connection and shared experiences. A phrase we hear often, from our leaders especially is that “We are all in this together”. And we know it’s true. We are all finding it tough, from those of us who have jobs and a well-set-up home to others with no job, new health worries, or families sick or at risk. The struggle is real and significant. For the majority of us, we have not experienced anything like this in Australia in our lifetime, with shortages, movement rules, major disease outbreaks and so on. For the first time in a long time, we are experiencing some of the struggles experienced by many of our global neighbours on a much more frequent basis.
Perhaps there are a few “connection” related ideas we can reflect on during this time.
The first is the opportunity to connect through a shared experience. It is often hard for us to imagine and identify with the struggles of people in developing countries. We have still have it relatively easy in Australia, but we all feel some of the pain and loss of having to stay home, change the way we do everything, not be able to get what we need when we need it, and the sense of fear and uncertainty. Suddenly we are all in this together and all reliant on one another to be able to overcome the disease.
As Gangulu activist and artist Lilla Watson is quoted as saying: "If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” This time might give us an opportunity to connect around a new, more just, shared worldview. If our world is set up in such a way that some communities and countries experience wave after wave of overwhelming struggle that we are just now experiencing, how can we change things? What new shared vision, with new priorities and values can we imagine? Rather than breathing sigh of relief when this is over, we can connect with our brothers and sisters by insisting that it is not acceptable for humans made in the image of God to have to live in this way in the long term, and bring about some change. This experience is helping us understand that our justice is bound up together – mine and yours, sick and healthy, rich and poor, droughts and floods, consumer and producer, Indigenous and coloniser.
Perhaps our new connection can allow us to learn from others as well. Many of us Aussies, especially the city dwellers, are new to this kind of struggle – after bushfires and now COVID-19, we are ready to cancel 2020 altogether. There is an African saying (so I am told, I’ve never heard an African say this): God is good all the time; all the time, God is good. I think it is easy for those of us in the church in Australia to confuse “God is Good” with “things are good for me”. We feel confident to say that God is good because, over all, life is good
Remember Job? Do we feel in a bit of hole now things aren’t good? Like Job, are we left demanding explanation and solutions from God? How do we trust in him when things aren’t good? Our brothers and sisters in places where things often aren’t good have much to teach us about faith. They know that, no matter what, God is good. He is always good, and his goodness doesn’t change because of our circumstances. I am down to the last roll of toilet paper – God is still good. The future is uncertain, and I don’t even know if I will live to see it – God is still good. I am lonely and alone, cut off from the people I care about - God is still good. I’m worried about whether I will have enough money to live – God is still good. God is good all the time; all the time, God is good.
We are connected with sisters and brothers who have known hunger, civil war, unemployment, unjust governments, overcrowded slums, violated human rights, a lack of education, early marriage, death of multiple children and internal displacement – who believe that God is good all the time. The Holy Spirit working in them has taught them this. With no judgement, but gentleness and grace, the Holy Spirit is willing to teach us the same.