God's Power to Bring Life Out of Death
"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live..." John 11:25 I am a witness to the truth of God's power to bring life out of death. Our synod delegation to our Companion Synod of Senegal traveled in late February from the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Senegal in Fatick to the rural community of Linguere. Senegal is a nation where 95% of the residents are Muslim and 4% are Christian. Lutheran missionaries from America helped provide vaccines for cattle, developed a milk cooperative, developed a literacy program with Bible translation and initiated multiple health clinics.
It was at the health clinic in Linguere where I met people who considered themselves dead to be raised to new life through the Church. The first was a man named Gallo. Several years ago, Gallo, a Muslim, contracted the HIV/AIDS virus. He found himself growing weaker and weaker. As death approached and regular support structures fell away, he turned to the Church for help. As he told our group, "I can stand before you today, not because my Muslim faith community supported me, not because my family supported me, it was the Church that came to my aid. When I came to this clinic I was near death. Even though I was a Muslim, the Church paid for my evacuation and blood transfusion. It was the Church that provided me with the medicine and support that allows me to stand before you."
Gallo's initial response to what was provided was to work for free for two years. Now he serves as a treasurer in the organization. Gallo has not converted to the Christian faith, but he is a living witness of the power of Christian community to be the body of Christ to a neighbor in need, which he is not shy in sharing.
Later that day, we gathered under a ramada in the courtyard of the Health Director's home to meet Gallo and twelve local women, who also were dead to their families and friends, but when they came to the clinic after being rejected by everyone else, they found life, new life, without stigma, without fear, and now they seek to offer similar compassion and new life to others who think their only future is death.
As we lead up to our synod assembly in June, our Senegal delegation will be offering some of their experiences. But this story of Gallo and the women reminded me over and over again that we believe in a God of resurrection and new life, not just in eternity, but here and now. It also provides a good answer to why we support ELCA World Hunger and our Churchwide organization, because it is funding from both World Hunger and Global Missions through Churchwide that supports the clinics and multiple other witnesses of Christ being alive and working, even in a country that is 95% Muslim.
Know my prayers are with you across this synod as you travel the final days of Lent, move into Holy Week, and once again proclaim the good news of God's love through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In Christ's Service, Bishop Steve