17 Jul 2020

No one left behind

Sarah Small, head of the Eden Network, shares her thoughts on the coronavirus and how no one should be left behind in this time of crisis:

I watched a short clip this week from an inspirational speaker named Simon Sinek. He talked about the benefits of having an infinite mindset, of understanding the current CV19 crisis in the context of all of history and the long stretch of the future ahead of us. With that in mind he suggested that we need not panic, because we know that pandemics have been and gone, that we have survived and that we are able to find strategies to cope, innovate and move on. Whilst I too hold what I would call an ‘eternal perspective’ I couldn’t help but feel that he was missing something quite important. I wasn’t sure when he talked of ‘we’ who he was really talking about, because the truth is that ‘we’ in his argument is not all of us. Some of us have tragically not survived this pandemic, and more have been significantly harmed by the trauma of death, the pain social isolation and the loss of jobs, status, finances, security, education and more. The ‘we’ who survive and innovate and move on tends to be those with power, privilege and financial stability on our side.

Both Bishop Philip North and Natalie Williams spoke at our Proximity Conference noting that this crisis is not the great leveller that some would understand it as. It’s not served to unite humanity against a great enemy, it’s served to further divide us. We are divided into those who will survive, and those who won’t, those who can innovate, change and develop and those who get left behind. They challenged us not to leave people behind as we start to look ahead, to consider how we can courageously, selflessly, consistently reach out to the marginalised, the newly impoverished, the digitally excluded and the mentally fragile.

Our Eden teams have struggled over the past few months. We feel a great sense of loss and frustration as gatherings, hospitality and even church has been interrupted. We are a people of proximity, we desire to be near, to be with and to be alongside our community. To be onlookers, trapped in our homes and knowing the disasters unfolding behind the closed doors across the street has been a source of great pain. It has been a time to push into prayer in a deeper way as we are limited in action.  

One of our key verses as a movement is John 1:14 which begins by saying, ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’ Our teams have made their dwelling in communities that are disproportionately struggling because of CV19. But they are still there. Dwelling in a place can also be understood as abiding, as staying put and being immersed. There have been times when it has been tempting to get out, to go away to a safe place, to bubble with parents or other family members outside of our communities. But we have chosen to stay, to face the future together. 

We have innovated and changed our work significantly over the past few months. Some teams have begun to provide physical services such as food banks, food distribution, phone help lines, pharmacy deliveries and much more. Others have taken their work online providing stable regular connection with their youth group and community groups. There has been a new hunger for the gospel with bibles distributed, online events gaining traction and conversations quickly turning to serious matters. Others in our network have had to face their own limitations through ill health, family commitments, changing job roles and personal bereavement. 

As participants in our communities’ pain, not just mere observers we are strategically placed for this next season. We have endured a tough time, but it has resulted in asking new questions of our God, praying harder and speaking up about the injustices that we have seen. It has seen us innovating and experimenting with new ways to reach our communities and share the gospel but more than anything it has galvanised in us a conviction that ‘we’ may not leave anyone behind. 

In Genesis 50:20 Joseph reflects on his enslavement by his brothers and says, ‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.’ CV19 has been a time of much evil, of frustration and fear but I hope you can join in my prayer for this coming season that many will know life and hope as a result of our work in the coming months. 

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