Shalom is Good News
A woman entered our clinic in Somalia and sat down in front of me. She never looked up, keeping her eyes downcast towards the floor. I greeted her and asked her how we could help her and to explain what her health needs were. She did not respond. My interpreter sitting next to me muttered angrily. I felt God prompt me to speak truth to her and said “Do you know that God knows your name”. She immediately looked up at me and peered intensely into my eyes, tears building up and spilling over. I rested my hand on her shoulder and affirmed the truth she so needed to hear, she was someone whom God knew and loved. With this bond of trust established she opened up that her she a prolapsed uterus and we were able to help her medically.
Would our institutional donors consider this proselytism? Would you feel uncomfortable with this?
Here was a lady in obvious need. Her medical condition had exacerbated her feeling of isolation and worthlessness. Being present with her and out of compassion to her, prompted by God to speak truth, both her emotional and medical needs were reached, plus a spiritual truth declared opening her heart to healing. This was Good News to her.
At no point in this meeting was there any agenda to convert her. Nor was there a mental dialogue going on in my head to ensure I was balancing word and deed. It was a simple act of love springing out of Spirit led discernment.
Integral Mission is action.
Many of us feel comfortable with doing good works. We hesitate with speaking truth, fearing that this will be construed as proselytism. We also need to hear the Good News – speaking truth brings liberation, healing, reconciliation, wholeness and Shalom, not just to those whom we serve and love but to ourselves.
The real concern is that we do not use a position of power to coerce or manipulate someone to convert. The story above demonstrates well that there was no coercion and no intention to try and convert.
Here are a few principles to guide us: (extracted from Elmer Thiesson’s paper present in Thun)
Dignity of People: to protect and uphold the dignity of every person and community, never treating anyone as a project or means to an end.
Care for the whole person: physical, social, economic, political, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.
Freedom of Choice: being sensitive to the position of power we all may hold, ensure each person and community has the freedom of choice to express and live out their faith.
Live with integrity, truthfulness, straight forwardness, authenticity: never hide who you are in Christ
Humility: share your life with humility, never patronising, never paternalistic, never arrogant, never dogmatic.
Tolerant and accepting: demonstrate sensitivity and inclusion to all
Motivation: be honest about why we do what we do
Equality: invite the free expression of opinions and faiths
Let’s be open to speak truth wisely, discerningly and motivated by love.
Grace and peace