Joy in the Harvest is a multileveled ministry with various parts and aspects - e.g., mission station for other missionaries, ministries to refugees, outreach services to the poor, vocational training and educational programs, evangelistic campaigns, to name a few. In different capacities, and on numerous fronts, Joy in the Harvest shares the love and compassion of Christ to the least of our brothers and sisters. It is a ministry that extends Jesus' hands in so many ways.
One of the specific ways Joy in the Harvest extends Jesus' love is to minister to the Destitute of Kigoma. Several years ago Lowell and Claudia Wertz realized there were 'gaps' in the social services of Kigoma's 'assistance' programs to the poor. The government of Tanzania was simply not caring for persons with basic needs, many of whom included lepers, AIDS orphans, the mentally ill and physically handicapped, the poor, and refugees. No one was providing help or relief. The needs were great.
Today, as part of our work, we went to the Destitute Camp with Lowell to pass out cleaning kits (towel, soap, tooth brush, tooth paste) and share words of encouragement and comfort. We also had the opportunity to pray with several of the people. One was a woman who had been bed-ridden for eight months. Sick and with leprosy we offered prayers for strength and healing. It was a moving moment.
What I shall remember, however, were the smiles and singing: Despite rejection, the people expressed joy. It was a reminder of how God's kingdom comes to us in the midst of pain and suffering. I will also remember how important it is to touch and tell others how they matter to God: We all are God's children!
Needless to say, it was an important moment, but it was also a moment of sadness, happiness, and anger all rolled into one: Sadness at the condition of the people, happiness to see joy on so many faces, and anger to know that societies, no matter the stage of development, have ways of abandoning people. Were it not for Joy in the Harvest the Destitute of Kigoma would have nothing. Or, to put it another way, despite what sociologists call a 'zone of social abandonment' Christ was experienced. A touch of hope!
To be sure, our time in the Destitute Camp made me realize yet again how difficult life in Africa is. There are no easy solutions to what Tanzania and many other countries are facing. The list of problems are endless. And yet, the church is called to minister. There is no place the body of Christ is not called to go to spread the good news. When Jesus said "Go into all the world," he meant "Go into all the world." The operative word, of course, is 'all.' Not some of the world, or this part of the world, or that part of the world, but ALL the world. It begins at home and then moves out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:16-20). Everywhere! All the time!
As I reflect on today, I am reminded again of this truth, and of how we all are called to respond with the love Christ for all God's people everywhere all the time. We are called to share this love and to proclaim that nothing shall separate us from it - now and always. Amen.