People have different perspectives and definitions of the term “Ministry of Presence” and its impact on people’s lives. When I was a teenager, I used to see missionaries either coming to our Church in Malawi or visiting our schools. Most of my experiences with missionaries were when I was still in primary school. Missionaries used to come and preach the gospel, some building schools, building churches. I remember some of the missionaries who came to our Zingwangwa primary school to distribute school materials. All of these experiences made me believe that missionaries come to do something more, especially preaching.
Let us look to Jesus as our example. Apart from all the things Jesus did, his presence made a great difference in the lives of many people. The Bible says in John 11:21: “‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ In this scripture, I believe Mary was looking for something beyond physical and human capacity. Most of the time when we are sick or we are looking after someone who is sick, we expect visitors to bring food or something physical.
Jesus’ presence meant hope, love, care, peace, kindness, gentleness, and restoration to people, regardless of their culture and family background. Coming back to the story of Mary, Mary knew that the presence of Jesus would have healed her brother Lazarus.
My question is, “What does our presence do to the people we are working with in the community?”
I have come to realize that Ministry of Presence is the mission itself, and it is not supposed to be taken for granted. All the materials we give to the community are important, but the Ministry of Presence covers very important concepts, such as building relationship with the poor and those affected by some critical social injustices in various communities. Our presence in the community can bring hope to the people. Our loving and passionate smiles mean a lot to those in the community.
When I came to the Philippines, particularly to Mindanao, for the mission of God, I had an opportunity to go to Tandag City for a relief trip to distribute food and school materials to people who were evacuated from their places of origin. I was so amazed and perplexed by a man who came to me just to express his gratitude. I thought that he would thank me and the Initiative for Peace in Mindanao, but instead the man said, “We thank God that you have come to us, and we believe that your presence will make us happy.” Isn’t it amazing that he appreciated the mission of the Ministry of Presence? In conclusion, our presence will make a big difference if we use it properly, especially if we have Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Finally, through my experience I have learned that if a husband provides everything, such as materials, food, and money for his family, but he has no time to interact with his wife and children, the wife complains and his children miss him a lot. In other words, we need to spend time with our family, building good and strong relationships. In the same way we also need to spend time with the poor, oppressed, rejected, and afflicted to create a community of faith, hope and love.
GMF International, Class of 2015-2017
Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace)