Dear global family, dear friends and supporters,
While I am writing this, my heart is aching because I am more than ever aware of the brokenness of our world. The Covid-19 crisis, with its severe impact on the poor and marginalized, and the recent upsurge of racism and violence, are only the most visible hints of a world of injustice and pain.
Indian workers walking hungry and thirsty for miles and miles to get to their home villages. South African migrant workers standing for hours in long lines to pick up a little package of food. Young black men in the USA under constant suspicion and – in the case of George Floyd and others – victims of mistreatment and even death. Children being beaten up or abused in their homes. Refugee families all over the world living in overcrowded camps without any personal space, security, education or hope. State rulers abusing their powers in too many countries. I could go on and on.
I was asking myself, what is Scripture Union’s role in all of this? What is our responsibility? And then God spoke to me through the words of Lemuel´s mother who gave her son, the future king, very clear direction as he was growing up to become a person with great responsibility.
‘Speak up.’ Do not just shake your head in bewilderment. Do not just look and shrink back and forget. Do not give up too easily because the problems are too big to solve, and we have so little ourselves. ‘Speak up’. Call injustice what it is and defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Why? Because we are people of hope. Because we experience our saviour Jesus is speaking up for us day by day. In Him we have an advocate who is representing us. And because we want to be like Him – loving and caring, kind and just. Speaking up on behalf of those who can´t.
Yes, Scripture Union is not a social work agency – our calling is a different one. And yes, in a spiritual sense all people, both rich and poor, are needy. But there is an additional dimension that we cannot ignore.
When we are telling the story of our beginnings in 1867, we tend to start with the founder Josiah Spears at the beach of Llandudno where he was telling Bible stories to the rather well-off children on holiday. But the real starting point for SU was Josiah´s ministry to children in Islington, at that time an industrial slum.
Wikipedia states that ‘from the middle of the 19th century, the poor were displaced by clearances from inner London to build the new railway stations and goods yards. Many of the displaced settled in Islington, with the houses becoming occupied by many families. This combined with the railways pushing into outer Middlesex, reduced Islington’s attraction for the ‘better off’ as it became ‘unfashionable’. The area fell into a long decline; and by the mid-20th century, it was largely run-down and a byword for urban poverty.’
These are our roots.
I know that many of our movements are already doing tremendous work among the poor and marginalized, serving them with a deep commitment and sharing with them the good news of Jesus in an incarnational way. They are bringing hope and life to the children, and in addition to sharing the good news, they are responding to other practical needs as well.
But what about the future? What about the post-Covid-19 time to come? My assumption is that the crisis will make the injustices in our world even worse. Rich countries will recover relatively quickly, poor countries will be in an even worse situation. Disparity will grow.
Some of our own movements will be affected and suffer. We all know that SU has never been rich in terms of money. I suspect that by the end of this year, many of us will be in a more difficult financial situation than before. But this will also be the case for the recipients of our ministries – the children, young people and their families who we love and care about.
I have to admit, currently I have a lot more questions than answers. As we are cautiously approaching the new ‘post-corona world’, let us prayerfully consider what God wants to teach us and in which direction he wants to lead us as individuals, as national movements and also as a global community.
The global team is currently preparing a global ‘listening exercise’. We want to hear the voices of national leaders, but also the voices of children and young people, so that we can discern together what God might be saying to us as a global movement. I am really looking forward to the outcome of this process. You will hear more about it over the coming weeks.
As you are praying through this quarter’s prayer news, you will read a lot about creativity and amazing new opportunities. Who would have thought that so many of our movements would be able to create wonderful digital programs so quickly! But there is still a huge nervousness about the future. Let us pray for each other that God will lead and guide us and that he will open new doors to friends and ministry partners, so that we will be able to keep serving and ministering to children, young people and families. Let us speak up for those who do not have a voice to defend themselves. And let us be servants to a world in need.
Warmest greetings and blessings,