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Dealing with loss

by Rafael Nastase

This year is unique due not only to the pandemic situation, but also for political conflicts, and one of the most destructive bushfire from Australia.  But for some, uniqueness of this year is given greater significance by the loss of someone dear from our family, a friend or a dear colleague.

I remember, at the end April, my brother called me informing I have to come to the southern part of Romania as my mother lost her fight with cancer. Due to pandemic restrictions, it was a strange and small funeral. I went back home with an emptiness in my soul.

Two months later, one of our collaborators called me. I knew her name from my phone book: she was the mother of one of my colleagues.  Her voice trembling, she informed me that my colleague, her older son Radus, fell from a 100 meters cliff and died.

A couple of days later I was preaching at Radus’ funeral, remembering him taking the leadership baton from me and leading OM ministry for six months. I cry out to God, asking WHY?

 

Is “why?” a legitimate question?

This spring-summer, I learn that God is allowing me to ask why. I will not have the certainty that I will receive answers for my questions. But what’s making the uniqueness of losing someone, is the not the loss, but the metamorphosis which comes after – those mysterious moments, running from peace to agony; those moments when we can discover God like never before. Yes, for Christians, suffering is a mystery. Kierkegaard said: ”those who suffer have a common secret with God.”

 

God’s message to a deaf world

At Radus’ remembrance days, I remember that three days of ongoing fellowship and testimonies were not enough to speak about how greatly God was working through a short life of 30 years: from a high level medical student to skin donation to a person in need, from a midnight call counselling people in crisis, to a medical cabinet, there was God’s shade over him.  I learned that trough loss, pain became “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world”(C.S. Lewis).

During loss, I also discovered that some people have high level of tolerance to pain. Meeting (apparently) so tender, soft and “weak” people facing the loss of a dear one, but having such resilience, it really amazes me. I realise is not our power to face tribulations, He is giving the power, because He “overcome the world” (John16:33).

Even though Jesus warned us “in this world we will have trouble”, I will continue asking “why?” and even though I might not understand His sovereign plan, I will be honoured to be His megaphone for this deaf world.

My prayer is that, in those “why moments” when I am asking to “take this cup from me…” (Luke 22:42), He will strength you and I to remain faithful in the midst of pain produced by loss.

 

This month’s blog is by Rafael Nastase of OM Romania

 

Talking to TCKs about Covid-19

Earlier this month Gabriele Hölzle of OM People Care (who was due to be one of the speakers at EMCC 2020) wrote an article for her team about how she had listened to TCKs about their experience of Covid-19).  We thought you’d like to read it (shared with permission).  Just click here.

“So, after all that, peace was only this!”

This disillusioned quote is from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). He was a French Jesuit priest, researcher, palaeontologist, theologian and philosopher.

When the lockdown in France was announced on March 16th, the French president declared we were at war, a difficult war against a brutal virus. Soon will come, for many of us here in Europe, the day after. What new opportunities for change will it bring? How will we manage them?

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Covid was the First World War, during which he was confined for five years to the boredom and brutality of the trenches, working as a stretcher-bearer carrying injured soldiers from the battlefield.

When peace returned, he was horribly disappointed to find a world that had not changed. Then he realized that he had glimpsed, while confined in the trenches, the better world that he dreamed of, and that this fleeting vision was enough to mobilize his personal commitment and show him his way in this world.

Here is the full quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, written in 1919 just after the end of the war:

So, after all that, peace was only this! The peace which, during these long years of suffering, shone incessantly ahead of us, like a mirage… The peace that gave us the courage to hold on and resist because we thought we were fighting for a better world… But what this peace had in store for us was only this!

The war stripped away our surface banalities and conventions, opening a window onto deeper human needs and functioning. But now that peace has returned, so has all the old pettiness and monotony of our pre-war existence. Although moved, elevated and united for a time in our common posture of defence, people returned to their self-centred obsessions and preoccupations as soon as the grip of danger was gone.

Surrounded by the banalities of existence that have regained their dullness, with the contradictions of a society that has returned to its moral poverty and scattered individualism, I will patiently resume my usual occupations, illuminated by what I saw during those brief moments in the trenches when, for a great cause, millions of us were united together in the fight for the preservation of life.

But life is still beautiful! For I have glimpsed, from the top of the mountain, the Promised Land!”

If this global crisis can serve as a wake-up call to many things, including the profound changes that our societies must implement in their models of economic development and the way we must go about our daily lives on this fragile planet, it is important that our collective responsibility not detract from our personal need for change. In the aftermath of this crisis, it would be sad if our “self-centred obsessions and preoccupations” resumed as before.

Once we have been released from our present confinement, how will things be different in our spiritual, emotional and relational life? In the management of our work/rest rhythms? In how we consume, travel, slow down, study, help and think?

And how will things be different for those of us in Member Care?

For many of us during this time, the words of Psalm 46:10-11 have taken on special significance:

Be still, and know that I am God!

I will be honoured by every nation.

I will be honoured throughout the world.

The Lord of Heaven’s armies is here among us;

The God of Israel is our fortress.

Before we rush headlong into our new-found freedom, let’s keep sight of what this psalm invites us to do:

to be still, enough to pause and reflect;

to know, through all the turbulence, that He is God and worthy to be honoured;

to remember: He is here and He is present;

to rest assured: He is our fortress, and we are therefore secure.

 

The following questions may help us as we reflect:

  • What have I discovered about myself in this time of confinement?
  • What have I discovered about God?
  • What strategies have I acquired? What new strengths have I gained?
  • What limitations have I learned to manage?
  • What discoveries might I share with others?

Lord Jesus, we have not only “glimpsed, from the top of the mountain, the Promised Land”; you are our Promised Land. We know you and you know us. You are the way toward our dreams and desires for growth and change. May the communion of love that you invite us to enjoy with you allow your will to have full access to all areas of our lives. And may our lives, by your grace and your strength working in us, reflect more than ever your beauty, your consistency, your simplicity, your generosity and your joy. Amen.

 

[This month’s post is by Jonathan Ward of Pierres Vivantes, our board member representing France and other Francophone regions in Europe.]

Greetings from the executive committee

The executive committee of Member Care Europe explains why we had to cancel EMCC, and the attempted online alternative.

Answering THE QUESTION!

RomaniaOh, how I dread the question! I literally would prefer to do anything else than answer THE QUESTION! And by “anything else”, I mean I would even rather fill out ministry reports to churches and sending agencies! Yes, that is how much I still dread THE QUESTION.  Everyone knows THE QUESTION:  when a friend or supporter passes you by and asks,   “Mihai, how is life in [insert country of service here] Romania?”

It really is a simple question.  No harm is intended, no ill intention.  It’s almost like someone asking “how are you?” in the store check-out lane.  Still, many missionaries would rather face the fire again than ever answer it.  Why? Because they have absolutely no idea how to answer it.  “Wonderful!”  “Incredible!”  “Challenging!”  “Life-changing!”  How does a missionary even begin to formulate an answer?

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Integrating the training of new recruits with Member Care

“I can’t bear to watch, I need to leave!” This was a frequent statement from anxious moms who had brought their infants into the medical clinic where I worked as a nurse before serving overseas. Their infants were about to receive routine immunizations against childhood diseases. Though the infants received several injections throughout their early months, there were significant strides made when several of the immunizations were combined into one injection. These combined or “integrated” injections reduced trauma to the infant and the mom while accomplishing the intended purpose.

Immunizations prevent serious diseases rather than trying to cure them. Could we also not do more to prevent tragic fallout of valuable personnel by investing more in prevention? By integrating member care concepts into field training curriculum of new folks we can stretch the prevention dynamic.

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Reverse Culture Shock

It seems to me that every time I come back from a trip abroad, a new shop has opened on my local high street.  I don’t know if they wait for me to go away, in the hope that I won’t notice, but it’s a regular occurrence.  Since I travel quite frequently, this adds up to quite a turnover of stores.  Over time, the character of the high street changes, but most people wouldn’t notice, as the change is gradual and incremental.

But if I were to come back after a year or two away, the difference would be much more marked.  I would still recognise the high street, but I could clearly see it’s different.  The supermarket has changed hands (again!).  The post office has gone.  The bank has turned into a posh restaurant.  The greengrocer’s is now a charity shop.  We grieve (just a little bit) the loss.  This is a small example of what is called ‘reverse culture shock’.

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