December 19, 2023
Hope – the belief in things unseen or yet unrealized – lies at the heart of the Christian faith, defining expectations and shaping visions for tomorrow. At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus Christ as the hope of the world.
Emmanuel, God with us, is the hope and assurance we receive each Christmas. But what does it mean to abound in hope in a world recovering from a pandemic, confronting systemic racism, facing natural disasters and climate change? What is hope in a world wrought with suffering from disease, famine and acts of war?
The needs of our world have never been greater, but every day we witness the powerful connection of The United Methodist Church as we share in the great love and power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
I want to share with you just a few of the many signs of Christian hope that I see in the work and ministries of the General Board of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), signs that God is among us still.
- We are buoyed by the boundless joy and dedication of missionaries and young adult Global Mission Fellows who serve as agents of hope in nearly 60 countries, walking in ministry with people who live on spiritual, economic and health margins.
- Our mission partners around the world show vibrant faith and increasingly strong organizational capacity. This past year, particularly, we learned much from mission partners as we held historic consultations in Mozambique, Korea and the United States. In addition, we coordinated the first board meetings ever held outside of the United States in Mozambique in the spring and Cambodia in the fall. Methodism is decades old in Mozambique, a country that experienced civil unrest in the late 20th century. It is now becoming a stable society and a creative, self-directed participant in global mission. In Cambodia, the ecumenical Methodist Mission Initiative there is preparing to become an autonomous denomination by 2027. Both churches strongly emphasize youth involvement and education, notably for young women.
- Annual conferences in Africa have embraced the Yambasu Agriculture Initiative, which uses church owned land to raise sustainable crops designed to provide food for participating communities and income for the conferences. Three years after we made the first seed grants, YAI is operating in 15 conferences, and United Methodists are growing basic crops such as rice, corn and cassava and raising pigs, chickens, rabbits, fish and bees.
- Our Global Health team is partnering with UMC health professionals in East Congo to revitalize hospitals, clinics and medical outposts. And in Burundi, where malaria rates have doubled since 2019, Global Ministries works with UMC health officials to target malaria awareness and distribute mosquito nets to every United Methodist health facility visitor.
- United Methodists continue to play an important role in the care of people, especially children, uprooted by the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine. Ongoing assistance – improved long-term shelter, household goods, help finding jobs – for those who have left the country and those who are displaced provide signs of hope for all Ukrainians. Counseling care and psychosocial support for the abused and traumatized signals the boundless love of God at work through people. And in the Holy Land, UMCOR is working with partners to provide desperately needed emergency relief.
- There is earnest work occurring toward greater alignment in ministry and mission among bishops, general agencies and annual conference leaders. As I have talked with many bishops worldwide and with the chief executives of other UM agencies, there is undeniable hope for a more collaborative denomination in the future.
These are just a few examples of the many signs of hope we see from United Methodist connectional mission activities throughout the world. May each of us look for signs of hope in our churches and in the world as we move into a new year.
We are assured that God’s mission will continue because God is at the helm, and we can all partner and participate as God calls us to serve.
Now, let us rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ and for the hope we share in God’s love, remembering the prayer of St. Paul in Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NRSV)
Roland Fernandes is the general secretary of Global Ministries and UMCOR.
Founded in 1940, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the global humanitarian relief and development agency of The United Methodist Church. A part of United Methodist Global Ministries, UMCOR works in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the United States and its territories. Working in the areas of disaster response and recovery and migration, UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters that are interruptions of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community’s ability to recover on its own.