Susann Haehnel, vocational recruitment manager at Church Mission Society, reflects on change and opportunities to explore our calling in mission.
The world is no longer what it was a year ago. So much change and uncertainty makes us ask questions. Questions about the world, God, ourselves and our role in it. Some may understandably come from fear: “When can we return to normal?” Others from a desire to for clarity: “When will I be able to hug my friends again?” Or even sheer desperation: “When will this end?” “How long, oh Lord?”
By now, it is clear that this wasn’t just a short blip for a few weeks. We’ve been dealing with the reality of COVID-19 for almost a year. It’s been a process of sudden stop, adaptation and continual evolving. That’s the hard bit. We’ve not been able to settle into one thing and then get on with it. There is still no “new normal”.
I came across this quote from author and activist Sonya Renee Taylor a few months ago, which helped put my desire for a return to normal in a fresh perspective. I hope it does the same for you:
“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal, other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment, one that fits all of humanity and nature.”
This articulates where we’ve come from and the wrestle over what we’re asked to leave behind right now. Change is needed. Change takes courage, imagination, hope. Where do we start to imagine a different future? I was drawn to Luke 4 where Jesus articulates what could, should and will be:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, freedom for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.”Luke 4:18–19 (The Passion Translation)
For us as Christians, Jesus needs to be the starting point for lasting change. I love how Luke 4:21 is interpreted in The Message: “This is God’s year to act!” This is God’s time to work and we’re invited to be a part of that. We are co-labourers with Christ. I am so reassured by the fact that God hasn’t changed through the pandemic. This is an invitation to be part of the change, to see ourselves as change agents, as co-labourers with Christ. What’s your part in it? This process of recognising the need for change and accepting the invitation to be part of it will lead to hearing and articulating a personal call. The call to be part of God’s mission in our own unique ways. Ask God what your specific part is to be.
Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to let go of a nostalgic view of the past. There is an invitation to work towards a different future. However, I believe there are also gifts in this current, in-between season.
It’s a time of preparation. Releasing people in mission, especially overseas mission, takes preparation. Preparing our hearts in prayer, un-learning and re-learning, gathering people around us to journey with us and having our attitudes examined.
It’s a time for experimentation. Explore options locally and digitally. This unprecedented crisis does offer new opportunities to connect with other people in mission, offers space to explore things from the comfort of your own home, to try things out in our own contexts (government regulations permitting, of course). I recently heard of one of our gap year alumni who started an online Bible study group for her friends exploring faith. She said her friends would never have come to church or even CU, but wanted to find out about Jesus and the Bible.
It’s a time for us to get on our knees and sit at the feet of Jesus. Pray, pray, pray and then pray some more. Listen to what the Spirit is saying. Listen to the prophets who will start to help us imagine a different future.
It’s time to discern where the doors open up. This season calls for innovative ways of doing things, living missionally and sharing Jesus with others. It’s time for us to push new doors. God’s call on our lives hasn’t changed. We need to continue to discern God’s call in the world and in our lives. How we engage in mission requires fresh ideas. That’s what makes it an adventure, following Jesus.
 Brené Brown with Sonya Renee Taylor on “The Body is Not an Apology” (podcast 16 September 2020).