By Jeff Walton, AFM Board Member
Immigrants, study-abroad students, and those in need of healing all constitute a mission field “on our doorstep,” according to speakers at the 2017 Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Provincial Assembly.
“God didn’t save you to sit in a pew,” Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Jos, Nigeria pointedly declared in a fiery address before approximately 1,400 lay people gathered for the denomination’s Provincial Assembly June 27-30 in Wheaton, Illinois.
ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach called for Anglican Christians to pray earnestly and to send laborers to churches, communities, cities, and nations.
Unlike most Mainline Protestant governing conventions, the ACNA Assembly is primarily a mission conference with an international flavor. Bishops from Chile, Nigeria and several other provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion participated.
Who Really is my Neighbor?
Anglican Global Mission Partners, an umbrella group of 32 Anglican organizations including Anglican Frontier Missions (AFM) hosted a sub-conference during the assembly. Focused upon the question “Who Really is my Neighbor?” the sessions featured speakers engaged with ministry among the unreached around the world.
Today there are over a million international students studying in the United States, an opportunity for Christians to show hospitality. “We open our door so that God’s glory will be made known among the nations,” explained Lisa Espineli Chinn, former National Director of International Student Ministry of InterVarsity/USA. “We bring delight to God when we love our neighbors.” Chinn was one of several speakers to examine how the Biblical command to “love your neighbor as yourself” could be followed.
“They will always remember a home cooked meal. Unfortunately, the vast majority has never been invited into an American home,” Chinn reported of international students. “Our worldviews are in dire need of expansion, and befriending internationals [students] will do just that.”
Bishop Grant LeMarquand of the Horn of Africa spoke alongside his wife Wendy about their ministry among refugees in Gambella, Ethiopia, near the border of South Sudan. Addressing the “global crisis” of 65 million refugees, the LeMarquands told of 350,000 refugees from South Sudan in their own area and the losses they had experienced.
“Bullets came, we ran, we carried only our children,” Dr. Wendy LeMarquand relayed of a story from one group of refugees that arrived from South Sudan. While they had no food or clothes, the refugees were most sad about losing their elderly.
“The blood of Abel cries for vengeance, the blood of Jesus cries for forgiveness,” Bishop LeMarquand explained of the unique message the Gospel brought to people hurting amidst ethnic strife.
Heroes and Heroines of Our Faith
Baroness Caroline Cox of the U.K.-based Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) spoke during an Assembly plenary session about Christian persecution. Cox reported that 250 million Christians are suffering persecution of some kind around the world today. Many live under the oppression of Communism, fundamentalist Hinduism, political Buddhism and, above all, militant Islam. Cox said Christians to have an obligation, quoting Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, “When one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer… We do have a mandate to be alongside those brothers and sisters… If not necessarily in person, then certainly in spirit and prayer.”
Speaking of Christians under pressure in Armenia, Burma, Sudan, Nigeria and Syria, Cox quoted St. Francis of Assisi, that “Pity weeps and turns away – compassion weeps and puts out a hand to help.”
Speaking of a woman whose child is dying of starvation in Sudan, Cox relayed her words: “I could go to a government-held area, get some food and medicine, and save my little boy, but I am a Christian. I’m not going to convert to Islam. We will live and die as Christians… To sacrifice yourself must be tough,” Cox assessed. “To sacrifice your child – I am blessed with 10 grandchildren – I can hardly imagine sacrificing a child for my faith. That is the price of faith for so many of our brothers and sisters.”
Speaking of Nigeria, Cox reported that over recent decades, thousands of Christians have been killed and hundreds of churches burnt. Many Muslims have also died at the hands of Boko Haram. “The escalation of Boko Haram’s brazenness is creating a reign of terror and intimidation in northern Nigeria,” Cox explained. Showing footage of devastated church buildings, Cox described the Boko Haram tactic of suicide bombers driving explosive-laded vehicles into the middle of church services.
“But even there, in the middle of that destitution – of that horrendous destruction – people still praise God,” Cox reported, showing the words “To God be the Glory” etched on the wall of a destroyed church building. “The very stones cry out under persecution, but they cry out with worship,” Cox said. “We never hear a message of revenge, hate or bitterness,” Cox added.
Quoting Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi of Jos, Nigeria, Cox read: “If we have a faith worth living for, it is a faith worth dying for. Don’t you compromise the faith that we are living and dying for.”