by Joanna Morrison
“Peace be with you! As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Jesus spoke these words to his disciples when he came to them behind locked doors after his resurrection. The disciples were afraid and hiding. They did not expect Jesus to come to find them there even though they knew he had risen. They were too worried about the temple police to see the possibilities. From his side, the locked doors meant nothing to Jesus. He is not intimidated by mere doors, nor is he disgusted with his frightened disciples. He simply ‘comes among them’ on the other side of those doors.
God has been coming to me behind locked doors recently in various ways. My cousin visited from Canada, and helped out a lot in our house. Cooking with someone else is always an adventure. I discovered something important. Some things which I hold as absolute are not. I now know that pasta does not actually have to be started in boiling water. How did I come to have such a strong opinion about something so trivial? My strong opinions about trivial things are like locked doors. They hold me hostage and box me in.
I have been thinking a lot about this in the context of our mission here in Malawi. Since the beginning we have been careful not to import our Canadian ways, but we have not succeeded. We are recognizably Canadian even though we have been here ten years. Our Iris children who have grown up with us speak English with Canadian accents and enjoy such foods as ice-cream (once a year at Mo’s birthday party) and cake, not common foods in Malawi.
Though our Iris children live in families with Malawian house parents and eat nsima and beans most days, they are clearly different from their cousins in the villages. They learn how to farm, cook, clean, and look after little children in a family context. They are never left to fend for themselves, a very common occurrence in the village.
We are in Malawi in response to a call. In this place, Jesus speaks to me, ‘As the Father sent me, so I send you.’ So how was Jesus sent? As a baby, a learner, a little one. And yet, as a twelve year old he knew his Father’s house. He was sent not to judge the world but to save it. Jesus spoke to Samaritan women, and received the touch of a known prostitute. He was sent to heal the sick, to bind up the broken hearted, and to set the captives free. Jesus was not culturally appropriate. He broke all kinds of written and unwritten rules when he visited the home of Zaccheus, when he touched lepers, when he healed on the Sabbath, and when he welcomed the little children.
When Jesus overturned the tables in the temple, he was clearing house, and making room for something new. He wanted to reach the people on the other side of those tables, and so he met them there, behind locked doors. The traditional offerings required by law in order to be forgiven were like locked doors keeping people out. The Law, and our inability to keep it had also become a locked door. Cultural hierarchies which serve to keep us separated from each other could also be considered locked doors. In Kalina’s school work this week, we read these remarkable words of John Huss, a martyr in 1415: “Your law is a spoiled structure of sentences, just to no one, resembling stinking, foul water, from which truly no thirsty man can drink…”
Jesus simply came to the disciples behind locked doors. He didn’t bang them down. He didn’t even unlock them. He was suddenly there with them. When Jesus surprises us on the other side of locked doors, the doors themselves become insignificant. Things which we held as absolute are not. For years I thought that God’s Word as found in the Bible was complete, and that he would not speak today. Those were locked doors for me. I couldn’t hear God because I didn’t believe he would speak today. Then, he came to me and spoke. I expected worship to be orderly and timely, but Jesus came to me on the dirt in an extended time of prayer for the elderly. Dirty, messy, and definitely in overtime, Jesus came. I am not sent to judge, but to love. Forgive me Father, for judging my way better. Teach me to love.
Our goal is to raise young men and women who will follow Jesus where he leads them. They will also be sent out as the Father sent the son. Everything we do, from running club to biking to photography, teaches the kids self-discipline and perseverance. Each family has their own garden to tend and harvest. Kids who go out to climb a baobab come back with a greater sense of what is possible. Our school is designed to facilitate growth. Teachers serve as role models and guides. Though we struggle to keep teachers, we are privileged to have a strong team at the moment with several who have been with us a few years.
The Bible school serves older learners. We have a team of teachers who work to train and equip leaders from all over Malawi. Recently we had a Bible school for women for the first time. The women were so eager, seeking to learn as much as possible in their one month stay. They came with very few clothes and most had but one pair of shoes but their hearts were tuned up and ready to receive. It was wonderful to watch them soak it all up, like sponges holding more water than appears possible.
All around us everything is green and lush because of an extended rainy season. Mo captured this beautiful spider with an ordinary name. She appears to skate across her deadly trap, carefully designed to catch her prey. Her web shimmers in the morning light, a small reminder of the greatness of Creator God. You have to be up early to glimpse the sight of the valley bathed in glorious light, a stunning reminder that God’s plans for this small part of his universe are beyond our imagining. Let us welcome him into our hiding places behind locked doors, and look for a broader, wider, deeper Kingdom come on earth.