OGHS February 4

Mark 1: 29-39
Healing that is, and that is more than…

DR_Congo_IMA_World_Health.jpgJesus’ co-travelers figure prominently in this passage.  Simon, Andrew, James and John have accompanied Jesus through Capernaum after their calling and have witnessed the healing and the teaching at the synagogue there.  These disciples, like the others in Capernaum, were amazed and witnessing healing that not only cured body, mind and spirit; but also pointed to the deeper purpose and meaning of Jesus. The group’s next destination is the family home of Simon and Andrew where Simon’s mother-in-law lies ill.  Here, Jesus’ healing actions and purpose get personal.  And, in this place, the role of the disciples turns from observers to actors.   Jesus takes the woman by the hand and lifts her up.  The fever leaves her and she begins to serve them.   She is not the only one whose life has been transformed though.  This personal experience turns the disciples from observers of Jesus’ healing actions to participants in its purpose.  They, too, begin to serve.  At sundown, those disciples bring to Jesus all who were sick and possessed with demons.  In the presence of the crowd that has gathered, Jesus cures people of various diseases of the body and demons of spirit.  The illnesses are gone.  A crowd gathers around the house with people jostling each other for a peak in the door at the action. Jesus’ actions at Simon and Andrew’s house change the lives of those real individuals and families who are healed.  And, Jesus is more than a local healer.  The crowd is witness to Jesus’ actions that point to his deeper meaning and purpose, the fullness of healing for the whole world.  Jesus silences the outcast demons as they may draw attention to these particular events, but do so in a way that mis-interprets to the people the fullness of who Jesus is and of his purpose for the world.   Jesus’ actions are both particular healing and the fullness and wholeness of healing.  Jesus’ disciples are still on a learning curve to experience and understand the meaning of that both/and tension.  From their personal experience of Simon’s mother-in-law and the hometown crowds, Jesus draws the disciples away to a deserted place of discernment and then on to Galilee and beyond to be part of Jesus’ message and healing actions.

Interaction with Text – Implementers and Shapers of Healing

This action in Mark 1 that is both concrete healing and that points to the shape and nature of that healing for the world is embedded in the work of the United Church of Christ’s humanitarian and development ministries made possible by the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering.   These ministries in areas of disaster, refugees and global sustainable development are both concrete implementers and, through the methods of this implementation, are catalysts for shaping goals and outcomes.

Each of the UCC’s humanitarian and development ministries are small and flexible enough to fill gaps and leverage connections while being large enough to influence systems and shape outcomes. Therefore, the UCC, along with other faith communities, deliberately engages with secular, governmental and non-governmental systems in programs and projects that align with goals already identified in the faith communities.   Experience demonstrates that faith communities and networks can be effective in this implementation – connecting with already established grassroots networks (congregations) and trusted community leaders (pastors and other church leaders).  AND the church’s ministry is more than implementer.  From engagement with faith resources and traditions, faith communities shape those very mechanisms and systems of response and development.  With a liberation approach, the UCC engages in development from the starting point of long-term relationships that enable connection with the vulnerable and excluded.  Engaging with these actors to identify community goals and accompanying them in figuring out how to get there is a healing journey in itself and also shapes the very goals of development toward wholistic healing for all.   

Fatima and USHINDI in Democratic Republic of Congo
Sexual and Gender Based Violence as a public health crisis

Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, enable this joint particular concrete and wider catalyst approach to faith-based shaping of global sustainable development.  Fatima (not her real name) is a participant in the USHINDI program for rehabilitation and reintegration of survivors of sexual and gender based violence.   Fatima’s story is heartbreaking and heartening.  She is strong and enables others to be strong.  She sees the USHINDI program as important in her journey of survival.

The USHINDI program of IMA World Health of which the United Church of Christ is a member operates in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  USHINDI approaches Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) as a public health crisis and empowers a wholistic response and support system.  USHINDI in Swahili means “to overcome.”    Fatima is one of 1.5 million people in 10 health zones and 108 health areas in DRC empowered by this comprehensive approach to combatting SGBV in eastern DRC.  A hallmark of USHINDI is the local implementing partners with long history of providing services for survivors of SGBV, increasing the numbers of people touched by the program. The other hallmark is its wholistic approach.  USHINDI addresses SGBV as a public health crisis addressing the crisis through a combination of actions in areas of medical, psychological, legal, socio-economic, behavior change communication, capacity building and organizational strengthening.  IMA World Health channels funds of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for this USHINDI program and now has multiplied its impact by influencing USAID to use this approach in other SGBV programs around the world.

Read more on-line or download a pdf copy of Fatima’s story.     

Reflections by: Rev. Dr. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, UCC national setting Team Leader, UCC Humanitarian and Development Ministries (One Great Hour of Sharing) in disaster, refugee, development and volunteer ministries.