God lifts up the downtrodden

Epiphany 5 (February 5, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Mk. 1:29-39; Is. 40:21-31; Ps. 147; I Cor. 9:16-23

This week we have been traveling in the region with a small delegation of visitors. Cindy flew to Baghdad with Jim Fine and Rick Janzen, for a quick visit with MCC Iraqi partners there. It was the first MCC trip to Baghdad in six years. The MCC group was hosted by an Iraqi partner and most of the meetings took place at their headquarters. Still, the group managed to get out for an evening walk on the streets of Baghdad, and to visit Our Lady of Salvation Church, where more than 50 Christians were killed during a worship service in October 2010.

Kids House pre-schoolers sing a welcome song for Ron Byler in Ankawa (northern Iraq)

Daryl traveled with Ron Byler to northern Iraq and met with partners there. Since the 2003 war, more than half of the Christians have left Iraq. Most of those who remain in Iraq now live in the northern Kurdish areas. They are building schools and hospitals to provide jobs and services that will encourage Christians to stay in Iraq, while also serving the broader Iraqi society.

MCC worker Deb Fine shares a gift with Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Ankawa)

Cindy, Jim and Rick meet with a women's group in Baghdad

The delegation next traveled to Jerusalem for meetings with MCC partners in Palestine/Israel. Across the region, folks are expressing uncertainty about what lies ahead. The Arab Spring has created new regional dynamics; no one knows what the long-term outcome will look like.  Some are fearful; others are cautiously optimistic.

The view from Wi'am, where the separation wall cuts off Aida Refugee Camp from Jerusalem

The Common Lectionary readings this week are about God’s concern for vulnerable people.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus cures many who are sick and casts out demons from those who are tormented (Mk. 1:32).

In the Old Testament reading, Isaiah writes that God “gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.” (Is. 40:29)

The psalmist proclaims that God gathers the outcasts, heals the brokenhearted and lifts up the downtrodden (Ps. 147:2-6).

In the Epistle reading, Paul becomes weak himself so that he can win the weak to a better way of life (I Cor. 9:22).

This week we heard many powerful stories from persons who have struggled through war and under occupation. We listened to both the fears and hopes of Christians who are a dwindling and vulnerable minority in the region. We visited a visionary program designed to teach life skills to persons with disabilities. We were inspired by all those who have not given up and who continue to find ways to serve their communities.

In a time of great uncertainty, we take comfort in knowing that God cares especially for the vulnerable. And we cling to God’s promise: “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Is. 40:31)

In Beit Sahour (West Bank), Al Malath -- a new Global Family partner -- provides life skills and social training for persons with disabilities

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