One member movement being formally welcomed into IFES
One of the key things that happens at each World Assembly is that new member movements are formally affiliated. This time there are several movements being formally welcomed. Some I can not name here because of the danger to those who are involved.
It is great to hear the stories, to meet the people and to share the joys and sorrows that the stories involve.
In our small group time today one of our number, from a very dangerous country in Central Asia, shared her tears of frustration at how she had been made to feel unwelcome at a dinner party thrown in her honour. No one asked any questions about her life, when she told them which country she came from, she was asked 'what is it?' and the shallow nature of the conversation wounded her. She was not welcomed, not honoured, not treasured or cared for.
I was stunned into silence and thought.
Hospitality is not about eating with people. Welcome is not about having a dinner party. It is not what we do but the way in which we do it, the questions we ask and the way we value people.
The woman who shared through tears today is a treasure of the gospel, standing up for Jesus in a situation where her life is often in danger. I'm sure the people at the dinner didn't want to pry, didn't want to be rude, didn't want the conversation to turn heavy. But this sister in Christ could have richly blessed them by sharing the pain of the gospel, she could have given them perspective on the trials of standing for Christ in the comfort and discomfort of the West, she might have been able to minister into a fractured community but they didn't ask questions: they kept the conversation shallow. They could have chosen community instead they chose entertainment.
The conversations here are not shallow. I'm drinking it up and discovering how thirsty I am. These are conversations about the impact of our living for the gospel in the situations God has placed us in. People are asking penetrating questions and looking for significant answers. In the next few days we continue to look at the impact of our identity in Christ and how it shapes our perspective on a response to the AIDS crisis, evangelism and the environmental debate. In engaging in this sharp thinking, we are welcoming each other - accepting and listening to each other; reflecting together as a family. We come as equals in Christ - all are welcome, all are valued and all are honoured as we seek to uncover the depths of Scripture together. This is not at all entertaining (though neither is it po-faced) but it is thrilling, difficult, risky and fulfilling. I don't agree with everyone, not everyone agrees with me - but here we are: united in Christ, seeking to love him, serve him and understand what it is to live for him and make him known in the student world, around the world, today!