Tiffania Willetts (center) at Christ UMC in Florida, Advent 2014.The church built the town of Bethlehem outdoors to let people experience the Christmas story through stories, crafts, and games.
by Tiffania L. Willetts
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Isaiah 58:6-7 (NRSV)
My time as a missionary has been full of firsts. This past Lenten season, I participated in a weekly fast for the first time. A small group of us would refrain from food for the first part of the day and meet for a Bible study during lunch time. I also led my first mission trip, and I came to realize the two are not mutually exclusive.
During spring break in March, I was blessed to lead a group of college students on a mission trip to Tampa, Florida, where we volunteered at Metropolitan Ministries. This trip came at the end of my mission service, when I had just a few months left before starting seminary. I was reminded of why I am serving in the first place. God has called all Christians to fast every day. Not necessarily to refrain from food, but to keep God first in our lives.
This is not just a personal call; it is a communal call. As a community, God has called all Christians to live out our fast by serving others and working together “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke.” (Isaiah 58:6) We cannot do it alone. We must work together for this change.
God has called us to move out of our comfort zones. We are to share our own bread with the hungry, not buy new bread to give them. We are to bring the homeless poor into our houses, not build shelters to house them in “that” part of town. We are to cover the naked while looking them in the eye instead of walking past them without seeing their need.
Often, we as Christians focus on our personal growth and relationship with God. This is essential to our faith. However, also essential to our faith is serving others. It’s not about serving one meal or 40 meals; it’s about acknowledging that people in need are people too. They deserve respect and dignity and a life free from hunger, homelessness, and nakedness. And in order to achieve that, we must work together to change not just lives, but systems. Change starts with one life, but long-term change can only be accomplished by many coming together to change the lives of all.
I encourage you to look critically at your own community. Are you fasting as God has called you to do? How can you join in with what God is doing? How can you feed the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked? How can you loose the bonds of injustice and let the oppressed go free? How are you working together to make God’s vision a reality? How are you making God’s kingdom here on earth?
Tiffania L. Willetts served as a Mission Intern with campus ministry at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri. Her international placement was with the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tiffania is originally from Lehigh Acres, Florida. This article was originally published in the July-August issue of New World Outlook magazine. Used by permission.
Tiffania Willetts speaks about her experiences in Buenos Aires and Missouri at Good Shepherd UMC in Florida. Photo: Courtesy Tiffania Willetts