Ministry of Presence
by Christopher Hamera
People have different perspectives and definitions of the term “ministry of presence” and its impact on people’s lives.
When I was a teenager, missionaries used to come to visit our church and schools in Malawi. Some preached the gospel while others built schools or churches. I remember some missionaries who came to our Zingwangwa primary school to distribute school materials. All of these experiences led me to believe that missionaries come to do something.
“‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” In John 11:21, I believe Mary was looking for something beyond physical and human capacity. Most of the time, when we are sick, or when we are looking after someone who is sick, we expect visitors to bring food or something tangible.
Yet Jesus’ presence meant hope, love, care, peace, kindness, gentleness, and restoration to people, regardless of their culture or family background. Mary knew that the presence of Jesus would have healed her brother Lazarus.
I have come to realize that the ministry of presence is the mission itself. The materials we give to the community are important, but the ministry of presence builds relationships with the poor and others affected by critical social injustices in various communities. Our presence in the community can bring hope to the people.
When I first arrived in the Philippines, I was sent to Tandag City to distribute
food and school materials to typhoon evacuees. I was so amazed by a man who came, I thought, to thank me and the Initiative for Peace in Mindanao, but instead, he said, “We thank God that you have come to us, and we believe that your presence will make us happy.”
Christopher Hamera is a Global Mission Fellow from Malawi who serves as a peace and just advocate with Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao, headquartered in Davao City, Philippines.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, November-December 2016 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.
Global Mission Fellow, Christopher Hamera, marches during a Kalumaran conference in General Santos City in the Philippines. PHOTO: COURTESY CHRISTOPHER HAMERA