Uganda (MNN) – Many Christian adults say that becoming a parent taught them so much about our Heavenly Father’s love for us. As we celebrate Christmas today and the birth of Jesus Christ, Gary Edmonds with Food for the Hungry reflects on what the Advent season meant for God the Father.
Edmonds and his family lived for a long time overseas and raised their children outside of an English-speaking context. But eventually, he shares, “Our oldest son, he had a desire to go to an American college. So just before his junior year in high school, we put him on an airplane all by himself and he flew to the United States to live with one of my brothers and be incorporated into an English-speaking school. And that was tough for him in many ways because he’d grown up in another culture, another context.
“I was reflecting on that from the standpoint that I had to trust my brother and sister-in-law at that point. I had to trust the people into whose hand I was going to place my very own son. I thought about it in relationship to Jesus, that the Father gave his own Son who couldn’t speak the language when he became a baby, he turned [Jesus] over to Mary and Joseph, he turned him over to a harsh and cruel environment. But he trusted them to care for [Jesus], to nurture him, to protect and provide for him.”
As we ponder the meaning of Advent, it’s a poignant picture of loving sacrifice – a sacrifice that Jesus not only made himself later on that cross, but also the sacrifice of a Father sending his Son down to earth to reconcile the world to himself. This sacrifice that cost our Heavenly Father was his grace to us.
Edmonds was struck again by this reflection on his recent trip to Uganda and Rwanda. Food for the Hungry brought together senior leadership for strategic ministry planning. They visited northern Uganda where there are a lot of refugees coming from South Sudan. Some of the displaced people even trekked for six months to reach safety in northern Uganda.
“It’s estimated there could be 1.2 million people there who have fled in from South Sudan because of the war, the conflict, and the drought situation. Nine out of 10 of them tend to be women and children.”
One of Food for the Hungry’s critical ministries in northern Uganda is medical clinics in the refugee camps.
“We’re working in that context of Adjumani, [and] here come these mothers. They’ve often been traumatized, they’re confused, the children are fearful and timid — and yet at the same time, our people, our staff, and the people we’ve mobilized are there to love them.”
As FH and their ministry partners provide medical care for refugee children, there is still often a language or cultural barrier present. They try to reassure parents, most of them mothers, that their children are receiving good medical attention and will be cared for. And some of the mothers are uncertain about allowing strangers to tend to their children. But as the FH team builds trust with the mothers, “reluctantly, cautiously, these mothers will hand their children into our care because they believe somehow…that we will love [and] care for their children.”
It struck Edmonds that the decision to hand over your child into the temporary care of a stranger is especially agonizing for these refugee mothers who have worked so hard to protect their children.
“I think about that for Christmas. God has given his own Son to us in such a way and he says, ‘Come, follow me. Follow the way of Jesus.’”
This Advent reflection, the recognition of God’s sacrifice that led to Jesus being born as a human child, fully God and fully man, is what gives us hope in the Gospel. And that is what Food for the Hungry’s ministry is all about.
“That’s the work of Food for the Hungry, to be relational, to follow Jesus, to invest wisely, carefully in nurturing and seeking the well-being of these people who often are simply just survivors of a cruel world right now — a world that’s been negatively affected, whether it be by drought and famine, whether it be by war, civil war, and hardships.”
Edmonds says proclaiming the Gospel through relational service is truly the heartbeat of their outreach, and really at the heartbeat of the Great Commission. “We lead off and we say we follow Jesus. The second value that we establish is our work is relational. So I think as we look at the Great Commission, the call that’s been on our life, we make a statement that we’re following Jesus.”