A Christmas Reflection from Roland Fernandes, General Secretary
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them…We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:16b,19 NRSV)
December 19, 2022 | ATLANTA
Christmas celebrates, and mission shares – through the birth of Jesus Christ – the presence of God’s constant love in a world of uncertainties.
We remember and celebrate God’s love at Christmas through worship, music and pageants, telling and retelling biblical stories of angels, shepherds, magi and a sojourning family from Nazareth. We celebrate by giving and receiving, adding personal family stories and the traditions of our congregations and communities to the Christmas story.
We share God’s love through the many expressions of the work and ministry of The United Methodist Church, including that of the General Board of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Nearly 200 missionaries in service in 60 countries now represent the presence of Christ as they cross boundaries to share the good news of God’s constant love for all people.
We are sharing God’s love through caring responses toUkrainians forced to flee their homes after the Russian invasion. Global Ministries and UMCOR are partnering with European United Methodist and ecumenical agencies to provide transportation, temporary shelter, home repair, food, clean water, hygiene, and health and medical supplies. As the winter months progress, UMCOR’s vital ministry will continue to provide hope and healing to the Ukrainian people.
This past year, UMCOR assisted survivors of famine in Africa and of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and wildfires in the United States; typhoons in the Philippines; earthquakes in Afghanistan and Haiti; and floods in Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tonga. We have also begun to work with conferences in the U.S. to deploy solar energy systems that provide clean energy in the wake of disasters.
The lessening of the pandemic has allowed more work with partners at both health facilities and within communities, most notably in Africa. In July, a team spent time in East Congo, South Congo and North Katanga episcopal areas listening and learning about health needs there.
In the U.S., Global Ministries has approved a major grant to help renovate and expand research and laboratory facilities at the Dr. Joycelyn Elders School of Allied and Public Health and other health education space at Philander Smith College, a historically Black college in Little Rock, Arkansas.
This fall, the Yambasu Agriculture Initiative, named to honor the late Bishop John K. Yambasu of Sierra Leone, trained more than 80 annual conference staff and practitioners in agribusiness in a series of trainings in Benin, bringing both food and sustainable income to communities throughout Africa.
Mission initiatives in Southeast Asia, Mongolia, Honduras, and the Central African Republic have helped plant 149 new congregations, sharing God’s love and introducing The United Methodist Church to new people and places.
In August, Global Ministries shared faith in Jesus Christ across denominational lines at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe, Germany, under the theme, “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” The assembly incorporated a strong emphasis on the necessity of religious communities to address climate change and promote the integrity of God’s creation.
Every day brings new reports of famine, flooding and other natural and humanmade disasters. In October, I was saddened to see the greatly worsened plight of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land when I visited with an international delegation of Methodist leaders marking the 10th anniversary of the Jerusalem-based Methodist Liaison Office.
The ministry and the mission of Global Ministries continues faithfully in these and many other places, providing hope and healing and sharing the love of Jesus Christ for all.
God’s love is shared by swinging a hammer to repair a building wrecked by a storm, in providing a lifesaving vaccine, protecting the environment, increasing food security, and equipping missionaries who plant new churches and train new leaders.
Let us pause amid the uncertainties of this time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and share the constant love of God that draws us together, giving us assurance and hope and teaching us about joy, patience and peace – all possible because of the love of God that abides in us.
Merry Christmas and God’s peace to you and yours,
General Secretary, General Board of Global Ministries and UMCOR