Word Made Flesh’s lifestyle celebration of suffering continues to be a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others. Still, we commit ourselves to the celebration of suffering. The courage to enter and commune with the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus creates the intrinsic possibility of intimate knowledge and experience of the power and joy of the resurrection. The desire at the heart of this lifestyle celebration is to participate in the life of God that reaches out and touches the wound of the world. Touching the wound of the world may hurt; but by embracing wounds, they may heal.
Word Made Flesh intentionally engages deep wounds all over the world. Let me give you three vignettes:
Sierra Leone’s rich and complicated history includes a recent regional war that destroyed infrastructure, displaced people and forced urbanization. The WMF community began to build relationships with youth that found themselves living on the streets after the war and in a densely populated slum community called Kroo Bay, built at the low elevation of the city. We have been present through the life-threatening floods that wrack the slum every rainy season. We have navigated serious health issues like the Ebola epidemic. This year we witnessed a fire sweep through the slum, ravaging homes.
In this place, the WMF Sierra Leone community seeks to love, serve and accompany youth, destitute families and young children in Freetown, specifically in Kroo Bay. Through relationships, education and discipleship, we endeavor to spread God’s light, hope, wisdom, and peace. About 35 children come during the week to our Center for tutoring help and a hot lunch. Almost 40 youth participate in the Lighthouse discipleship and leadership program. Over 300 children come every Saturday for the Good News Club for singing, a Bible lesson, first-aid care, a high-protein source and prayer. We are also doing education in Kroo Bay to prevent sexual violence. And we provide job training to provide sustainable options for those who have so few.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, new independent nation states were established — one of which was the Republic of Moldova. With a blend of ethnicities, primarily Romanian and Russian, that are often in tension, Moldova has been trying to forge its own sense of national identity. As they try to develop, they have faced the loss of massive emigration to Russia and to Western Europe. And the scars of the USSR remain, evident in the deprived rural communities and the urban orphanages.
The Word Made Flesh community began by building relationship with children in the largest orphanage in the country and developing educational and mentoring opportunities for them. Word Made Flesh Moldova seeks to serve Jesus among those most vulnerable children and their families, supporting their sustainable development and offering them stability, acceptance and love. There are over 30 children who attend our Community Center activities. We have also developed mentoring programs for youth in rural communities. And we have begun forming a response to the new phenomena of children living on the streets.
One of our boys dropped out of school, ran away from home, went to the streets to beg. Recently, we received him back at our Community Center, but because he dropped out of school, we have had to create a special educational program for him. We are seeing fantastic changes in him, which is deeply encouraging. His sister, who had been begging, returned home as well and is participating in our Community Center. She is also regularly attending school.
Life is especially difficult for young, single and unschooled mothers. We have supported a couple of them with young children to pay their rent. A mother of twin girls has battled problems with alcohol and unemployment. We have helped her find a job, and she is now much more stable and providing a safe home for her girls.
The first WMF community is located in India, which was one of the first projects in south Asia to address issues of pediatric AIDS. Our community has created home and family for those who have lost their parents and those who face serious health challenges. Our staff are the father, mother, sisters and brothers to the children. Today there are 23 children in our family; almost 90 children have been raised in our home since it began. They carry the wounds of lives cut short, the struggles of kids growing up, and the joys of life together. Recently, on top of all the energy needed to care for the children, they have had to navigate legal bureaucracy and requirements.
Two of our children came to us as infants after losing their parents to HIV. These two girls have grown up, completed schooling and basic theological education and are now settled in their own families, doing full-time ministry.
Two others came to us as infants with HIV. After 18 months, we saw them restored to perfect health and are now grown young women married and expecting their first babies. We look back and thank God for providing them life, and a safe environment through WMF Chennai to come to such a beautiful phase of Life.
Recently, one of our hearing-impaired teens stood over the sick bed of one of our teens with HIV who was battling for life, and prayed in sign language for healing. It is a gift for us to see these precious orphans caring for each other and praying for each other. What more could we ask? The teen with HIV recovered suddenly.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). In our communities, following Christ’s footsteps does not always mean suffering persecution, but rather entering painful contexts and intentionally engaging those with deep wounds. And here we find ourselves drawn into the wounds of God, which are not simply painful but transformative, not only destructive but creative. From the cross, Jesus initiates a new family: “Dear women here is your son” (John 19:26-27). We too, precisely in the place of suffering, discover that a new family is being forged, that we have new brothers and sisters, new daughters and sons. By touching wounds, we experience the foretastes of resurrection: love, forgiveness, healing, new family and restoration.