For a brief time in history, God was with us in human form. Jesus is Immanuel, which means “God-with-us”. Just before the Passover festival (which takes place at this time of the year), Jesus gathered his disciples. He washed their feet, he foretold of his betrayal by Judas and of Peter’s denial and then he taught his disciples. Jesus prepared them for his going away. Yet, in the middle of all this, he shared something deeply profound. Although he told them he was going away, Jesus also said, “I will not leave you.” Jesus, our Immanuel, our “God-with-us”, did not leave us alone. He said he would come to us.
We are never alone. We don’t have to do anything special to have the presence of God with us because his presence is always with us. He is God with us. All over the world we are experiencing various forms of isolation. Yet, God is with us. We are not alone.
As I write, South Africa is 10 days into total lockdown, enforced by the military. People are not allowed to leave their immediate home space. For millions of people (those very people who we at Orchard: Africa serve) this means a small, one room tin shack with anything up to 8 people living inside. This is immensely difficult. Yet, inside this shack, one more is present - Immanuel, God-with-us.
Often times God’s presence is made known to us through others. We at Orchard: Africa have made every effort to make His presence known to those living in the most difficult of circumstances. Firstly, before lockdown, we provided food and hygiene products to all our partner churches to distribute to their villages. Now, in lockdown, we are sharing regular short videos* that let these communities know that God is with them. Through these videos, we share scripture or a message of encouragement or we share practical projects to help. See below for one of these videos.
Over this coming weekend we will be running a virtual* Easter conference. Starting on Good Friday through to Easter Sunday, three message a day will be sent out to over 800 church leaders. These leaders will in turn share these videos with their congregation – potentially tens of thousands of people who will know that Jesus has not left them but that he is Immanuel, God-with-them. Right there in their humble home, in a distant village, God has taken up residence with them during lockdown and he will never leave them alone. This Holy Week, the days leading up to Easter, may we reflect on the path Jesus walked to his death. May we remember that out of deep love, he took time to prepare his disciples about his going and he assured them (and us) that he will not leave them alone. We have God-with-us through the Holy Spirit, God-with-us through His body the Church and God-with-us through each other. May we turn up in every way we can.
** We use WhatsApp to distribute all our videos. It is a free application used by millions of people all over the world and widely used in Africa. It uses a minimal amount of data and is a very cheap and effective tool to send short messages. All our videos are compressed and are under 4 minutes.