What It’s All About

As we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the season of Christmas, I am reminded of all the blessings of this life. In particular, those I have connected with over the past year through the work of Episcopal Relief & Development bring the Good News to mind.  As I sing “Joy to the World” this Christmas Eve, I will thank God for:Bishop Emmanuel Anyindana Arongo of the Anglican Diocese of Tamale, our partner in Ghana. Bishop Emmanuel’s leadership of our development programs has brought hope and abundance to countless people in Northern Ghana.  As he moves towards retirement and a well-earned rest in his hometown of Binaba, the world has been left demonstrably better. Families sleeping under insecticide-treated nets are safe from the deadly disease of malaria.  Young women with vocational skills are starting businesses that will change their lives and communities.  Farmers with seeds and tools and know-how will be feeding their families and communities today, tomorrow and in the years to come.

Carlos and Mercedes of San Juan de los Remates, Nicaragua, who work their small farm from sunup to sundown.  Growing corn, beans, tea, mango, bananas and many other crops, they provide for their young son and their community.  The couple is helping their neighbors learn to increase crop yields and maintain land fertility using barrier crops and wind breaks, capturing rainwater and controlling soil erosion. For me, Mercedes and Carlos are a witness to God’s abundant love, and what the agri-parables and stories of the New Testament are all about.

The Episcopal Relief & Development Network, a group of some 3,000 volunteers who tirelessly share about our mission in dioceses, parishes and seminaries across the Church. I think of many Network members who have given their time and energy for five, 10, even 15 years or more, helping connect Episcopalians with the needs of people in poverty worldwide.  Our lives are blessed and our ministry strengthened by the witness of these passionate and committed Diocesan Coordinators, Parish Representatives and Seminary Coordinators.

On what I know will seem like a totally unrelated note, my favorite holiday television special is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” (I promise this will come together in a minute.) Charlie Brown desperately wants to know what Christmas is all about and Linus sums it up. Quoting the Gospel of Luke, he points us to the reason for the season.  So, too, do Bishop Emmanuel, Carlos, Mercedes, our Network volunteers and countless others who embody Christ’s message of love, hope and peace – now and throughout the year.

…And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  —Luke 2:8-14
Brian Sellers-Petersen is Director of Church Engagement at Episcopal Relief & Development.

Photos: Top, Bishop Emmanuel Anyindana Arongo, courtesy of Canon Heidi Shott. Center: Carlos and Mercedes. Bottom: Province IV Network Diocesan Coodinators, courtesy of Eugene Johnston.