Lent Devotions: Finding healing in community


Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). 

By Rev. David Ezekiel

Luke 5: 17-26

God Grew Tired of Us is a fascinating documentary that traces the perilous journey of John Bul Dau, Daniel Pach, and Panther Bior, three of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan. John’s boyhood was spent tending his family’s cattle, but the Sudanese civil war of the 1980s destroyed his village, killed many of the adults, and forced the rest to become refugees. Thousands of mostly teenagers from the Dinka and Nuer tribes embarked upon a 5-year, thousand-mile odyssey of escape. During the course of their grueling ordeal, 10,000 or more died or were kidnapped.

About 8,000 finally reached the safety of a settlement compound in Kenya. The Clinton administration was petitioned to accept the refugees on compassionate grounds whereupon the US agreed to receive 3,600, which included John, Daniel, and Panther. Upon arrival in the US, these three set about assisting their adopted, extended family left behind in Kenya.  John, in particular, has been raising and sending funds back to the Sudan to build a clinic so that persons would have access to medical care.

To John and others in Dinka culture, family and the care of neighbors is central. He told an interviewer that “if somebody got sick in the village, twelve or eighteen guys would carry them to the hospital 75 miles away.  Half would lock arms and carry the person, then they would rotate, so they could always keep running.”[i]  What an image: persons linked arm-in-arm carrying “a sick villager to the hospital, taking turns carrying so the urgent pace could be maintained and the patient brought to the place of healing, healing that began with the love and compassion and concern of the community.”[ii]  Despite the adversity and the obstacles, John and the others are still carrying one another to a place of healing. 

Linger upon that imagery in your mind and heart. Take a few moments to remember a time in which you experienced adversity or brokenness.  Now ask, “When I needed help, what community carried me in love to a place of healing?”  ake a moment to give thanks for that community of concern. 

Return to that image of persons linked arm-in-arm and hold it once again in your heart and mind.  Now, ask yourself, “Who am I helping to carry in love to a place of healing?”  Take a moment to give thanks for that community with whom you are a partner in ministry.  Take another moment to offer a prayer for the person or persons being carried and ask God to bless them with the healing that they need.

We accomplish so much more together in community than we can by ourselves, especially for:

  • those entangled in a travel ban that severely restricts asylum seekers and refugee resettlement;
  • those being uprooted and deported to a place that is no longer their home;
  • those facing the loss of access to good, affordable healthcare;
  • those rendered vulnerable because of the abdication of responsibility and commitment of Federal and local governments to protect human rights.

In community, we can traverse huge distances, endure hardships, and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in order to attain healing, experience forgiveness, and ultimately find love.  When it occurs, people are amazed and glorify God. 

i John Buchanan, The Healer, a sermon preached at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL, on Feb 11, 2007, citing the New York Times, December 20, 2006.
ii Ibid.   

Rev. David Ezekiel is San Francisco Theological Seminary Ford Fellow for Congregational Studies and Evangelism.

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