Jo Kadlecek is communication manager at Baptist World Aid Australia, a non-profit organisation that now works in 18 countries with 38 local Christian partners in projects to “end poverty so that all people can enjoy the fullness of life God intends”. Here Jo shares her hopes for 2022.
Honestly, if Jesus wanted to come back in 2022, I wouldn’t object.
Or even tomorrow for that matter.
Imagine: Our dear Lord ushering in the New Creation, resplendent beauty, absolute peace and stunning glory. The fulfilment of every hope, putting to right the horrors of, well, even the past few weeks, let alone the year we’re all bound to call crazy at best: 2021.
I’m ready, in part because the sorrows of this broken world can be exhausting. Who of us, after all, hasn’t felt completely gutted over the lost children in Tasmania’s recent bizarre tragedy? Or grieved at the images of distraught citizens whose lives have been shattered by Typhoon Rai in the Philippines or the devastated U.S. southern states from recent tornadoes? How could we not be horrified at the evil of Myanmar’s government as it lashes out at its own people, many of them Christians?
Who of us does not despair over the bleak midwinter in Afghanistan, where humanitarian experts expect more deaths from starvation than from the entire 20-year war?
And who isn’t worn out from COVID-19’s ongoing grip on a fearful world – especially while some selfishly deny its impact? More than any other global crisis, COVID has pushed families just emerging from poverty back into extreme poverty, that is, living on $US1.95 a day. (What Aussie could even think of living daily on less than the cost of a coffee?)
In other words, we have seen freak accidents and the disastrous effects of an Earth groaning from our lack of care and greedy choices. We know this is not how it’s supposed to be. So, yes, indeed, I say, “Come, Lord Jesus, in 2022. Or tomorrow.”
If 2021 taught me anything, it’s that God is not absent from our broken world.
And yet if 2021 taught me anything, it’s that God is not absent from our broken world. He lives in the centre of it, incarnate especially on the margins, alive in the faithful hands and feet and hearts of his people. He has taken up residence in the most vulnerable and transformed of communities – as he did even on that first Christmas. Thankfully, he has not left us alone.
This past year, followers of Jesus – who have given generously to strangers they will never meet – have consistently inspired me. Because of my work at Baptist World Aid Australia, I have witnessed Christians across the country respond to those images on the news, though often struggling themselves, to right the wrongs of a broken planet. They’ve given money so Baptist hospitals in PNG could stay open, and invested sacrificially so children and youth clubs in Bangladesh and Nepal could teach basic hygiene care and child safety rights in the face of a pandemic that often makes girls especially vulnerable to slavery or child marriage.
I’ve been humbled to ‘meet’ our Christian Partners in Uganda, Malawi and Cambodia who are making it their business to care, come what may, for their neighbours, just as Baptist churches and friends support these global strangers. They all take seriously the most humbling and miraculous privilege a human could ever have: to love their neighbours, even if they live on the other side of the world.
Yes, regardless of the headlines, God has been at work in our broken, messy, tragic world this past year – just as he has been throughout history in the costly devotion of his followers. Love drives his people to tend the sick they don’t know, to feed the hungry children of mothers they’ll never meet, to take in the refugee whose home is only a memory.
We cling to the not yet hope of Jesus’ return, a hope that sustains us in the broken now.
And so, should our Lord tarry and not return in 2022, I suspect that God will again lead his people to serve and pray and offer their lives for others. We cling to the not yet hope of Jesus’ return, a hope that sustains us in the broken now.
Could Christians do more? Love more? Of course. Do we always get it right? Of course not. But as Melissa Lipsett, our CEO at Baptist World Aid Australia, likes to say, “We are God’s Plan A for the world right now. There is no Plan B.”
And so I look forward to watching the compassion of Jesus ignite a middle-class family’s care for children in poverty as they become child sponsors. I’m excited to watch more churches support their neighbours across the globe, even if it means tightening their budgets at home. I can’t wait to hear the stories of every young person planting vegetables and gaining skills to help their community emerge from poverty.
Each is a snapshot of God’s active love across this world he made, where he remains sovereign and present and merciful, despite the news. Aslan is on the move, as CS Lewis described Jesus in The Chronicles of Narnia. And it is our privilege to join him.