On Easter Sunday, families will gather in churches, living rooms, and at dining room tables all across the country. They will pray, eat, laugh, and play. Outside, children will hunt for Easter eggs, basking in the renewal of spring. It’s a joyous time when everyone can receive new life because of Christ’s resurrection at Easter. Christmas is a significant holiday on the Christian calendar, but Easter (resurrection day) is even more important than Christ’s birth. Jesus was born for Easter. Jesus’s resurrection was the purpose of his birth.
As we approach this Easter holiday, I reflect on its significance in my life. This is a time of new birth–a time of rebirth. At Easter, I think of lives transformed, both here in the U.S. and around the world, wherever people are suffering.
In my nearly two decades working for Medical Teams International, I’ve seen many lives transformed. In places like Uganda and Lebanon, refugees cross borders as mere shells of their former selves—frightened, angry, and alone. But once they cross the border they receive compassionate care from Medical Teams staff at one of our many clinics. It is there you begin to see the transformation. The fear and hopelessness begin to melt away, and new life begins.
It’s a privilege to witness the work Medical Teams is doing to bring life and hope to people who have only known darkness, despair, and death. It’s important to not only be in the business of healing the body, but also the mind and spirit. All over the world, Medical Teams is striving to do just that—address the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of people in crisis.
And we can’t do this on our own. Wherever we work, Medical Teams incorporates the faith community into what we do. In Africa, it is reported that 74 percent of people trust their spiritual leaders more than anyone else in society. Faith leaders in a community have tremendous influence in improving the health of women and children, the most vulnerable in society. Through this influence, what seemingly were impossible challenges become solvable solutions.
This is why Medical Teams works with local churches, integrating them into our programming in places like Tanzania and Uganda. Aligning behaviors to the guiding principles found in the Bible, we work collaboratively with other faiths to reach as many people as possible. It may be the first time Christians and Muslims worked together in a community, but there is no better cause for collaboration than to improve the health of their own women and children, building bridges and peace.
Wondering if there’s evidence of success? In Uganda, we saw a dramatic decrease in rape and gender-based violence after Medical Teams health officers brought together 15 faith leaders to help address the problem. I recall visiting a clinic in southwest Uganda where a Muslim Imam stood up representing the group and said, “We are one in this community. Every morning we pray for this clinic, the health care providers and the patients going into the clinic. When we heard about this problem, we went out to our congregations and addressed the issue.”
When you touch just one vulnerable person, salve her suffering with grace and care, you can begin to see in her eyes the budding of a new life. Each day, we see stories that evoke the Easter spirit of resurrection and new life.
Like many of you, I’ll be spending Easter Sunday at church with my family. But a week later, on April 8, I’ll be in Lebanon, home to more than one million Syrian refugees, celebrating Orthodox Easter. Once my plane lands in Beirut, I plan to attend an Easter service in one of the many churches there. At this time of unprecedented need, I feel blessed to be able to spend this Easter season with Syrian refugees.
What Jesus did on the cross for us–his death and resurrection as the penalty of our sins–demands we respond and give of ourselves, to bring life and hope to people in great need around the world. Easter is the ultimate manifestation of God’s grace, love, and mercy. It is also an opportunity to show the same grace, love, and mercy to people living in a hurting and broken world.
Christ Is Risen.
He is Risen Indeed.