On entering the grounds of the beautiful Catholic Cathedral in Tangier, Morocco, a sense of peace and serenity came over me. In the midst of the noise, traffic and chaos of a major African city, this space provided a quite escape from the world outside. The Archbishop of Tangier had graciously agreed to allow the EEAM (Evangelical Church in Morocco) to hold its annual Synod meeting in the facility due to the lack of space in the local Protestant church. The hospitality and the ecumenical spirit of the church staff were so welcoming to a weary traveler. What I experienced in that place was the living out, in a very tangible way, of being the presence of Christ to those in the world around you.
Highland Baptist, as a partner with the CEI (International Aid Committee), is invited annually to attend the meeting of the General Synod of the EEAM. This meeting is the time of the year when the church gathers to conduct its business. The church, as it gathered, reflects the reality of being part of the body of Christ in Morocco. Young, old, European expats, students, retired, actively working – all with a passion for the work of Christ in this land. When this body gathers to work they are serious about working. Two and half days of packed schedules, with working lunches and dinners, are the norm for the annual meeting. Aside from the long days sitting around tables working through the agenda, there is one other small issue to deal with and that is that the entire meeting takes place in French. Talk about the need to totally rely on someone else! I was blessed to have Karen Thomas Smith at my side to translate the proceedings over the course of my time there.
What I observed during this gathering was the church working on issues that are no different than what we deal with here at HBC. Work on by-laws and defining anew what it means to be church, electing officers, hearing reports from all of the various work groups within the larger church and my favorite (J) extended discussions on next year’s budget. However, the major difference noted was that all of these discussions took place in the overarching context of being the minority in an Islamic country. The needs are the same but the carrying out of the work is colored by the context in which the church is working.
The partnership that HBC has with CEI and the work with migrants and refugees is valued by the church. The assistance that we provide financially, along with the funds from additional partners from Europe allows the church to stretch its resources for assistance. Emergency aid for food and housing, vocational training, funding for micro-projects and scholarships for students are the four main areas of work of the CEI. This work is carried out with a strong belief that the body of Christ is reaching out to the least of these. There is an understanding that the CEI alone can’t take care of the problems confronting them. However with partners from around the globe they are able to do a little bit more than they can do alone. This work is done in love and with a passion that is unmatched by anything I have ever seen.
When I think of what the money that you give through the budget to missions is able to accomplish I am in awe of the reach of our work. We can’t change everything at once or totally eliminate the problems that are encountered by migrants and refugees in Morocco. We have the opportunity to change circumstances, one person at a time and one day at a time. I think back to an earlier visit that Cheryl and I made to Morocco when we met an apartment full of young men from the Ivory Coast. These young men were hungry and were not sure they were going to have the money to pay the rent on their rooms for the next month. As we were talking with them, the spokesperson for the group kept asking us, what can you do for us today? After asking that question a number of times he finally said, if you can’t do something for us today can you at least give us some hope? That simple request is burned into my heart and soul – HOPE. Hope for a better life, hope for a better future and hope that there is more to life than what the current situation dictates. The church whether it is in Morocco or around the globe in Kentucky can provide that one request – HOPE.