Every friendship–well, every good friendship–has that initial defining moment when the relationship moves from casual pleasantries to honest, authentic friendship. Sometimes it's in the moments of pure, belly-aching, uninhibited laughter. Sometimes it’s the late-night “he’s in the hospital” phone call when your friend drops everything to sit with you. Sometimes it’s the event or situation that you were unexpectedly invited into and asked to partake in. Whatever “it” is, it changes the relationship. It’s richer. It’s deeper. It means something more.
Church Partnership is a complimentary relationship between two churches guided by a common, Gospel-centered vision. Through these partnerships, children are wholistically cared for by their local churches and nurtured in loving families. These relationships span the globe, cross country borders, and move beyond cultural differences, but it’s not always easy.
Language barriers. Cultural beliefs. Societal customs. These are all particularly hard to move past in a Church Partnership that links an Ethiopian church to a US church, as the differences are noticeable. The differences, are not insurmountable, however.
Pulpit Rock Church visited their church partner in Ethiopia this June, the church’s second trip to Ethiopia in two years. The tiny Ethiopian church teeters on the edge of Addis Ababa. The language barrier is noticeable in a profound way, as nobody in the Ethiopian church speaks English, and . . . well, nobody from the US church speaks Amharic; therefore, translators are heavily relied upon in these partnerships.
During their visit, Jonathan, a member of the US team, preached at the Ethiopian church. During the service, he was invited outside the church building and led to a concrete pillar. Shaped similarly to a pulpit, the pillar marks where the future church building will sit. Humbly and expectantly, Ethiopian congregation members requested that Jonathan place the plaque, a hopeful symbol celebrating the future church building, on the concrete pillar. This request was not accompanied by a plea for money, additional work, or any other resource. Instead, the request marked a desire for Jonathan’s church to not merely be a part of this season, but to be remembered for all of this church’s future.
When words may fail, simple things like concrete pillars and plaques can speak loudly.
These are sacred moments in church partnerships that span oceans and borders and continents. These are the precious moments when people that look and sound nothing alike suddenly become not merely partners, but friends. And we hold these moments delicately in trembling hands, recognizing their worth. You see, this partnership is young, and the language barrier is a struggle, yet the beauty of friendship is quickly being realized. These moments are the not-so-small miracles that can only come from God.
Church Partnerships, like any other relationship, aren’t easy. Sometimes you are placing beautiful plaques on concrete pillars, and sometimes you are crying in frustration and confusion. It’s not perfect. It was never intended to be; however, Church Partnerships create space for the kind of grace, love, and collaboration that takes your breath away. When things click and God shows up and the miracles are happening and children are being restored and communities are being transformed and plaques are being placed on pillars and hugs are being shared . . . that’s it.
That’s Church Partnership. That’s the Body of Christ in action.