On this, the second week of Advent in the Christian calendar, we welcome Dwayne Milley to reflect on what it means to be people of peace, people who live in the light of the Prince of Peace.
Earlier this year, I was in Bekoji, Ethiopia. It was greener than other places I’ve been in Ethiopia, I think because it sits at a higher altitude and they had just been through the rainy season. In Bekoji, there are 40 children with disabilities who are supported through the sponsorship program of Christian Horizons. This was the second time I’ve been there – meeting with the children, their families, community leaders, and hearing stories about the benefit of the support they receive and how their lives have changed.
I remember one woman explaining the shame they felt when her son with a disability was born. She quit her work and pulled back from the community. Christian Horizons in Ethiopia often holds community events to create awareness about disability. For this mother, she learned that all children are gifts from God, we are all created in God’s image, and her son is no exception. Armed with this knowledge and the sponsorship support, she started working again and enrolled him in school. Today he has new friends, they are involved in their community, and they were proudly in attendance at a community gathering when we visited.
During the same visit local elder presented a ‘sinca’, a peace stick, to one of our guests. A significant gesture, this ceremony was both an expression of gratitude and a demonstration of peace and cooperation. Following the gathering, some local municipal leaders took us to a vacant building nearby. They explained that they were giving the use of the building to Christian Horizons for our use on the weekends, to reach out to other children and families with disabilities in Bekoji. The building, he shared, was once used to house military equipment.
In Isaiah 2, the prophet says, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (verse 4). Judah and Jerusalem were divided. Against this backdrop, Isaiah prophecies of a time when nations (not just their own) will have no use for their tools of war so they’ll convert them into farming equipment. Not only that, but they’ll not even train for war. With these competing images in mind, their present reality and a picture of God’s planned future, Isaiah exhorts the people of Judah and Jerusalem, “Come, descendants of Jacob, let’s live in the light of the Lord.”
One day, Isaiah says, there will be peace. Christians believe that Isaiah was prophesying about the coming of Christ, whose birth is celebrated at Christmas. According to Christian theology, this is the one whom Isaiah calls the “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9:60. The Prince of Peace has come. So, let’s live like it now. Let’s live “in the light of the Lord.”
I don’t know if Isaiah had envisioned Bekoji, Ethiopia, when he looked ahead and saw a picture of peace about which to tell the people of Israel. Even if he hadn’t, in this town, just a few hundred kilometres south of Addis Abiba, a military storage building is being converted into a community development building. A place that housed tools of war is becoming a place that will offer supports which will nourish and grow the community. This is all because its members now rightly believe that their children with disabilities are image-bearers of God.
That’s a light I can live in.
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”
(John 1:9, NIV)