I am a member of a small Methodist church outside of Boise Idaho where I also facilitate the church missions team. Our small but dedicated team runs a garden that provides 12 tons of food for the local food pantry, feeds homeless people, builds a house for Habitat for Humanity, and more. In all of this, the question came up: What does it mean to be a global citizen as well as a local citizen? Is it even possible for a small rural church to have a global reach?
These conversations took place during the pandemic while our church was in lockdown and services were all via Zoom and Facebook. We discussed forming sister church relationships in different countries and communities. We discussed reaching out to local groups from other countries (the world is coming to your idea). In the midst of that, we heard of a movement in Canada called Love My Neighbor that was organizing support for getting Covid vaccine to the Majority World. Love My Neighbor was the creation of Sarah Hildebrand who believed God placed it on her heart to do something about the lack of vaccines for the poorest countries. We invited Sarah to speak with our group.
Sometimes people will wish to help those a world away, but it is not always clear how to do that apart from giving money. Sarah’s story about Love My Neighbor made helping the poor in other countries appear attainable. It involved seeking donations, but also much more. It also meant advocating for the international partnership providing vaccines (Covax). It meant talking to people, making them aware of the crisis, and possibly changing minds.
This then began to put Global Citizenship into a practical framework. The UK relief agency OXFAM defines a Global Citizen as “someone who is aware of and understands the wider world – and their place in it. They take an active role in their community and work with others to make our planet more peaceful, sustainable, and fairer.”
Global citizenship has been used by some to claim that national boundaries and national citizenship no longer matter since we are all global citizens. That is clearly not how we are using the term. Our context is based on the belief that Christians are stewards of the planet, and serving all people is part of our discipleship (There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28)
Our decision to support Covax was an expression of global citizenship, not only for us as individuals, but for the church. It is putting our faith into a global as well as local context. As with all ministries, there are benefits for those who serve as well as those who receive. So, while Covax and UNICEF (the Covax implementing partner) are the immediate beneficiaries, we see this campaign having many benefits for us as the church, such as …
• Promote understanding of world events and the place of our church in those events.
• Foster thinking about our values, beliefs and what’s important to us about them.
• Challenge ignorance and intolerance.
• Get involved in local, national and global communities.
• Develop a voice for our beliefs and opinions.
• See that our church has the power to act and influence the world around us.
As we launch our US-focused campaign to support Covax, the campaign has become an invitation to others to join in, advocate locally, run their own events, and create a sense of global citizenship in their own church. How then might you do that?
• Create opportunities for discussion of the global impact of the pandemic, including how the disadvantaged everywhere bear the greatest burden, how wealth makes all the difference in exposure to the pandemic and the injustice of inequity;
• Integrate the issue of compassion and justice in the pandemic into sermons and Sunday school classes;
• Equip people to speak about the pandemic and justice
• Seek opportunities to advocate for support of Covax with friends and neighbors, newspapers, social media, and with elected representatives.
• Form a “Pandemic Compassion” team, or recruit your missions team, to raise funds, lead discussions, and spread the word.
We will be posting monthly stories and updating resources on the Love Beyond Borders website. Feel free to contact us with any ideas about how we can support each other.