By Bryan Sickbert
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Isaiah 43: 18-19
In these verses, the prophet reveals God’s intent to bring about a new exodus that will release Israel from exile in Babylon and lead it to a home in Palestine. There has been much complaining and longing for the past. The people fear that God’s power to act in the cause of their liberation has diminished or even disappeared. The memory of God’s acts of deliverance has faded into cynicism and despair. Israel is unable to see the new thing that God is doing in exposing the idolatry of its oppressors and opening a route of escape in the wilderness.
As CHHSM draws the celebration of its 75th year to a close and looks to the future, we will be using the lens of Isaiah 43 to look at important questions about our own capacity to perceive the new thing that God would do through our ministry. It has been informative and inspiring to review our past. It is essential to our spiritual health to recall God’s faithful underwriting of our movement over time. Clearly, CHHSM ministries have been instruments of God’s work of liberation. In his CHHSM history, “The Church’s Arm of Charity,” Terry White chronicles the work of a movement that has courageously believed in God’s promise of the new creation through a witness of service, often offered at great risk and sacrifice. God has delivered us from exile again and again over the decades, providing opportunities to claim new places of promise and hope at every turn.
But do we perceive it? That is the chief challenge with which God confronts faith-bound ministries, which are charged with actualizing God’s promise of healing and wholeness for suffering persons, communities and societies. Responding to this challenge is at the core of why we come together as CHHSM. CHHSM’s statement of philosophy says ”values and spiritual strength of the Christian faith are the central motivation and sustaining power of our ministries and require that we come together as an intentional community of mutual support and learning.”
Come together we will, for CHHSM’s 76th Annual Meeting. The theme is “Behold, I Am Doing a New Thing…Embracing Our Future.” As we do whenever we gather as CHHSM, in groups large or small, we will share our stories of God’s presence in our work as we witness it in the lives of our colleagues and those we serve. We will discover anew how much we need each other’s encouragement and wisdom in order to perceive the new thing that God is doing for and through us. As did the Israelites in Babylon, some of us may despair of our ability to perceive God’s activity in the overwhelming day-to-day struggle to keep our ministries viable. Others will come with testimony to surprising ways in which God’s transformative power has revealed a path through this wilderness. In the genuinely open culture of the CHHSM community we tell our stories of discouragement and hope, and teach each other what have learned about new ways that God is providing to underwrite our mission. This is the way that we have learned to perceive the new thing that God is always doing. Come to Scottsdale Feb. 27 – March 2 and let us perceive the new things that God is doing.