It really is true: the nehemia team has been around for 30 years now. If you’ve been sharing our journey from early on and still can’t believe that number, just take a look in the mirror!
Time hasn’t stood still at all. It’s been 30 intense years full of challenges, adventures and encounters.
At special times like this, it’s tempting to shine and showcase all the best successes and accomplishments – and there would be a lot to show; all the projects, trainings, Celebrations of God’s Glory, camps, concerts, retreats and more. For me though, it isn’t the great projects and events that come to mind first when I Iook back over these thirty years in gratitude. Above all, it’s the encounters with all different kinds of people – in our metropolitan area and in the more than 50 countries on this earth.
Perhaps these lines bring to mind some encounter you’ve had with the nehemia team or one of its members: I hope you had an encounter that left you encouraged and inspired, not disappointed. Let’s share these memories with one another. New things often spring forth from the fertile ground of grateful remembrance where we cherish the old and the bygone!
I’d like to take this opportunity to send out a great big Thank You “God bless” to all our friends and fellow travellers, supporters and co-workers. Thanks also to our more critical companions who were always there challenging us to question our actions, seek out new paths, expand our vision and stretch our limits. Some of those fellow travellers are no longer among us. Especially John MacFarlane, a co-founder of the nehemia team, deserves a special mention. The mark he made was deep and good. And above all, a special thanks goes to Jesus, who continues to inspire, motivate, and empower us to love the people of this earth.
A story to guide us
Over all of these years, a story from the New Testament has held special meaning to us. It’s the story of the feeding of the 5000 (Mt. 14:13-21). Like the disciples in those days, we are constantly confronted with challenges that are way too big for us and sometimes seem downright impossible. We wonder, “Why should I bother if it’s just not enough to begin with?“ or „I’m one drop in the bucket; how should I be able to change the world?” This world’s lesser and greater needs seem so pressing, constantly reminding us of our weakness.
Will I still accept a challenge?
“You feed them!” This was Jesus’s impossible challenge to his disciples. It seems just as impossible, even senseless today when Jesus challenges us not to turn our backs on the needs of the people in this world, but to face them instead. Facing, or encountering something normally starts there where I no longer look the other way, but allow myself to feel others’ pain.
We’ve gotten used to it….
So many people have simply grown accustomed to human suffering. News from around the world doesn’t move us anymore. War, terror, hunger, catastrophes, violence, abuse, plundering, slavery, child mortality, and waves of refugees have become just another news item to us. They scarcely touch us unless they threaten our own financial comfort and convenience. We withdraw into our comfort zones. Oh, we might fret over some countries that are building walls and fences, but we aren’t likely to notice how we’ve already built walls of the heart to protect and encapsulate us from the needs of this world. Many avoid meeting refugees, inviting the poor, speaking with lonely neighbours, and spending time with the ill and the dying. Thus, we are in danger of sinking further into our resignation and weakness rather than bravely speaking out against injustice and violence and sharing our gifts, skills and resources to benefit those in need.
Feeling touched is not enough
When something touches our emotions, it can either paralyze or move us to act. As with his disciples back then, Jesus challenges us today to “see what you can give them”. I’m convinced that anyone who looks will find a few “old loaves” and some fish, such as time, love, ideas, abilities, compassion, interest, money, empathy….. Am I ready to offer Jesus the little I have, even if it doesn’t seem like enough? Wherever the nehemia team was willing to take this step, we’ve experienced how the little was multiplied, and through all those years up to the present we’ve seen again and again how literally thousands of people have been “fed” through our efforts.
Taking the first step, over and over again
What happens when we give Jesus what “little” we have? He accepts it gratefully, then sends us out with it to the world’s “hungry” and “lost.” He sends us to people who are lost in the anonymity of our cities, forgotten, hurt, abused, disappointed. Most often, it’s young people the nehemia team works with, and have the privilege of helping them to find a new perspective on life. We still like to call them “God’s VIPs,“ because to God they are important and are not forgotten. Whenever our hands come up empty again, we can go back to Jesus for more, and are once again astonished at how our little offering is multiplied.
We’re surrounded by hungry people
Some people are literally hungry and thirsty because they live in an area of drought, or there simply isn’t enough food. Others are hungry to learn, be loved, experience affection, be valued and accepted, treated with respect and dignity. And TOGETHER, we can help meet these needs. I especially appreciate the TOGETHER part of the nehemia team. Older and younger, with different gifts and from different cultures, with mutual respect, together on one team we can do so much more than any of us could achieve on their own.
Looking forward in hope
As a team, nehemia is stepping into the next leg of the journey. We’re grateful for the past 30 years full of life, but aren’t satisfied with just looking back. We expect many, especially young people to join us with their new ideas and efforts to help meet the hunger in this world. Young people who aren’t content to live and believe just for their own sakes, but rather offer their “bread and fish” gladly in hopes of changing the world. If you’re convinced that your life is meant for more than just withdrawing and living for yourself with your head in the sand, we’d be glad for you to join us. We’re looking forward to a new generation of “nehemias” who want to enhance our team with their ideas, talents and efforts.
Twelve baskets spilling over, not empty pockets
One goody is left for the end of this story. Jesus didn’t overlook his disciples, who were also hungry and had given what little they had. Each of them got his basket back, spilling over. Is that a return on investment, or what!? If I don’t keep my gifts and talents, my love, time and money all for myself, but share them with the needy in my neighbourhood and around the world, I won’t come up short. This is a mystery that the nehemia team has been partaking of for 30 years. And that makes us hungry for more!!!!
Hans Heidelberger (nehemia team)