Volcanoes, Coups, and YouBy Corey Schmatjen
April 21, 2021
Here’s a pop-quiz: Are you able to locate St. Vincent and the Grenadines on an unmarked world map? Seriously. I suspect most of us reading this would struggle mightily with such an exercise. You would be probably be satisfied to rightly identify the 32 islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as somewhere in the Eastern Caribbean Sea.
If you are able to pinpoint the aforementioned islands with cartographic prowess and precision, kudos! You are certainly in the minority (at least here in North America). But why? What’s your secret or difference?
I would venture to guess it’s one (or all) of the following reasons: You are from St. Vincent. You’ve been to St. Vincent. You have friends and family in St. Vincent. In other words, it’s people. It’s relational ties. It’s your personal connection to St. Vincent.
If I’m correct, such an observation explains my two very different reactions to current international events or humanitarian crises that have surfaced in the news the past few weeks: 1) the Myanmar military coup, and 2) the volcanic eruptions on St. Vincent.
I would have to look hard to identify Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) on a map. My heart seems to have to work a little harder to enter into the pain, suffering, or disillusionment experienced by many of its citizens.Compassion doesn’t always flow as quickly as it ought, nor do my prayers. The reason has nothing to do with the the Burmese people I know —because I don’t know any Burmese people! And that’s the point.
It’s a very different story with St. Vincent. Mention St. Vincent and I immediately think of Derron, a sharp, godly medical student and his big, pearly-white grin and quick laugh. I think of Rhesia, once a missionary to Bosnia and now a member of our church. And now I think of Michè and Kenyatta, GCC pastors. God has consistently brought Vincentians into my life. And because of that, the current volcanic eruptions are so much more than a geological event or Instagram post. It’s something personal.
But to say that the pull in my heart towards one Caribbean nation is because of personal connections doesn’t go far enough. Those living under the fury of the La Soufrière volcano are not just friends or acquaintances, they’re saints. They are my gospel inheritance. They’re family. And their yours too, in Christ. Listen to Christ’s stunning promise to Peter (and all who follow Christ) in Mark 10:28-30:
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”
The promise of multitudinous family and land now in this time (and extending into eternity) is rarely comprehended. Do we have family and land in the Caribbean? Of course, with the conch and cabanas come pyroclastic lava and suffering.
Perhaps you are tempted to respond, “There are already enough tragedies and crises around me. Take on the pain of the world? I have enough problems in my own biological family or my own local church family. I don’t need more family, more worries, and more suffering.”
The Benefit of Spiritual Family
True, familial relationships make us uniquely vulnerable to sorrow, hurt, and pain. But with family, there can also be unparalleled depth of relationship, rootedness, and joy. When Peter says that he has left everything to follow Christ, Jesus reminds him of his joyous reward and rootedness. Spiritual family is the consolation, not the cost, of following Christ.
Jesus comforts Peter with the reality that he actually has more family and land than he could imagine. To experience the gracious hospitality of our global family members is to experience their home as your home, their land as your land. To fellowship and worship with my global family has brought transcendent joy.
The relational connection we value in GCC is that which keeps the world’s news from becoming “white noise” – and turns it into a summons to pray, grieve, give, and rejoice with our family across the globe.
As part of the Great Commission Collective, you have an opportunity to know and identify with your worldwide spiritual family. We currently have churches in 43 countries on 5 continents. I can’t wait to introduce you to more of the family in the days to come. We have a rich inheritance in GCC!
Please pray for Michè Paul as he leads Harvest Bible Chapel Georgetown in St. Vincent. And please pray for Kenyatta Lewis, another GCC pastor from the Turks & Caicos, who is currently on the island with his family. Multiple eruptions, limited drinking water, toxic air, prolonged power outages, and 6-7 inches of volcanic ash have made the situation perilous.
GCC has been able to send immediate aid to help purchase needed items such as water, food, bedding, and masks on the island. We’re poised and ready to help our family as further needs are identified. (And we’ll be notifying churches if more aid is needed.)
May we be able to say of our Vincentian family (and our Burmese family that I’ve yet meet), “We’re praying for you, my brother and sister. You are not alone!”
Break out the map. And break out the prayers.