The Covid-19 pandemic has made everyone’s world that little bit smaller. We spend less time outside, and certainly less time in other countries. This context has forced us to spend more time focusing on ourselves or those close to us. As a result, it is often harder to find hope because if you are a bit of a pessimist like me, it is difficult to find hope within yourself. Thankfully due to the wonders of technology we are still able to be part of a bigger world. And it is from this wider community that I gain hope.
In my job, I listen to stories from across the Anglican Communion. At USPG, the mission agency I work for, we have Regional Managers covering different areas of the world church. Each week, I hear both good and bad news from our Regional Managers about how different countries are dealing with Covid-19 as well as other issues. It is then my job to write up these stories for social media and the USPG website. It is sad to share the news of a church leader passing away, but it is also uplifting to hear of new Bishops being elected and about the successes of USPG’s programmatic work. Where I take most of my inspiration from are those situations where the economic and social context is difficult, yet our mission partners are finding innovative ways to deal with problems.
One example of this is the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. Objectively, the Philippines has had a difficult few years. Since his election to the presidency of the Philippines in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has imposed increasingly violent and authoritarian measures. Covid-19 made things worse, and the country has to deal with typhoon season every year. Despite all this, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines has continued to serve its local communities, providing accommodation for nurses and providing political and economic support to rice farmers. Alongside this community support, the Church has secured its own future, with nine dioceses becoming financially viable in 2020. By locating needs and providing for both its members and local communities, the ECP is truly doing God’s work.
For me, this speaks to what hope really is. Hope is not about unbridled optimism and ignoring difficult situations. Instead, it is about seeing a bad situation, and working out how to make it better. Hope is not a passive thing, but an active choice to engage with the world. To find seeds of hope, we often need to look further afield rather than into ourselves.
Nathan Olsen is a former Editor of Movement Magazine and long-time supporter of SCM. He currently works as a copywriter for USPG, the Anglican mission agency.