Written by Alyssa Esparaz
Today the Church in the Global South is growing faster than in the Global North. With that in mind, what can Christians in Canada learn from our sisters and brothers in the Global South? Here are three things to consider.
1. Full reliance on God
Many people in the Global South live in poverty or precarity, with few support systems or safety nets. This reality makes trusting God not just a spiritual exercise, but a lived-out, everyday experience. I’ll never forget when I became starkly aware of this.
My family had the opportunity to visit and share lunch with one of our sponsored children, Florianlyn, and her mother in the Philippines. We had leftovers after the meal, which Florianlyn and her mother were able to take home. Florianlyn’s mother expressed thankfulness, as they would now have enough to eat for dinner.
I realized how much I take for granted that I don’t have to wonder where my next meal will come from.
2. Fresh perspective of Scripture
Our brothers and sisters in the Global South can give us fresh insight into passages of Scripture we’ve been reading the same way for years. They come to it with different perspectives and experiences!
For example, Matthew 6:11, “Give us today our daily bread,” takes on a whole new meaning for families like Florianlyn’s, in very real ways. The Church in the Global South knows what verses like Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” mean in their lived experience in a way that we often struggle to understand in the affluent Global North.
New perspectives can also powerfully alter who we identify with in Scripture. We often identify ourselves with the oppressed, which can be true. But when we consider the perspective of those in the Global South, we start to see the ways we are actually the privileged and powerful and can allow Scripture to challenge us to “loose the chains of injustice” (Isaiah 58:6).
3. Wholeness in community
There are pros and cons to both collective and individualistic societies. However, since most of us in the Global North are on the individualistic side of those extremes, there is much we can learn from more collective ways of life. One of the things our sisters and brothers in the Global South do well is seeing the Church as an institution that addresses more than people’s spiritual needs; it acknowledges the whole of people’s lives.
A conversation I had with a pastor in Haiti illustrated this for me. He said to me, “Being a pastor in Haiti is very different from being a pastor in North America. In North America people go to their local church when they need prayer or have a spiritual need. But in Haiti people come to the church when they need prayer, yes. But they also come to the church when they don’t have enough for groceries or can’t pay their child’s tuition.”
In the Global South, community becomes practical, and the Church is there to serve its neighbours in real and tangible ways. The Church is seen as a place of refuge, solidarity, and help in times of need.
There is such beauty and strength in the diversity of the global Church—we have so much to learn from each other!
One way to connect with the global Church is by connecting with church-based organizations like Compassion. Learn more here.