“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…” Philippians 1:3-5
I am enjoying my two months in Scotland, catching up with friends, family and supporters, worshipping God in English and eating yummy things that I can’t get in Japan. Although this time back is not an official Home Assignment (which is usually longer) it serves some of the same purposes.
One of those purposes is to be able to thank churches and individuals for all the support they give, and give an update of how God is answering their prayers. The Apostle Paul often started off his letters to churches with words of thanks, thanking God for the people in the different churches and for the various things they were doing. I have to confess that I am very bad at writing letters, or even emails, of thanks. In fact I am pretty bad at keeping up with personal correspondence generally.
When David and I first became missionaries, we divided up the various things we had to do. I took on the accounting, doing our budgets and keeping track of expenditure, and David took on personal correspondence, including writing letters of thanks. In many missionary families it is often the other way round – the husband does tasks like the finances and the wife keeps in touch with people personally. In fact there were several occasions when people would come up to me on Home Assignment and thank me for my card or email, not realising it was David who written it. David was also the one who wrote all our prayer letters and any entries for church magazines. Although I have managed to keep up with those better, I have to say that I am woefully inadequate at keeping up with personal correspondence. So one of the highlights for me being back in Scotland is having the opportunity to thank people face to face for their faithful prayers and support.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he said that he thanked God every time he remembered them. And he prayed for them with joy because of their partnership in the gospel from the first day right up to the time when he was writing. He also thanked them later in the letter for their financial gift (Phil 4:18).
The phrase “partnership in the gospel” has always been a special one for me. The original Greek for partnership is κοινωνία (koinonia). In other places this is translated as fellowship. It has a sense of sharing in something, or participating in something together. When people work in partnership, they can do things that they would not be able to do on their own, and they are also able to do more than one person on their own could.
For me this is a core part of my relationship with Holyrood and other supporting churches and individuals. We have a partnership in the gospel. I could not do what I do in Japan without the prayers and support of folks back in Scotland. Your partnership is literally essential for my work there. And so I thank God every time I remember you, and always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel.
In his book, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, Don Carson writes about the believers at Philippi:“They continued their witness in Philippi, they persevered in their prayers for Paul, they sent money to support him in his ministry – all testifying to their shared vision of the importance and priority of the gospel. That is more than enough reason for thanking God.”
In the same way, as you continue your witness in Scotland, and persevere in your prayers for Japan and give financial support, so we are all testifying to that shared vision of the importance and priority of the gospel. And what better fellowship can there be.
I hope that in my weekend at Holyrood from the 28-29th January, I will have the opportunity to thank many of you face to face. But even if not, please know how thankful I am to God for all of you and for that special partnership from “the first day”, 25 years ago, until now.
By Lorna Ferguson