Setting the pace for goodness

AT THE RECENT Asian Methodist Conference, the presentation on ministry to the migrant workers emphasised the need for the Church to hear and act on the plight of the migrant workers. e question that was posed to us was: “Are these migrant workers treated as modern-day slaves, particularly the domestic helpers and unskilled workers who work to the demands of their employers?”

Many of us do have domestic helpers in our homes. Is it true that these helpers are treated like “modern-day slaves”?

What about employers who have migrant workers in their employ? Are the workers treated with dignity?

There is an arm of church ministry that reaches out to the migrant workers in many of our churches. e ministry includes regular worship services in their mother tongue and a weekly fellowship-cum-meal. Specific programmes are organised on festive seasons to incorporate them into the Christian community. We thank God for such ministries of love and kindness shown to these who need to be cared for by our churches. However, are we as individuals setting the pace for brotherly acceptance and love? Are we aware that migrant workers are people too?

The plight of domestic workers is constantly highlighted in the media. The duration of their working hours and abuses that are sometimes hurled at them are issues that make us wonder how an average person could treat another human in that manner. We question the wisdom and necessity of maids having a day off each week. As employers, we rationalise that there are other ways that the maid could relax and be free of duties for the day. The need for the maid to be with her fellow countrymen and to be outside a closed environment is often forgotten.

Colossians 3:22-4:1 admonishes a balanced treatment of employee by employer and vice-versa. However, these verses will only move Christian employers and Christians in general. It is sad when some employers think of themselves as “masters” and treat their employees as “slaves”, and in so doing misuse their helpers. Christian employers have the responsibility to set the right example by treating our employees with dignity.

All migrant workers have left homes to seek employment in foreign lands so that they may provide a decent living for their families back home. Every domestic worker and every foreign worker misses home, family and friends. The least we should do is to show these workers the love which we receive from God. This is only possible if and when we fully acknowledge that these women and men who work in our homes or at our companies are fellow creations of God. They deserve to be treated with dignity, considered with respect and offered love. They too deserve that common justice.

The Rev James Nagulan is the President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference.



Living in a constant state of readiness

SHE WAS A Christian woman with whom I had been acquainted for many years. In recent months her husband battled some serious ailments. In that time, she developed some conditions of her own. It seemed she was doing better. But her husband woke up one morning, and she did not. She was 81 years old.

He was a distant relative, a young man I had never met. His great-grandfather was my grandmother’s brother. He was a husband and the father of two young children. The fact that he worked inside a coal mine suggests that he was in good health. But on the last day of 2006 he suffered a heart attack and died. He was 23 years old.

These two sketches illustrate a principle we have come to know all too well: life is fragile. Though it may seem we are in the prime of life, enjoying excellent physical health, conditions can change with blinding speed.

An undetected illness surfaces, and carries a poor prognosis. An oncoming car fails to negotiate a curve and veers into our lane. A freak accident occurs on the job. Just when we thought life was going smoothly, the end comes.

James did not use the word “fragile” in describing the temporal nature of life, but his image carries the same idea. He wrote:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:13-14, NKJV).

“A little time” may mean 90 years, but it may not. In view of eternity, any number of years begins to look puny. Even if we lived to be 500, it would be “a little time”, and then we would vanish away.

The lesson to be learned was not forgotten by the inspired writer: “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:15).

His point: We need to live in view of God’s will. And God’s will is that we be reconciled to Him and live according to His will – every day.

God warns us that our souls are enveloped in fragile containers. Before they break and spill our spirits into eternity, let us make sure we are ready.

Let us live in a constant state of readiness. And if we vanish away today or 20 years from now, we will welcome the appointment, knowing we are heading home! – KneEmail. Tim Hall contributes to KneEmail, a Christian resource organisation.