The Importance of Presence

We are so grateful you came to see us again.” said Tebisa, a woman in Fangak.  “I remember your first visit when you stayed with the commissioner [in 2009].  Only James [Tang] has come back before, but now you have returned.  I am very encouragedMay your stay be filled with peace.  May the dust on your feet be peace for us.”

Visit to grieving family in Pagak

Visit to grieving family in Pagak








How important is our presence?  I think that in our US culture we commonly underestimate the importance of presence.  Yes, we visit people in times of crisis, of sadness, but largely we live our own separate lives.  Presence, however, is very significant in the African culture.  To visit someone in their village or their home says that you remembered them, you truly cared.  When someone comes from far, far away, from a different culture and climate I have heard villages say things like, “your willingness to come, your willingness to accept the climate and living conditions we have here, speak loudly of your love for us.” 

Another testimony from our recent trip.  On a trip to visit several churches in far western Ethiopia we included a to the village of Pagak which was back into South Sudan, just across the border.  Their 73 year old pastor had passed away in September.  One of the woman there said to us, “Thank you for the visit.  It was very sad when [our] pastor died.  Your visit today shows your love for us.  We are one in the body of Christ.”

After moving back to Congo in 2010 we had numerous friends come by to welcome us back.  Many times we heard someone say something similar to:  “Your presence is very important to us.   It means to us that our country is improving, that the situation is becoming more stable.  It gives us hope for the future.”  We would receive their affirming words and then as we prayed together would give thanks to the Lord for making our presence possible.

So as a  busy person, one who wants to accomplish, who always has a list of  things to do and loves checking things off the list, I am challenged.  I am challenged to be less focused on doing and to learn “to be” more.  To listen more carefully.  And in these challenges to see or hear God.

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3 Responses to “The Importance of Presence”

  1. Brian Wiele says:

    thanks for this great reminder, Pete. It helps me understand better the request from a friend in Burundi to visit their ministry.

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  2. Judith Sawers says:

    Thanks, Pete. (Just got round to actually reading this!). I’ve often felt a bit of a fraud when people have seemed so grateful for a very short visit, while I’ve been busy thinking ‘but I haven’t DONE anything’! This helps correct that perspective, and reminds us that just BEING there, even for a short time, means a whole lot, especially to people who feel (rightly or wrongly) largely forgotten by the rest of the world.
    It was also the expressed main desire of our partner in CAR – people who would come and actually BE there… (in that context, that meant staying longer than a quick visit, though). Definitely something we forget in our home cultures…
    God bless, J

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  3. Pete & Cindy Ekstrand says:

    Thanks for your reflections Judith. I continually have to keep relearning this lesson. We press on together.

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