The book of Isaiah 40:3-5 proclaims, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. … Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”

The voice of the one crying in the wilderness was that of a green shoot that had sprung up in the community preaching the message of repentance. It was simply, “Repent.” This is no mere academic change of mind, nor mere regret or remorse. John the Baptist spoke of repentance as a radical turning from sin that inevitably became manifest in the fruit of righteousness.

At that time, the people of Israel were going through harsh judgment from the hand of God, because of the wilful sins and disobedience they had continuously committed. They were in a wilderness of their own making. They had hopelessly lost the way and were longing to hear a word of encouragement, a word of life, of hope.

They had longed for change that would bring them home, renewing their nation and their relationship with God. It was therefore natural that when they heard that strange voice crying in the wilderness, they would gather around to listen. John’s message brought words of life to those who felt the weight of hopelessness grinding them down.


In the Virgin Islands

Like the people of Israel, we here in the Virgin Islands have had harsh words of judgment from above, beneath and around, especially in the past two years. The Commission of Inquiry has exposed the unscrupulous doings — yes, downright deceit — across governments: abuse of power, squandering of resources, the degradation of self (the self that was made in the image of God). We have trampled on our principles and values, and respect is at an all-time low.

We are in the wilderness of our own making. We long to hear a word of encouragement, a word of hope, a word of wisdom, which would lead us to renewal. For the wilderness could be a place of vision and provision. But we do sincerely need to hear and heed the message of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”


Election campaigns

At this election campaigning time, we are hearing not one voice, but several voices of green shoots (and mature ones) that are springing up in the wilderness around us. There seems to be a resurgence, an awakening of latent abilities in this season that I call “The Virgin Spring.”

The name “Virgin Spring” is reminiscent of the “Arab Spring,” the emergence of “a series of pro-democracy uprisings which began in northern Africa and the Middle East” just over a decade ago. “The name echoes other revolutions, such as that in Prague in 1968, all of which aimed to bring about social and political change for the better. Tragically, the changes that came about were not all for the better, and the initial hopes were to be dashed in the violence and oppression that followed.”


‘100 percent concerned’

As we ponder the shoots that we see emerging around us in this “Virgin Spring,” let us pray for our communities and for the VI. We need to be people who notice what is going on and what God is doing and join in. We dare not think that God is not concerned with what is happening here and now, for He is 100 percent concerned. Look for signs in the shoots which show that God is at work in the forgotten parts of our society, to bring about social justice, transparency, and equity. Look for plans which encompass hope for a future that looks different from what is the case right now.

We need to ask God to show us where the shoots of hope are pushing through the darkness and what He wants us to do to help Him fulfil His plan for the VI in this Virgin Spring.