Global Ministries Honors Award of Affirmation Recipients at General Synod and General Assembly

Global Ministries Honors Award of Affirmation Recipients at General Synod and General Assembly

Awards of affirmation recipients

The living, prophetic witness of Christian women and men, and of our Global Partner Churches, continues to inspire the mission of Global Ministries, a common witness of the Division of Overseas Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ. The following persons and/or organizations where honored during the International Dinners at General Synod and General Assembly:

Latin America and the Caribbean – Bishop Luis Ulises Muñoz, President of Pentecostal Church of Chile

Bishop Luis Ulises Muñoz is the President of the Iglesia Pentecostal de Chile (Pentecostal Church of Chile) – IPC.  Bishop Muñoz began his ministry in the city of Iquique in northern Chile, almost 1300 miles from the city of Curicó where the church headquarters is located.  He continued his pastoral ministry in Chepica from 1973 to 1978, and from 1978 to 1990 he pastored an IPC congregation in the city of Tome in southern Chile.  Since March 1991, Bishop Muñoz has ministered as the Bishop and President of the Pentecostal Church.  In addition, Bishop Muñoz has served on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, the General Board of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), and he currently is a member of the National Board of the Union of Evangelical Churches of Chile (UNIECH).  Bishop Muñoz’ vocation of pastoral service is based on having discerned the calling of God early in life, and in response to this calling, he has dedicated his life, in faith and obedience, to serving his church and the community as a whole.

Middle East and Europe – Mr. Samer Laham, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All East and Middle East Council of Churches, Damascus Syria

Mr. Samer Laham is of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All East and serves the Middle East Council of Churches in Damascus, Syria.  Mr. Laham faithfully and conscientiously directs Iraqi refugee relief programs in Syria, both for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All East, and for the Middle East Council of Churches.  His tireless work to make life more bearable for Iraqi refugees in Syria is life-giving.  Whether he is distributing food supplies, conducting a graduation ceremony for graduates of training programs, or advocating on behalf of refugees, Samer does so with professionalism and ongoing commitment grounded in his deep Christian faith.  Global Ministries is especially proud to honor Mr. Samer Laham for this work, which he does in addition to his regular responsibilities in ecumenical relations.

Southern Asia – Reverend Dr. Richard Daulay, General Secretary of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia

Reverend Dr. Richard Daulay is the General Secretary of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia.  Interfaith relations between different religious communities, particularly between Muslims and Christians, is a crucial matter in Indonesia.  Even though there is seeming peaceful coexistence most of the time, there have been several instances of violent conflicts between Muslim and Christian communities in different parts of the country that have resulted in the loss of life, including the death of a woman pastor, as well as properties damaged, and several churches forcefully closed.  Reverend Daulay has worked dilligently to build bridges between the Christian and Muslim communities at various levels.  His industrious work with the leaders of the major Islamic organizations in the country on behalf of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia has been instrumental in restoring peace to a great extent.

East Asia and the Pacific – Mr. Fe’iloakitau Kaho Tevi, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches

Reverend Fe’iloakitau Kaho Tevi is the General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches.  Reverend Tevi is known for providing outstanding leadership in the strengthening of ecumenical relationships.  He is outstanding in his advocacy of human rights, social justice, and his commitment to environmental issues.  In his role as General Secretary, Reverend Tevi promotes interfaith dialogue and inter-religion cooperation throughout the world as well as in the Pacific region.

Africa – The United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ)  and The Disciples of Christ Community of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Courage under fire certainly describes both The United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ) and The Disciples of Christ Community of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CDCC).  Both have endured extraordinarily difficult situations in their countries.  The UCCZ, based in Harare, Zimbabwe, is a denomination of approximately 30,000 members in 47 churches.  During recent political struggles, the UCCZ has continued to promote Christian living and to relate humankind to the larger body of Christ through teaching, healing, stewardship, preaching, and farming.  The church revolves around the core values of hard work and self-reliance, and works to eradicate poverty and disease through technical and vocational life skills training for survival, and integrated participatory community-based development.  Likewise in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the CDCC serves 358 congregations that include 650,000 members.  The communities where the congregations are located are confronted with many socio-economic problems. They are all struggling from the effects of a civil war that included the involvement of surrounding countries as well as other international involvement.  Health care, education and development programs suffered greatly during the war and during years of systemic corruption before the war.  One of the devastating effects of the war has been the rapid increase in the number of HIV/AIDS patients, particularly in the Equator region, which is home to more than seven million inhabitants, where the largest numbers of Disciples are located.

Mission Personnel – Reverend M. Frisco Gilchrist, Former Missionary to Paraguay

Reverend Frisco Gilchrist, along with his late wife Bertha, served 24 years as missionaries with the Disciples of Christ in Paraguay.  In his last term as a missionary, Frisco’s ministry was with Friendship Mission, as the coordinator of teams that developed educational and vocational opportunities for urban, rural, and indigenous communities.  As a result of this work, Reverend Gilchrist was detained by the Stroessner military government because of his work with the poor and marginalized.   The late Dr. Robert Thomas, former President of the Division of Overseas Ministries, and Dr. William Nottingham, who at that time was the Area Executive for Latin American and the Caribbean, obtained Frisco’s release the following day and Frisco was ordered by the dictatorship to leave the country.  Upon returning to the United States, Frisco served as Co-Director of the Disciples of Christ International Human Rights Program until his retirement in 1987.  Today you find Frisco working for justice and the rights of janitors in Indianapolis, or protesting the School of the Americas.  Reverend Frisco Gilchrist certainly continues to be a Leaf for the Healing of the Nations.

Frisco Gilchrist’s acceptance speech:

I don’t know by what criteria Global Ministries decided to award me this honor.   Wisdom tells me: I don’t want to know.

What I do know is that to whatever extent I might merit such recognition, it is because I became part of a loosley organized community of world citizens who are fully commited to the idea that the poorest of commiunities need and deserve opportunities to better their lives and break into human dignity.

SO…This award is for Lidio, who spent more time in Paraguayan jails than I, by far, and who had the good fortune to be accepted as political refugee by Norway, where he was enabled to continue to use his creative skills and knowledge for these thirty-some years; and only recently returned to Paraguay to seek out the place where he can again help the poor.

…This is also for Ubaldo, whose ideas for “Active Schooling” for primary grade study outside or beyond public schools are today appreciated in both rural and urban schools.  He, with his wife Lila, had to take refuge in the German Embassy, and spent time in both Mexico and Germany.  Unfortunately, although they returned to work in Paraguay, he has not lived to see the current fruits of his labors.

…This is for Dionisio, who slept on concrete, together with fifty or more other prisoners, the night that I tried to sleep on wood and leather a couple of floors highter up in the same temporary jail.  He was held longer and abused, but then released to accept the Division of Overseas Ministries offer to support him in advanced studies in Agronomy and Economics here in the U.S.  Today he is Minister of Finance in the government formed by Paraguay’s recently elected president.  Pray for him.

…This is for Jose, who spent nearly two years in Paraguayan prisons -including Emboscada, the country’s worst.  He frequently suffered abuses and torture because he had been dedicating all his youthful energies to the creation of opportunities for small farm youth.  Today he overseas two rural institutions that provide just that kind of training for youth of one of the poorest areas of central Paraguay.

…This is for the other Jose, who spent more time in prison the received more abuse than anyone else, I think, and also ended up in exile in Bolivia.  He is the most single minded promoter of small farmers I’ll ever know.  I was told last month that he’s now somewhere in the hills of Capiata, but I failed to find him.  I have no doubt, however, about what he’s doing there.

…This is for the two Jorges: one a missionary-George Wiley; the other an immigrant refugee-Jorge Balanovsky. They used their smarts in such a way as to  avoid the appearance of being envolved, but without their a faithful record keeping, reporting and handling of finances very little could have been done.

I could go on, but Julia isn’t going to let me.

…I want to conclude with the assurance that this award is for my late wife, Bertha, who also was smart enough to appear uninvolved.  Without neglecting her schedule of teaching and supervising at the school, she managed to  facilitate a lot of coordination by keeping track of how frequently the entrance to out house was being watched, and making available a place to meet when needed -often with a good meal, and always, during those final weeks of tension, a planned way out through the back patiio.

…And finally: this is for Global Ministries itself.  You gave me the freedom to respond to God’s call through the people I’ve been talking about.  Indianapolis never dictated that I should remain in the school, or continue training lay leaders in the churches, however important that might be.  I felt free to add my efforts to a community that was dealing with what seemed to be the greatest need and the hope to change our world.