Global Ministries Summer Interns Make an Impact in Indy
Hector J. Hernandez and Jarda Ameche Alexander served as the 2011 College of Mission Summer Interns in Indianapolis from June 6 to August 12. During their internship they were able to make an important contribution to Global Ministries by using their skills and ministry gifts on several projects.
Hector is a student at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and a member of the Hispanic Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Orlando. He is working on a M.Div. degree and a Master degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. He also has an associate degree in Graphic Arts and a BA degree in Communications with a minor in Visual Arts and was able to help on several graphic design projects during the summer.
Jarda is a student at Columbia Seminary in Columbia, Georgia and a member of Ray of Hope Christian Church. She is working on a M. Div. degree. Jarda also has a BA degree in English Arts and a M. Ed in Instructional Design and was able to work on several writing projects for the Africa office.
In July, Hector and Jarda traveled to the Dominican Republic and Haiti with Felix Ortiz, GM Latin America and Caribbean Area Executive to visit Global Ministries partners. The immersion trip was transformational for the two of them and they were able to share their experience with the Indy based Global Ministries staff on the last day of their internship during a lunch gathering. Hector shared what he learned through the image of the “Inverted Chalice” that he created:
On the back of the picture frame, these words are printed: The ministry of Critical Presence is like an inverted chalice pouring out from heaven many expressions of God’s love, and through mutual sharing and co-creation, both giver and receiver are transformed. As Hector presented the image to Julia Brown Karimu, he said: “When our church embraces the theology of the inverted chalice, we will then be a real movement of wholeness in this extremely broken world.”
Jarda shared what she learned through the internship in the following written piece:
Global Ministries Intern Immersion Pilgrimage to Dominican Republic and Haiti
July 28- August 4, 2011
Critical Presence has been defined as timely and appropriately providing for God’s people and creation at the point of their deepest need, whether emotionally, spiritually, physically or financially. However, those needs are only uncovered through communication and spending time with our partners, relating to them and their struggles in their own context. The summer intern immersion pilgrimage to the island of Hispaniola allowed me to see Critical Presence in action and taught me how affirming shared cultural language is in building strong partnership, how dangerous this global mission can be, and how important Disciples local churches are in the development of mutual partnership.
Everywhere we went, whether to the corner store or to our global partners’ church, Felix, Hector and I were greeted with warmth and daily shared friendly conversation with our partners over café con leche, a meat-filled pastry or other tapas. Although I don’t speak Spanish beyond the common phrases, I enjoyed observing the facial expressions and hand gestures of our partners as they passionately or seriously reported to Felix what was happening with their programs and conveyed their deepest needs. My mind raced with imagery of new sounds and pictures as I tried to match their words with what Hector was translating to me in English. I became energized hearing the success rate of ALFALIT’s literacy program in Santo Domingo and how adults were learning to not only read the Bible but also improve their critical thinking skills so that they could make stronger connections between current events and the biblical text, making the Word of God relevant to their daily lives and thereby transforming their lives in notable ways. The leaders of ALFALIT expressed one of their deepest needs was in the completion of their third floor, which would give them more classroom space and provide space for rent to generate more revenue and further cement this program into this community.
As our journey continued, we visited CECAF and Caminante, which were both led by women addressing the systematic oppression of their society. CECAF makes family counseling affordable to all persons and families regardless of socio-economic status, while Cominante engages the whole community to restore human dignity to women trying to find work in Santo Domingo and save refugee Haitian children from human trafficking. As a woman of color, I was able to make many parallels to my own community and gained a deeper conviction to get involved in doing justice in the world, not just locally. Doing so would challenge me to learn the cultural language of others so that I could fully experience and express the bond of love between us. If so much can be accomplished in one encounter, imagine the greater impact of a consistent encounter! Shared language connects people beyond shared ideas, hopes, dreams, challenges, or humor. It fosters mutual respect and equity that allows people to be authentic in ways that not knowing the language limits. Global Ministries has been a perfect example of how affirming shared cultural language can be in building strong, enduring partnerships.
Moreover, Global Ministries has taught me how dangerous this global mission can be. Felix, Hector and I traveled by bus from Santo Domingo to Haiti. UN soldiers with automatic rifles policed both the borders and the streets of Port-au-Prince where the people are still living in tents since the earthquakes. We arrived during a time of peace, but not long ago, Haiti endured a coup de tat in which our US government and UN got involved in conflict mediation. Also during the coup the lives of some of our partners were threatened. At first, this reality was difficult to process until our vehicle was stopped one evening at a checkpoint and we were at the mercy of the UN soldier’s temperament and command. I did not sense any danger, however, I could imagine if we were there to really push the agenda of peace and true justice. This agenda tends to stir up violence among the natives as well as vested parties. How many American Christians are willing to physically lay down our lives to advocate true justice in the world under these conditions? Leaders within Global Ministries have, and on many occasions accompany our partners through wartime as well as peace. Hearing the stories of our partners in Haiti and shared moments of freedom fighting by our Global Ministries program executives, I know that God is calling those in the local church to make a deeper commitment to doing justice at home and abroad.
While countless churches sponsor or have contributed to global ministries in some capacity, our global partners are longing to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with us as they build seminaries and rural churches and supportively ordain women to ministry. Global Ministries keeps individual and church donors well informed about program support. However, where the local church can grow is being more intentional about direct relationship building to learn just how our partners from Haiti can enrich our own lives, show us how to do and be church better, or help to challenge oppressive systems in the United States in ways that DOC might not be able. If we are not already doing so, let’s get to know our global partners better, collaborate with them and value their experience and godly relationship for more authentic and mutually beneficial partnership. Our youth can benefit. Our elderly can benefit. Our dying churches can benefit. We as individuals can benefit.
In closing, my internship immersion pilgrimage was neither a vacation to the beautiful Dominican Republic nor a missionary work trip in Haiti, but moreso a spiritual pilgrimage in which I listened, observed, engaged in and reflected upon two cultures differentiated by geography, language and hue. I was honored to have been immersed into these cultures coexisting on the island of Hispaniola to witness God at work through women and men of color in both places, challenging the oppressive systems embedded into their society and making inroads. I experienced firsthand just what Critical Presence was and can mean through shared cultural language, acompanamiento even in the face of danger, and by creating mutually beneficial relationships with our partners. Personally, I am encouraged to learn another language, to move beyond my community outreach into acts of social justice, and to continue building the relationship with those global partners I have met, connecting them with others and being open to what opportunities for mutual partnership grow out of it. In the end, I can say that Critical Presence, providing timely and appropriately for God’s people and creation the point of their deepest need, whether emotionally, spiritually, physically or financially, is true mission.