Reflection from the Obra Hispana on the Global Mission Summit for Racial-Ethnic Congregations
According to Mission Frontiers magazine there are 3,000 new churches opened each week worldwide, 90,000 new believers per day (Lost in America, Clegg & Bird, p.26) and we know that the growth of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US & Canada is largely amongst the racial ethnic congregations and communities. Yet, sadly, too often the faces of our denomination’s missionaries, sources of missions giving and vision for global mission doesn’t always reflect the engagement of the racial-ethnic ministries. The Global Ministries summit with racial-ethnic ministries was a chance to discover reasons why this disconnect exists and to inspire cooperation, a passion for missions, a commitment to learning and two-way communication.
Ministry in isolation vs. partnerships
At the summit we found that many of our churches are engaged in foreign mission in varying degrees but often it is done disconnected from the resources and partnerships established by Global Ministries. Consequently, we learned that inexperience, and a lack of these partnerships in overseas venues, leads to less effective use of resources, redundancy, and sometimes even mistakes that discourage further involvement in missions. The focus of Global Ministries on “Critical Presence”, its years of experience in doing mission and its network of partnerships throughout the world, we discovered make doing mission more effective kingdom building. Despite the presence of known Hispanic leaders in Global Ministries, the churches of the Obra Hispana need to learn to work in concert with the wider church – and this can begin with churches committing to covenant as Global Mission Churches. (See Be a Global Mission Church resources here: http://globalministries.org/about-us/be-a-global-mission-church.html)
Ministry in ignorance vs. informed effort
Not only did we discover much misinformation (even myths) about mission and about the needs of people groups throughout the world, but the summit also reminded the Hispanic churches that our history of colonial resistance has uniquely equipped us with the ability to empathize, strategize and participate. Too often we have thought of mission work as being short-term trips that are accessible only to larger and wealthier churches. Our view of mission was broadened by learning about how the “Critical Presence” of the church is seen in many non-traditional ways such as human rights advocacy. The reality we discovered is that there are many ways in which Hispanic churches – many of whom were only established in the last twenty years and have smaller memberships and budgets – can participate in supporting mission work. Even participation in Global Ministries People to People Pilgrimages are a lot more accessible than what we may have thought. Learning to listen and dialogue with those partners in ministry throughout the world stokes the passionate fires for mission here in America (and we can do this more than ever thanks to the resources of Global Ministries) and also helps us do mission in a way that lifts up the dignity and sustainability of our mission partners and their efforts. Just as importantly, through this dialogue we learn as much about doing mission here locally from our partners as they receive from our experience and resources. The first step is for the Hispanic churches to commit to educating themselves about mission.
Missions as a trip vs. a journey
Hispanics know what it means to be a displaced people, to migrate and begin a new life in a culturally different environment. This involves building relationships and making commitments to those relationships. Yet, too often mission is seen as a trip – a visit to deliver a message or resources – and once the visit is over all is left are good feelings, memories and scrapbooks. The summit also helped us to see mission in terms of walking alongside our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world – “acompañamiento”. Mission is not something we do but greater than this it is who we are in relation to our global partners in the Gospel. As a Hispanic church we have matured and grown so that we can effectively engage in partnerships and journey alongside others in doing ministry. We can begin this journey by praying with – instead of just for – our global partners. A journey begins with the first steps: As with all things, talk is cheap, the Hispanic church can take the first steps on that journey by committing to acting on the things we learned this week.
A word of thanks….
The resources, speakers and activities of the summit were clear, enthusiastic and enlightening. Much work went into the preparation of this week’s packed schedule of sessions. Thank you Global Ministries for all your hard work and for inviting us to Indianapolis to hear God’s call to missions. Gracias….