¡Missionworks! Closing Remarks from Cally Rogers-Witte

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Presented on October 4, 2008

First – I want to take a "point of personal privilege" for a "UCC moment" – which is ALSO a "Global Ministries moment".

It is such an amazing and humbling moment for me to stand here before you in the role of Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries – and co-executive of Global Ministries – knowing that I follow in the footsteps of such spiritual leaders of the past who have led this effort as Rufus Anderson (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission) from the second half of the 19th century and other leaders of mission boards in the last century which today form the WCM –  Fred Field Goodsell and Alfred Carlton of days of old, and leaders whom I have personally known and looked up to, David Stowe and Scott Libbey who headed the United Church Board for World Ministries, Bill Nottingham of the Division of Overseas Ministries - - it gives me goosebumps just to think that these persons held this sacred office I now have the privilege of occupying.

So, today it really is a privilege to get to invite to come forward the person who led the UCBWM through amazing and difficult times of  transition, the person who represented this mission so faithfully in the negotiations for a restructure of the UCC, a person who had and still has a real passion for this part of God's global mission, the former and the last person to serve as  Executive Vice President of the United Church Board for World Ministries and the first UCC person to serve as Co-executive of Global Ministries, The Rev. David Hirano, and his wife Sandra who has been a real partner in the ministry with him all these years…..

David and Sandra, we want to present you with two tokens of our respect:  a set of lithographs representing the history of this Wider Church Ministries and also this globe which is a symbol of Global Ministries to remind you each day when you look at it of the significance of the work around the world which you supported then and which you still support today and of course to remind us all that the world is in the hands of God! 

David and Sandra – THANK YOU!

The Common Global Ministries Board of directors voted last spring to encourage both the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to take to General Synod (UCC) and General Assembly (Disciples) in 2009 a resolution claiming our identity as "A Global Mission Church" and asking congregations and conferences, and for the Disciples, regions, to claim their identity and ministry as global mission churches.  We invite those of you who will be present at – and especially those who will be voting delegates at – GS or GA in the summer of 2009 to be ready to advocate for this resolution!!  And for all of us to encourage our local churches, conferences and regions to go through an evaluative and planning process outlined in the BAGMC booklet (starting wherever you are!) which can lead to declaring themselves a Global Mission Church.  In the UCC, we talk about being a multi-cultural multi-racial, accessible to all, just peace, and open and affirming church.  I'd like "a global mission church" to trip off our tongues just as easily!

You heard from Sandra Gourdet yesterday when she reported from Africa and today from Bob Shebeck:  Seven verbs define a global mission church.

A Global Mission Church prays, educates, seeks justice, receives, gives, sends, and grows!! 

I won't illustrate all those verbs with a story but I wanted to lift up two of the verbs – the first and very important:  A global mission church PRAYS for people and places around the world.

A global mission church prays for our mission partners around the world.  A global mission church prays for our mission personnel, by name.  I am going to invite us in a moment to pray for our partner in Haiti – the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti, CONASPEH, which works among the poorest of the poor in that country, the poorest in the western Hemisphere.  It's director, the Rev. Patrick Villier, is one of the six international members of our Common Global Ministries Board and he spoke to our board last spring in Indianapolis, saying, "Peace – shalom – God's peace, with justice – means that every person should have:  bread, a piece of land, and respect.  Bread – the food needed to nourish the body of each person in a family;  a piece of land on which to build a small, modest shelter for one's self and family, and the respect of others, the respect of the authorities, of one's neighbors, of all others in society.  And at our meeting a year ago, Patrick had said something else that really stuck with me.  He said that, from his point of view, Christians in North America are 85% material and 15% spiritual, and that Christians in Haiti are 85% spiritual and 15% material.  He's probably right!  So, we pray for the churches and people of CONASPEH and all their neighbors, and we pray for a wonderful young couple who was just commissioned at the board meeting last weekend to serve as missionaries in Haiti with CONASPEH:  Kim and Patrick Bertrott – Kim has just finished her residency in family medicine and will work in three tiny clinics sponsored by CONASPEH, teaching basic health care.  Patrick will finish his seminary education this spring and will be assigned to pastoral and administrative work with CONASPEH.

Let us pray, right here, right now….joining our hearts with theirs in prayer:

Gracious and graceful God, we thank you for loving the people of Haiti; we thank you for your special grace and goodness to the poorest people in Haiti and for the church there which brings them your love.  We pray for people struggling with dreadful poverty and now, the after effects of four hurricanes, and yet, a people of hope.  We pray for the head of CONASPEH, the Rev. Patrice Villier, and for Kim and Patrick Bentrott who will soon join him in serving the people of Port-au-Prince.  We pray in the name of Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

A global mission church PRAYS.

CRITICAL PRESENCE!

Critical Presence is our mission priority. Relying on the leading of God's spirit and responding in faith to the challenge of a rapidly changing world, Global Ministries' strategic approach emphasizes Critical Presence in all phases of its mission. We understand critical presence "to be timely and appropriately meeting God's people and creation at the point of deepest need, spiritually, physically, emotionally and/or economically."

We have been able to use the "critical presence criteria" to prioritize mission personnel appointments – to prioritize budget items – to think about all that we do in this light.  And, we have identified various forms of "Critical presence", depending upon what our partners describe is their deepest need and how together we might seek to address it.  Critical presence means different things in different contexts.

But PARTNERSHIP & "ACOMPAÑAMIENTO" are the key "way we relate to partners.

Global Ministries walks with partners in critical situations and needs through a variety of ministries. "Acompañamiento" is "being there in various forms and modes of presence". 

And weren't we blessed last night by Jim Moos' powerful stories of  "being present" with our friends in East Timor?   I was fascinated by Jim Moos' invitation to us to use the word "friends" in relation to those with whom we have relationships around the world.  David Vargas has taught me the importance of the Spanish word "Acompañamiento" – it really is much deeper than simply "accompaniment' in English – it has that meaning of deep relationship that comes from the same root words as "companion" - - as David says, "com – pan" – "con – pan" - - - with bread - - companion.  In the Old Testament, Eve was created to be a companion for Adam - - and we can never forget that that same word "companion" was a word used to describe God's relation to humankind – God is our "companion"  - - some translations of the creation story call Eve a "help-mate" to Adam as if she were second-class - - but the best translation, I believe, is "companion" - - they were to accompany each other on the journey of life - - and in Global Ministries we strive for ministries of "acompañamiento".  Both these words – friends and companions – really get at the depth of the relationships we hope for around the world.  Thank you, Jim, for that inspiring address last night!  And David Hirano tells me that he has been trying to encourage us to use the word "friends" more than "partners" for 14 years. 

I will list the various forms of critical presence ministry, giving you a couple of examples of each.

Pastoral ministries related to fear and hopelessness where people are desperate for meaning 

  • for example, our new missionary appointment of Michael Joseph to accompany the churches and people pushed out of their villages in very poor areas of Columbia – looked for just the right person for a couple of years! 
  • or ministries related to HIV and AIDS - pastoral care – as well education and prevention work (several of our partners have asked specifically for missionaries who can teach their pastors and leaders how to do education and prevention in relation to HIV and AIDS) –  in southern Africa or in rural China

Dangerous or life-threatening situations related to social, economic or political realities 

  • pastoral visits to Zimbabwe at their time of turmoil (Sandra is going again later this fall)
  • ecumenical accompaniment program that Krista and Eric spoke of in the West Bank where volunteers spend several months accompanying  Palestinians to help try to keep them safe. 
  • Partners living in countries where the Christian faith is a minority faith – 
  • an example would be our efforts which you heard about from Vijay yesterday to support the very new, fledgling councils of churches in Nepal, and Cambodia, and even, as you heard from Vijay yesterday, brand new, in Bhutan! 

Conflict transformation and resolution

  • for example –our missionary in Kenya worked tirelessly in Christ's ministry of reconciliation after the election violence in that country to help churches and communities come back together.

Places where capacity-building and health care are our primary focus

  • support for a nursing school in India, for example,  
  • theological education by extension in southern Africa, 
  • revitalization of old mission hospitals to serve the new needs of their communities – Anil and Teresa Henry at Mungeli Hospital
  • rebuilding a burned-out hospital in the Congo; 

Exploring and implementing "economic alternatives" which empower the powerless within the human community, giving priority to the poorest communities and those in turmoil

  • just one example of many – the wonderful work by our partner, the Protestant social service and community organizing organization, CEOSS, in Egypt which addresses problems identified by people living in very poor communities, for example, micro-credit project for single women.

And, finally,

Facilitating the engagement of local congregations and other church settings in global mission and ministry here in the US 

  • New resources for use with youth groups 
  • Giving tips on how to make mission trips as deep and fulfilling and appropriate as possibleIdeas to help local congregations (and conference and regions) "a become Global Mission church"

So, we commission you to help all our churches "become a global mission church"!

The final "verb" from the "Be A Global Mission Church" process is "grows":

I haven't seen the research but I'd be willing to bet that a faithful, vital, alive, vibrant global mission church is a growing church – certainly growing in spirit, and most likely also in numbers and in dollars for local and global mission!   Let us celebrate that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ are each a global mission church!

 


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