A letter from Chenoa Stock in Bolivia
As I sat in my seat, awaiting the plane’s takeoff, I heard the voices of two sisters behind me, probably around the ages of 3 and 7. The older one had taken on the responsibility of reading to her sibling in order to keep her entertained throughout the flight. So when it came time for takeoff and the plane was ascending into the air, leaving the ground behind, the younger sister became distracted and turned her attention away from the story and to the window, gazing out in awe of all that she was able to see from the air. It was in that moment of distraction that the storyteller became offended by her loss of audience, closed the window shade, redirected her sister to what she "should be" doing, and said, “There, that’s better,” and continued to read aloud to her now less-than-amused audience. I bit my tongue as their parents across the aisle did not seem to mind that by the closing of the shade their younger daughter was missing out on discovering an entirely new worldview, which was now lost and forgotten, as she returned to the desires of her older sister. Now I do understand that this gesture was done out of a love of family, a want to "take care" of her sister, and the idea that she knew what was best for her. Though I also see a danger in her not knowing what the eyes of her little sister really wanted and had the potential to see and learn within this experience.
I suppose we all have families with these kinds of situations, but day by day I am realizing that I am so blessed to be a part of a larger family, one that transcends any direct blood/ancestry or any limited, social definition of "brother" or "sister." It is a global family that is connected, not by names, but by a spirit that is deeply grounded in love and compassion. It is a family that intentionally listens and calls us to be in relation with others within and beyond the family. As this integrated and diverse body, we recognize that not one of us has all of the answers, but only through partnership and dialogue can we enter into a creative and Spirit-guided, mutually transformational process.
This family is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend a reunion of this family this summer at the Big Tent event in Indianapolis.
For those of us attending the World Mission Matters conference, it was a time to discuss the past and present mission of the PC(USA), the changes evolving in the definition and the way we do mission in the world, and to engage in discussions around the three critical global issues on which our mission is focusing: (1) Addressing the root causes of poverty, particularly as they impact women and children; (2) Sharing the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ; and (3) Working for reconciliation in cultures plagued by violence, including our own.
The Big Tent provided a space and opportunity to share ideas and experiences about different missions throughout the world and to truly understand that mission must be carried out in partnership and in relationship. We are no longer there to shut the window shade and narrow the view of our partners, to tell them what their problems are and how to solve them. We are called to leave the window open and look out with our partners to see ourselves and the larger worldview together, but with the blessed gift of seeing through our different eyes, perspectives, reactions and ideas. It is this unified solidarity that moves us forward in mission and partnership.
One special part of this reunion, for me, was the commissioning of new mission co-workers and Young Adult Volunteers who would soon be moving to their countries of service. It was a time of sending out and lifting up each of our individual missions and our partners within that mission. As we stood on the stage, with the large congregation blessing and praying for our work, I could not be more grateful to be part of such a supportive and outreaching global family—a family of which we are all a part, Presbyterians or not. We are members of a global world that calls each of us to raise the window shades for our neighbors around us, listening and respecting their history, culture, thoughts, and diversity. We must fully understand that a closed window shade only leads to blindness and dependency, but one that is open has the awesome capability of creating a worldview that enables mutual transformation and growth.
As I have just arrived in Bolivia this week and begin to discover my new home, I also prepare to walk in solidarity with the water campaigns and other work of the Bolivia Joining Hands Network, UMAVIDA, and their partner communities. I am excited to see what windows and worldviews will be opened as we work together with our US partner Presbyteries in San Francisco and Portland. I invite you to join us in this ministry in partnership and would like to thank you for your already present, continued support and effort, both in your prayers and financial contributions. I hope together we will be able to open some windows for each other, providing a view into one piece of the beautiful worldwide mission of PC (USA).
Joining Hands - UMAVIDA
For more information:
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 301