A monthly update from Hunter Farrell, Director of World Mission, on the impact of Presbyterian mission in the world and the issues that affect mission co-workers, the people we walk with and assist in service to God, and our partners around the globe.
Standing in solidarity and kneeling in prayer with our brothers and sisters in the Middle East
September 2014 - Director of World Mission Hunter Farrell is on sabbatical working on a book for congregational mission leaders that will be released in 2015. Filling in for him is Greg Allen-Pickett, General Manager for World Mission (pictured), who writes the Mission Matters column this month.
Did you know that the Presbyterian Church sent missionaries to the Middle East to plant churches and build schools and hospitals before the first Presbyterian church was started in the territory now known as California? The first Presbyterian mission personnel arrived in “greater Syria” in 1823. In spite of numerous social, religious and political obstacles, many local people embraced the message the Presbyterian mission personnel brought. These believers eventually became known simply as “Evangelicals” for their devotion to the Scriptures and for their earnest desire to follow Christ in their daily lives. The first “Evangelical” church was formed in 1848 in southern Lebanon, and churches began to develop all around Lebanon and Syria as time went on. By contrast, Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco was established May 20, 1849 as the first Protestant church on the west coast.
Our history of sharing the gospel in word and deed in the Middle East for almost 200 years ties Presbyterians in the United States with Presbyterians and other Christians in the Middle East. But it is not just those historical ties that call us to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters there. We are all part of the larger body of Christ, and as the apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. . . If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.”
It is easy in this time of the 24 hour news cycle to forget or lose sight of the suffering going on in different parts of the world. And it is easy to just switch off the news because of how depressing it can be to hear about more violence, more death, and more sadness. But as Christians, we are part of the larger body of Christ; we are called to care deeply about what is happening around the world to all of God’s children. And we are called to act on those feelings, standing in solidarity through advocacy efforts and kneeling in prayer as we ask for God’s protection and presence in challenging contexts like Iraq, Syria and Israel/Palestine.
Presbyterian World Mission still has a significant presence in the Middle East through our historic partnerships. Churches and denominations that were planted 150+ years ago by our missionaries are now thriving. We have moved away from the “mother church/daughter church” paradigm because these “daughter churches” have grown up and are doing remarkable and innovative things in their unique contexts. I believe there are lessons we can learn from them as we face our own challenges in the United States. Just this week I was able to sit with Rev. Dr. Atef Gendy who is the president of the Presbyterian seminary in Cairo. Dr. Gendy described some of the amazing work the seminary is doing, including satellite campuses and distance learning that provide unique educational opportunities for Egyptians. Their church planting and church growth efforts are also thriving and I believe we are called to humble ourselves and recognize our own need to learn from these historic partners.
We also engage in ministry in the Middle East through the presence of mission co-workers on the ground there. We have more than 12 mission co-workers serving across the Middle East in partnership with the churches there. Because of the complicated social and political situations in many of the countries, we cannot share their information publicly on the web, but if you are curious about the work they are doing which includes teaching at seminaries, working as mission doctors, and a variety of other exciting ministries, you can contact our Middle East office at 502-569-5324.
I leave you with a quote from an Egyptian professor serving at the seminar in Cairo that gets at the heart of our need to continue in prayer and advocacy for brothers and sisters in the Middle East. “It is not enough to pray once every October for the Global Church on World Communion Sunday. We need your prayers to survive Sunday after Sunday, Monday after Monday, week after week. Translating real engagement into real prayer is so encouraging for the church and for Christians in Egypt."—Anne Emile Zaki, Professor of Practical Theology, Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt.
Mission Matters Archives
July 2014 - Abound in Hope: the 221st General Assembly (2014)
May 2014 - Training Leaders for Community Transformation
April 2014 - Ending Violence against Women and Children
March 2014 - 3 Critical Global Issues—#1: Quality education for 1 million children by 2020
February 2014 - CEDEPCA: Caring for God's Creation
January 2014 - Young Adult Volunteers: New YAV Sites Opening
December 2013 - We are truly better together
November 2013 - South Sudanese: Displaced by violence
October 2013 - Haiti: the Presbyterian Church is here to stay