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.
A lesson from the vicuña
God's mission takes 'every hand'
Dear colleague in ministry,
During the decade that my family and I lived in Peru, I had the privilege of spending several months in the comunidad indígena of Santa Barbara, an Andean community of about 400 families located at an elevation of 14,000 feet. The Presbyterian churches and “preaching points” in that community grew significantly during the years of the political violence that pitted the Peruvian Army against the Shining Path Liberation Army because Presbyterian churches functioned as true sanctuaries where many traumatized people found a place where they could lament their loss, find comfort, and begin to make sense of the unspeakable violence of those years.
Whereas western society values “rugged individualism,” Andean indigenous communities tend to think and act more collectively—like the various members of one body.
One bitterly cold morning in 2006, I participated in a beautiful custom in Santa Barbara that took place when a herd of vicuña(the graceful relatives of the Andean llama) wandered down into the community from their high-altitude habitat. In order to round up the vicuña and harvest some of their valuable wool, the community arose well before sunrise, joined hands and slowly walked up the side of a steep hill to gather the vicuña herd into a fenced corral. After these beautiful, untamed animals were calmed, the wool of several of them was sheared and they were released. The Santa Barbara community believes that tukuy maki (“every hand”) is needed for this important mission. If a child is sick or an expectant mother is about to give birth and cannot participate in the rigorous climb to the round-up in the high meadow, they send along a prenda—a handkerchief or some other personal item that symbolizes that the community engages in its mission with their blessing. There’s a widespread belief that, without the blessing of every hand, the mission cannot be a success.
I think the people of Santa Barbara are onto something: in an age where our culture’s value of “rugged individualism” can grow to become self-centeredness, fragmentation and disunity, many U.S. Presbyterians today engage in God’s mission on their own. They travel with “their money,” on “their time” to do “their mission,” as one mission leader told me last summer. But Scripture reminds us that it is God’s mission, not ours, and that we are graciously invited to join in that mission as God’s people, not as “lone rangers” (the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 is a plural command, addressed to all God’s people).
U.S. Presbyterians are gathering together in the Syria/Lebanon Partnership Network to support beleaguered Syrian Presbyterians and help them care for their suffering neighbors. Syrian Presbyterians are educating Christian and Muslim children together and need our help to continue to do so. There has been an outcry across our country by Presbyterians who want to help resettle Syrian and other refugees. Yet ministries like disaster relief, rehabilitation and community development, refugee resettlement, primary education and long-term support for the local churches is best carried out when we work together.
If your congregation is working alone in God’s vineyard, I hope you’ll consider increasing your impact by collaborating with other Presbyterians in more than 30 networks that focus the experience, wisdom and commitment of U.S. Presbyterians and our global partner church leaders on the deeper needs of the people. This is why God calls us together in mission.
The good news is—this is what we were made for!
Mission Matters Archives
December 2015 - Presbyterian World Mission tackles 'the important things'
November 2015 - Measuring Impact: A Look at Presbyterian High-Impact Projects
October 2015 - Effective mission networks share seven core values
September 2015 - Faithfully Fighting Oppression
August 2015 - The Difference Was Like Night and Day
July 2015 - What Would It Take to Change the World? Part III
June 2015 - What Would It Take to Change the World? Part II
May 2015 - Mission Co-workers Need Your Prayers and Financial Support
April 2015 - What Would It Take to Change the World?
March 2015 - The Church You Grew Up In No Longer Exists
Hunter, Thanks! This is a great image and story! Mark Englund-Krieger Presbytery of Carlisle
Hunter,Thanks for this article, the world in which our CPC is need Co-workers who understand leadership as leading in the way of Jesus Christ;Tuasakidila bua lungenyi elu.Muoyo mu Kilisto
Thanks, Hunter, for these great points and for visiting the Cuba Partners network in New Orleans. We appreciated your presence.
It's exactly an optimal time to be assessing the factors and processes leading to effective, durable, and highly participative mission networks. The core values Hunter addresses are strong inroads toward effective networks. I would suggest that effective networks do not switch leaders every two years but rather sustain forward momentum through longer-term commitment and collaborative leadership. And the diversity I would advocate for is to include a diversity of methodological approaches to the mission at hand which is far more fundamental and necessary than the race or church size of those holding those approaches. I am encouraged by signs like this that PWM is scouting out the factors creating mission networks that truly take hold, gain traction, and move into significant collective action.
Great piece and great work, Hunter. Thank you for visiting both our partner and our mission co-workers.