Jo Ella ended mission service in September 2020.
About Jo Ella Holman’s ministry
As regional liaison for the Caribbean, Jo Ella Holman’s ministry focuses on churches in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. She works closely with the Caribbean and North America Council for Mission (CANACOM), an organization that enables mutual mission among churches from the two regions. Her ministry involves facilitating and supporting programs of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) partner churches and organizations and implementing regional strategies. She also works with mission personnel in the region by communicating regularly with them, offering them counsel and encouragement and helping them reflect on and assess their ministries. Jo Ella also works with PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries in the United States involved in partnerships with Christians in the Caribbean.
When most North Americans mention the Caribbean, the conversation is usually about tourist destinations. While the Caribbean has a thriving tourism industry, it also has many people living in poverty who are not seen by the tourists who visit these island nations. Yet faithful Christian communities throughout the region are bearing witness to Christ’s good news and tackling some of the most pressing social problems. One Caribbean nation, Cuba, does not receive U.S. tourists because of the U.S. government’s economic blockade that has been in place for half a century.
Nevertheless, the PC(USA) has maintained close ties with its partner church in the country, the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba. This connection has enabled many U.S. Presbyterians to visit Cuba as part of study seminars or partnership visits. These visits are aimed at deepening relationships, broadening understandings, and nurturing the faith of Presbyterians from both countries.
About Jo Ella Holman
The ingredients for mission service have been stirring for several years in the life of Jo Ella Holman. While she would never claim to hold the perfect recipe for success in mission, Jo Ella had a keen sense that God was leading her into a new dimension of ministry.
Before undertaking her present assignment, Jo Ella said: “I feel that all of my life experiences have led to the present moment of discernment and call to mission service. God gifted me with a love for learning languages and an insatiable curiosity about people and other cultures.”
Jo Ella has spent a dozen years staffing various international ministries of the Presbyterian Church (USA). She worked with partnerships in the Latin America and Caribbean region until 2005, when she began overseeing mission personnel training. She also has served on the World Mission Leadership Team. Prior to her seminary study and subsequent ordination by New Hope Presbytery in North Carolina, Jo Ella was an educational specialist with international health training agencies. Her work in 25 countries has taken her to Europe, Africa, the South Pacific and the Latin America/Caribbean region.
“God has provided me the opportunity to live or work in many different countries,” Jo Ella says, “and has given me a love for the church and for the people of God’s good earth and a desire and opportunity for service through the church.”
Having worked with PC(USA) partner churches in the Caribbean for a number of years, Jo Ella has a deep appreciation for Caribbean churches and the region they serve. “Many of these churches and the people who comprise them are challenged—as are many in their societies—by poverty, oppression and injustice,” she explains. “I have been touched by the warmth and joy of the people who, despite these hardships, have remained faithful to the love of God in Jesus Christ and are a sign of hope in their communities.”
Jo Ella began her duties with fluency in Spanish, the region’s primary language, as well as French. She holds a bachelor’s degree in both languages from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), a master’s in education from UNC, and a Master of Divinity from Duke University Divinity School. Jo Ella completed a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2016 from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary with a focus in missiology.
Thanks to her years of experience in Presbyterian World Mission, Jo Ella has developed an expansive knowledge of the dynamics that shape partnerships between congregations and presbyteries in the United States and Christians in the Caribbean. One of her tasks is to help U.S. and Caribbean Christians overcome barriers of language, cultural and other impediments so that they can move toward oneness in Christ, she says. “My personal hope is that, in some small way, God will use my gifts to increase and strengthen the ties among us—the PC(USA) and the larger U.S. church and the churches of the Caribbean region. It is so important for our church to know what is going on in the world and these partnerships help us to deepen our understandings, to be in relationship with others, and to reach out to each other in new and faithful ways.”
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