A 30-Year Celebration

A letter from Jo Ella Holman serving as Regional Liaison for the Caribbean region, based in the Dominican Republic

September 2016

Write to Jo Ella Holman

Individuals: Give online to E200376 for Jo Ella Holman’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507535 for Jo Ella Holman’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” (Acts 2: 42)

Dear friends in Christ,

In September I had the great privilege and joy of participating in the 30th anniversary celebration and mission consultation of CANACOM, the Caribbean and North American Council for Mission. It was held in Suriname, on the northeast coast of South America, and was hosted by the newest member church, the Reformed Church of Suriname. It was my first visit to Suriname and to one of the Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries. And what a perfect setting for this 30-year celebration! Suriname is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual context that captures the “multi-everything” that constitutes our world and communities in this 21st century.

The original inhabitants of this place, the Amerindians, are joined by descendants of Africans, East Indians (especially from India, Indonesia and China), and Dutch colonialists. Practitioners of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, indigenous religions, African traditions, Jews and Christians of the many flavors of the Christianity live together peacefully and often work together for the common good of their society. It is not a problem-free utopia, but a working laboratory in living together as God’s children. And it is a magnificently beautiful place where it is easy to praise the Creator for the beauty of creation and to be reminded of our need to care for God’s good handiwork.

Delegates from 14 Presbyterian and Reformed denominations across 10 countries gathered to remember our shared past, delve deeply into some common challenges, delve even deeper into Scripture and prayer for insight and inspiration, and to envision where God is leading us together. It was a rich time, and I am grateful to God for the vision of those ecumenical leaders in our own PC(USA) and of some leaders of our Caribbean partner churches who, 30 years ago, were able to see a new way of relating as churches of the global North and South and of doing mission together. CANACOM has taken on four major priorities to work on together: church growth and renewal; root causes of poverty; gender violence; and human trafficking. I would love to hear how you and your congregation or presbytery are working on these same challenges!

Imagine a round table where everyone sits equally around the table to make decisions about mission together in our region, drawing on funds that have been contributed as each is able to a common fund. That was the vision 30 years ago of a “new-old” way of being in Christian community and witness to this world that God loved and so loves. And within the huge power differentials that exist among us, a “new-old” mission structure for leveling the playing field, for encouraging the use of the gifts of all, and for “being” the beloved community. In today’s context of hate-filled rhetoric, division and injustice, it is more important than ever to “be one . . . so that the world may believe” (John 17: 21).

A special joy was seeing and getting to know the several young adult delegates who both brought new energy to the gathering but also are being formed as ecumenical leaders for a new generation though their participation in CANACOM. Some of them are young pastors. Some are in seminary. Some are in other professions and are active lay leaders in their churches. Their presence and contributions to worship and to discussions enriched and enlivened our time together. And they are learning about the broader and deeper world of Christ’s church and the richness of our faith in new ways.

Please join me in giving thanks to God for these young people and these relationships in the body of Christ, for our joint commitment to address some of the most intransigent issues facing our churches and societies in this Caribbean-North American region, and for the love of God that binds the circle and strengthens the relationships—even after 30 years.

I am so very grateful for the way so many of you—as individuals, congregations, presbyteries and PW groups—give me the privilege of seeing God at work in these beautiful ways and the honor of being able to participate with our brothers and sisters in this region. Thank you for your prayers and for your continued financial support for this ministry. Because of you, I and many others are able to serve with you and with our international partners as we all engage in God’s mission to this wonderful and terrible place that is our home.

May God’s grace fill your hearts and lives, your congregations and communities.

Faithfully,

Jo Ella

Please read this important message from Tony De La Rosa, Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1b-2, NRSV)

Dear Friend of the Presbyterian Mission Agency:

Thank you for your prayers and for your financial support of Jo Ella Holman this year, and any previous year. We hear from our mission co-workers how much your prayerful financial support has meant to them. Please know that you are a vital part of ministries throughout the Dominican Republic and Caribbean Region.

Even as I thank you, I want to let you know that this is a critical time for our congregations and all people of faith to commit themselves to support mission co-workers like Jo Ella. Our global church partners greatly value her service, and you well know how important this ministry is in building connections between the body of Christ in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic and Caribbean Region.

We have historically relied on endowment interest and the general offering from congregations to sustain the vital work of all of our mission workers. Those sources of funding have greatly diminished. It is only through the gifts of individuals and congregations that we are able to keep Jo Ella doing the life-giving work God called her to do. A year ago, in May 2015, we had to recall some mission workers due to a lack of funding. World Mission communicated the challenge to you, and you responded decisively and generously. Through your response, we heard the Spirit remind us, “Fear not!”

Today, I’m asking you to consider an additional gift for this year, and to increase the gift you may consider for 2017. Sending and support costs include not only salary but also health insurance and retirement contributions, orientation, language training, housing, travel to the country of service, children’s education, emergency evacuation costs, and visa/passport costs.

My heartfelt thanks for your prayers and support of our Presbyterian mission co-workers. In the coming season, we will celebrate God’s sending of the Christ child, the source of the good news we share. May you experience anew the hope, peace, joy, and love that are ours because “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18).

Thank you for saying “yes” to love.

With you in Christ,
Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


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