A New Chapter

A letter from Dennis Smith serving as regional liaison for South America, based in Argentina

October 28, 2016

Write to Dennis Smith
Write to Maribel Smith

Individuals: Give online to E200481 for Dennis and Maribel Smith’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D503801 for Dennis and Maribel Smith’s sending and support

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

Dear friends:

So many stories. So many opportunities to see God at work. Yet sometimes the tyranny of the immediate gets in the way. . . please accept my apologies for going so long without writing. In recent months my job has changed a bit and I am now regional liaison for all South America. That means I now have the privilege of accompanying our mission workers and ecumenical partners in Perú, Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia in addition to Brazil and the Southern Cone. I also hope to be of service to the many PC(USA) churches and presbyteries that have mission partnerships in these countries. Many thanks to my colleague Rev. Sarah Henken who had been covering this region. Sarah will continue as a mission worker promoting peace initiatives with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia. Thank you for your prayers as I begin this new chapter.

In June I accompanied Wertson Brasil, moderator of the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPU), to Lisbon to attend the Synod of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Portugal (IEPP). We ironed out the details of a new three-way mission partnership that will allow Presbyterian World Mission to work with our Brazilian and Portuguese partners to send a Brazilian pastor to Lisbon to organize a new church development for immigrants. Afterward the IPU called for applicants to take on this tough but exciting assignment. Wertson is especially grateful that this opportunity is energizing the IPU to embrace an international mission endeavor.

Rev. Cacilene Nobre and son João

Rev. Cacilene Nobre and son João

After a thorough and prayer-filled review of applications we had a Skype interview with the final candidates. We felt the clear leading of God’s Spirit to call Rev. Cacilene Nobre to this position. Cacilene (pronounced Kah-see-LAY-nee) is a skilled pastor with experience in evangelism, education and community organizing in Brazil. She’ll be moving to Portugal with her youngest son João in November. Please pray for Cacilene, João and the IEPP as they move into this new ministry together.

Inês Batista and Rev. Rute Salvador

Inês Batista and Rev. Rute Salvador

One footnote from the IEPP Synod: One of the joys of accompanying our partners is to observe how they work to include young people in the life of the church. Like Synod meetings anywhere, there was a table at the back of the room offering books and handicrafts for sale. I noted how IEPP General Secretary Dulce Cabete recruited young Inês Batista to tend to the table. Inês had accompanied her parents to the meeting and swelled with pride at being offered this opportunity to serve. I noted how Rev. Rute Salvador would check in with Inês from time to time to see how things were going. As we climbed into the car after the meeting, I noted that Dulce and Rute gave Inês a small stipend in recognition of her service. Inês was deeply moved. Learning how to offer others an opportunity to serve and then recognizing that service is a great pastoral gift!

In July I was in Calama for a retreat of the pastors of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Chile (IEPCh). Our theme was Reformed Spirituality. Several of the pastors were unable to attend because of different ailments, many of them related to the accumulated stress of years of pastoral service. We discussed how important it is to accompany one another in prayer and solidarity, to console one another in times of trial, to rejoice with one another in times of joy. Such insights are hardly new, but we noted how easy it is to get wrapped up in our daily tasks and forget to take time to care for ourselves, our families and one another. We confessed that ministry itself can take a toll on our families and our health. I shared a meditation in which we massaged each other’s hands, blessing them and anointing them with oil. Tears flowed freely and we were grateful to sense the powerful presence of God’s renewing Spirit.

Meeting with Venezuelan church leaders

Meeting with Venezuelan church leaders

In September Rev. Henken and I paid a 12-day pastoral visit to the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela (IPV). There have been no PC(USA) mission workers in Venezuela since 2004 and the IPV is very interested in rebuilding partnerships with churches and presbyteries in the U.S. Like the U.S., Venezuela is deeply divided over political issues, and the IPV is deeply committed to being in Venezuela a presence for peace and justice rooted in the gospel. I look forward to regular visits with this small but vibrant church partner. Please pray for the IPV!

Prior to and after the Venezuela visit we spent time with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC). On Sept. 16 and 17 Rev. Henken and I accompanied PC(USA) Stated Clerk Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II as he responded to an invitation from the IPC to support their efforts in favor of Colombia’s peace process. We were back in Colombia by Oct. 2 to witness a national plebiscite on the peace accord that had been signed in September by the government and FARC guerrilla forces. Sadly, the plebiscite lost by a narrow margin but the peace process continues and President Juan Manuel Santos received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his continued efforts to end more than 50 years of civil war. Pray too for our sisters and brothers in the IPC as they embrace peace in yet another deeply divided country.

As regional liaison mine is a ministry of presence. I have the great privilege of being one of your emissaries in God’s mission in this vast territory known as South America. Your prayers and your generous financial support make this ministry possible. As we reach the end of 2016 please consider continuing or increasing your support in the new year. We are deeply grateful that you are our partners in ministry and we love to hear from you! I’ll be back in touch soon with more stories from recent journeys.

Under the Mercy,

Dennis A. Smith

Dear Friend of the Presbyterian Mission Agency:

Thank you for your prayers and for your financial support of Dennis and Maribel Smith 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 South America.

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 Dennis and Maribel. Our global church partners greatly value their service, and you well know how important this ministry is in building connections between the body of Christ in the U.S. and South America.

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 Dennis and Maribel doing the life-giving work God called them 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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