A letter from Doug Dicks, who will be serving in Israel and Palestine
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Dear family, friends and acquaintances,
Hello and greetings from Virginia!
When I last wrote to many of you back in 2013, I was returning to the U.S. at about this time of year.
Four years have passed, and at the end of last year, and after much discernment, I made the decision to return to the mission field and to mission service with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
But wait! I might be getting ahead of my story, so let me bring you all up to speed, for those of you who may not be so familiar with what I am talking about.
In the early 1990’s, I had a conversation with my ministers — a husband/wife team of co-pastors at my home church — who had themselves done prior mission service in Costa Rica. They knew of my love for and interest in the Holy Land, and for the two peoples and three faith communities that have for decades been caught up in turmoil.
“But what would the Presbyterian Church want with me?” I asked them. “What would the Presbyterian Church and God do with a student of archaeology and anthropology who is now employed in the airline industry?”
I wanted to serve the church, and I was willing to commit two years of my life to this venture. “Two years,” I told myself, “and I would get this Middle East ‘thing’ out of my system.”
So, in September of 1995, I was commissioned by my home church to go to Jerusalem for what was going to be a period of two years. Little did I know then that two years would turn into 18 years! From June 1995 until November 2013 — 18 years — I served in the mission field on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The job description for the position for which I applied back then read like this: “To host and escort visiting church groups, to help them connect with the Christian churches and other community leaders, and to interpret justice, reconciliation and peacemaking concerns.” WOW, I thought! That job has my name written all over it!
My role was to work with Christian tourists and visitors to The Holy Land — getting them down and off the tour bus, helping them to connect with the living, breathing church, and showing them that there are, indeed, still Christians living in the Holy Land today.
And during my time there, I was pleased that the PC(USA) became even more intentional with regards to its commitment to the Christian communities of the region. At its 209th General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church (USA) issued a “Resolution on the Middle East,” which included among its mandates a call that “urges all Presbyterians who visit the region, whether for pilgrimage, business or pleasure, to seek out the Christian communities, join with them in worship, and become acquainted with their human-rights struggles, and to seek ways to express Christian love, peace and justice.” (1997 Resolution on the Middle East).
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been a leading denomination in mission work, and many hospitals, clinics, colleges and universities worldwide — including the Middle East — trace their origins to the pioneering work of Presbyterian missionaries who founded them well over a century ago.
However, in countries where we do not or have not established such institutions, such as Palestine, and later including Israel, we partner with our fellow Protestant denominations, who carry out that work with, amongst and for their own civilian populations. The establishment of a comity agreement in the mid 1800’s of the missionary enterprises working in the Middle East divided up places of ministry in order to avoid future conflicts among themselves and their converts.
The Presbyterians were seconded to Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, and the Anglicans or Episcopalians and the Lutherans, Palestine. So much for that part of church history!
Today, we work ecumenically and across those divisions, in order to carry out the mission and ministry of the church.
Now, fast forward to Winter of 2017, and both the opportunity and the call to serve my church and God’s people in the Middle East is still very much a part of me and who I am.
So in June of this past year, I interviewed for the position of Facilitator for Education for Justice and Peacemaking in Israel and Palestine. In July, I was notified I was being offered the position, and that an opportunity to enter into further discernment would occur in October during my mission orientation.
That’s all behind me now, so the next step is really one of logistics — getting suitcases packed and preparing to depart the U.S. for the Middle East.
Throughout our lives, God calls each of us, in different ways and at various times, to surrender unselfishly of ourselves, and to employ the unique gifts, talents and skills that we each possess in order to further His kingdom here on earth. Our witness as Presbyterians is rooted in the gospel ministries of Jesus Christ — teaching, healing and evangelizing — and in Christ’s example of advocacy for the poor, the hungry, and the oppressed.
How do we encounter people and recognize that God is at work in their lives and in their daily struggles?
One way is by living with and amongst them, and “accompanying” them in their daily journeys — at work, at home, in schools and at their places of worship. Galatians 6:2 tells us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Matthew 25:34-36 says that Christ will call us to account for how we behaved towards others. I believe that the church’s mission in today’s world is what it has always been, and what God calls us to do — feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit the prisoner.
And I believe that people hunger and thirst for justice every bit as much as they hunger for food. I believe that we can clothe people with dignity and recognition and respect, as much as with physical clothing. I believe that people can be in prison or under siege, both physically and psychologically, and that we are called upon to lift them up by meeting them where they are, in their own particular context, helping how and where we can. Accompanying people where they are, and sharing with them our gifts, talents, skills, compassion and labor can encourage them, allowing them a glimpse of the hands of God at work in their lives. Witness through service is key to how mission can be accomplished in today’s world.
What an exciting opportunity and a privilege it is for me to be able to return once again to Israel and Palestine, and to serve as facilitator for education for justice and peacemaking on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (USA)! I solicit your thoughts, prayers and your support — both moral and financial — as I begin this leap of faith once again!
The rousing hymn that the choir in my home church sang today, “We’ve a Story to Tell To the Nations,” says that our story is one of “truth and mercy, peace and light.” In this season of Thanksgiving, leading into Advent and Christmas, may truth and mercy, peace and light be the story we share and continue to share in the midst of our troubled world, and especially with the peoples of the land we lovingly call “holy.”
Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,
What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.
After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.
I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.
Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.
Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.
In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?
Jose Luis Casal
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Tags: Doug Dicks
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