A letter from Jeff Boyd in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from the Democratic Republic of the Congo
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Walking into the fellowship hall of First Presbyterian Church in Hanford, Calif., it was a special treat to see a beautiful cake made to celebrate our silver anniversary—not our wedding anniversary, but 25 years of service as mission co-workers with Presbyterian World Mission. It was a thoughtful gesture as we give thanks for how God has worked through churches, presbyteries and individuals to encourage, support and sustain us in mission service in Africa over the past quarter of a century.
Reflecting over our mission service, the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 come to mind. We’re not working isolated, as it may feel at times, but we are part of a larger body in which each part has a role and contributes to the whole. We cannot all be hands building schools or healing broken limbs. We cannot all be eyes witnessing the injustices and abuses in communities. But we are part of a body, a team, where each is needed and each brings his or her talents. I would like to recognize various parts that make up this body.
I am thankful for the staff of Presbyterian World Mission (PWM). Like a central nervous system, PWM provides the vision, strategy and logistics for the global mission work of our church. These are people who have helped to prepare and orient us for cross-cultural service and who continue to give us guidance. Mission co-workers get much praise and encouragement, but it is important to recognize there are many who quietly work behind the scenes to make the work possible. And the background support is important, most particularly in times of crisis, which occasionally confronts our mission personnel and still more frequently our Christian sisters and brothers who are part of our global church partnerships. I am grateful for the support our family received when we suddenly needed to evacuate from Kinshasa 18 years ago due to war and the insecurity it posed particularly for young children. I am mindful of how our colleagues rallied for prayers and assistance for mission co-workers who were seriously injured in a violent carjacking attempt, and of the life-saving support for a young mission co-worker family when there were complications with a delivery. The experience and expertise of staff in the U.S. and in Africa are indispensable for an adequate response. This expertise has developed over 175 years of international Presbyterian missions.
We are grateful for the many individuals in churches and presbyteries across the United States. Those who have prayed with us and for us. Those who have written encouraging and challenging messages. Those who have given financially to our sending and support. And those who have warmly welcomed us when we’ve visited. Many of you have recognized the toll our itineration used to take on our children and you’ve brought them to zoos, botanical gardens and even taught them to water ski during our visits. But most of all you’ve listened with interest as we’ve shared with you ways we’ve seen God at work through the church. Thank you for accompanying us in the journey.
We have profound gratitude for our sisters and brothers in each land where we have served. Those who have befriended us, taken time to help us navigate the confusion of language and cultures. Those who invited us to worship and to study the Bible and discern God’s will in a less familiar place. Those who have accompanied us in the daily challenges of living.
Mama Sigalla was one of our first friends when we arrived in Njombe, Tanzania, in 1991. We attended the same church. She was a gentle woman who ran a small shop out of her home. Confined since a car accident, she cared for her grandchildren and their friends from the neighborhood. Matthias was one of them, and Christi enjoyed stopping by for a chat after dropping him off at school. The friendship was genuine.
Rev. Zombo was a mathematics teacher when I first met him. He was a close collaborator in the church education office, helping me navigate rules and tables for calculating salaries and taxes for teachers, while I taught him how to use Excel spreadsheets. That was before he became a pastor and got sick later on, became partially paralyzed, and then passed away.
We began our mission service with one toddler and now rejoice that our three children have grown into wonderful young adults. Support from World Mission enabled them to get a solid basic education to allow them to pursue their own dreams. We are thankful and proud parents. No bias whatsoever!
We reminisce these years with deep gratitude. As we look forward it is with hope a midst a great deal of uncertainty. Some of you may have heard the news that next year five mission workers must be called home from the field due to lack of funds to pay for all. Again in 2017 it looks like 40 more will need to end service unless something changes. That is 25 percent of our current Presbyterian mission co-worker contingent. There has been a shift in U.S. society over the past several decades. A combination of factors, including a growing desire to feel a greater connection to what is supported and a mounting distrust in institutions, contribute to more and more people designating their gifts at church. As a consequence unified, or general funds, are no longer available to support the global mission of the church, and the designated funds have not sufficiently increased to make up for the shortfall. Our church partners in Central Africa lament the decrease in the number of mission personnel even as they are requesting us to send more people to work alongside them in Christian education, church leadership development, basic education, community health, and more. Presbyterian World Mission has committed to send as many mission co-workers as our church is willing to support. Currently only 20 percent of the churches in our denomination are directly supporting mission co-workers sent by Presbyterian World Mission. May we react in time to preserve the global mission work that has for over 175 years been part of our church’s identity as well as an expression of our faithfulness to God’s mission. Please join us in supporting the work of Presbyterian World Mission around the world.
Peace of Christ be with you,
Jeff (and Christi)
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 146, 147
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