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Interpretation Ministry

A Letter from Bob and Kristi Rice, serving in South Sudan

Winter 2023

Write to Bob Rice
Write to Kristi Rice

Individuals: Give to E132192 in honor of Bob and Kristi Rice’s ministry

Congregations: Give to D500115 in honor of Bob and Kristi Rice’s ministry

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

 


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Dear friends,

Doug and Judy brought us to their church for the Saturday morning Missions Breakfast. Tables were neatly decorated, and food was prepared and served by a group of dedicated volunteers called “Valley Galley.” Sixty church members came out on a beautiful fall morning, joining us for a time of sharing and learning about South Sudan. The following morning we shared from God’s Word in worship, and in the afternoon the pastor warmly welcomed us to an “Open House,” a time of informal connection and fellowship with church members in his home. This visit with Valley Presbyterian Church in Green Valley, Arizona, is one of many visits over the last several weeks which have taken us to central Montana, central and coastal California, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Earlier this year we were able to visit churches in the Chicago area, western Pennsylvania, and three churches in Ohio. It has been encouraging and invigorating to be with churches again, especially after we had to cancel several church visits in the summer due to health challenges. During our visit with a couple of different churches, members mentioned how they had not met in this way since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it was a good opportunity for them to gather in-person as they hosted us.

One of our most important roles as mission co-workers is “Interpretation Ministry” (IM), whereby we share in-person (and sometimes by Zoom) with U.S. churches and constituent supporters the work and ministry to which God has called us. As we are all called to be the “hands and feet of Jesus,” we have experienced the warmth, love, support and prayers of supporting churches and friends as we spend quality moments together in worship, fellowship, meals, prayer and fun activities. I can recall twice being reduced to tears during worship on this recent trip, feeling God’s presence among God’s people. It has been a great joy to fellowship together over meals, to learn about each other’s life experiences, and to be in the homes of church members who quickly begin to feel like family. Our hearts feel full, having been received and blessed in these ways.

We recognize that times are changing within our own cultural context due to secularization, aging congregations, and a general decline in church membership and participation. The pandemic has also changed and shaped us, moving us in new directions with new habits. Churches are having to choose to find new ways of being in the world, often having to function without a pastor for extended periods of time, sometimes recognizing that they can no longer support a full-time pastor. Amidst these changes and challenges, we have been inspired by the resourcefulness, resiliency, grace and humor demonstrated by the churches we have visited. One church in central California functions mostly with the leadership of a hand-full of elders, as their part-time interim pastor serves mostly as a “cheerleader” and consultant. Another church in Ohio has struggled to find a full-time pastor for several years, yet they have welcomed an interim pastor who, by the very nature of his being, has expanded their notions of who belongs to God’s eternal Kingdom.

A couple of times during our travels we have been asked about the new method of sending and support for mission co-workers serving with Presbyterian World Mission. As of last year, all Presbyterian mission co-workers began to share one “common purse,” whereas previously each mission co-worker unit or family had their own separate account to receive funds. In our highly individualized culture, we tend to prefer the latter over the former. Please muse with us which form of giving and receiving better reflects God’s Kingdom values and the New Testament witness. In terms of our shared mission, let us consider the question of whether God calls us primarily as a group of autonomous families and individuals to be supported by autonomous individuals and churches, or whether God has called us, amidst our diversity, to be the “Beloved Community,” sharing and doing God’s work together. Did not Barnabas come to the feet of the apostles and share all that he had sold so that others, perhaps those who did not have land, would also benefit? (Acts 4:34ff). Luke tells us that all who believed in Jesus shared everything in common (Acts 2:44). In our context as U.S. based mission co-workers, our experience is that some of us have connections with resource-rich churches and individuals while some of us do not have access or have been denied access. Also, we all have different gifts. Some of us are good at speaking and raising awareness and funding, while others among us are better and more suited to our role as cross-cultural workers. Whatever our background or gifting, we believe that the Gospel of Peace invites us to share our resources so that each and all can serve, and so that we can be and become the “Beloved Community” of diverse yet united followers of Jesus.

We invite your prayers for the peoples of South Sudan. There is currently unrest in Pochalla, a region bordering Ethiopia, where we have colleagues and friends. We also await elections in December of 2024 with a degree of “fear and trembling.” Pray with us for a peaceful election and that the voice of the general population will be heard. Lastly, pray with us for the pastors and leaders of our partner ministries in South Sudan. As always, we give thanks to you for your ongoing prayers, love, hospitality (for those who have received us), and your financial support which allows Presbyterian mission co-workers like us and others to stand in love and solidarity in the “bleeding places” of our broken and fragmented world.

With Love and Appreciation,

Bob and Kristi


Please read this important message from Director of World Mission Rev. Mienda Uriarte

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Matthew 25:34-36

Dear friends,

Great things are happening in World Mission! As you know from the letters you’ve been receiving, our mission co-workers are at the forefront of showing us what Matthew 25 looks like in the U.S. and in the wider world. They are addressing issues related to eradicating systemic poverty, building congregational vitality and dismantling structural racism. Together with our partners, mission co-workers are engaged in life-transforming ministries in 80 countries around the world. Here are just a few examples:

As an education consultant in the Democratic Republic of Congo, José Jones assists the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK) education department in the development, implementation and evaluation of strategic plans to strengthen the church’s primary and secondary education programs for more than 350 schools.

Based in Manila, Rev. Cathy Chang works closely with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and other partners in ministry to engage programs and networks across Asia that advocate for people vulnerable to forced migration and human trafficking.

Nadia Ayoub works alongside our Greek partners as they faithfully hold to the biblical call to welcome the stranger. Nadia serves with Perichoresis, a ministry of the Evangelical Church of Greece that provides housing and support to refugees; most of whom have come to Greece from Arabic-speaking countries.

Joseph Russ strengthens and supports a network of partners working in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to address migration issues in the Northern Triangle. Based on the needs people on the ground identify, Joseph empowers U.S. congregations to engage in advocacy related to Central America and immigration reform.

Revs. Drs. Noah Park and Esther Shin serve as professors at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). ETSC graduates work toward revitalizing congregational ministries in Egypt and work with refugee and peace ministries in various countries in the Middle East.

Please consider giving an extra gift this year to support our mission co-workers as they walk alongside our partners and help shape a more life-giving, equitable and hopeful world!

Prayerfully,

Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Director of World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give online, visit https://bit.ly/23MC-YE.

Honorary gifts can be made by checking the box and writing the mission co-worker’s name in the comment field online.


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