Knowing Our Faith

A Letter from Jim McGill, serving in Niger and South Sudan

Winter 2022

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Dear friends and family,

I have just returned to Niamey after having had a wonderful month with the family in the U.S. We celebrated Christmas together as an immediate family, drove to Florida for a brief visit with my sister and her family, and my brother and sister-in-law came from South Carolina to visit on his very first day of official retirement. Our daughter Salome, who had been attending the American College in Greece, returned home for Christmas, and is hoping to continue her education closer to home. She, and the other three older children, Jason, Michael, and Selina, are searching for a place to rent that they can all share. Selina, who had been taking virtual college classes, had her first in-person classes, so this was a new experience. John and Joseph attend their junior year classes in-person, and both continue to take part in soccer and track, and Joseph in JROTC.

During the month, we also experienced the global nature of the Church. Jodi and I were able to run up for an overnight visit with former mission co-workers Michael and Rachel Weller in Wise, Virginia. Michael serves as the pastor of two small rural congregations, and Rachel is involved in the music and community work. They are leading those congregations in very much the same holistic manner that they led congregations in Ethiopia. Wise was previously a coal town, and although seemingly very far in distance and nature from their previous home in Gambella, Ethiopia, the suffering in rural Virginia and Ethiopia have a commonality. Both communities are dealing with significant problems that are keeping people from being able to thrive. Jodi and I were able to worship with the Wellers at Pound, VA, one of the two churches pastored by Michael. That congregation has decided to establish a community center to create a connection and an opening with those who feel far from and unwanted by the Church. It was truly a blessing to be able to experience Christ’s work through the Wellers, reaching out with a common purpose to people in need in very different contexts.

We attend Columbia Presbyterian Church while at Mission Haven, an active congregation of which Rev. Drs. Justo and Catherine Gonzalez are members. Justo and Catherine Gonzalez are currently Professors Emeritus at Columbia Seminary, where Catherine was their very first female professor, teaching for many years while Justo was teaching at Candler Seminary of Emory. Columbia Presbyterian has a weekly book study, of which one study was “Knowing Our Faith” written by Rev. Justo for various denominations in Puerto Rico, “to share [Rev. Justo’s] joy in seeking to understand better this truth that our hearts believe and love.” This small book has had a significant impact on my understanding of this truth. A couple of days before leaving, I was able to go with the Gonzalezs to visit the Justo and Catherine Gonzalez Resource Center in downtown Decatur. The resource center was created by the Association of Hispanic Theological Education (AETH) in honor of the Gonzálezs’ many contributions to the theological formation of Hispanic leaders, Hispanic theology, and theology in general. So, having additional time together to converse with Revs. Justo and Catherine about their experiences, and how those experiences led to the various works they produced, was enlightening and extraordinary.

Rev. Tom Hagood, the pastor of Columbia Presbyterian Church (CPC) and a leader in the New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta (NSMA), approached me to see how the church might partner with the EERN church in Niger. CPC is a Matthew 25 Church and is looking to expand its efforts internationally. Part of the EERN’s work in helping Nigeriens step out of poverty is encouraging girls to stay in school, including supplying reusable sanitary pads. The EERN identified the Sara Association as a local Christian organization that teaches girls who have left school how to sew. Pastor Tom and I met with Melissa Johnson, a mission co-worker in Zambia. She has helped the Zambian Church’s Health Programme become certified sanitary pad producers and will now help CPC understand how it might best support this sewing training group. These partnerships will allow members of CPC to get to know a few of the girls in training at the Sara Association and some of the girls who attend EERN’s schools in Niger.

Before I left for the U.S., the EERN SMART Centre was moving forward with trainings for manual drilling and fabrication of WASH products and with the Menstrual Health and Hygiene work at the Eglise Evangelique de la Republique du Niger (EERN) schools. Most of this work stopped for a couple of weeks over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and is beginning again in full swing. As part of the EERN’s ‘One Evangelist – One Well’ programme, a borehole was drilled during this time so that the students living at an EERN ‘Hosting Centre’ for students who live too far to travel back and forth to school daily now have water at this residence.
Our prayer is that the Lord will turn his face toward each of you and give you peace through this new year. Thanks for all of your continuing support,

Jim and Jodi


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