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My First Four Years

A Letter from Dori Hjalmarson, serving in Honduras

Summer 2021

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James 3:1-2a: My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly. We all make mistakes often, but those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity.

Dear friends,

I have made a lot of mistakes in my four years as a mission co-worker. Mistakes are inevitable, especially when crossing cultures and languages. One of the funniest was when I was assisting with translation for a Sunday school class for a visiting U.S. church group. The pastor who was speaking introduced the class by saying this was the fourth in their series about “los cuatro patos” of the Bible. “The four ducks” of the Bible. He paused politely while I translated and racked my brain for where in the Bible there might be a story about four ducks. I asked the pastor, “los cuatro patos?” And he confirmed, “Los cuatro patos.” I said, “Patos?” He said, “Patos.” I made a motion with my hand and a sound like a duck quacking and asked again, “Patos?” The entire congregation laughed, and the pastor said, “No! PaCtos! PACTOS!” Covenants. Not ducks.

On one occasion, early on in my tenure in Honduras, I went with presbytery leaders to a group of rural churches in order to hold an all-day seminar to train new elders, deacons, secretaries and treasurers. The custom in most churches here is for women to wear skirts in worship, and in many churches, for women to always wear skirts. I wasn’t wearing a skirt on this day because it was a weekday, I was only teaching and not preaching, and I had not yet learned that a worship service almost always breaks out when a group of Honduran pastors gets together. As our seminars came to a close, the moderator of the presbytery, Pastor Juan Rodas, pulled me aside and told me that at the end of the day, we would be holding a worship service in order to ordain the newly trained officers. He asked me if I would be willing to ordain the deacons, and he would ordain the elders. “I would be honored, Pastor Juan. Thank you for inviting me.” And Juan lowered his voice and said, “But sister Dori, you don’t happen to have a skirt you could change into, do you?” And I said, “no,” while internally bristling and looking around at our all-male group of clergy and trainers. “But no worries, Juan, you don’t have a skirt either.” Then I held my breath, realizing what I had just said to Pastor Juan, whom I had met for the first time only six months prior, and who is essentially my boss. Juan looked surprised and then burst out laughing and said for the first time what has become a familiar refrain. “Ay ay ay, hermana Dori.” He let me ordain the deacons that day. And I’ve never returned to that community without a skirt.

A couple of years later, Pastor Juan was spending some time with my parents, who were visiting from the United States, by chance, in that same community where I had worn trousers on my first visit. My dad and Juan talked and walked a couple of miles together alone, one of Juan’s favorite things to do. He assured my father that the church was taking care of me and that they love me. “We love sister Dori,” he told my father. “We love her because … she is very obedient.” My dad was speechless at that; I’m sure recalling my teenage years. Juan continued. “We love her because she eats everything.”

When my dad relayed that conversation to me, tears came to my eyes. I was touched because, for one, I had never thought to value my willingness to try any food as pastorally valuable. What about my skills in pastoral care, or languages, or Biblical studies? Second, and possibly more important, I think on many occasions, I have been clearly DISobedient. I once refused to speak at a pastor’s retreat the presbytery was planning for men only. I have refused to be rebaptized as an adult. I disagree with Pastor Juan and many of the Honduran church leaders about many issues and sometimes about the very doctrines we profess. We have had to look for ways to maintain a relationship despite our differences. In many ways, I think Christians, especially women and clergy, are called more to disobedience rather than to obedience. But I know what Pastor Juan was getting at. I came to Honduras willing to admit I knew nothing, willing to go into humble homes and share in what is served, willing to laugh at myself, and willing to meet my partners where they are and accompany them. I came to Honduras, making lots of mistakes and learning a lot. Here’s hoping I make a lot more in the next four years.

Your support, encouragement and connections have made my ministry in Honduras possible over these four years. I have recently signed a term renewal to be in Honduras for four more years. I invite your prayers, support, communication and friendship to continue through the next four years. Thank you.

Prayer concerns in Honduras: Vaccinations against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 are slowly being distributed. Most of the doses are donated by the World Health Organization, Russia and the United States. As I write, the Honduran government has reported that about 13 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. Please pray for global justice in health care.

Presidential elections will be held on Nov. 28. The elections four years ago were criticized for irregularities and lack of transparency, and they kicked off months of protests and violent repression of protesters. Please pray for open, fair and non-violent elections.

Dori

Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:

Dear partners in God’s mission,

I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.

God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.

How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it? Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.

We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.
Act – Visit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe: pcusa.org/missionyearbook.
Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.

Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year. We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.

In the light of hope,

 

 

Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give please visit https://bit.ly/PCUSAmission

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16


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