A Letter from Ryan and Alethia White, serving as co-regional liaisons for Northern and Central Europe
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We were asked recently, “where do you see signs of hope?”
In the face of natural disasters that seem to be increasing in frequency and severity as the earth warms, ongoing and renewed military aggressions throughout the world, economic challenges and collapse of financial systems, oppressive governmental policies followed by severe responses when people protest the injustices in their lives, illnesses and loss of life and cherished relationships, it was difficult for us to offer an immediate response.
Where is hope found when there seem to be no tangible signs of it?
The Lord of the Rings is also a story that I have loved since first reading it. In light of the recent show that came out, there has been renewed discussion about Tolkien and what inspired his imagination as he developed this elaborate universe.
J.R.R. Tolkien was deeply affected by his experience in WWI and the loss of many of his friends as well as his own struggles recovering from a severe case of trench fever. These experiences contributed to many themes and scenes in his writings. In one of his letters, he wrote “Actually I am a Christian…so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ – though it contains…some samples or glimpses of final victory” (Letter #195).
This idea of a “long defeat” was deeply rooted in Tolkien’s experience and faith. The idea of continuing on, even when there seems to be no hope, was embodied by Frodo and Sam as they persevered in their journey despite all odds.
So as we took a moment to reflect more on the question of “where do we see hope?” we were reminded of conversations shared recently with partners. In these, we heard tangible signs of continuing in the face of challenges.
Hope is found in a summer camp for children in Portugal that was able to still happen even when those originally leading were not able to at the last minute. Despite this, others were able to organize the night before the camp began and found a way to carry out a program for nearly 50 children.
Hope is found when teachers in Lebanon continue teaching, even when the financial situation makes it extremely challenging for them to even get to the schools. Despite the present challenges, they continue investing in the children in their classes.
Hope is found in the witness of young adults in the Middle East region who feel so connected with their homeland that they refuse to give up and leave. Instead, joining together in solidarity with one another to maintain hope as they engage in creative action to address challenges.
Hope is found in the action of partners in Southern Europe who continue to offer aid and support to those who arrive on their shores. Even when the flow of migration seems never-ending and governments continue with militarized responses, Mediterranean Hope continues to respond with a different approach, seeing the humanness of those who arrive and seeking to honor them with a compassionate response.
Hope is found in all places where there is a refusal to accept the narratives that dehumanize one another based on ethnicity, country of origin, gender or sexual orientation. Where we continue to see one another as human, as a person who bears the image of God, and where prayers of solidarity and acts of compassion move us to care for one another.
And hope was also displayed as members of the Iranian Presbyterian Church in Berlin gathered together on World Communion Sunday. Amidst the protests and challenges faced in their home country, prayers of solidarity and cries for justice were lifted up. The service concluded with communion and remembering that Jesus’ teachings put him at odds with the powers of his day, which led to his crucifixion. As the elements of communion were shared, we were reminded that God stands with those who suffer and through Jesus experienced death, but also showed through the resurrection that life comes through death.
In a previous letter, we mentioned our changing role from primarily supporting the Iranian Presbyterian Church, to co-regional liaisons for Northern and Central Europe. We will remain connected with ministries that support Iranians and Afghans who have left their homelands, while also engaging in broader relationships and conversations with PC(USA)’s partners in the wider region, which at the moment also includes supporting connections with Southern European partners.
Within this capacity as regional liaison, Ryan traveled to Karlsruhe, Germany to support the PC(USA) delegation attending the World Council of Churches Assembly. It was a wonderful experience to gather with people from across the globe in worship, prayer and discussion. Many of the signs of hope shared above were heard in conversations with partners there. In addition, it was a powerful experience to witness the delegation advocating for issues and seeking to support the voices of global partners, in accordance with mandates from the PC(USA) General Assembly this past summer. Read more about GA and WCC in the newest Mission Crossroads magazine.
As always, we give thanks to you who read these letters and offer prayers for the church here in Berlin, for our partners in Europe and the Middle East, and our family. The notes, emails and conversations with you also serve as a sign of hope for us as we are reminded that we are interconnected, sharing in God’s life together and living out the love offered to us each day.
Ryan and Alethia
Please read the following letter from Rev. Mienda Uriarte, acting director of World Mission:
Dear Partners in God’s Mission,
What an amazing journey we’re on together! Our call to be a Matthew 25 denomination has challenged us in so many ways to lean into new ways of reaching out. As we take on the responsibilities of dismantling systemic racism, eradicating the root causes of poverty and engaging in congregational vitality, we find that the Spirit of God is indeed moving throughout World Mission. Of course, the past two years have also been hard for so many as we’ve ventured through another year of the pandemic, been confronted with racism, wars and the heart wrenching toll of natural disasters. And yet, rather than succumb to the darkness, we are called to shine the light of Christ by doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.
We are so grateful that you are on this journey as well. Your commitment enables mission co-workers around the world to accompany partners and share in so many expressions of the transformative work being done in Christ’s name. Thank you for your partnership, prayers and contributions to their ministries.
We hope you will continue to support World Mission in all the ways you are able:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel (E132192). This unified fund supports the work of all our mission co-workers as they accompany global partners in their life-giving work. Gifts can also be made “in honor of” a specific mission co-worker – just include their name on the memo line.
Pray – Include PC(USA) mission personnel and global partners in your daily prayers. If you would like to order prayer cards as a visual reminder of those for whom you are praying, please contact Cindy Rubin (firstname.lastname@example.org; 800-728-7228, ext. 5065).
Act – Invite a mission co-worker to visit your congregation either virtually or in person. Contact email@example.com to make a request or email the mission co-worker directly. Email addresses are listed on Mission Connections profile pages. Visit pcusa.org/missionconnections to search by last name.
Thank you for your consideration! We appreciate your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Acting Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give, please visit https://bit.ly/22MC-YE.
For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
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