A letter from Chenoa Stock serving in Bolivia
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“We are many parts, we are all one body, and the gifts we have we are given to share. May the spirit of love make us one in deed. One, the love that we share; one, our hope in despair; one, the cross that we bear.”
I have not been able to get this song from my childhood summer weeks at Camp Crestfield out of my head since we held our UMAVIDA General Assembly this past Friday. As our nine partner organizations gathered together to reflect and analyze the current situation of UMAVIDA (Uniendo Manos por La Vida—Joining Hands for Life), we began with a devotional from Pastor Emilio Aslla, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bolivia. We listened to the words of Romans 12:4-5: For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. With this passage Pastor Emilio reminded us that, as partner organizations of the UMAVIDA network, each of us holds different responsibilities and gifts, but we are all essential as we carry out our work for God’s Kingdom together. Though we are many, which at times can make it more difficult to plan and coordinate our shared mission, our active participation is critical in order to move toward our vision of transformation for Bolivia and the world. Pastor Emilio helped us to see that just as the body of Christ brings us a renewed way of living, this is our time to be renewed as a network and to recommit ourselves to our mission.
Beginning with those words and that challenge to us, our General Assembly was already on its way to being the intentional and productive shared space that it turned out to be.
This has been a year of transition and restructuring for UMAVIDA, and I hold faith that the patience, the discussions, the doubts, the frustrations, and the small joys throughout it all have been worth it as we question who we are as a network and who we want to be in 2016 and beyond. What new life do we want to bring to Bolivia and the world through our mission for environmental justice? What darkness and expressions of power must we question in our society in order to bring light to the oppressed, just as Jesus did?
As we begin the Advent season, what beautiful timing to reflect deeply about being the incarnated body of Christ, recognizing our call as members of that body, and celebrating the carrying out of his mission as we celebrate his birth.
With my husband I have been listening to sermons online from my home church, East Liberty Presbyterian Church, in Pittsburgh, Pa. The most recent one was Part 2 of Rev. Randy Bush’s Re-Confirmation Class sermon series, which discusses Jesus. Randy speaks to us about the mystery and wonder of Jesus, his willingness to break into our closed reality of darkness and oppression in order to bring new light and the freedom of another reality. Jesus shows us that we are loved by a God of justice and mercy and are called to embody this new way of life—questioning unjust power and unearned status and fighting for justice and equality through love.
We are many parts. We are all one body.
We can find this new life only if we work and walk together. Yes, we of UMAVIDA must come together as a network, but we cannot do it alone. You all, our U.S. Presbyterian congregations and friends, must accompany us as well in order that together we might be more complete and stronger expressions of the body of Christ. UMAVIDA is called to be a humble witness for society through its joint actions in partnership, not only within Bolivia, but also with U.S. Presbyterian congregations. As you and I together pray for and work with our mission partners for environmental justice in Bolivia, my bridge role as companionship facilitator, walking alongside and working with our Bolivian partners on this mission and sharing the stories of impact with you, is a necessary role in the network.
I know I have mentioned the serious shortfall in funding for PC(USA) mission co-workers before, but as we move into a new vision for UMAVIDA I know my presence and accompaniment is needed now more than ever here in Bolivia. As the PC(USA) faces long-term changes in the giving patterns of churches, which directly affect those of us in mission service, we have witnessed the recall of 10 mission co-workers in the past year and we could see up to 40 more released from service in the year to come if financial giving does not increase.
World Mission has always said, “We will send as many mission co-workers as the church will support.” We as mission co-workers now bear more responsibility for encouraging churches to contribute to our sending and support, with the help of the Funds Development Ministry Team. The more designated support we can raise through the financial gifts of individuals and congregations, the more certain it is that we can remain in our country of service to walk alongside our global partners as the body of Christ.
Unfortunately, even at this late date, my ministry hasn’t been fully funded for this year. Will you please pray about this situation? If possible, will you increase your gift for this year? Would you consider advocating for this ministry with neighboring congregations to see if they would join us? I would very much appreciate your help in these ways to be more effective in my ministry.
As Pastor Emilio reminded us at our General Assembly, we are all called to this global mission, and each and every one of us has an important role in it. Thank you for accompanying me through your prayers, communications, and financial gifts so I am able to continue to accompany UMAVIDA here in Bolivia, serving together to share the new life that Jesus brings. As we wait with expectation to celebrate his life with joy, hope, peace and love during this season of Advent and Christmas, may we join together in one body to break the darkness and share the light.
Peace and blessings,
For more information:
Joining Hands Program: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/joininghands/
Joining Hands Bolivia—UMAVIDA profile:
Presbyterian work in Bolivia: http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/global/bolivia/
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 53
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