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There’s No “I” in Mission: There Are Two

A Letter from Chenoa Stock, serving in Peru

August 2019

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I can imagine myself, about 14 years ago, having just finished my transformative Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) year in Kerala, India, being asked if I would be interested in serving as Companionship Facilitator for the new Joining Hands Network in Sri Lanka. I can hear the questions that came to my mind: “What do I have to offer? How can I support this network? Will I be useful in making this network grow? Am I right for this call?”

Notice the many “I”s in that reflection. I was only just learning about my vocation, but with a “one-I’d” mission perspective.

After serving for four years with the Praja Abhilasha Network in Sri Lanka, I was then offered the same position with the Joining Hands Network in Bolivia. But now, after this experience of accompanying and working with our Sri Lankan brothers and sisters on their campaign for land rights, I still had questions, but different ones. “Who are the partners? What are their struggles? What long-term sustainable change do they wish to achieve through the network mission? Who can support them/us in reaching those goals?”

My mission experience had changed me. It was moving me away from a closed perspective focused on myself, my plan, my expectations and my abilities. It was moving me towards a “two-I’d” mission that recognized our global partner’s invitation to me and my initiative to accept the call.

With that “two-I’d” mission perspective, God can do great things. During the eight years I served with the UMAVIDA Network, God’s call to justice guided us as we came together, both Bolivian and U.S. partners, to address environmental contamination amidst the many political and cultural obstacles. We were blessed to be a part of such an innovative mission and partnership.

And these years of blessings have brought experience and knowledge about the richness of the “two-I’d” mission and have led us to Peru on a family mission, where we continue to serve to facilitate the mission and partnership between our Peruvian global partners and U.S. congregations.

And what we have seen during our first delegation “season” these months is that the Invitation and Initiative are both strongly and faithfully present here.

During the month of July, we traveled and served with two congregations from different U.S. states with different mission foci and accompanying different global partners, but with the same love for the long-term partnership they have developed over the past many years with their local partner. Their partnerships are strong and stable because they follow the “two-I’d” mission by putting away theirs and their congregations’ agendas and listening to their partners’ Invitations. By listening to and learning from their partners, trust is built, partnership is developed and God’s mission is revealed and embodied in new and powerful ways.

Our time with Sharon Presbyterian Church (NC) was like traveling with family. We were a small group, but the love and friendship shared among those who had previously traveled many times together was mutually encouraging and enriching.

Yanama is a small town on the outskirts of Ayacucho, a mountainous province of southern Peru. Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope), a partner of the Joining Hands Peru Network, connected us to our work constructing netted roofs for family gardens with the women of the community. The women were the ones leading our work digging holes, cutting the wood, measuring the netting, and setting the roof. We could not have done it alone. Maybe the women could have done it without us, but we were there because of an Invitation to accompany them, and, in doing that, to provide support and show them that they are NOT alone in their struggles, but that we are walking with them, both through our presence and in prayer. Those roofs carry more love because of God’s “two-I’d” mission.

We also spent time in Huanta, a city further outside of Ayacucho, with Puriyninchik, an association formed to train and empower people with disabilities and special needs with domestic and day-to-day skills. This particular group and their entire work facility was created by Pastor Samuel Montes, a dedicated man and long-time partner of Sharon. Our time there included some work, such as putting in a sky light, dying wool and spooling thread. But the best part was just being with the association members, playing games with them and hearing their laughter echoing throughout the day.

Is there any other way to share in God’s mission? Well of course! Thankfully, the possibilities are endless, the invitations are being extended and U.S. congregations are listening for the call. Another faithful congregation with whom we traveled in July heard that call and invitation to partner and accepted it wholeheartedly. The First Presbyterian Church, Jackson (TN) team was composed of medics, pastors, and those who have a heart for mission. They ventured from Cusco on the six-hour, curvy, mountainous journey to the high jungle of Quillabamba to continue their partnership with Pastor Leopoldo Aguilar and the Evangelical Church of Peru (IEP).

Their mission at the Sajiruyoc IEP Bible Institute was two-fold. The medical team provided first aid classes to the IEP’s Women’s Bible League from surrounding church communities, empowering them with information to better care for their children and loved ones. An abundance of material was shared, questions were asked, demonstrations were given and each woman left with not only her own first aid kit, but with the power of knowledge.

The rest of the group worked on the land of the institute — planting banana and coconut trees around the perimeter, repairing a water pipe, building a rock wall to protect a walkway from landslides of the rainy season, and cutting wood that the women would use to cook. There was so much appreciation for the completion of each task. It was sunny and rainy, hot and chilly, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. We ended our service with a walk to a nearby waterfall to bask in God’s glorious Creation together.

And that is what this “two-I’d” mission is all about — basking in God’s Creation, God’s people, God’s love and justice, together in mutual and transformative partnership.

Our Peruvian partners and I are very grateful for you who are already accompanying, supporting and praying for us as partners and your mission co-worker, and we invite you to walk with us. Are both of your “I’s” open to hear the call, take the Initiative and accept the Invitation?

Peace and blessings,

Chenoa


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