A letter from Luta Garbat-Welch in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from Malawi
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Greetings from colder than it should be in May in Kentucky!
Since early March we have been on interpretation assignment (IA), when we interpret the work of our church partners in Malawi, Zambia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan to local congregations here in the U.S.A. For those of you whom we have seen, it truly has been a joy to reconnect with people we met during IA before we left for Malawi two years ago, and to meet the faces of new friends and supporters we didn’t have a chance to meet before we left. We have shared with many of you that it means so much to us to connect faces and places with names; it makes the connection and support more tangible for us. Thank you to all of you who have welcomed us into your churches and homes; we have felt your hospitality and your commitment to the work of God around the world.
During IA we are in a new church each Sunday, often in a new state, sharing about how we see God at work in Africa. However, as we meet with churches, we feel that IA gives us an even broader view of the worldwide work of the church. We are privileged to see and hear about the work of God and God’s church all over the U.S.A. We want to share with you two visits that particularly touched our hearts and renewed our hope during this time.
The Sunday we visited Trabuco Presbyterian Church in Trabuco, California, was Youth Sunday, and the focus was the youth group’s mission experience in Hollywood, California. The youth of Trabuco visited DOOR Hollywood, where they participated in the Discover program, which “engages participants in the work of moving beyond single stories to the hard task of racial reconciliation through the doorway of service” (http://www.doornetwork.org/losangeles). During the day the youth served with a variety of populations, through agencies serving homeless populations, food banks, and gang prevention programs, “hearing the stories and witnessing the struggles and vitality of agency clients,” and in the evenings they heard “testimonials from folks who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, homelessness”; being challenged to “see the face of God when we all tap into our vulnerabilities, together.” The youth shared how their perspectives changed after serving with and among youth of color and the homeless, and a member of DOOR, Toni White, shared her testimony of her rise to fame and subsequent homelessness. By the end of their sharing I was in tears experiencing how profoundly God is moving his church to deep racial reconciliation and witnessing the wisdom of Trabuco’s leadership in choosing Los Angeles for the youth’s mission trip. DOOR talks about hearing more than the “single story,” challenging us to see the rich, nuanced life of each person, how God sees each person, rather than our stereotypical script of a homeless man, a single mom, or an orphan. We were reminded of Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk on the “danger of a single story”; if you haven’t watched it, we encourage you watch it. While CHE on the surface is about health, development and evangelism, at it’s core it’s about returning dignity to people, seeing each person as loved wholly and dearly by God. DOOR may not be doing ‘CHE,’ but they are working to restore the single story of “us” serving “them.” Through DOOR the youth of Trabuco have been exposed to how mission should not be about “us” serving “them,” and that mission is a part of God’s call in all our lives in all parts of the world. The icing on the cake is that DOOR partners with PC(USA) Mission Agency’s Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program, a one-year service opportunity for young adults. To learn more about DOOR go to: http://www.doornetwork.org/. To learn more about YAV go to: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/yav/sites/.
In Wytheville, Va., we visited First Presbyterian Church on the first Sunday that Cove Presbyterian Church was opened up for monthly Sunday evening hymnsings. According to the Wytheville Department of Museums, the building itself, the “little brick church,” has served as a “schoolhouse, a makeshift hospital for Union soldiers… and during its first 50 years, a house of worship for Methodists as well as Presbyterians.” Once a month during the summer members of First Presbyterian Church of Whytheville and members from the local community come together for an evening hymnsing. After a brief half-hour service, the next half hour participants call out hymn numbers from an old hymnal and a sing-along chorus book and the pianist leads the group in singing. Jeremy and I love hymns. We sang with the congregation while we watched the sunset over the hills through the windows—the music and the view were breathtaking.
Jeremy and I were moved by the heritage represented in the church and in the worship, reminding us that while God is ever moving, God is also ever constant. It was a reminder of the importance of the traditions and culture that shape us and inform our faith. A tangible expression of God from cultures of the U.S.A.
Our prayer request to those of you have heard us speak has been that God will bring us a spirit of new hope and rejuvenation. This time of IA, while honestly also exhausting, has been one where we are seeing and experiencing that God is moving God’s people to faith and action all over the world, and that is bringing new hope for us.
Our time of IA is quickly coming to an end; in the next few weeks we will be visiting a few more churches and then settling in to wait for the arrival of our second child. We are excited for whatever rest our maternity and paternity leave can provide us in the midst of caring for a baby and a toddler and soaking up some time with family. Thank you again for all that you do to spread God’s love, to engage in your local community, and to partner with the global church.
Luta and Jeremy
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