What a Gift!

A Letter from Paula Cooper

December 2019 

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“For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So[,] faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed, they have; for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Romans 10:13-18, NRSV).”

As one of the latest regional liaisons hired to serve East Central Africa, I have been traveling a lot, and sometimes it feels as though I am living in and out of airports rather than in my home in Lusaka, Zambia. You know what, though? I can’t complain! As I travel within the countries that I serve – Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia – I have the opportunity to see God’s amazing work through the hands, voices, eyes and feet of our International Presbyterian partners. What a gift! Partners who are trying to repair the brokenness among God’s children. Partners who in their own ways are attempting to serve and provide for “the least of these” – through means like building and maintaining community schools and theological institutions. Health facilities and clinics are being built and seeking well-rounded professionals to assist with the pregnant, sick and at-home patients. Chaplains are being trained to minister in hospitals, clinics or prisons. Evangelists and lay leaders are being educated and prepared for formal church ministry. Women and men are learning vocational skills for sustainable incomes, or how to save money to provide for their families, or to become entrepreneurs of chicken coops, pig farming, etc. Children are being safely sheltered from the wiles of the streets, from predators wanting to marry underaged girls or families mutilating their girl child (FGM). What a gift!

“For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” (Romans 10: 13-14, NRSV)

All projects and ministries are designed with the intention of assisting God’s children to see the transforming hope and light that God offers to all of us – to break the bond of brokenness.

In addition to efforts of transformation, in spite of what appears to sound hopeless or to be broken, within large populations in the countries that I serve there is an unexplainable dance of joy exulted in the worship services of “the least of these!”

“The Word (of God) is near us, on our lips and their hearts!” (Romans 10:8, NRSV)

When I travel home to the States visiting congregations, and presbyteries, or attend mission network conferences to share my ministry and experiences, attendees want to know more about our partners. I hear questions like, what can we do to build relationships; what can we do to join in that dance of joy that our brothers and sisters demonstrate in worship! They want to hear more stories of that despair being transformed into hope and joy, and I see them trying to envision how they can share in the struggle and the hope of our partners in Africa. They are inspired. They are interested. I hear it on their lips. I feel that it’s from their hearts. They want to come alongside our partners; to join in the work that God is doing across the ocean. What a gift!

Paula Cooper's induction service

From left to right: Reverend Thomson Mkandawire, stated clerk, and Reverend Sauros Phaika, moderator, both of UPCSA; Reverend Chizason Chunda, moderator, and Reverend Sevatt Kabaghe, general secretary, both of CCAP. In the back row are distinguished lecturers, clergy, and lay-persons. Photo by Ms. Diane Cusick at my induction service on Sunday, June 2, 2019, a collaborative effort of both our partners in Zambia – the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) and the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa in Zambia (UPCSA).

“And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15, NRSV)

I respond, exclaiming, let’s explore those questions. Let’s explore how we begin long-lasting relationships by reviewing mission resources. Let’s explore the idea of short-term mission trips. Let’s go join our partners in their worship services. Let’s just go and join them in the dance! Let’s join them in the work that God called us to do. Let’s go and see, learn, teach, share, talk, cry, laugh, and pray, together.

“So, faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, NRSV)

As I said earlier, it appears that I live in the airports but for the most part I can laugh about it, because for some crazy reason, I love it! I think I love it because God has entrusted me with this opportunity, this gift. A gift that allows me to hear messages of hope and love from God’s children both in Africa and America! A gift that allows me to share the message about how God is using me as an instrument, of God’s Love to accomplish God’s work on both sides of the ocean. Also, I love talking about God! What a gift to be able share and hear one another’s stories of struggle and desire with people who want to join hands with one another across the ocean; to experience and see how others are inspired and say to themselves I want to join the dance! I have the opportunity – the gift – to bring a message from the U.S. to Africa, and vice versa!

Let us possess the “beautiful feet of those who bring Good News” by sharing the wonderful ways God is using us to fulfill God’s missional work. This Christmas Season could be your chance to either be a gift or give a gift! I pray that you will be motivated to join me in this ministry and be a gift to God’s work in Africa. Would you, please, consider giving a gift to the ministry of the regional liaison of East Central Africa so that this mission, the witnessing to God’s mission, continues to be a gift that brings the Good News to others?

Merry Christmas from my beautiful feet to yours!

Reverend Paula V. Cooper


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