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Mission Matters

 

A bi-monthly update from World Mission, a ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency

The Mission Matters column addresses the impact of Presbyterian mission in the world and the issues that affect mission co-workers, the people we walk alongside and assist in service to God, and our partners around the globe.


Partnership in Mission: A New Perspective

July 2024

Ryan White is a mission co-worker and regional liaison for Central and Northern Europe. He serves with his wife, Alethia White. To learn more about their ministry and subscribe to their letters, visit their Mission Connections page.

One of the opportunities we have as mission co-workers is to visit U.S. constituents and share about the work of our global partners. Because “Presbyterians do mission in partnership,” we value these opportunities to draw connections between what is happening with our global partners and local U.S. congregations.

Since the foci and priorities of Matthew 25 are immense and sometimes seem impossible from a global level, at the local level, when congregations engage in these issues, it leads to collective change that can grow to have a great impact.

As the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) is guided by the Matthew 25 initiative, we share how this guides our connections with global partners. In conversations with global partners, we share the priorities of the PMA and listen to the priorities they share with us, mutually discerning where there may be areas of collaboration. One of the important things we have learned is that the Matthew 25 foci are not independent of one another but deeply interconnected, and in our region, migration is a common theme.

For many years, we have tried to think about how we might approach itineration in more sustainable ways — sustainable for our family and the environment. We recognize the importance of traveling to be with local congregations in person, but also the environmental impact this has. When some opportunities to visit a few congregations in the Northeast developed, I decided to attempt traveling with my bicycle and by train.

Cycling has been a main hobby for me over the past 20 years, but this was the most ambitious thing I would attempt. As my departure date drew nearer, I became anxious that something would happen that would interrupt the plans. I feared that my body may not support the whole trip or that I would not make it to a destination in time. But as I shared my plans with each congregation, they were all supportive and offered assistance if needed.

I was asked where I found hope amid the immense issues discussed. I responded that we find hope in the conversations with our partners, hearing and seeing what they are doing to address the issues and challenges.

As someone who has embraced the value of independence and the dependability of fossil fuel transportation, looking for alternatives challenged both. At times, I was forced to be dependent on others and ask for help, and at times, assistance by car was helpful. We have not taken the risks and necessary steps over the years to address the challenges scientists have warned us about, and now we are faced with a crisis. But when we set ambitious goals, even if we do not achieve all of them, we will often achieve more than we think is possible.

One of the aspects of cycling that I appreciate is the way that it can be both physically and mentally meditative. The rhythmic pedaling and time for contemplation force me to slow down from the often-hectic rhythm of work and life and offer space to think and pray. One of the reasons I wanted to cycle to my destinations was to journey by different roads and see parts of the country I would not normally see taking the fastest route by car. I enjoyed seeing the variety of natural beauty and the various communities I passed through. But I was also struck by the multitude of roadkill that I passed. It is different to pass a creature dead on the side of the road riding a bicycle instead of in a car. I was physically closer to the creature and saw it longer than I would by car, and I was confronted more by the impact we have on the natural world. And yet, I also saw the flies and decomposition that would feed future life. As I journeyed, I developed a prayer that I would say when passing each creature: “O Creator, I mourn with you the life that was taken (pause) and pray that this life would return to the earth.”

In total, the amount of emissions saved on my travel by bicycle instead of by car was approximately 240 kg/CO2 in addition to what was saved by train travel. The travel did take longer by a few days overall, as I covered each day about the distance one could travel in two to three hours by car. But it was a meaningful way to travel personally, and the way it changed my interactions with those I visited and stayed with.

But when we set ambitious goals, even if we do not achieve all of them, we will often achieve more than we think is possible.

At one visit following my sharing, I was asked where I found hope amid the immense issues discussed. I responded that we find hope in the conversations with our partners, hearing and seeing what they are doing to address the issues and challenges. For most, it is not a question of hope or not, but being compelled to respond to the issues in their context. On the ride to my next visit, I realized that the other place I find hope is in the conversations with local congregations, listening and learning how they are engaged in their local context. Since the foci and priorities of Matthew 25 are immense and sometimes seem impossible from a global level, at the local level, when congregations engage in these issues, it leads to collective change that can grow to have a great impact.

While we cannot find alternative transportation for every visit during our time of itineration and must still rely on fossil fuel methods, and the ability to travel by bicycle for such distances is not something that I will always be able to do and may not be possible for others, I do believe that we all can be intentional about changes we can make that reduce our individual and collective carbon footprint. We may be surprised by what we gain along the way.

Ryan White
Regional Liaison
Northern & Central Europe
July, 2024


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