Mission Matters


Jose Luis Casal

A 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.

April 2019 — Resurrecting hope

Tracey King-Ortega, regional liaison, Central America
Presbyterian World Mission

Several years ago on a visit to Guatemala, I met with the general coordinator of The Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA). I was there to get things ready for a new mission co-worker assigned to accompany them in their work. I asked if there were any needs or concerns to be shared, so the co-worker could be preparing before arriving in Guatemala. I was told the co-worker should be sure to “come spiritually prepared to maintain hope in a place where hope isn’t readily seen.”

The global partner couldn’t emphasize enough the need to be nourished and encouraged by hope. Guatemala has become a country strangled by the grips of violence, corruption and insecurity. I could hear the exhaustion in her voice and her desire to be energized by Christ’s message, which for many has been stomped all over by the day-to-day realities.

I know about their daily reality but was genuinely surprised, as well as humbled, that our partners are asking us to keep hope alive, asking us to be their spiritual warriors, reminding them what hope is and why it is important. It surprised me because so often the case is just the reverse. When U.S. partners visit and experience the strength and faith of the people in Central America, despite seeing daunting circumstances of poverty and violence, they leave energized, in awe of people’s utter reliance on God. Hope is renewed. A place that has taught and, I believe, continues to teach hope was reaching out to U.S. mission partners, asking for something they have shared in abundance with travelers from the U.S. for years.

Another powerful memory I have related to hope is an image burned in my brain of a visit nearly 20 years ago to what was formerly the village of Posoltega in northern Nicaragua. It was about two months after Hurricane Mitch, and in this particular place, a mudslide had wiped out an entire village, burying nearly 3,000 people. As we walked around trying to make sense of it all, the heaviness of tragedy and loss enveloped us. I remember coming across human remains protruding through the caked mud. It was all I could do to push away thoughts of their last moments of life. And then, just a few yards away, I saw a single, small, brilliant, purple flower springing up through the mud. A sign of hope and rebirth. But rather than filling me with hope, I remember that it just made me mad. How dare there be hope where so much death and destruction had occurred? Here we are grieving, actively mourning for thousands, not understanding how anyone can recover from a tragedy of this magnitude. And yet there, right before me is this promise of new life.

I couldn’t see it in that moment, but that image taught me a great deal about my Christian faith. For isn’t that the crux of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The landscape is dim. The empire is crushing down, crucifying us. Just when we think we’ve given up and the oppressor has won, Jesus returns to assert that no, that is not the case, God wins! The kingdom is the prize that we have won, and hope gives us strength to live that truth anew each day.

These memories inform my understanding of mission. In doing partnership in mission, we are called to become bearers of hope for one another. This is not insignificant work. Hope is necessarily central to the Christian faith. Easter, Christ’s resurrection, is the ultimate source of the hope we have as Christians. But given the harsh reality of today’s world, hope is hard to come by and may even feel inappropriate and downright offensive. I have witnessed countless reasons for hopelessness — situations of poverty, injustice, exclusion and violence that are heartbreaking. But in the end, actively following God’s call through the gift of partnership, I have been led beyond desperation, and into hope. Not just “doing mission,” but “doing mission in partnership” has deepened and strengthened hope in me. The power of faith transforms death, but we can’t do that alone or in isolation. It is in relationship with our international mission partners that I have begun to understand that together, as the whole body of Christ, we are called to be an Easter people, people of unstoppable hope.

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