Group of 15 is commissioned at PC(USA) chapel service
by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – On the eve of International Day of Peace, 15 peacemakers from around the world arrived in the U.S. to begin their two-week visit. From now until Oct. 16 the participants will scatter across the country speaking with churches, public and private schools, universities, women and men’s groups and much more. Organizers say this is the largest group to participate as International Peacemakers.
On Wednesday morning, the 15 gathered at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s national offices in Louisville, Kentucky, to take part in a chapel commissioning service. Each of the peacemakers had a part of the service which included prayer and song.
Manh Khac Nguyen, from Vietnam, gave the Prayer of Confession.
“Holy God, merciful and mighty, you call us to seek good and not evil. You call us to establish justice so that all may live in peace,” he prayed. “But we trample the poor, we oppress the weak and we push aside the needy. We take what is not ours, ignore the words of your prophets, and silence the voices of truth.”
In the prayer for the world, peacemakers Paola Schellenbaum of Italy, Samuel Akhtar of Pakistan and Herman Kumara of Sri Lanka shared concern for those facing war and famine.
“In the past year, we have heard the weapons and seen the blood of mass shootings and public acts of violence on streets, in malls, in schools and office buildings, picnics, public rallies in towns and villages all over the world,” said Akhtar.
“In so many parts of the world today, the air is tense with waiting, uncertainty and insecurity,” said Schellenbaum. “From ravaged lands, destroyed by war, your peoples lift their hands to you. We pray for stillness, justice and for peace to come and to last.”
“In all conflicts, we pray for negotiations that can address the roots of historical conflicts. We pray for a commitment to human rights for all people and the protection of all lives. We pray for effective international intervention to ensure justice, safety and well-being for all,” said Kumara. “We pray for those facing food-insecurity issues, humanitarian aide and rebuilding where earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides and flooding have occurred.”
Following the commissioning service, the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), cited the Great Commission as he welcomed the peacemakers.
“When we use the word ‘go’ by itself, it means you, its personal. That’s the commission to all of us as we come to do the work of our faith,” he said. “We are deeply honored to meet you and know you have come this way to help us become better Christians. We need to hear the gospel in the U.S.A.”
Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, Co-Moderators for the 222nd General Assembly, also address the group.
“We have circled the globe and have seen peacemakers up close and personal,” said Anderson. “We count ourselves as blessed to be your sisters in Christ. You are in our prayers constantly.”
“We are so excited for what is ahead of you. You will have the most wonderful experience and we hope it brings you closer to God and each other,” said Edmiston. “We need you to share the gospel.”
Sara Lisherness, director of the mission agency’s Compassion, Peace and Justice ministry, began her work with PC(USA) in the Peacemaking Program.
“You are part of a 37-year legacy. Your presence in the U.S. has been profound, moved people, and changed people’s lives in ways you may never know,” she said. “For every face you meet and person you encounter; you might be transforming someone’s life. It may not be next week or next month. But you are a blessing to our church.”
The peacemakers will spend two days in orientation, sharing stories and meeting with church leaders. Other countries represented by this year’s group include: Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Myanmar, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Ukraine.
The International Peacemaking Program is made possible by gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering.
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