Join the Presbytery of Arkansas for a Zoom-based Lenten Bible study on mission and the church

Mission co-worker the Rev. Dori Hjalmarson provides a format to ask important questions about mission

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — During the ongoing pandemic, mission co-workers have looked for ways to continue their interpretation assignments in new and creative ways. The Rev. Dori Hjalmarson is doing just that.

Working with the Presbytery of Arkansas, she will lead a six-week Zoom Bible study on mission and the church. Because the course is being held online, the presbytery is offering the opportunity to participate to all individuals and congregations within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

In her work, Hjalmarson accompanies, coordinates and coaches lay and pastoral leaders of the Presbyterian Church of Honduras as they broaden theological education and strengthen the church’s leadership capacity. One component of the program is an intensive, two-year collaboration with the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) of Costa Rica, which offers an intensive two-year theological education program for pastoral and lay leadership.

The seed for offering the Lenten Bible study was planted in November 2020 when two deadly hurricanes, Eta and Iota, hit Honduras and caused widespread damage throughout the region.

When Hurricanes Eta and Iota struck Honduras in November 2020, “the church felt called to act,” according to mission co-worker the Rev. Dori Hjalmarson, including this food distribution that occurred in February 2021. (Photo by Dori Hjalmarson)

“When the hurricanes hit, the church felt called to act,” said Hjalmarson. “They were thanking God that their communities were spared but felt the urgent need to go toward the suffering they were seeing and serve their neighbors. They knew there was a need, and they knew that they could do something.”

However, Hjalmarson said, at first the call was not universally felt. People had questions.

“Isn’t the church called to care for its members’ spiritual well-being, and leave the disaster response to the experts and government agencies? Should the church not seek to evangelize among the communities suffering from the natural disaster, in addition to providing food and medicine? Why are we doing this?”

The discussions quickly reached a focal point, she said. “Are we the recipients of mission or are we called to do God’s mission in our communities?” They were questions she felt U.S. churches were asking as well.

To answer those questions, the Honduran church turned to scripture and to a study developed by UBL called “Church, Community and Mission,” which is part of the regular curriculum in the Presbyterian Church of Honduras’ pastoral preparation program.

Honduran Presbyterian volunteers offered a medical clinic to residents of Choncó, Copán, Honduras, in February 2021. (Photo by Dori Hjalmarson)

Church and community leaders came together not knowing if they could afford to donate even one bag of food or one dose of medicine. What they did know was that they had the desire to help.

Church volunteers identified four communities unaffiliated with the church and developed a medical “brigade.” Those communities had been totally cut off from medical and humanitarian aid. They offered emergency food and provided supplies to replant the crops that had been destroyed.

During an overnight visit, the group began to study the theology of the questions they were asking and worked through a self-reflective process about the mission of the church. Questions included “When we say mission, what do we mean?” and “What is the church’s relationship to community?”

After returning home the group continued to meet, with the aim of reorganizing and reorienting their own church’s efforts. There are 26 congregations in the Honduran Presbyterian Church, and they are exploring the possibility of developing a mission arm of the church.

“We had great success with the Honduran Church and the Honduran Mission Network,” said Hjalmarson. “This study provided a good a way to ask these important questions and provided a format for any group or a congregation to do the same.”

Since there was no English translation for the curriculum, Hjalmarson, with the help of regional liaison the Rev. Leslie Vogel and PMA’s Global Language Resources, completed the translation for the Presbytery of Arkansas. Zoom provided the opportunity to share it with a much larger audience.

The Bible study will be offered at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, 7 p.m. Central Time, each Thursday from March 3 through April 7. Register in advance by clicking here. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join the meeting.

To support the ministry of the Rev. Dori Hjalmarson, a gift can be made in her honor. Click here to give to mission and ministry. Mission co-workers are notified when a gift is made in their honor.

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