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Mission co-workers reinvent what mission interpretation looks like during the pandemic


Virtual interpretation assignment comes with its own set of challenges and rewards

May 23, 2022

The Revs. Scott and Elmarie Parker have served in the Middle East since 2013. (Contributed photo)

To accompany congregations on their missional journey, mission co-workers periodically return to the U.S. to travel around the country for interpretation assignment.

Like nearly everything else, that changed with the pandemic. This year, two mission co-worker couples will forge a virtual path to meet with their supporting churches.

For the Revs. Scott and Elmarie Parker, serving in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, among their many challenges is that at their home in Beirut they have electricity and an internet connection only for a few hours each day, making it nearly impossible to commit to an interpretation schedule.

So, they came to the U.S. to shelter-in-place and travel time zones from their family homes in Oregon and Nebraska. They met with mission committees and preached virtually, but the way they approached the process went far beyond their travel schedule.

They invited congregations into a collaborative process, finding out what would be the most meaningful way to connect with their congregation or presbytery.

“It’s been great to communicate that way,” Elmarie Parker said by phone. “Just to let them know we are aware that they are exhausted, and we know things are all over the place. We’re not trying to ask them to fit into our modalities. We offer them a list of possibilities. Does this connect? Does it spark another idea?”

Most of their Sundays are already booked with multiple churches in multiple time zones. They have plans to meet with teenagers during Sunday school and dialogue with members of the Syria Lebanon Partnership Network. Scott Parker will also be doing some sessions about the trauma/resiliency work he does with Strong Kids program in Lebanon.

“On one hand, Zoom gives us the chance to connect with some people we might not be able to connect with in person,” said Scott. “At the same time, you don’t get to have dinner with the mission team and spend the night with a church member in their home. You don’t have the mutuality. You also don’t get to see the great stuff they are doing and celebrate with them.”

Elmarie agrees.

“Interpretation is much more than sharing the work of World Mission,” she said. “It’s about mutual encouragement, mutual learning and mutual collaboration.”

She said the congregations they are getting the most creative responses from are the ones they have visited in person in the past. Some of their congregations have supported them for nearly nine years. She said some of the people who have visited the region are often very concerned about the people and the partners in the region whom they have met and want to know how they are faring in the current context.

“It’s such a gift to be in worship with these people,” said Elmarie. “The gift of being in this body together is worship. It nourishes our spirits and rejuvenates us.”

The Parkers have served in Lebanon since 2013 — Elmarie as regional liaison for Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and Scott as an associate for Ecumenical Partnerships.

The Rev. Ryan White and Alethia White, serving in Berlin, are also on interpretation assignment. They are part of World Mission’s Europe and the Middle East team and have been working with the Parkers to share knowledge and events that impact both of their regions.

“Virtual IA has given us the opportunity to stretch our usual capacity,” said Alethia. “We will be able to reach more time zones and avoid the environmental impact caused by extensive travel.” She said there are a number of new supporting presbyteries and churches they are looking forward to connecting with.

To support the ministry of Scott and Elmarie Parker or Ryan and Alethia White, a gift can be made in her honor. Click here to give to Mission Personnel Support. Mission co-workers are notified when a gift is made in their honor.

Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Daily Readings

Today’s Focus: Revs. Scott & Elmarie Parker reinventing mission interpretation

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Eva Slayton, Mission Specialist, 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Adam Slutzky, Directory, Project Delivery, Strategic Planning & Execution, Board of Pensions

Let us pray

Most gracious God, we seek your presence whenever and wherever we gather in Christ’s name. We know you watch over us and lead us. Continue to bless us as we look for ways to share our ministry with brothers and sisters near and far. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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