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Mission in partnership highlighted at World Mission Café

Presbyterians do mission in partnership

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

At last week’s World Mission Café, a GA 222 event, mission co-workers and staff, ecumenical partners, mid-council leaders and congregational representatives gathered to share stories of the joys and struggles of day-to-day mission partnership around the world.

World Mission Cafe. L to R: Tracey King-Ortega, Janet Guyer, Burkhard Paetzold, Don Choi, and Doug Tilton. Photo by Kathy Melvin.

Left to Right: Tracey King-Ortega, Janet Guyer, Burkhard Paetzold, Don Choi, and Doug Tilton. Photo by Kathy Melvin.

Doug Tilton, Presbyterian World Mission’s regional liaison for Southern Africa and Madagascar, a mission co-worker for more than 25 years and panel moderator for the event, said time and time again, he has seen the importance of a ministry of accompaniment. “There is an African proverb,” he said, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Tracey King-Ortega, mission co-worker and regional liaison for Central America has seen the importance of working together. In El Salvador, sometimes dangerous and unstable, she worked with partners to look in-depth at how the church could be the voice of peace and reconciliation in that part of the world. Working together they created the first “Ecumenical Conference for Peace and Reconciliation,” which is ongoing.

But she quickly pointed out that the mission of accompaniment is a powerful two-way street. “We were celebrating my husband’s birthday a few weeks ago with friends and associates at home (in Managua, Nicaragua).  Everyone was on their way home when I learned my father had passed away. As soon as they heard, they immediately turned around and came back to be with me, covering me in love and prayers.”

Janet Guyer, mission co-worker in Malawi, believes our ecumenical partners help us “look at things with new eyes, to look at ourselves in new ways.” In 2002 she was invited to take her experience in HIV and AIDS ministry to Africa. For the next 11 years she served as a regional AIDS consultant working with partner churches in Southern Africa to prevent the spread of AIDS and care for those affected by it.

Undaunted by the enormity of the epidemic, and working with church partners, together they developed the “Footprints” program, training teams in each village to become local contacts to combat misinformation and to provide advice. They quickly became revered experts.

Burkhard Paetzold, mission co-worker in Germany since 1998 and regional liaison for Central Eastern Europe, talked about how young adults bring energy and new ideas to his work with the Roma people. Don Choi, new mission co-worker in Indonesia told the group a story he had heard about the aftermath of violence at the end of the 1990s between Christians and Muslims. Normalcy began with the women sat down together to tell their stories. “In the morning,” he said, “the village was a different place.”

René Myers, mission engagement advisor, relayed a favorite story from Scott Parker, associate for ecumenical partnerships  in Syria,Lebanon, and Iraq. In 2009, Syrian Christians had to choose whether to worship discretely and keep a low profile or to reach out into the community, which could be dangerous. They chose to reach out, building a Christian pre-school that began with 27 students. Rapidly it grew to 400 students, 87 percent of them Muslim. The growth of the school began to concern the local Imams and they told the parents to withdraw the students. Enter the power of motherhood.

The mothers told the Imams they would not take their children out of the school. They liked that their children learning “the ways of peace, love and forgiveness.” Instead they asked the Christian community to build another school for elementary students.

In the audience was Dave Barstow of Westlake Hills in Austin, which has a partnership with Lusaka, Zambia. At first the church felt it had to “build something” or “do something” on mission trips. But they quickly learned the best way to be effective partners was to do whatever the partner was doing. They never went with an agenda until years into the partnership. This week, while he was attending GA, his wife was in Zambia working on the first joint project. The Zambian community decided to build to build a special building. Its name is the “Westlake Hills Prayer House.”

World Mission has resources to equip you as you prepare for, engage in and reflect on God’s mission. Whether you are a church or presbytery, a small group or synod, World Mission has resources designed for you. Click on or contact Ellen.Sherby@

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