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New mission co-worker answers God’s call to serve in Honduras

Dori Kay Hjalmarson ordained in New Mexico

By Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

“Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord? 
I have heard You calling in the night
I will go, Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.”

LOUISVILLE – The hymn “Here I am, Lord” floated through the sanctuary at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in New Mexico Sunday, and just moments later, Dori Kay Hjalmarson walked down the aisle into her ordination and her new role as a mission co-worker in Honduras.

Las Placitas was an appropriate springboard to launch Hjalmarson into mission. Rev. Ken Cuthbertson, parish associate, says the congregation dates to the late 1800s, and like many of the churches in the Santa Fe Presbytery, it was originally a Hispanic mission church. Several of the congregation’s ministers have served nationally as missionaries and mission co-workers in the church’s 123-year history. The current pastor, Rev. Drew Henry, worked and studied for several years in Argentina. They know the importance of supporting her work.

Rev. Dori Kay Hjalmarson (center) with the commission that approved and oversaw her ordination to the ministry. (Photo supplied)

Hjalmarson grew up in New Mexico and has had a relationship with Central America since 1993 when her parents took her to visit her aunt in El Salvador, who happens to be mission co-worker, Rev. Leslie Vogel, currently serving in Guatemala. Vogel participated in the ordination service for her niece.

“At one moment of the church service Sunday I was kneeling and feeling the weight of so many hands — those of my childhood church pastor, those of my grandmother and my current colleagues in mission — touching me, pressing on my shoulders and head and grasping my hands,” said Hjalmarson. “My dear friend and mentor was praying, calling down God’s blessing. Tears were streaming down my face and I felt changed.”

For the cover of the order of worship, she choose an image of Jesus’ baptism in mosaic. “I didn’t know when I chose that image how accurate it would be,” she said. “Jesus is so small in the river, surrounded and dwarfed by mountains and trees and by the column of light pouring from heaven. If Jesus’ experience was anything like mine he felt both lifted and burdened, with the yoke on his neck, and the buoyancy of the water lifting him up, easing his burden, with comfort of the light of divine presence surrounding him, with colleagues saying we have your back. Not even Jesus worked alone.”

The new Rev. Hjalmarson will move to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, this fall to begin working in organizational, leadership and theological development with the Presbyterian Church of Honduras. Among many duties, she will serve as the primary Presbyterian World Mission liaison to the Honduras Mission Network, providing in-country experience, as well as coordinating the partnership between the Presbyterian Church of Honduras and the PC(USA).

In Honduras, she will coordinate and coach lay and pastoral leadership in the Presbyterian Church of Honduras as the denomination seeks to strengthen leadership capacity and broaden theological education.

The Presbyterian Church in Honduras consists of 18 Presbyterian churches located in a 60-mile radius of the capital city, Tegucigalpa, that enthusiastically attend church Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Honduras is a largely mountainous, sparsely populated country in Central America, once the center of the Mayan empire. Throughout most of the 20th century, the country was dominated by military dictatorships, but since the late 1980s democracy has strengthened. The per capita income of the country is one of the lowest in Latin America, having improved slightly since 1990.

Rev. Hjalmarson graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and worked as a reporter and editor for the Lexington Herald-Leader. She heard God’s call and entered San Francisco Theological Seminary where she received a master’s degree in divinity. She worked as a chaplain-resident at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco in 2015-2016. Before joining World Mission, she was one of two spiritual care coordinators for Heartland Hospice in Albuquerque.

Her selection as a full-time mission co-worker was a collective process of discernment with World Mission and the Honduras Mission Network, along with Carlisle, Arkansas and Tampa Bay presbyteries. These presbyteries will not only continue to support Hjalmarson financially, but also with prayers and accompaniment in many forms.

The position in Honduras is the result of a new approach approved by the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board. Before a mission co-worker is sent to serve, at least half of the total funding needed for a 4-year term must be committed in advance as restricted gifts for that position. The mission network, congregation or presbytery will be included as a key constituent in the assessment of the candidate for the position.

 “I thank God for Rev. Dori’s life and ministry and for the Presbytery of Santa Fe for sharing this gift with the larger Church to participate in God’s mission in Honduras,” said Valdir Franca, World Mission’s area coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean. “These are exciting times for the Church to further the involvement with the Presbytery of Honduras in theological education, new church development, social outreach and deepening partnership.”

To support Rev. Hjalmarson’s work in Honduras, click here.


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