Pastor answers God’s call to serve with people of East Central Africa


The Rev. Paula Cooper to serve four countries with booming church growth

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Rev. Paula Cooper joins PMA’s World Mission team. Katie Rhodes

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Paula Cooper describes her leadership style as one that “deliberately works toward developing a culture that values a collaboration of God’s people and their gifts for ministry.” And now she has answered God’s call to help the people of East Central Africa do just that.

Presbyterian World Mission has named Cooper as the new regional liaison for East Central Africa, serving Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda and Zambia. She succeeds Nancy Collins, who is retiring from service in 2019.

As regional liaison, Cooper will facilitate relationships with partner churches and institutions in the four countries, where the church is growing rapidly and pastoral training and leadership are needed. The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in Malawi and Zambia has a membership of more than 3 million and the Presbyterian Church in East Africa has over 4 million members. The Presbyterian Church of Rwanda is growing rapidly, currently with 400,000 congregants across the country.

“I am excited to have Paula coming on board as the East and Central Africa regional liaison and for the passion she has for connecting US Presbyterians with the wonderful work of Church in Africa, and her strong faith in Christ,” said Debbie Braaksma, coordinator for PMA’s Africa-Area office. “She is going to be a great addition to the Africa regional staff team.”

Although her faith journey was shaped and deepened as a member of Holy Trinity-Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Cooper is currently an ordained teaching elder of the Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery of St. Louis. She is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (PTS).

On her journey to PTS she served in a variety of ministries at Trinity-Bethlehem, including ruling elder, youth director, Christian education chairperson and worship committee chair. She spent time in the “urban mission field” as the executive director of The Youth Project and as a community organizer for Logan Olney Family Support Services, walking alongside the residents of the neighborhood as they worked toward a better quality of life through education, advocacy and truancy prevention. Her academic concentration at PTS was urban ministry and she earned a Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry through PTS’s Metro-Urban Institute.

One summer she visited Zambia to attend a conference on the Church’s responsibility in addressing HIV/AIDS in the region. Seven years later she returned when Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City named her a Phillips Talbot Global Ministry Fellow to serve with the Theological Education by Extension in Zambia. Although she will live in a different region of the country, she is looking forward to her return to Zambia.

Prior to receiving her Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology at PTS, she earned a Bachelor of Arts at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. In addition to her mission work she was a VITAS hospice chaplain, and from 2014-2017 she served as a designated pastor of Curby Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.

To support Cooper’s ministry, donate by phone at 800-872-3283.

To donate by mail, make check payable to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), designate E200539 on the memo line, and mail to PC(USA), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

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