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PMAB Executive Committee looks into mission outreach in Minneapolis/St. Paul

Three-day meeting includes visit to church construction sight

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

ST. PAUL – After a full day of presentations and discussion on Monday, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Executive Committee took a field trip on Tuesday. The group is in the middle of a three-day retreat in St. Paul, Minnesota and stepped away from the conference room to learn about local mission outreach and church expansion.

Members of the PMAB Executive Committee pray with Gilo Agwa Gora, a part-time pastor in a 1001 new worshiping community serving the Anuak refugee and immigrant population of the Twin Cities. Photo by Rick Jones.

The morning began with a breakfast meeting with local ministers to learn how a Presbyterian and Lutheran partnership is making a difference in the lives of refugees.

Gilo Agwa Gora is a teaching elder in the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area as well as part-time pastor of Foundation of Life Faith Community, a 1001 new worshipping community, serving the Anuak refugee and immigrant population.  A native of Ethiopia, he works closely with families that have relocated from Ethiopia and South Sudan and has forged relationships through fellowship, counseling and ministry.

“When I listen to the stories of the people forced from their land in Ethiopia, I hurt for them. To work with them, you need to know and understand the root causes of their problems,” he said. “We who left our homeland and came here, are thankful and need to work hand in hand to be friends with those who welcome us.”

Through the partnership, Gora hopes to educate children, both locally and abroad, to create a better understanding of mission.

Justin Grimm, director for Evangelical Mission and assistant to the Bishop for Next Generation Ministries for the St. Paul Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, focuses on new congregations including two Chinese fellowships, two Latino, as well as several Hmong and African groups.

PMAB Executive Committee members, in safety gear, tour the new construction at Westminster Presbyterian. The expansion extends the church one city block. Photo by Kathy Francis.

“Together with the PC(USA), we have created a joint ministry for people in the greater St. Paul area,” he said. “Funding and supervision are shared in what I hope is the first of many opportunities. We need to come together and work in ways that make us stronger.”

Grimm says the two denominations are looking for other ways to partner in the Twin Cities.

Following the breakfast meeting, the PMAB Executive Committee strapped on safety vests, goggles, gloves and hardhats for a tour of the $53 million construction/renovation project at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis.

The work will extend the church facilities a full city block and includes the construction of new classrooms, parking garage and activity center, along with updated kitchen, library and other facilities.

Work was made possible by a generous gift to the church as well as some additional financing, including help from the Presbyterian Loan Investment Program (PILP.)

PMAB Member David Shinn, hosts the executive committee at his church, Westminster Presbyterian in downtown Minneapolis. The church is undergoing a $53 million dollar renovation/construction project. Photo by Rick Jones.

“Approximately 25 percent of the new construction is going toward outreach and partnership with St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development, to provide outreach for children with autism and those coming out of trauma situations,” said Meghan Gage-Finn, executive associate pastor. “Eight million dollars of this construction campaign is going toward mission, there was never any question about that. We want to provide outreach to the community, work with refugee families and provide opportunities for young adult development.”

The new construction provides plenty of open and green space according to the church’s director of operations, Dennis Alfton.

“We wanted to provide a welcoming space that including a meditation garden and a lot of green,” said Alfton. “We are building a rainwater retention system that will collect thousands of gallons of water for the plants and trees. We plan to use the water extensively through out the building.”

The church began the new construction in May 2016 and has a projected end date of February 2018.

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