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‘Thank you for challenging us!’


World Mission meets with Latin America, Caribbean partners

by Dennis A. Smith, World Mission regional liaison for South America | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Nearly 60 people representing 33 partner churches, theological seminaries and faith-based organizations joined Presbyterian Mission Agency staff at the consultation in Cartagena, Colombia, late last month. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — A Latin America/Caribbean partner consultation held in Cartagena, Colombia, late last month marked the end of a cycle of four international consultations with global partners that will provide input for mission strategy for the 21st century.

That was the assessment of the Rev. José Luis Casal, director of Presbyterian World Mission, which will build on the international consultations by hosting a series of regional gatherings in the U.S. to listen to mission advocates from local churches, presbyteries and synods.

The last time World Mission hosted major consultations with global mission partners was from 2010 to 2012. That process helped address three critical global issues: enabling evangelism and discipleship, combating the root causes of poverty and working for reconciliation in cultures of violence.

“In the last five years the world continues to change,” Casal said. “God continues his work of renewal. The hope of a new heaven and a new Earth are still the option for this new time. These consultations include an evaluation of our work during the last decade and focus on the future that God has for us.”

A Cuban by birth, Casal noted that Latin America and the Caribbean continue to face daunting challenges. One of the great lessons posed by the history of the region, he recalled, has been the ongoing struggle to be independent states, free to focus on ensuring the common good of their peoples. Current examples of that struggle include the embargo against Cuba and the threat of military intervention against Venezuela.

Nearly 60 people representing 33 partner churches, theological seminaries and faith-based organizations joined Presbyterian Mission Agency staff at the consultation in Cartagena. Presbyterians have worked in mission partnership in Latin America and the Caribbean for more than 170 years. Early mission initiatives included Chile (1845), Colombia (1856), Brazil (1859), Guatemala (1882) and Cuba (1890). Over time each resulted in the creation of independent denominations directed by local, creative leaders.

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, thanked participants for thoughtful and provocative table discussions. She enthusiastically commented: “Thank you for challenging us. We need to be challenged!”

Today, hundreds of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations relate to partners in the region through mission networks and partnership networks, praying for one another, sharing resources and discerning together how God is calling each to respond to the challenges represented by their local contexts.

The opening devotional reflection in Cartagena was led by the Rev. Blanca Cortés, dean of the Evangelical Faculty of Theological Studies in Managua, Nicaragua. As she glanced around the room, Cortés recalled that Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed, found in Matthew 13, reminds us that “the potential of God’s Realm — hidden in a tiny grain of mustard — sprouts forth in our relationships and provides the fertile space where God’s Spirit comes to nest.”

Dennis Smith is World Mission’s regional liaison for South America. Based in Buenos Aires, he works with 16 mission partners from Colombia to Argentina.

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