Today in the Mission Yearbook

Strangers discover their connection as children of God


Pastors from three countries find renewal at Montreat

December 27, 2018

Guatemalan, U.S. and Taiwanese pastors sing a hymn in Spanish. Photo by John McCall

Sometimes faith renewal happens in ways you would never imagine.

Mission co-worker John McCall, who has served in Taiwan for more than 20 years, works to build the leadership skills of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan. He leads groups of pastors who meet monthly to find encouragement and challenge, but he felt called to do more. He wanted to give the pastors he was mentoring an opportunity to find spiritual renewal.

He was successful, but the ripple effect went much further than anyone expected.

McCall served as pastor of Black Mountain Presbyterian Church in Western North Carolina for more than seven years. Black Mountain is next to Montreat Conference Center, a bucolic complex in the Blue Ridge Mountains. McCall thought the setting would be the perfect location for busy pastors to be renewed and refreshed.

With the help of Bobbie White, Western North Carolina Presbytery’s executive, the “Sowing the Seeds of Understanding: Ministry in a Global World” retreat was first offered in 2009. The retreat was offered again in 2016. This time, organizers invited three Guatemalan pastors, reflecting the presbytery’s long history of mission partnership with Guatemala. Two of those pastors were able to get visas to attend.

U.S. and Guatemalan pastors are prayer partners. Photo by John McCall

“We brought together this diverse group, from city and mountain, from different countries, to live together in community in a big, old house,” McCall said. “Every day, in everything we did, we used Mandarin, Spanish and English and learned how to trust each other. Among the Taiwanese we had at least five different people groups. And God did a beautiful thing among us. Each day as we shared meals together, worshiped together, studied the Bible together and shared life together, we caught a glimpse of God’s kingdom in our midst.”

They had silent time, “an hour to meet God in nature,” as well as small group discussions. The group also traveled to a Methodist church in Black Mountain to eat at their Open Table with the elderly, the lonely and the homeless. One pastor washed the feet of a homeless veteran, who told the group, “The last time I was face to face with an Asian, I was shooting at them. Now this Asian man is washing my feet in the name of Jesus.”

Another pastor said, “I had forgotten to enjoy Jesus. When I go back, I’m going to help our members remember how to enjoy the Lord.”

While staying with the group at Sylvan Lodge, McCall also interacted with a woman who was cleaning the room, a former prisoner on work release and a Christian. He recalled part of their conversation: “‘When I cleaned each room,’ she said, ‘I prayed for the pastor who would be staying there.’”

For two days, a group of about 20 U.S. Presbyterian pastors joined the group. Each U.S. pastor had an international prayer partner. “And while not everyone could speak English, they found a way to share prayer concerns and pray together,” he said. “We shared the joys and challenges of doing ministry in this day. And the participants found how much united us. We learned to trust God in the process, and the Holy Spirit led us into deeper understanding of those from at least three diverse cultures. It was wonderful to watch the American pastors be renewed by the faith of these pastors from Guatemala and Taiwan.”

In addition to his work with pastors, McCall teaches courses on ministry and spiritual formation at the seminaries of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan.

McCall hopes there will be other opportunities for pastors from Taiwan to find spiritual renewal at Montreat. “My hope for them in the North Carolina mountains was that they would have time to breathe deeply of God’s love for them,” he said. “I prayed that this time away from their families and their churches and communities would not be an escape, but instead a gift from God, and that they would return to high mountain villages and teeming cities to continue serving God with new joy, peace and vision. And now, the U.S. pastors will have prayer partners halfway across the world they are connected to in Christ’s trust and love.”

Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Montreat Conference Center

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Lacey Gilliam, PMA
Sharon Dunne Gillies, PW

Let us pray:

Lord, we praise you for the gifts that you have bestowed on each of us. Show us how to use those gifts to glorify you and to brighten the lives of others. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Daily Readings