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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Welcoming the stranger

Synod of the Covenant hosts international exchange program for nearly 30 years


January 16, 2018

For nearly three decades the Synod of the Covenant (Michigan and Ohio) has participated in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Mission to the USA program. The synod began participating in the effort, which links congregations in the synod with mission partners, in 1989.

Each host congregation helps the mission partner become fully immersed in the life of the local church. Mission partners and congregations spend three weeks together working to break down cultural barriers while allowing the mission partners and members of the host congregations to become brothers and sisters in Christ. Mission partners and congregation members share worship, Bible study, pastoral care, meals and much more.

Jozef Hehanussa from Jogyakarta, Indonesia, hosted by First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh [Michigan] adds his country to and image of the world painted by a member of the congregation. (Photo provided)

“This effort was started by the national [PC(USA)] church quite some time ago,” said Eileen Best, resource center director for the Presbytery of Lake Michigan and program coordinator for the past three years. “However, the Synod of the Covenant is the only synod that continued its participation. This program is great because it allows individuals to become fully engaged in the life and day-to-day activities of the host church. That helps to build long-lasting relationships that develop into partner relationships.”

Each year the program features a theme reflecting a significant issue in the life of the church. Past focus areas have included topics such as the Belhar Confession. In 2013, Mission partners from South Africa were invited to the synod to share their experiences. For 2014–2016, the focus was the Middle East. For 2017–2019, the focus  is Muslim/Christian relationships in countries where the population has a Muslim majority.

In conjunction with that focus, six churches in the synod recently hosted five mission partners from Indonesia —four pastors from Presbyterian churches and a university professor.

“We invited church leaders where there is a Muslim majority because those church leaders have lots of experience working in an interfaith situation in their home churches,” said Best. The hope, she added, was that “they would help understand better how to work in an interfaith situation.”

First Presbyterian Church in Tecumseh, Michigan, has hosted mission partners twice.

“We had such a wonderful experience with the first mission partner we hosted that we signed up to host another one,” said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Cathi King. In 2015 First Presbyterian had sent a team to Palestine and met the mission partner who would later come to their church. “We knew the person, we knew about his homeland, and so it was very easy for us,” said King. “We met him in his home country and knew him before he arrived.”

King said the experience in 2017 was somewhat different. She describes Tecumseh as a small rural town without much diversity, and this time they did not know the person or the part of the world that their guest called home.  But according to King, it was enriching for her congregation to have their Indonesian guest with them in Bible studies, preaching and in community conversations, sharing the same faith despite their different cultural contexts.

“Both times when our mission partners engaged in a Bible study with us, they opened up a different way of looking at the Scriptures based on their cultural context in a way we would have never thought of,” she said.

“This is a fantastic program, and I really do encourage congregations to get involved,” said King. “It helps congregations realize we are a part of the global church.”

Gail Strange, Director, Church & Mid Council Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Synod of the Covenant

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Stephanie Caudill, PMA
Perry Chang, PMA

Let us pray:

God in heaven, we thank you for your compassionate presence in our lives and ask that you help us to be a compassionate presence to the people around us, regardless of who we may encounter. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 123; 146
First Reading Genesis 9:1-17
Second Reading Hebrews 5:7-14
Gospel Reading John 3:16-21
Evening Psalms 30; 86