Reflecting on mission ‘sending’ and ‘receiving’ in the life of the church
July 30, 2018
Since 1984, the Mission to the U.S.A. (MUSA) program has connected the Synod of the Covenant in Michigan and Ohio with international clergy and lay leaders through fellowship, hospitality, mutual sharing and awareness. MUSA, which was co-sponsored by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for about two decades, has helped each mission partner break down cultural barriers and truly become brothers and sisters in Christ.
As Presbyterians, we affirm the unity of the church and the oneness of the global community of faith. We celebrate that over the centuries the gospel has spread from Palestine to the ends of the earth, arriving in North America through Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Given the history of missionary efforts, many Presbyterians tend to underestimate the interdependent nature of mission and our commitment to doing mission in mutuality and partnership. The mission of the church thrives on continuous exchange and is nurtured by active involvement and intentional fellowship and hospitality.
The Synod of the Covenant’s MUSA program affords congregations and presbyteries the invaluable opportunity to host and share fellowship with international mission partners (IMPs). Hence, in addition to sharing the gospel through sending mission co-workers and funding mission locally and globally, congregations can also nurture mission locally by experiencing the gospel as a mission field. The sending church is equally a receiving church.
The Synod of the Covenant’s MUSA program is a reverse mission based on the interdependent nature of mission. Through MUSA, the synod helps facilitate the listening to and discernment of God’s call beyond the obvious institutional or organizational needs. Anxiety and divisions often prevail when the church is focused inwardly and distracted by the ego, property/building and resources. However, mission thrives where the church addresses human suffering, violence and injustice in society; that is, where congregations are focused outwardly, serving community and neighborhood, which are often impacted by global realities. The objectives include fellowship, hospitality, awareness and mutual transformation.
Since the MUSA program’s inception, the Synod of the Covenant has committed to improving and developing this missional and experiential program. We have recognized that we have much more to learn and to accomplish. The program originally started by sending delegations from the synod to visit churches overseas, but soon we realized the limited impact of only sending mission co-workers and visiting delegations. We have come to also value and appreciate receiving international mission partners to visit with one congregation for the duration of their service to maximize the impact of fellowship. We have also come to appreciate the reverse-mission aspect of the program, whereby the church that was previously known for sending out missionaries has become a mission field. Welcoming missionaries by the sending church is also critical to the health of the church and continuity of mission.
In 2013 MUSA began focusing on themes and regions, beginning with the Confession of Belhar and South Africa. This was followed by a focus on the Middle East (2014–16). Currently, the focus is on Christian-Muslim relations (2017–19).
We are still listening, learning and practicing. Every year we start and close the program with orientation and debriefing sessions, and every year participating congregations and synod commissioners are blessed by these encounters, and by intentional fellowship and genuine hospitality.
It takes commitment as well as time, effort and resources to build and nurture healthy relationships to bridge cultures, and to interpret the context of the gospel even among members of one body of Christ. We take many risks and do much planning and preparation to repent, reconcile and journey in unity as disciples of Jesus.
IMPs itinerate with one or two congregations and are hosted by church families. This helps cultivate discipleship and hospitality, as well as the application of fellowship. The demonstration of genuine love and teachings of Jesus enrich congregations, mid councils, disciples and the global church.
These concrete visits and encounters also transform our awareness and widen our horizons as we journey together. Given the history of violence and militarism by the U.S. and the unjust interdependency of war and trade, the church must demonstrate peaceful alternatives to war and greed and continue to witness to the hope in Jesus Christ for a lasting, just peace.
The Rev. Raafat L. Zaki, Synod Executive, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Synod of the Covenant
Today’s Focus: Synod of the Covenant
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious God, by your Spirit you inspire our efforts to feed the hungry, preach the good news and share your love. Your people, all your children, are hungry for food, for friends, for peace and for the good news. As you have fed us, bless our efforts to feed each other, for we serve in your name. Amen.