A new funding model for mission co-workers
November 15, 2016
This article is from the Fall 2016 issue of Mission Crossroads magazine, which is available online and also printed and mailed free to subscribers’ homes three times a year by Presbyterian World Mission.
Sa-wing! Bam! Whoosh! When you hit it just right, you know. Through years, decades, nearly two centuries of trial and error in the mission field, I think we Presbyterians may have found the sweet spot on this one. The way we are moving forward in mission involvement in Honduras is feeling like a step in the right direction, bringing a concrete, engaged way to be partners in mission.
For nearly 180 years, Presbyterians seeking to follow God’s call to faithful and effective mission have learned from and transformed our model from a direct mode to an equipping mode that first and foremost focuses on doing mission in partnership. In our most recent efforts to reform how we identify and engage in God’s mission, Presbyterian World Mission—in its role as resource, capacity builder and servant leader—has been talking about how our mission work is about becoming a “Community of Mission Practice.” As a denomination, our pioneering work of striving to live into a model of authentic partnership as a way to “do mission” has led us to develop this concept of the Community of Mission Practice, which was adopted by the 219th General Assembly Mission Council (2010) to encourage more integral connections in the many ways Presbyterians engage in God’s mission.
Think of a Venn diagram. We have our global partners represented by one circle, U.S. Presbyterians by another circle and Presbyterian World Mission by a third. That space where all three entities are collaborating is where we strive to be. As an intentional community, guided by the disciplines of prayer, Bible study, reflection and worship, we can best discern where God is calling us and then share our resources to accomplish that mission together. A community of mission practice seeks to include all committed voices rather than work in isolation or bilaterally.
As Rev. Mark J. Englund-Krieger writes in his book, “The Presbyterian Mission Enterprise: From Heathen to Partner”: “The insight which the concept of Community of Mission Practice offers is that this massive, new energy for mission, wherever its source, is not to be denigrated or rejected but rather harnessed and coordinated. The individual congregations and presbyteries across the PC(USA) are not going to stop their direct involvement in mission now that the transformative power of this work has been experienced. On the other hand, the powerful heritage of professional mission work organized and sponsored by national, denominational mission agencies, like Presbyterian World Mission, will also continue and is highly sought by church partners around the world who need support and expertise. . . . In this new day, the concept of Community of Mission Practice is a space where all involved bring their energy, commitment, passion and vision together.”
Over the past decade, with more intentional engagement by Presbyterian World Mission with the Presbyterian Church of Honduras (IPH), we have been trying in fits and starts to form a viable mission network, a community of mission practice of sorts. However, the Honduras Mission Network really didn’t come together until we found ourselves in a time of possible crisis. The commitment of Presbyterian World Mission and partner presbyteries to the IPH was high, but our ability to be present with them changed drastically when our mission coworkers assigned to the IPH for the last six years ended service, coinciding with the retirement of Tim and Gloria Wheeler after more than 30 years of mission service in Honduras.
That crisis ended up being a real opportunity for consolidation and growth of our network when it was suddenly forced to come together around a shared need. We took care with how to discern and define that need, wanting to be sure to include our partner, the Presbyterian Church of Honduras, in that discernment process.
Out of our discernment, we identified four common areas of mission involvement with the Presbyterian Church of Honduras: theological education, new church development, social outreach and deepening partnership. We also affirmed the desire and importance of having an ongoing presence in the country through the appointment of a full-time mission co-worker. Given the current funding reality, we knew that the only way for us to be able to send someone new would be if we raised the full amount needed for sending and support. The network eagerly agreed to take on this fundraising challenge together, but more importantly, we wanted to find a way to continue active participation in our shared mission. In some ways we were developing a new funding model for mission co-workers, but I believe it goes well beyond a funding model. It takes us into giving more life to the whole concept of Community of Mission Practice by allowing for active participation by “key constituents” (in this case the mission network) throughout Presbyterian World Mission’s process of searching for, hiring, supporting and assessing mission co-workers. Thanks to the Honduras Mission Network, Presbyterian World Mission now has a policy in place, approved by Presbyterian Mission Agency board in February 2016, that establishes concrete ways to be a Community of Mission Practice that calls, supports, and surrounds our mission co-workers, not just as we seek to place a new mission co-worker in Honduras, but also in other places around the world where Presbyterian World Mission and PC(USA) congregations, presbyteries and/or mission networks share a common passion in engagement with a global partner.
It is exciting to report that to date, the Honduras Mission Network, with collaboration from Presbyterian World Mission, has reached 65 percent of the fundraising goal in pledges for the sending and support of a new mission co-worker position. With that level of commitment, the candidate search has begun. Together, striving to be a Community of Mission Practice, we are energized by our deepening involvement with the church in Honduras, our broadening of partnerships and new ways to engage and grow in God’s mission. Whether we are talking sports, acoustics or God’s mission, there is an incredible feeling of satisfaction when we find the sweet spot. As we aim our sights on that place where God is calling us, may God be glorified and the kingdom expanded.
Tracey King-Ortega, Presbyterian World Mission regional liaison for Central America
Today’s Focus: Nicaragua
Let us join in prayer for:
PC (USA) Mission Co-workers
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
As your disciples, we pray, O God, for eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to love, and arms to embrace those near and far who thirst for justice and mercy. Amen.