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Today in the Mission Yearbook

‘I could not walk away’: mission work on migration and human trafficking


Philippines mission co-worker shares her story with Texas churches

September 26, 2017

Cathy Chang and her husband, Juan Lopez, are mission co-workers in Manila, Philippines. They help global partners such as churches and nongovernmental organizations address issues of migration and human trafficking. During her visit to Grace Presbytery, Cathy spent time with members of several churches to help spread awareness of her mission work.

‘Something in me started to churn’
Cathy remembers the circumstances that led to her current mission work against human trafficking. In August 2013, the Presbyterian Women in her home presbytery in Michigan asked her to preach at the end of a day focused on human trafficking awareness. Cathy did not know much about the subject but threw herself into research for the next two months.

“I know that sermon was supposed to be delivered to a group of Presbyterian Women, but I was preaching that sermon to myself,” she said. “I could not walk away. Something in me started to churn and just take hold of my spirit, and I knew it would not end with that sermon.”

Soon, Cathy was serving on a county task force. The group had connections to a state organization and to legislation about human trafficking being proposed by a Michigan state senator.

“I found myself gathered at a conference table at a local women’s shelter with other community leaders. We worked with law enforcement, the judicial system and social service organizations,” she said. “So, I have to give credit to Presbyterian Women, our state senator and the community-based focus of our task force that was a way for me to become more involved in advocacy against human trafficking.”

Fast-forward to 2017, and Cathy and Juan now live in the Philippines after accepting their calling to this important mission work. Cathy is one of the two mission co-worker recipients of the annual Grace Presbytery support of World Mission.

‘These churches are committed to praying for us’
More than a year after their family moved, Cathy visited Grace Presbytery, where she visited churches at regional gatherings and gave a presentation at the presbytery office for staff and church leaders. With each visit, she shared her story and listened to the stories of the people she met.

“It’s been wonderful to not only mutually make this visit beneficial, to say, ‘OK, I would love to introduce our work,’ but I’m excited to see what God is doing here in Grace Presbytery.”

Cathy said she wanted to personally thank two churches that already supported her mission work, Northridge Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Henderson.

In addition to providing financial support, Cathy said, “These churches are committed to praying for us and staying connected to us through our email updates and Facebook posts. They know not only how we are doing as a family, but they lift up the work and say, ‘Please, pray for our partners as we face very critical times in our government and in our society.’ Support also comes in the form of emails that come from them that ask how we are doing.”

‘What do I bring to the table?’
When people ask about her mission work, Cathy says knowledge is essential for any church that wants to address human trafficking. For example, different economies operate throughout the Philippines, and it is important to understand the context of the country as a whole. Cathy is working with a PC(USA) partner, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).

“It is through their witness as a church, their relationship with other organizations and by virtue of who they are that I also have been invited into this relationship” she said.

“This is about relating, meeting, attending and visiting with the various individuals and churches and ministries,” she said. “The beginning of understanding ‘What do I do?’ is to first understand the church with whom I’m working.”

She said she is learning to understand concerns about migrants, migration and human trafficking through organizations like Migrante International and Churches Witnessing with Migrants.

“I am still learning ‘What do I bring to the table as someone who is not only a representative, but a guest and partner of the UCCP?’ But also, what are those resources that I bring as a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker? These earliest months have been about navigating and finding the navigators who will help me.”

Cathy’s term of service goes through September 2019. She said she is thankful to take her memories of Grace Presbytery back to her new home in the Philippines.

“You can never say ‘thank you’ enough. From our hearts, from team Chang Lopez, we are grateful for the ways God has connected us in God’s mission.”

Judy Ramos, Director of Communications, Grace Presbytery

Today’s Focus:  Human Trafficking

Let us join in prayer for:

Grace Presbytery Staff

Ronnie Holloman, Senior Director of Ministry and Church Transition
Janet M. DeVries, General Presbyter
Gerry Tyer, Stated Clerk
James Nash, Presbytery Treasurer
Judy Ramos, Director of Communications
Gary Holloman, Director of Youth and Young Adults
Leah Wyckoff, Director of Resource Center
Joanna Kim, Director of Cross-Cultural Mission and Ministry
Vicki Roberts, Financial Coordinator
Jim Hawthorne, COM Consultant
Gloria Beard, Executive Assistant
Daniel Pappas, Technology and Media Consultant

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Jennifer Pitcher, OGA
Cristina Pitts, PMA       

Let us pray:

Holy Lord, may our words, our work and our hearts welcome all your children into the broad and beautiful kingdom of God. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 54; 146
First Reading 2 Kings 5:19-27
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 5:1-8
Gospel Reading Matthew 5:27-37
Evening Psalms 28; 99