Saturday, October 24, 2009

WMC 09 - Final Reflections

For the last three days I've been participating in the PC(USA)'s Mission Celebration 2009, learning about all that our church and our partners are doing in international mission. Scroll through the blog for all my reports on plenary sessions, worship and workshops. If you have thoughts or comments, please leave them.

A few final reflections:
  • The PC(USA) has become like an elderly parent. Our mission activity in the late 19th and early 20th century birthed strong Christian communities all over the world. As we struggle, we now need these communities to breath the Holy Spirit and vitality back into us.
  • Some years ago a colleague in education ministry told me that the PC(USA) began going downhill when we stopped building hospitals, starting schools and birthing worshiping communities. Among our partner churches overseas, education and health care remain the bedrock of their mission and are often the starting point for evangelism. Why aren't we doing this at home?
  • The PC(USA)'s mission around the world is vibrant and healthy and our partner churches are strong.
  • In a globalizing world, our congregations ever more need to learn to cross cultures and engage in conversation with our neighbors.
  • Theological divides do not justify negation of the great commission or great commandment.
  • Here in the states, we need to resist the urge to create multiple congregations based on language and culture and strive to create communities that can bridge culture and gather everyone around Jesus Christ.
  • We must relearn how to pray, testify and share our faith with each other and our neighbors.

WMC 09 - Closing Worship

Rev. Dr. Mary Mikail, president of the Near East School of Theology, preached at the closing worship. Her points:
  • What mission does our church have for the world of today? A world of violence and injustice?
  • The world is in a spiritual crisis. It is never in more need of hope and healing.
  • Our mission is a gift from God.
  • That gift enables us to catch the Spirit of Christ to challenge the evils in society.
  • To catch the Spirit of Christ is to bring hope and healing.
  • We do mission through humble, compassionate service.
All worship leadership came through a music team headed by Corey Nelson who brought music from all over the world. Worship ended with communion and commissioning of all into their mission service.

WMC 09 - Saturday Afternoon Plenary - Africa

The Congo is one of the Presbyterian Church's oldest missions and the various Presbyterian Churches in the Congo have millions of members. Political instability, however, has hurt the PC(USA)'s long term mission personnel in the region. It needs to be rebuilt.

The Presbyterian Church in Congo is extensively engaged in economic development work, especially women's empowerment, micro loans, education, feeding programs, agriculture, literacy, HIV Aids, etc.

The main story is that much of the ministry is by women, for women and funded by women. Presbyterian Women in Congo are running multiple programs for women, many of which are supported by the Presbyterian Women in the USA.

In much of Africa, the PC(USA) has embraced the following principles of Development. I think these are from the Dallas Statement.

  • Local ownership
  • Partnership
  • Transformation
  • Sustainability

WMC 09 - Saturday Morning Workshop - Crossing Cultures

Crossing Cultures: Welcoming the Stranger in our Midst

This workshop was presented by Marti Smith, an ethnographer with Caleb Resources, a non-denominational frontier mission organization. She discussed using the same methods they use to develop strategies for bringing the gospel to unreached groups for local mission across culture.

Her formula: listen, listen, listen.

Before ministering to a culture, get to know they. Listen to their stories with an open mind. Why are they in the US? What are they worrying about? What are their hopes and dreams? Where can they help us? Where can we help them? How can we build and maintain relationships.

Her process:
  1. Make observations about the "other"
  2. Find those within that culture "helpers" who are willing to engage you and interpret their culture to you.
  3. Start a conversation
  4. Build rapport/trust. Commit to long term, mutual relationships.
  5. Ask questions about what you observe.
  6. Take notes. (Marti says this helps formalize the process, moves you from nosy to learner, and often takes the conversation deeper.)
  7. Review your learnings with your partner.
  8. Make an action plan for further relationship and ministry.
Question: How often do we even take time to get to know those of our same culture on a deep level.

WMC 09 - Dallas Statement

In the background of this entire conference has been something called the Dallas Statement. Two years ago, almost all the PC(USA) related mission organizations came together and agreed on this statement. Everyone thinks its both revolutionary, spirit filled and incredibly important.

To read the statement go to:

WMC 09 - Saturday Morning Plenary - Asia

The Saturday morning plenary focused on Asia and the Pacific with specific focus on the Presbyterian Church's education mission in Pakistan.

A disclaimer: when I worked at the General Assembly in the late 1990's and early 00's I was tangentially involved in the PC(USA)'s effort to regain control of Forman Christian College in Lahore. This ministry is dear to my heart.

Background: In the 1800's, missionaries from the Presbyterian Church established a network of primary and secondary schools as well as colleges in what is now Pakistan. These schools flourished, with Forman Christian College becoming known as the "Harvard" of the Sub-Continent. In 1972, the government of Pakistan "nationalized" all the schools, disenfranchising the church and ruining the institutions. After years of prayer, petition, legal action and more, the government began returning the schools to the Presbyterian Church (USA) - who holds title to the property - in the late 1990's. Forman Christian College was returned in 2003. The schools are run by the Presbyterian Education Board, an extension of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan. Forman Christian College is an independent institution with close ties to the PC(USA).

Presbyterian Education Board - Ms. Veeda Javaid
There are 252 Presbyterian Churches in Pakistan. Presbyterian primary and secondary schools educate 4,000 students - 60% Muslim; 40% Christian. PEB operates 10 schools and are waiting to receive a few more back from the government. MOst of the schools were returned to the church in deplorable condition. They are raising money internally and externally to rebuild the schools.

A story: One day a prominent Shiite leader came to visit the head of the Presbyterian Board of Education. He wanted to enroll his daughter in a PEB school, and wanted a full scholarship despite his wealth. The board reluctantly agreed. Some time later the leader returned to visit Ms. Veeda Javaid, the PEB director. He relayed the following story:

One night he and several other Shiite leaders were at his house planning an attack on the Suni. The meeting was quite enthuiastic and his ten year old daughter overheard what was going on. She came into the room, looked him in the eye and told him that her teacher would not approve. Her teacher said that everyone was brother and sister and they should care for each other.

At this point Ms. Javaid was very nervous and afraid that the leader would threaten her and the school. To the opposite, the leader reported that he called off the attack and was there to enroll another of his daughters - and this time he would pay tuition. Currently all three of the leader's daughters attend the school.

PEB is largely self sufficient but looks to its American partners for short term teacher training and capital help restoring its campuses.

Forman Christian College - Dr. Peter Armacost
Since receiving the school back from the government in 2003, FC College's board of directors is rebuilding the school as a first rate liberal arts college. Their first class graduated in 2009 and has above average employment/graduate school admissions.

FC College has several goals:
  • Offer a model of interfaith harmony
  • Educate leaders for Pakistan
  • Support the Christian community. Since many Christians are less educated and poorer, FC College has affirmative action and special student development programs for Christians. They maintain active Christian worship, Bible study and leadership development.
A young Muslim woman began quietly attending chapel at FC College. After some time, she converted to Christianity. She then discerned a call to ministry and wants to return to her village as a pastor.

WMC 09 - Saturday Morning Worship

Saturday's morning worship focused on proclamation of the Word, specifically testimonies. After testimonies by a pastor from a partner church now serving in the US and a testimony by a mission co-worker, we were invited to share with our neighbors an experience we had with God's word.

How often do we incorporate testimony in our lives together? Do we know how other members of our faith community have experienced Jesus Christ in their lives? What would happen if we were comfortable testifying how God works within us?

Friday, October 23, 2009

WMC 09 - Friday Plenary 3 - Europe

At this point in the day I'd had my fill of information and speeches. I left.

WMC 09 - Friday Afternoon Workshop - Moving Members into Mission

Offered by Rob Weingartner, Executive Director of the Outreach Foundation

I attended this workshop hoping to bring back some tangible "how to's" for our congregations that are hesitant about mission involvement. Instead Rev. Weingartner suggested that their are no "how to's" and that the only way to move members into mission is to become a "missional congregation." If you've read any of the thousands of books on the Missional Church, especially stuff by Alan Roxburgh, Leslie Newbingdon or Daryl Guder, you've experienced his presentation. I'm not going to summarize it here.

He concluded with the following five principles:
  1. Congregations must redefine their purpose to be God's agent in the world and be willing to radically risk everything for the gospel.
  2. Congregations must redefine mission participation to include every follower of Jesus. Our baptismal vows are our commission into mission.
  3. Congregations must redefine the mission field to include "Jerusalem" - or the area outside of their doors and in their community. The majority of young people growing up in the United States today will have no experience in a faith community.
  4. Reclaim wholeness of the gospel. Practice what we preach and preach about what we practice.
  5. Renew and reestablish relationships with the global church. God is using the global church to renew the church in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Places to start:
  • Pray for a PC(USA) Missionary. Give him/her $100/year.
  • Encourage members who like to travel to visit PC(USA) missionaries and or partner churches at work in the areas through which they journey.
  • Sponsor mission visits to our congregations.
  • Send the session on a mission trip.
  • Remember that being the church is not about taking care of ourselves.

WMC 09 - Friday Plenary 2 - Middle East

The birthplace of Christianity and the place from which the first missionaries were sent out, is now a hard place for the church to prosper. The various Christian congregations in the Middle East are beset by many difficulties including: descrimination, persecution, occupation, internal conflict, economic hardship and emigration. But the witness of those mission personnel who shared was strong and joyful, focused on ministries of reconciliation.

Dr. Mary Mihail - Presbyterian Church in Lebanon & Near East School of Theology
The Near East School of Theology, founded by Presbyterians in the 1800's, has added a Christian/Muslim forum for discussion and to build relationships.

Nuhad Tomeh - Liaison to Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, PC(USA)'s primary partner in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria & the Gulf States
Many in the Middle East (Muslim & Christian alike) wonder whether God is still there or whether God has given up on his people. The church continues to proclaim the power of resurrection & God's continued presence and hope. Refuge ministry is a major connector of Christians. Ministry in this area is risky and at least one missionary has been martyred in recent years.

Rev. Guy whose name I can neither pronounce nor spell from the Presbyterian Church in Iran
Yes there is a Presbyterian Church in Iran. Our speaker offered a powerful testimony of growing up Muslim in Europe, being converted by God through a PC(USA) Missionary and then being ordained to ministry in the Iranian Presbyterian Church. He wanted to counteract the American image of Iran with news of how God is working there through Muslims.
  • A new translation of the New Testament was recently produced by a leading Muslim scholar and published by the Iranian government. It is a Persian translation of the French translation of the New Jerusalem Bible.
  • A local Muslim government official having a dream in which the Virgin told him to help the community's Presbyterian Church and the subsequent municipal funding of essential building repairs.
  • Muslim students helping the main Presbyterian church in Tehran organize its extensive theological library, a gift from generations of missionaries.
  • Persian translations, by Muslims, of great Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Calvin, Thomas a Kempis, etc.
Doug Hicks, PC(USA) Missionary in Jordan
Echoed much of what had been previously said.

WMC 09 - Friday Morning Workshop - Prayer

I attended the workshop because of its seemingly preposterous title: Prayer - Bringing the World To Christ. I always thought evangelism, preaching, teaching, good works, etc. bring the World to Christ.

Workshop leader Linda Ruby, a Interim Ministry specialist from Pittsburgh, suggests otherwise. She believes that our congregations have forgotten how to pray and that without prayer congregations stagnate, loose vision and decline. With prayer they prosper.

Prayer connects us to God through Jesus Christ and unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our world. Through our prayers the new world, the Kingdom of God, proceeds from the Spirit. We are in a battle and we need to learn to "fight war on our knees."

Prayer is the source of evangelism, mission and service. We pray the future into being and then, through prayer, we are given the power to make our portion of that future a reality.

Linda had set the room up as a prayer room, with stations for guided prayer around the room (see slide show at end of post, when I have a chance to upload the pictures.) She also had other suggestions:
  • Pastors model different types of prayer through the pastoral prayer
  • Pastors preach on prayer (and practice it themselves)
  • Prayer vigils
  • Prayer walks (walk through the community praying for your neighbors)
  • Prayer teams in the church to pray for specific needs
  • Praying elders - elders pray for the members
  • A group of women in Taiwan who combat addictions by holding 24 hour vigils by the bedsides of addicts. In 90% of cases, after 24 hours of prayer the addiction is gone.
  • A group of women in Michigan who camped out in prayer in front of crack houses. They closed them down.
  • A pair of friends who walked a dangerous mall each day praying. Crime in the mall visibly decreased and the police publicly thanked the friends.
  • Linda's own healing which she credits to a 24-7 vigil by the congregation she was serving at that time.
  • A session that spent the first hour and a half of their two hour meetings praying and the accomplished all their business in the last half hour.
I was surprised to find this workshop at a World Mission conference, but it hit the mark. We ask, "what can we do?" And sincere and deep prayer is more than enough.

WMC 09 - Friday Plenary 1 - The Americas

The Plenary focused on mission work in the Americas, especially central America and the Caribbean, which has a long and honorable Presbyterian mission presence.

From the opening remarks:
  • “The Americas” are the most Christian region in the world.
  • Presbyterians have been throughout the region since the 19th century.
  • Challenges include huge gap between rich & poor, and huge amounts of migration and displacement both within countries and across borders.
  • Positives include very strong churches with their own missionaries, theologians, seminaries, parishes, etc & easy access for missionaries and mission groups.
  • Latin American congregations have become sending congregations as well as receiving, doing their own church planting locally and internationally.
  • Within Latin America & Caribbean the church gives voice to the entire population, enabling them to testify to God’s love and organize against injustice.

From Presbyterian Border Ministry – Mark Adams
  • Presbyterian border ministries are uniting congregations on both sides of the US/Mexico border, living out the unity of Christ in the midst of division.
  • Has helped reduce border deaths by providing water and other support to migrants.
  • Is promoting sustainable economic development in Mexico to help reduce the need to migrate.
  • Have a powerful ministry of prayer and presence at the border.

From National Presbyterian Church of Mexico & Pittsburgh Theological Seminary – Pablo Feliciano & Don Dawson
  • -Bring seminary students form Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and National Presbyterian Church of Mexico together in Chiapas to minister together.

From Colombia Accompaniment Program (Presbyterian Church of Colombia & Presbyterian Peace Fellowship – Diego Higuita & Sarah Henken
  • Colombia is one of the most violent countries in the Americas and has a huge problem with displaced people.
  • One story: Pedro was a small, landowning farmer who had his farm taken from him, forcing him to move into the city. He became a fruit vendor, pushing cart full of fruit around the city every day. On Sundays he comes to church. One week he interrupts the service to give his testimony: “Even thought they have taken everything away from me, they haven’t been able to pull Christ from my heart.”
  • In response to the violence, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia asked Presbyterian Peace Fellowship to send volunteer, nonviolent observers. Now a team of trained volunteers rotate in and out of the country, maintaining a vigil of presence.

Haiti Fund
  • A ministry of a Presbytery in North Carolina.
  • Supports two full time missionaries and a ministry of rural economic development and reforestation.
  • Ministry covers 15 square miles of rural mountains, and has planted over 250,000 trees, including many fruit trees.

WMC 09 - Friday Worship

Each worship service of the conference is focused around one of the phases of worship. Last night’s service was focused on gathering. This morning’s worship was focused on confession. The theme: Babel. Humanity has scattered. We have become divided by language, culture, injustice, inequality, borders and walls, both psychological and actual. In prayer and song we were led to confess the Babel that scatters us and celebrate our forgiveness and unity in Christ.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

World Mission Celebration - Day 1

This is the first in a series of blogs from the PC(USA) World Mission Challenge being held October 22-24 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Tonight's activities involved dinner and opening worship & remarks. But for me the most memorable part of the day occurred a little earlier. Seeking a little peace and a little space, I made a pilgrimage to the Ohio River, walking about a mile downhill to where the sidewalk ended in a patch of weeds and a rusty iron railing overlooking the river. As traffic wizzed by around me, I began to pray for a good friend who is fighting the battle of his life. I prayed perhaps harder than I've ever prayed before, and as I left that place fo the trek up the hill, I knew that he would be okay - what shape okay ultimately takes, I do not know, but I knew he would be okay.

As for the conference, someone said that they expected 500 people and about 800 registered. Everyone was playing three degrees of Presbyterian separation.

In his opening remarks, Hunter Ferrell, the head of PC(USA) World Wide Mission, commented on the following:
  • Everyone who gathered had been touched, healed and redeemed by God to be a part of God's mission in this world.
  • More Presbyterians are deeply engaged in world wide mission now than at any time before. This opens ourselves (and our congregations) up for transformation.
  • The global church consists of many branches of a life giving vine in Jesus Christ. We desperately need each other. The relationship is mutual.
  • Our global partners have challenged the PC(USA) to go deeper in three primary ways: (1) To go deeper into the root causes of poverty and injustice; (2) Go deeper in the way that we proclaim (or hesitate to proclaim) the good news of Jesus Christ. Partners are surprised at how secular we seem to be, and are challenging American Christians to learn to speak of the things of the Spirit; (3) Go deeper to bring cooperation among the 64 different mission agencies and the many congregations of the PC(USA) engaged in mission work.
  • Finally, Hunter announced a new website: to help network between groups and congregations working in various areas of the world.
Tomorrow the workshops begin. I'll be reporting on two workshops: Prayer: Bringing the World to Christ; and MOving Members into Mission. I'll also be attending plenary reports on the PC(USA)'s mission work in the Americas, Middle East and Europe.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall Fair This Saturday

CPC's fall fair will be this Saturday (October 17) from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at the church (12 Nottingham Road, Malverne, NY). A dinner will follow at 6:00 pm.

  • Country Crafts by Mary Hallam
  • Raffle of quilt by the Malverne Quilters
  • Fresh baked goods by Pastor Fritz & Friends
  • Vegetables & Pumpkins from Long Island Farms
  • Raffle baskets of goods from local merchants
  • Raffle of crochet "patch afghan" by CPC members
  • Heifer project mission outreach
  • Labyrinth Walk
  • Lunch cafe

Pork Roast Dinner @ 6:00
$12-adults, $8-kids
The kitchen ladies famous Roast Pork & Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Apple Sauce
Pound cake w/ ice cream


Many thanks to local merchants for the gift certificates and raffle baskets, the Malverne Quilters, and the Cork and Board for the pork & mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Crop Walk 2009 Report

Many thanks to everyone who showed up for the Crop Walk. Despite a big band competition we still had a bunch of walkers and raised a bunch of money. (I'll edit this post once I talk with Don.) Check out the slide show below!