My first real mission experience was in the summer of 1972 when Mennonite Disaster Service asked for volunteers to help with flood relief in Wilkesbarre, PA after Hurricane Agnes. It was one of the deadliest and most costly storms in US history. I was a teenager and spent several days cleaning mud out of flooded homes. My most vivid memories were the awful smell and the deep gratitude of residents who had lost virtually everything.
Twenty-five years later, the church in Michigan that Gary and I were serving established a partnership with a Methodist Church in Cuba. My two school-age daughters and I were part of the first mission team that stayed with the pastor of the Herradura Methodist Church for a week. We worshipped, ate, served, and prayed with Methodist Christians who had very little materially but had a depth of spirituality, hope, and joy that was humbling. We distributed clothing and other necessities to our new friends, and we also visited a number of missions/house churches that lay leaders of the church had started.
As I preached in the church on Sunday morning, armed policemen were standing in the back of the sanctuary. I remembered the words of the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner, who wrote in 1931, “The church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission there is no church; and where there is neither church nor mission, there is no faith.” I wondered, “The faith of the Herradura Christians is so deep. Who was ministering to whom?” I have kept this hand drawn picture by a little girl in Cuba in my Bible for the past twenty years.
Last week I was able to put words to my sense that mission is always a two-way street where the givers and recipients are not always self-evident. I had a chance to visit the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) headquarters in Atlanta as part of the Ministry Study Commission and learned that The United Methodist Church is in mission from everywhere to everywhere. General Secretary Thomas Kemper reminded us of the building blocks of mission in The United Methodist Church.
Purpose: Connecting the Church in Mission
Vision: The General Board of Global Ministries equips and transforms people and places for God’s mission around the world.
Four mission goals:
- Make disciples of Jesus Christ
- Strengthen, develop, and renew Christian congregations and communities
- Alleviate human suffering
- Seek justice, freedom, and peace
Mission is the lifeblood of The United Methodist Church. Click here to read about the Board of Global Ministries theology of mission. Formal mission in the Methodist Episcopal Church, as it was called in the early years of the Methodist movement in America, began in 1819 when John Stewart and the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church started its first mission to the Wyandotte Indian Nation in Ohio. The first international missionary was sent in the 1830s from America to Liberia. Did you know?
- By 2050, one of every four Christians will live in sub-Saharan Africa.
- China has the third largest Christian population in the world right now.
- The United Methodist Church is growing in the Arab and Gulf countries, including Dubai, where a UMC church has been started by Filipino immigrants.
- We have about 350 active United Methodist missionaries at any given moment (420 total in any given year). 60% are laity, and 40% are clergy.
- These missionaries are from 27 countries, going from everywhere to everywhere. UM missionaries are assigned to more than 60 countries and serve as doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, church planters, and evangelists. GBGM has projects and mission partners in another 60 countries.
- Churches become partners with missionaries when they enter into a Covenant Relationship. Much more than a financial commitment, this covenant is a dynamic relationship, as church and missionary pray for one another and communicate regularly.
- GBGM coordinates and provides training for short-term projects for more than 100,000 U.S. Volunteers in Mission every year.
- GBGM supports 300 hospitals and mission clinics around the world that focus on the health and well-being of women and children. This includes prevention and curative measures for major health issues such as malnutrition, malaria, HIV, and AIDS.
- Global Mission Fellows is a leadership development program for young people between the ages of 20 and 30 who make a two-year commitment to go from everywhere to everywhere by working in mission worldwide. 57 new Global Mission Fellows were recently commissioned.
- The Board of Global Ministries has regional offices in South Korea, Argentina, and the Philippines, where a small satellite will open. Another regional office is planned for Africa, and there is a mission liaison office in Jerusalem.
- UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) is well known as one of the first responding organizations to disasters around the world and also addresses issues related to health, hunger, and immigration.
Mission in The United Methodist Church is from everywhere to everywhere today.
Recently, two Global Mission Fellows from Zimbabwe and Malawi and a missionary from the US were detained and held by authorities in the Philippines, where they were serving and sharing God’s love to the world. 18,000 signatures from 110 countries were presented to release these young United Methodists, who were held in a country where The UMC is strong. Because of the persistent efforts of GBGB, an appeal from the Council of Bishops, and countless prayers, all three young adults were released.
Approximately 60% of the annual budget of Global Ministries is funded through apportionments. The rest comes from ordinary United Methodists like you, who go from everywhere to everywhere when your church supports a missionary or a mission project. You make a difference every time your church pays its world service apportionments, and you change the world whenever you make a contribution to UMCOR or go on a mission trip.
From everywhere to everywhere; from Wilkesbarre to Cuba, to the Philippines, the church exists by mission. Where is your place in God’s work around our world?