Monday, October 31, 2011

Message from South Sudan

Dear Friends,

His name is John and he is sixteen years old. He accepted Jesus as his Lord when he was fourteen years old. His family wanted to send him to a witch doctor but he refused to go and deny Jesus, so his family abandoned him and put him out on the streets. He came to the church and was given a place to live, school fees for an education, and food to eat. He is now a leader in the church youth group, in the youth choir, and helps to lead worship. He works to clean up the church compound and helps the church women when they are cooking for groups at the church. When we first met John he would not smile, but just look at him now.  

(Photos courtesy of Libby and Fred Dearing)
Thanks to your gifts, John’s life has been transformed and renewed. 
Grace and Peace, Fred and Libby     

Libby and Fred Dearing are from Mafair United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, part of the Holston Conference. Fred is serving as the district superintendent and Libby is advocating to build a United Methodist children’s home in Yei, South Sudan. They are Individual Volunteers. To find out how and when you can to train to become an Individual Volunteer, link to

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission teams have been traveling and are continuing to travel to South Sudan to serve with the Dearings. If you are interested in leading a team, please email the office at

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Difference is a Gift

Rev. Elizabeth S. Tapia, Ph.D., is director of mission theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. 

Here is an excerpt from her opening reflections at the meeting for Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Asian Church leaders held in New York on October 13, 2011. (Photo by Felipe Castillo)  

Another aspect is mutual respect. Each part needs to be treated with equal respect and care in order that all may  function together harmoniously. "If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together."

This is damayan spirit as we call it in Tagalog. Isn’t this a theology of belonging and interdependency?

For Paul says, "You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it. Even the gifts of the spirit are to be used in this harmonious body. There are varieties of gifts, but all these are activated by the same Spirit." -1 Cor. 12:11.  

Difference is a gift. As all gifts are recognized, all may function in harmony within the body of Christ. And what is the missional principle in all this? It is the principle of love, “a still more excellent way.” 1 Cor. 13.

Our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Island traditions promulgate a theology of belonging and interdependency. There is room for everyone, there is food for everyone, there is mission for everyone. Ours is a strong communal sense of relating.

But as we live and work in an individualistic, capitalistic, and globalized society, communal sense is being eroded. Here is where we need to develop and nurture multicultural ministries and churches. Here is here we need to develop and nurture migrant churches. Here is where we welcome diversity as a key to congregational vitality.

As global migration has become a major phenomenon, diversity is becoming more and more a major reality in schools, business, travel, and politics. But  it seems Majority white churches are slow to welcome diversity;  monoculturalism rather than multiculturalism; assimilation, rather than self-expression; clausthropobic rather than cosmopolitan...

I want to believe that part of our participation in  God’s mission in today’s world is to offer and practice our communitarian way of life, spirituality of sharing and hospitality, and a theology of belonging and interdependency.

Learn more about the Asian American, Pacific Islander and Asian Church Leaders Gathering, held last week at the General Board of Global Ministries in New York City.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Communion = Common Union

This is Kara's view of the barrio surrounding the white church in Bogotá, Colombia. (Photo by Kara Crawford)

On Sunday, my church had communion. This was my first time taking communion here in Colombia, and, as taking communion for the first time with any group, it was a new experience for me. This church all waits and takes the elements at the same time, different than what I am used to (by-and-large) in the US, moving forward in an orderly, single-file line and take the elements as we receive them (well, or if we’re doing intinction, we dunk then partake). But two things really struck me this go-round of communion.

First, at some point during the service, the pastor said that we would be taking communion, and he then referred to it as a “común unión” – a common union. And this was the first time that I had really thought a lot about the significance of the term communion. He said it’s a point of common union – a common union with God, a common union with each other. I thought that this was a beautiful way to understand communion, that brought a new light to the subject.

Second, after church we had a potluck of sorts, to which many people brought food to share with the group. Now, for me, growing up as a United Methodist clergy kid, potlucks were an integral part of my church experience. In fact, at times, they have almost felt like more of a common union, a communion, than the actual Eucharistic act. Everyone brings what they have to a common table; we all share and partake, and participate in a familiar (both in the sense of being well-known and in the sense of being a family) act, sharing a meal together, sharing in conversation, and simply sharing.

This particular potluck was to celebrate that the month of September (I believe it’s the whole month – at least that’s my understanding) celebrates “amor y amistad” – “love and friendship” – here in Colombia. So the fact that I was able to, so early into my forming community here, partake in this familiar act of common union, of communion, of potluck, was incredibly significant to me, and I’m already beginning to feel more and more welcomed as part of the family. Because when you share and break bread with the family, whether in an act of Eucharist or in an act of sharing a literal meal, you are taking part in a connection that is greater than yourself. In this case, the connection was in the Methodist family, in the Christian family, in the human family.

Read more from Kara's blog. Or support Kara's work through Global Ministries
Kara Crawford is a missionary, a Mission Intern, of the United Methodist Church. (photo courtesy of Kara Crawford)