A River of Mission Ministries in Tampa
By Yvette Moore
Tampa, Florida, April 30, 2012—General Conference celebrated the mission outreach of the church in a Sunday evening plenary highlighting 13 agencies, programs, and special initiatives.
The evening included videos and live testimonies and presentations on six Global Ministries programs, including:
- the Shalom Zones
- work with the five ethnic national plans
- ministries with the poor
- the Global Aids Fund
- The Advance
- missionary deployment.
The evening also included prayer for the missionaries, deaconesses, and home missioners who were commissioned at a local church in Tampa earlier in the day.
Other agencies and programs honored in the celebration were the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary; Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century; the General Commission on Archives and History; the General Commission on United Methodist Men; and Africa University. Scouting ministries were included in the program, with the presentation of the Good Samaritan Award and commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts.
The evening opened with a concert by the choir of Africa University, a 20-year-old institution strongly supported by Global Ministries; and a presentation on the history and successes of the Shalom Zone program, which was initiated during the 1992 General Conference when Los Angeles erupted in violence after police were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King.
“What began as a General Conference mandate in 1992 continues 20 years later in 42 annual conferences,” said Michael Christensen, executive director of Communities of Shalom. “We have trained over 20,000 people in six countries, developed shalom zones in more than 2,000 urban and rural communities, and leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars for church-and-community transformation.”
The evening’s focus on ministries with the poor featured the Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith of Southwest Texas, who shared experiences from her unique calling to live alongside the poor and serve as an advocate, and Women’s Division Director Maggie Jackson, who told of her volunteer work with girls at Westside Community House, a United Methodist national mission institution in Cleveland, Ohio.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward inspired churches to support The Advance with a story from Mississippi where churches went from 8 percent to 100 percent of financial support for the second-mile giving channel. Also Global Ministries’ missionary Beatrice Gbanga of Sierra Leone reported on the impact of the church’s “Imagine a World Without Malaria” bed net program.
Global Ministries General Secretary Thomas Kemper introduced the 40 missionaries who had been commissioned earlier in the day. The group included 17 deaconesses and home missioners, ministries now under the auspices of the Women’s Division.
“Missionaries today are from everywhere to everywhere,” Mr. Kemper said. “The diversity of faces symbolizes the inclusive gospel of God’s love.”
Mr. Kemper, a former missionary in Brazil and a German citizen, said it is important that the church recognizes and taps into the strong mission spirit of the church in the global south. He issued an invitation to answer the call to missionary service through the General Board of Global Ministries.
Yvette Moore is editor of response magazine.