Eight New Missionaries Ready to Work
By Elliott Wright
October 24, 2012 – “I’ve looked forward to this moment for 50 years,” said the Rev. Kristen Schmitz of Kansas City, Mo., minutes after being commissioned as a United Methodist missionary on October 23.
Schmitz and her husband, Larry Schmitz, were two of eight missionaries commissioned by the General Board of Global Ministries during the annual meeting of its board of directors in New York City. Kristen Schmitz dates her interest to childhood when missionaries visited her church.
“Take your faith with you” and “roll up your sleeves and get ready to work,” Bishop Martin D. McLee, the new United Methodist leader of the New York Annual (regional) Conference, challenged the new missionaries in a joy-filled service. He assured them, “in God’s constancy, you will find your purpose.”
The Schmitzes were primed to go and ready to work. “For years, they have felt called to serve the needs of the world,” said the Rev. Gary P. Williams, pastor of Avondale United Methodist Church, Kansas City, where the couple is a strong leadership team. In a telephone conversation, the pastor said the congregation is solidly behind the Schmitzes. Larry is a retired schoolteacher, and Kristen, an ordained deacon, has worked in several Kansas City area churches.
“Missionary” is one of the oldest categories of work in Christianity. Its biblical roots are in Jesus’ act of sending disciples into the region of Palestine, and after the first Easter, in Christ’s mandate to take God’s good news near and far.
Five of the new missionaries are assigned to ministries outside the United States, the Schmitzes on their way in November to teach at a school in Lubumbashi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Three will work in the United States.
The missionaries were commissioned shoeless, having placed their footwear on steps leading down to a large bowl of water, representing their baptism vows, as the congregation sang “Thuma Mina,” (“Send Me, Lord”), a song from South Africa. Removal of the shoes also recalled a passage from the Gospel of Luke, read during the service, where Jesus sent disciples into mission with “no purse, no bag, no sandals.”
The eight join some 316 Global Ministries’ missionaries in some 60 countries. The country list rose by one with the agency sending its first missionary to Paraguay. Mary Escobar of Dallas, Texas, is returning to the South American country where she once worked through another organization. Bishop Pablo Mora of the Evangelical Methodist Community in Paraguay, who was visiting in the United States, participated in Escobar’s commissioning.
In Kansas City, members of the Avondale Church watched via webcast as Kristen and Larry Schmitz were commissioned and received crosses in the shape of an anchor, the symbol of United Methodist missionary status. The Kansas congregation took part locally in the liturgy of Holy Communion that concluded the service originating from the chapel of New York City’s Interchurch Center, where Global Ministries has offices. Avondale Church, with an average Sunday worship attendance of 160, has made a covenant to support the Schmitzes with prayers and funds. About 40 percent of United Methodist missionary financial support comes through such covenants.
“Take the gospel of Jesus Christ into all the world,” intoned Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of North Carolina, president of the Global Ministries’ agency, as she and groups of clergy and laity placed their hands upon each new missionary’s head.
Grace Musuka from Harare, Zimbabwe and the Rev. Hikari Chang of Oceanside, N.Y., will go as regional missionaries to work with women, children and youth, placed jointly by United Methodist Women and Global Ministries; Musuka will serve in Central Africa and Rev. Hikari in Tokyo. Olga E. González-Santiago, originally from Puerto Rico, is sent as a Church and Community Worker at Westside Urban Ministries, Syracuse, N.Y., and the Rev. Carlos Ramirez, a native of Mexico, will coordinate Hispanic/Latino ministries in the Oklahoma Annual Conference. Hannah Hanson, a former mission intern, was commission as a global missionary, with her initial assignment to work as a mission interpreter for young adult missionaries.
‘Everywhere to Everywhere’
Global Ministries’ missionaries are “from everywhere to everywhere,” an agency personnel map declares.
After all were commissioned, the eight new missionaries recited in union the “Wesley Covenant Prayer,” addressed to God, that begins, “I am no longer my own, but thine.” They interspersed four languages: English, Spanish, Shona and Japanese. Cheers, shouts and prolonged applause filled the vaulted chapel as Ward said, “Greet your new missionaries.”
“I am inspired and awed by the gifts these people bring,” said Marie Louise Kuch, a young adult from Seattle, and new board director.
Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries’ chief executive, in an earlier report to directors, projected the number of new missionaries next year at 80, with 50 of those young adults. “Missionaries represent hope in the midst of hopelessness,” Kemper he said in welcoming the onsite and web participants to the commissioning.