United Methodist missionaries to be sent into service around the world
By Sandra Brands
Eight missionaries will be commissioned on Tuesday, Oct. 23, and sent by The United Methodist Church to serve in communities throughout the world. The commissioning service will follow three weeks of intensive training in spiritual formation, cross-cultural awareness, team building and conflict resolution.
“The call to missionary service is important,” said the Rev. Judy Y. Chung, associate general secretary for Global Ministries’ missionary services. “All Christians are called to be in mission, but commissioned missionaries go on behalf of The United Methodist Church to all places in the world.”
Currently, 360 United Methodist missionaries serve in 60 countries. Support comes from United Methodists and congregations throughout the world. Missionaries work with local congregations and communities in areas of health care, education, agriculture, evangelism and spiritual formation.
Holistic approach to ministry
“We, as United Methodists, have a holistic approach toward ministry,” said Carlos Ramirez, one of the eight to be commissioned, who will serve as part of Global Ministries Latino and Hispanic ministries program. “We understand your spiritual needs, but you also need to address education and practical needs.”
A native of Puebla, Mexico, Ramirez is a fourth-generation Methodist. He has served as the chair of the Oklahoma Annual (regional) Conference’s Hispanic ministries team and currently works as a coordinator for Latino and other ethnic ministries. “My great-grandmother, grandfather, mother and I were educated because of Methodist missionaries. Now, I’m a missionary.”
Retired Kansas City teacher Larry Schmitz and his wife, the Rev. Kristen Schmitz, will travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo in November to teach science, math and English in Lubumbashi, formerly Elizabethville.
Schmitz said he wanted to take advantage of being “in this place in my life, where I’m still in good health, still have the energy and ambition to go out in the world. I’m now retired at 59, and I want to go make a difference in the world.”
A leap of faith
The decision to become a commissioned missionary has been a leap of faith, Schmitz said. “It’s very exciting and rewarding that we are one of a group of eight missionaries being commissioned this year.”
His wife agrees. “The way this has unfolded, it’s obvious it’s where God wants us to be.”
Like the Schmitzes, Mary Escobar of Cedar Hill, Texas, submitted her application to become a Global Ministries missionary earlier this year, then “put it in the Lord’s hands. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I kept praying.”
Escobar is not new to the missionary field. The special education elementary school teacher was a missionary with the Mission Society from 1991 to 1993, teaching English and Christian education while serving three Paraguay Methodist churches. In the mid-1990s, she and her husband settled in the Dallas area. There they had two sons, Wesley, 12, and Daniel, 10.
After 18 years of living in the United States, the Escobars were eager to return to Paraguay. They were invited to head the day-care center at Santa Rosa United Methodist Church in Ascension.
“There are 40 children in day care, with one teacher acting (as) director, and two assistant teachers,” she said. “So they’re in desperate need.”
United Methodist missionaries are supported by second-mile giving from congregations and individuals through The Advance. World Service dollars provided through apportionments make up about 38 percent of missionary support.”
Churches and ecumenical ministries will make requests of the mission agency for missionaries, specifying the skills needed, said Chung. “We match applicants’ gifts and graces with the needs or priorities and types of placements available. They are sent where they are needed.”
Chung said, “Our mission is about connecting with people, connecting with community and connecting the churches in mission.”
Service of Commissioning
The Service of Commissioning will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m. EDT at the General Board of Global Ministries’ Offices, 475 Riverside Drive, New York. The service will be webcast live online.
The eight missionaries being commissioned come from diverse backgrounds and will be deployed to diverse communities. Three are being deployed for world service with Global Ministries. They are:
- The Rev. Kristen Schmitz of Avondale Church, Kansas City, Mo., will teach at the United Methodist English-speaking School of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Larry Schmitz, member of Avondale Church, Kansas City, Mo., will teach at the United Methodist English-speaking School of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Mary Escobar, member of Tyler Street United Methodist Church, Cedar Hill, Texas, will be the director of a children’s day- care center at the Santa Rosa United Methodist Church in Asunción, Paraguay.
Two will be commissioned to serve as regional missionaries and supported by both Global Ministries and United Methodist Women.
- Grace Musuka, member of the Chisipiti United Methodist Church in Harare, Zimbabwe, will be a regional missionary for Central Africa, empowering churchwomen in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Zimbabwe, and will serve as the regional coordinator of women’s work in Zimbabwe.
- The Rev. Hikari Chang of Oceanside, N.Y., will be a regional missionary serving as the executive director for program administration at the Wesley Foundation in Tokyo, Japan.
In addition, three other missionaries will be commissioned to serve within the United States and its territories.
- Hannah Hanson of Mount Olivet United Methodist Church, Arlington, Va., will be a mission interpreter for young adult ministries at the General Board of Global Ministries’ offices in New York.
- The Rev. Carlos Ramirez of Elk City United Methodist Church in Oklahoma will serve as a missionary with the Hispanic/Latino National Plan as the Oklahoma Conference coordinator of Hispanic/Latino ministries in Oklahoma City.
- Olga Gonzalez-Santiago, a member of Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, will be commissioned as a church and community worker and serve as a program director at the Syracuse (N.Y.) Westside Urban Ministries.
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