Asia Mission Summit encourages, enriches partnership
By Cathy Kupsky*
HOUSTON – As an unseasonably cold blast hit the Galveston Bay area in mid-January, 48 United Methodists gathered here to celebrate – and imagine the future for – the church’s mission initiatives in Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam.
The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries brought together people representing all five mission initiatives in Asia for this first-ever combined consultation. Representatives from each initiative joined partners from across the U.S. for worship, learning, discussion and prayer.
United Methodist partners prayed over representatives from the church’s mission initiatives from Cambodia, Laos, Magnolia, Thailand and Vietnam. PHOTO COURTESY OF MYUNGIM KIM
Eileen Miles of Coon Rapids, Minn., attended with her daughter, adopted from Vietnam in 1974. “It was amazing to be in a room with our brothers and sisters throughout Asia and throughout United States,” she said. “We are all … family in Christ. It was very emotional for me.”
Representatives shared about their country, United Methodist work in that location and their unique strengths and challenges. Similar trends emerged, even as participants recognized how bordering countries differ from one another.
Breakout groups focused on various facets of mission engagement. In work groups, partners talked directly with country representatives. As the entire body gathered, bishops offered meditations while Global Ministries leaders shared updates and insights into their larger vision for the future. The summit also featured a panel discussion with Bishop Scott J. Jones, Houston Area; Bishop Jeremiah J. Park, Harrisburg (Pa.) Area; Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Raleigh (N.C.) Area; and Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries general secretary.
Bishops Hope Morgan Ward and Jeremiah Park attended the Houston summit along with Thomas Kemper and other staff from Global Ministries. Missionaries who serve with the Asia mission initiatives, and Joel Rabb, In Mission Together Coordinator, far left back row, pause for a photo. PHOTO COURTESY OF MYUNGIM KIM
“The conference,” said the Rev. Steven Bailey, “allowed us not only to strengthen our own thoughts about the locations (where) we have been in mission already but (also) to learn about the wider scope of things and see it as a regional mission.” He is superintendent of the North Coast District, East Ohio Conference.
Key concepts regarding the future work of United Methodist mission initiatives were self-sustainability as well as commitment to healthy partnerships that uphold dignity and value the assets of everyone involved.
Attendees examined individual approaches, understanding that everyone plays an important role in moving congregations and communities forward with a deeper understanding of partnership, engagement and equality.
Kemper found the experience inspiring and invigorating.
“This consultation,” he said, “challenges your own context; yet, it also gives you a sense of belonging. One of the bishops told me, ‘I am now the bishop of all these areas because I feel so connected.’
“And to see all the partners come together to create this kind of community – where it’s not just Global Ministries or one initiative – but a community of support,” Kemper added. “That was … exciting!”
Kupsky attends Grove City (Ohio) United Methodist Church and works in partnership with Linworth UMC, Columbus, for the Laos Missions.