Equipped for Ministry and Mission Leadership
Mission Ambassadors Summit 2018
By Christie R. House*
The surprising activity of the Spirit of God was evident and tangible throughout the Dec. 3–5 Mission Ambassadors Summit sponsored by Global Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. The summit was a gathering of eight different categories of mission advocates, including mission ambassadors, volunteers, disaster and conference mission coordinators and others, who came seeking ways to deepen their mission involvement with Global Ministries and with one another. Theological and theoretical concepts contained in the Theology of Mission, a statement that grounds Global Ministries’ work, took shape as participants discovered partners with similar passions for mission and ministry. Stories about ministries across the United Methodist connection gave evidence to God at work for the transformation of the world.
Missionaries Jae and Grace Choi lead a Filipino song during the 2018 Mission Ambassadors Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. PHOTO: ANTHONY TRUEHEART
While people working in similar roles from different areas of the country discovered each other’s work, people from the same conference were also surprised to discover new colleagues working in ministries they did not know existed. Setting aside time and space for discussion at the summit meant connections were made within and across regional lines.
The Rev. Olu Brown, pastor of Impact Church in East Point, Georgia, where most of the event was held, set the tone of the meeting in the opening worship, declaring, “All our churches have this discussion about not having enough resources. God created the heaven and the earth – in God there is no resource deficit.” While resources and financial concerns were discussed during the summit, people approached the topic by asking questions like, “What knowledge or resources can I share with you?” rather than, “How are you going to fulfill my needs?”
The Wideness of Our Work
The summit provided a big picture of United Methodist mission, revealing local, conference and jurisdictional activities that coincide with Global Ministries’ international work. Participants also heard from missionaries and staff who could provide first-person accounts of ministries in action.
Jae and Grace Choi, Korean missionaries who served for 12 years in the Philippines, led morning prayer. Jae shared his experiences in short, meaningful stories. One, from his work at Union Theological Seminary in Cavite, he called, “Little Humility, Huge Benefit.” The seminary had a small organic farm, which Choi supervised. The caretaker in the garden was a pastor with an agricultural degree. The pastor did things slowly, using older methods. He would methodically plod along behind a plow and caribou. “I didn’t like ‘natural’ farming,” Choi admitted. One day he had had enough, and Choi asked the pastor if they could buy a tractor. He explained to the pastor how much labor it would save and how much faster, orderly and more efficient the garden would be. Choi even agreed to pay for the tractor in full.
The pastor said, “missionaries come and go. They always like change and development. They buy machines and then leave us. We don’t have money to buy fuel, or knowledge to maintain the machine or the parts to service it. Come, walk beside me as we walk behind the caribou.”
Chad Stoltz, a Volunteer in Mission coordinator and Health Ambassador from West Ohio, lives on a farm, and the story resonated with him. “Like Jae, I would have bought the tractor. But now I’m seeing, we have to take that step back,” he said. “Is it the right way for them? We have to remind ourselves, we’re not there to change someone’s way of life. That’s not what God calls us to do.”
Resourced with new possibilities
The Mission Ambassadors Summit provided resources attendees could share throughout the United Methodist connection. In addition to a flash drive containing all the workshop presentations and digital copies of brochures, the advocates also received glimpses and samples of projects and training programs being developed by Global Ministries.
Members of the Pacific Islander Plan attending the event realized that the annual MANA gathering they host in the United States for youth and young adults from Fiji, Tonga and Samoa would be a great place to introduce the Global Mission Fellow Program. Steve Maga, chair of the Pacific Islander Plan, resolved to invite Global Mission Fellows to address the next MANA gathering.
A new online training curriculum, “Practicing Hope. Transformative Mission Today,” also gained some attention at the summit. The curriculum was developed after people in local congregations through focus groups asked for training that was based on the training missionaries receive before entering service. Dick Arnold, an In Mission Together coordinator from Virginia, said, “This really looks like an awesome resource for local churches seeking to train their mission workers.” The first modules should be available online February 2019.
Mutual learning and insights
Having direct access to the Global Ministries staff members who coordinate programs that attendees work with on conference and local church levels opened up important two-way discussions. Staff from every unit of the agency were on hand to meet advocates and answer their questions. General Secretary Thomas Kemper was also available to hear from people at the summit.
Global Ministries staff members also gained a better understanding of their partners through their experience at the summit.
Participants of the 2018 Mission Ambassadors Summit speak with Digital Engagement manager, Michael Graves, while visiting Global Ministries' offices in Atlanta, Georgia. PHOTO: ANTHONY TRUEHEART
“Their enthusiasm excited me to continue the work,” commented Nora Colmenares, senior manager of Congregational Resources. “We want their voice to shape what we are doing here, and I think that is happening.” Russell Pierce, executive director of Mission Engagement noted the deep love that mission ambassadors have for the work of the local church.
Dr. Olusimbo Ige, executive director of Global Health, commented, “We are not alone in our work; we are surrounded by this amazing group of mission-minded people who want to show the world the love of God through health ministries.”
“I always said that mission is in the DNA of the church known as Methodist,” commented George Howard, director of Connectional Engagement. “Today, I’ve learned that mission is in the DNA of the people known as Methodist. I learned that our mission advocates are passionate about their communities, about one another and about this broken world.”
By the end of the summit, many deeply understood the words of the Theology of Mission statement, “With openness and gratitude, we await the leading of the Spirit in ways not yet seen as God continues to work God’s purposes out in our own day in a new way.”
Christie R. House is senior writer and editor, Mission Engagement, General Board of Global Ministries.