Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Missionary Blessing Service

By Ivy Couch*

ATLANTA—Eight missionary candidates celebrated the conclusion of their training and prepared for their next steps towards service from everywhere to everywhere, in a blessing service held at Global Ministries’ headquarters at Grace United Methodist Church in Atlanta. The blessing service included a foot-washing service where Global Ministries’ staff washed the feet of the candidates as a symbolic blessing to them before their journey.

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Global Missionaries and Global Ministries Staff after the Blessing Service. PHOTO: HECTOR AMADOR

From here, the candidates will disburse to be commissioned (sent) at United Methodist annual conferences that will meet over the course of the next two months, then the candidates will continue their journeys as they to prepare for their places of service.

Countries of origin for the eight candidates are: Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States and Zimbabwe. They will be commissioned to serve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, the Republic of Fiji and United States.

Each candidate has a unique path and experiences that led him or her to this pivotal place of becoming a missionary. One of the candidates, the Rev. Collins Etchi Ako, points to how he learned of God’s grace when he was orphaned at an early age.

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Yollande Yambo washes the feat of Collins Etchi Ako. PHOTO: HECTOR AMADOR

“It was a period of uncertainty because I was still in school and not very sure if I would continue,” says Ako. “I didn’t know who was going to look after my siblings and we didn’t own a house. We didn’t know who was going to feed us. If we fell sick, who was going to take us to the hospital,” he recalls. “One of the most frightening parts was the decision to separate all of the siblings.” Ako was sent to live with an aunt. This tragedy furthered shaped his destiny and would become the catalyst for his deep desire to help young people for years to come.

“I was given the opportunity to go to school, to study and eat well. I could have been the orphan in the street,” reflects Ako. “God found a way for me, his grace brought me this far and I’m so conscious of it. I could be dead, but God gave me a second chance.” Ako now has two bachelor’s degrees in political science and theology and two master’s degrees in social science/international relations and theology. He is married and has four children.

View the service from May 9, 2018:



During the service, the candidates were reminded of the journeys they have taken to this call to serve. The washing of the feet of each missionary candidate represents the act of love found in John 13:14–17, when Jesus instructs the disciples, “If I . . . have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Each candidate was led to take a seat as their feet were washed in an act of love by Global Ministries senior staff, in preparation for their journeys ahead.

The following are the eight Global Missionaries who were blessed during the service, with their home context, placement and country of service:

To be commissioned as Global Missionaries

Rev. Collins Etchi Ako is from Cameroon, he will be serving as administrative and liaison support for the United Methodist East Congo Episcopal Office, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Didier Monga wa Shakapanga is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, he will be serving as mission advocate for young adult mission service for Global Ministries in the United States.

Frederick Aaron Kitonga is from Kenya, he will be serving as lecturer and academic advisor in theology and ministry at the Methodist Lay Training Center in the Republic of Fiji.

Brenda Nguwa is from Zimbabwe, she will be serving as community outreach developer at John Wesley Seminary in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Becky Parsons was born in Florida and raised in Pennsylvania. She will be serving as Mission Advocate for the Northeast Jurisdiction in the United States.

To be commissioned as Racial and Ethnic Plan Missionaries

Rev. Lourdes Calderón is from New Mexico, she will be serving as developer and coordinator of Hispanic/Latino Ministry for the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, in the United States.

Rev. Joel Hortiales was born in Mexico City, and is a U.S. citizen. He will be serving as director of Hispanic/Latino Ministry and Border Concerns for the California-Pacific Annual Conference in the United States.

Rev. Elizabeth Marrero from the Peninsular Deleware conference. She will be serving as coordinator of the Western Jurisdiction’s Hispanic/Latino Ministry, in the United States.

Among this class of missionaries are two Global Mission Fellows: Brenda Nguwa, and Didier Monga wa Shakapanga. Global Mission Fellows is a two-year mission service opportunity for young adults. Prior to her missionary appointment, the Rev. Lourdes Calderón served as a director of Discipleship Ministries for eight years. One of the candidates, the Rev. Joel Hortiales will serve people caught in the throes of border issues.

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Missionaries lift their hands to receive the benediction during the blessing service. PHOTO: HECTOR AMADOR

Becky Parsons a former Church and Community Worker says of her calling to serve as a Mission Advocate, “God’s call was a lowly hum, always there, always pulling me.”

Frederick A. Kitonga spent many years helping children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and ongoing ethnic violence reflects, “my faith in God, continues to enable me to face new days with understanding, great determination and hope.”

Of her work ahead with the Western Jurisdiction, the Rev. Elizabeth Marrero says, “I’ve learned that doing ‘church’ is not something we do inside the walls of the religious building, but what we do outside. I have learned that what we do outside shares the message of loving the neighbor as yourself.”

Global Missionaries

Global Missionaries are from everywhere going to everywhere and engage in cross-cultural mission service outside of their home context. They serve within the global Methodist connection in a variety of roles and ministries with partners around the world in alignment with the Mission Theology of Global Ministries. These missionaries vary in age, trade skills, and occupations, but all serve in ministry with others. They desire to learn about and share God’s love in Jesus Christ in tangible, everyday ways. Learn more about becoming a Global Missionary.

Racial and Ethnic Plan Missionaries

Racial and Ethnic Plan missionaries serve a coordinated effort between annual conferences in the United States and Global Ministries to support and strengthen the implementation of the strategies and programs of the Racial and Ethnic Plans as approved by General Conference.

How to Support Missionaries

1. PRAY for your missionaries and their ministries.
2. Stay in CONTACT through newsletters or social media.
3. Seek ways to PARTCIPATE.
4. DONATE by using the missionary’s Advance number at umcmission.org.

*Ivy Couch is communications specialist in Mission Engagement for Global Ministries.