Last Friday, I had just flown in from Atlanta where we had a wonderful and inspiring series of meetings with Ed Albright, executive presbyter and stated clerk for the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, his presbytery staff colleagues, pastors of established churches and emerging ones, the Korean Community Church - see the church's Website for a photo of our visit, and a recent Presbyterian News Service feature for a related story - Calvin Center camp, and the former and future Moderator. Tired though I was, I joined 13 new mission workers who have just completed their 3 weeks of orientation and preparation before being sent out around the world. Tired as they must have been after so much information and experience, they were energized and so, too, was I. I must say, we do prepare our mission workers well. They commented about that, too.
They had begun in Toronto with the Canadian Churches’ Forum for an ecumenical component. With mission workers from several Canadian denominations, they reflected on Biblical, historical and contemporary perspectives on mission, cross-cultural skills, interfaith relations, regional and global issues, and much more—all within an interactive learning process that included visits to various cultural and faith groups within the multicultural setting of Toronto.
Then they came to Louisville for another week, learning about our Presbyterian mission and missiology, policies and the resources that support them. One described having several dozen people in the room, all members of the GAC staff, who support our World Mission work and workers. "It was like the Verizon commercial,” she said. “There I was and I could wave my arm and say with confidence, 'these are my people.' I feel so well supported." This spirited woman from Blackhawk Presbytery, Brenda Harcourt, who had been in mission service a number of years before, has been newly assigned to do lay and clergy training with the Evangelism department of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa.
In our many interactions together and in hearing the nature of the many assignments that our mission workers were about to undertake, I now see them more clearly as those critical connectors who engage us U.S. Presbyterians with our work in the wider world. Through their work and witness, we expand our support of our partners as well as make the engagement of those in the United States for more effective and meaningful mission, connecting as we do with longstanding relationships, cultural understanding and ongoing presence as we walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. It had been a long week, but thanks to such Spirit-filled encounters, I left with renewed energy.