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Brothers and Sisters in Christ - A Volunteer in Mission Experiences the UM connection

by Rev. Dale Waser

Rev Dale Waser, Associate Pastor at Trinity UMC, Arlington, Texas
Rev Dale Waser, Associate Pastor at Trinity UMC, Arlington, Texas
Image by: United Methodist Churches


Would I have ever chosen to fly 5783+ miles and sit on a plane for 15+ hours? Would I just choose to spend 1½ weeks on my knees in sawdust, wood chips and bent nails, hammering paneling onto a concrete wall? Would I choose to be interrupted by a noisy bunch of children who wanted to try out their skill at hammering a nail? Would I have ever chosen to take only six showers in two weeks? And then spend another 16½ hours flying back home?

Absolutely not! But then I would have missed seeing Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal” hanging in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, touring the Kremlin, standing in Red Square. I would have missed meeting Tasha, Alex, Luda, Olga, and Maxim, just to name a few of the children at Russian characters for the name of the Orphanage Home, “Our Home,” 15 Km SE of Moscow, in Tomilino. I would have missed 13 yr old Tanya. Every time I made another animal sound she instantly drew the animal or bird on the blackboard. She is a natural artist. I would have missed all the hugs and holding hands. I would have missed sharing names with children who could say only hello, how are you, or what is your name? I would have missed the cleaning lady who never smiled or responded the first two days when we said Dobra Utro - (good morning). I would have missed seeing her with a beaming smile on her face the day before we left, holding the brand new broom we gave her over her head like a cheerleader celebrating the last second touchdown winning the super bowl. I would have missed dancing with the little girls in the disco which the youth in the orphanage built by themselves in the trashed out basement of the orphanage. I would have missed the absolutely phenomenal goodbye/thank you program the youth put on just for this new family from America the night before we left. I would have missed the teacher who checked out the paneling carefully, and then gave me a smiling thumbs up!

I would have missed meeting Tobias, the president of the United Methodist Seminary in Moscow, and talking to some students studying to be ordained UM pastors in Russia. I would have missed seeing the Book of Discipline on Tobias’s desk. I would have missed hearing one seminary student as she said, “I am so glad you came and we could meet one another. Now that you know us and we know you, we don’t feel so alone. Pray for us."

Four days after getting home from Russia, I set out to drive to Reynosa, Mexico with four other Trinity UMC men to work for the weekend on a UM parsonage, made totally of cinder block and concrete, in the Colonias. We coordinated the trip thru Gloria Reeves, our Conference Missionary who is the Volunteer In Missions coordinator for the Central Texas Conference, and Guillermo (Willie) Berman, the Eastern Conference VIM Coordinator in Iglesia Metodista de Mexico. Willie is a very talented, deeply committed Christian who left the business world to respond to God’s call to mission work. During several conversations, Willie outlined some of his vision for missions in the Eastern Conference in Mexico. He wants teams from the US and Mexico to work together in mission. His goal is to build relationships between people and churches on both sides of the border so we can get to know one another as brothers and sisters in faith and not just as objects of mission work. Willie wants to help make a stronger connection between UM’s on both sides of the US/Mexico border. Thanks to Willie and his wife Veronica, his aunt Gloria, his parents Erin and Olga Berman, Oscar, a fellow pastor who works with Willie and over a dozen other persons, we learned a new meaning of the word ‘family.’

Thanks to the director of Our Home in Tomilinoolino, and the children and teachers who accepted us and taught us, in Russia, the meaning of family. Through many goodby hugs and tears they told us, “you are not Americans doing mission work, you are our brothers and sisters who came to work along side us. We will miss you. Please come back again. Don’t forget about us.”

It was during one of my conversations with Willie that it hit me. Both of my trips were made with the help of VIM coordinators. Working through the system they made plans, set up connections and prepared the way for us. But it was what different persons said during these trips that came back to me in a sudden overwhelming flash of understanding. We are all connected. And not just through The United Methodist Church. The seminary student who said she didn’t feel so alone now that we knew each other, the director of Russian characters for the name of the Orphanage Home, who said we were brothers and sisters, Willie’s comments about wanting us to not see brown or white or black or yellow but just brothers and sisters, all shouted of connections. The United Methodist Church is a connectional system. But more than that we are all members of the body of Christ. And more importantly for me the body just claimed a face in the seminary, and in Tomilinoolino, and in Reynosa. There are people in those places I may never meet again in this life, but I will never forget them, ever. Beyond that the question presents itself, “Dale, what are you going to do to help your brothers and sisters, wherever they might be?”

Rev. Dale Waser is a pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Arlington, Texas.
See Also...
Topic: Christian love GBGM programs Mission opportunities United Methodist Church Volunteers
Geographic Region: MexicoRussia
Source: Mission Volunteers

arrow icon. Trinity UMC website
arrow icon. View Listing of Missionaries Currently Working in: Mexico    Russia |   

Date posted: Nov 19, 2003