Symbols of Hope and Pain: Missionaries Gather, Share Their Ministries, Strategize for the Future
by Mary Beth Coudal
Mark Stransky brought a tape measure as a symbol of transformation and hope. As the director of housing at Crossroads in Marion, Virginia, Stransky said that volunteers and community members find grace while repairing houses together.
"What the tape measure doesn't measure is the hearts of the people serving on the projects," Stransky said.
Likewise, the tape measure cannot measure the hearts of the more than 50 missionaries meeting at the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park, Florida, this week for the gathering, "Going Forward: A Gathering of National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry and Church and Community Ministry Missionaries."
On the first day of the four-day meeting, the missionaries shared tools of their work as symbols for the diversity of needs and ways of serving communities across the United States. Missionaries who serve as Church and Community Workers and as National Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministries repair houses, teach children, advocate for health care, offer job fairs, and advocate for immigrants.
Donna Pewo, who is on her way to becoming a missionary with the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, brought a basket as a symbol of her work with Native American children. "We share the Word of God with the children of Clinton so they know there's hope for their future," said Ms. Pewo. "Whatever hopes, goals they have--God is there for them and will watch over them."
Rev. Jaime Vaquez, a new missionary in Phoenix who has worked as a bishop over the region of Mexicali in Mexico, said he works in two "of the hottest cities in North America," Mexicali and Phoenix. Rev. Vaquez's symbol was a cross carved with images of a coyote and cacti. "Because there are a lot of Mexicans in Arizona," Rev. Vaquez said, "there is a lot of racism."
According to missionary Rev. Rosanna Panizo-Valladares, among the immigrants in North America, "which includes Mexico," too many women suffer from domestic violence.
Rev. Panizo-Valladares brought a Latin American-style cross representing women's work--teaching, working in the field, and breastfeeding. "This cross portrays the resurrected life. No more sacrifices. Jesus Christ did it for us. No more pain. But Jesus Christ is still being crucified in this country, and we have to stop this."
While some missionaries brought these crucifixes, others brought drawings. "I brought the symbol of a fish. In Chinese culture, every meal is supposed to have fish. The fish is a symbol of prosperity," said Rev. Fuxia Wang, a missionary serving college students in Oklahoma. "All prosperity comes through God."
Mr. Hector Sanchez, director of La Mission La Esperanza, a mission outreach of United Methodist churches in Emporia, Kansas, lifted up his symbol of God's prosperous love and abundance: a guitar. He strummed on the guitar app on his cell phone. "The guitar is very important," said Mr. Sanchez, who builds community through music and teaching music.
At the beginning of the gathering through a videotaped address, chief executive and former missionary Mr. Thomas Kemper committed the Global Ministries agency to sending missionaries out in as many ways and contexts as possible. He called the worldwide work of United Methodist missionaries "grace abundant."
If you feel called to serve as a United Methodist missionary, there are openings available, including in the Church and Community Worker program. To find out more, contact your Conference Committees on Mission Personnel and Secretaries of Global Ministries. Learn how.
Date posted: Sep 22, 2011