“We commission you to take the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ into all the world.” Twenty-nine times the ancient phrase was intoned as The United Methodist Church sent new missionaries from 11 countries to serve in 16 lands.
The liturgy of commissioning, both solemn and joyful at the Oregon Convention Center, was believed to be the first as part of a United Methodist General Conference, the church’s policy-making assembly that meets every four years.
The new missionaries will serve as church developers, chaplains, teachers, health practitioners or administrators, agricultural specialists and youth workers. Six of the 29 will work in the health field. Four will engage in ministries with migrants.
Twenty-five are “global missionaries;” four are Church and Community Worker missionaries who will work in economically marginalized urban and rural communities in the United States. They serve through the denomination’s United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, which currently has some 350 missionaries in 60 countries, and projects and partners in 60 more.
The act of commissioning, including the laying on of hands, was conducted by a trio of bishops who serve as officers of Global Ministries. They were Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of North Carolina, president of the agency; Bishop John Yambasu of Sierra Leone, vice president, and Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of Wisconsin, president of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), a unit of Global Ministries.
Going beyond walls
Yambasu preached during the service of commissioning. Reflecting the 2016 General Conference theme, “Therefore, Go …” he urged United Methodists to “go out” beyond the walls of sanctuaries to serve the poor, the marginalized and neglected. “We have become too comfortable,” Yambasu said.
As part of his sermon time, Yambasu arranged to show “Beyond Bethlehem,” a short documentary on the plight of 3.5 million Syrian refugees. He called attention to the 6 million children who die each year from preventable diseases. He also said:
“In Asia, thousands of migrants are enslaved, misused and sexually abused each year in an effort to find a living and support their families back home.
“In Palestine, it is estimated that about 750,000 people have been forcefully uprooted from their ancestral homes since 1948, not counting the thousands who continue to be decimated by horrific Israeli weapons — bombs, missiles and shells that blow up men, women and children — with a quarter of the fatalities being children.”
Elizabeth and David McCormick from Louisiana will serve in Mozambique, two of the half-dozen new missionaries who will be working in health ministries. Both are assigned to the Chicuque Rural Hospital — Elizabeth as a pharmacist, and David as hospital administrator.
In a brief interview, David McCormick said his greatest expectation as a missionary is to “be a part of God’s mission and to build authentic relationships in grace, love and peace.” The McCormicks have two small girls.
A. Broncano is going from the Philippines to work with young people in Southeast Asia. She is excited “about sharing the lives of those with whom I will work in education and community development,” she said after being commissioned.
John Nday from the North Katanga Conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo is also going to Mozambique to the historic Cambine Mission, where he will work as agricultural coordinator. He looks forward to helping people increase food “production so they can take care of themselves.” Cambine has land used to grow food for a school and orphanage. Nday will also assist in the training of pastors for community outreach.
Missionaries for Global Mission
The service of commissioning emphasized the church’s global mission by readings of scripture in French, English, Kiswahili and Portuguese. Providing special music were the Cherokee Choir of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and the Choral Bethel dos Coqueiros of Bethel United Methodist Church in Luanda, Angola.
- Patrick Abro from Côte d’Ivoire Conference will serve as assistant health board coordinator, North Katanga Episcopal Area, Democratic Republic of Congo
- Michael Arteen, House of Bread Church, Palestine, chaplain and director of spiritual life at Bethlehem Bible College
- A. Broncano, Philippines East Conference, coordinator for English language program for the United Methodist Mission, Southeast Asia
- Douglas Childress, Upper New York Conference (U.S.), pastor of international ministry and teacher, Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary, Tallinn, Estonia
- Eden Fletcher, Methodist Church in Britain, coordinator of education, resources and administration for the United Methodist Mission, Southeast Asia
- Leo Garcia, Methodist Church in Cuba, professor at Quéssua School of Theology, East Angola
- Florence Kaying, North Katanga Conference, Democratic Republic of Congo, maternity and child health nurse practitioner, Mozambique Episcopal Area, Mozambique
- Hector N. Laporta, Methodist Church of Peru, professor at Dr. Gonzalo Baez Camargo Methodist Seminary, Mexico City, Mexico.
- David McCormick, Louisiana Conference (U.S.), administrator, Chicuque Rural Hospital, Mozambique
- Elizabeth McCormick, Louisiana Conference (U.S.), pharmacist, Chicuque Rural Hospital, Mozambique
- Jennifer Moore, Church of the Nazarene, Maryland (U.S.), Christian education, Serbia-Montenegro-Macedonia Provisional Conference, Macedonia
- Jean Mwenze, North Katanga Conference, professor, Banyam Theological Seminary, Nigeria
- John Nday, North Katanga Conference, agricultural coordinator, Cambine Mission, Mozambique
- Jim Perdue, Iowa Conference (U.S.), missionary for global migration, Central America and Mexico, Central American University, El Salvador
- Marcel Sachou, Côte d’Ivoire Conference, church planter and pastoral mentor, Central African Republic
- Desiree Segura-April, Pacific Northwest Conference (U.S.), resource person for children at-risk ministries, Nicaragua
- Külli Tõniste, Upper New York Conference (U.S.), assistant professor, Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary, Tallinn, Estonia
- Josh Van, California-Nevada Conference (U.S.), ministry with Vietnamese migrant workers for the Methodist Church in Malaysia
- Aaron Vandersommers, East Ohio Conference (U.S.), chief operations officer for the Church of Christ in the Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo
- Mary Vandersommers, East Ohio Conference (U.S.), community development consultant for the Church of Christ in the Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo
- Ryan Williams, Watermark Community Church, Dallas, Texas (U.S.), teacher, United Methodist English-speaking School of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo
- Stacey Williams, Watermark Community Church, Dallas, Texas (U.S.), teacher, United Methodist English-speaking School of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo
- D. Yang, Minnesota Conference (U.S.), congregational development specialist, United Methodist Mission, Southeast Asia
- Mike Zdorow, Florida Conference (U.S.), pastor of Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, Moscow, Russia
- Henri Zombil, North Katanga Conference/Florida Conference (U.S.), health services administrator, Sierra Leone Conference
Church and Community Worker Missionaries
- Jennifer Henneman, New Mexico Conference (U.S.), program director, Faith Community Health Connection, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
- Amy Purdom, Virginia Conference (U.S.), mentoring program coordinator, House of the Carpenter, Wheeling, West Virginia, U.S.
- Linda Stransky, Holston Conference (U.S.), executive director, Jubilee Project Inc., Sneedville, Tennessee, U.S.
- Anna Troy, Rio Texas Conference (U.S.), outreach coordinator for Partners in Ministry, Youth Empowered to Succeed, Laurinburg, North Carolina, U.S.
Elliott Wright, a veteran reporter who has covered six general conferences, is a consultant with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.