‘Bridges’ program connects North Georgia, Philippines

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A new congregation has been strengthened by a partnership between Wesleyan University-Philippines and  Bridges Philippines, a project of the United Methodist North Georgia Annual (regional) Conference in the U.S.

The worshipping congregation in Pangatian, Cabanatuan City, was recognized April 24 during the 54th session of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference. Bishop Rodolfo Juan is the presiding bishop.

A community outreach program of the university, Barangay Pangatian  provides income-generating projects, feeding programs, Bible study sessions and vacation church school for children.

The Bridges Philippines project was initiated in 2012 by North Georgia Bishop Mike Watson, who led a small group to Manila to meet with Bishop Daniel Arichea, Jr., then resident bishop of the Manila Episcopal Area. The Rev. Herzen Andone is the project contact.  

“They dreamed about the possibilities of our conferences working together for God's Kingdom,” said the Rev. Kenny Ott, a pastor at Dalton (Ga.) First United Methodist Church and team leader.

A grant from the Harrison Foundation provided the funds for a January North Georgia mission team to provide hands-on work with Wesleyan University, Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, Mary Johnston Hospital and Kapatiran Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. in Manila.  

The gift of working collaboratively

“We have all been very impressed with the outreach efforts of (the university) and know that there is much for us to learn from,” Ott said. “We also expect  (university leaders) to be our partners, not simply recipients or conduits from us to the people of the Philippines.  Perhaps one day we will see students and staff from Wesleyan University come to work alongside us in the United States.”

Conferences, churches, organizations, and people can learn from one another about outreach and missions, he added.  “As I travelled from one ministry location to the others … I was excited to see how well we all worked together and how well our teams skills and abilities meshed with the skills and abilities of the locals, all covered with passion for sharing Christ.”

Ott said he was impressed by the generosity and welcoming spirit of the Filipino people, “I have never felt more at home, while being away from home.

 “We must be in covenant with one another to seek God's calling for our ministry together and then boldly follow that call, knowing that God will provide all we need to accomplish what God calls us to do.”

Ott called Wesleyan University “perhaps the best example of Wesley's vision for the people called Methodists that I have ever seen and it obviously permeates every level of the university — from President Pacifico Aniag to Dr Apolinar Alfonzo to Chaplain Hubert Rigor to every department head to the students. I saw people who really cared about their community and wanted to share the love of Christ in a real and tangible way.”

Describing the next phases of the partnership, Ott said, “In the most basic sense, we are brothers and sisters in Christ called to serve our world.  In a larger sense we are still prayerfully discerning and exploring our future together.”

*Mangiduyos is a deaconess in the United Methodist Philippines Central Conference and a professor at Wesleyan University-Philippines in Cabanatuan City. News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or [email protected].

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