Over the past three years, a partnership between United Methodists in the Philippines and the U.S. state of Georgia has provided lessons in mission evangelism.
"Mission finds its heart where God’s people are," said Dr. Glenn Roy Paraso, coordinator of Bridges Philippines.
The third visit to the Philippines by the North Georgia Conference partners ended Nov. 30. Led by the Rev. Herzen Andone, project contact, and the Rev. Sharma Lewis, the U.S. team was composed of 15 clergy and laity members, with a mix of youth and adults, including a number of parents and their children.
The Bridges Philippines project was initiated in 2012 by North Georgia Area Bishop Mike Watson, who led a small group to Manila to meet with Bishop Daniel Arichea Jr., then resident bishop of the Manila Area.
Part of the visit was spent at a mission church in Angat, where 47 people were baptized in the river.
Team members saw the Philippines church’s mission evangelism formula — nurturing the disciples from the mother congregation, sending them out to plant a church and slowly working with the local worshipping congregation to grow the church — in action, Paraso said.
Mike Wilson, a member of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church in Dalton, Georgia, was part of the 2014 North Georgia team that helped start the new Good Samaritan congregation. “This is where I fell in love with the people of the Philippines,” he said. “I returned this year to strengthen this partnership."
He and his son, Max Wilson, and Tiffany Henderson also paid visits to the outreach ministries and programs of the Philippines’ Wesleyan University, which included sustainability projects related to mushrooms and smoked fish.
Other team members visited the Kapatiran Kaunlaran Foundation’s programs of outreach and scholarship for children and out-of-school youth.
“I saw how the missions are teaching the communities to help themselves,” Mike Wilson said. “So many missions just feed a population. These missions have gone above just feeding to teaching how to take care of themselves.”
Donating money isn’t enough to accomplish this work, he pointed out. “Raising awareness to the missions and getting people involved is a key to their success.”
North Georgia team members were accepted as family. “The people in each community welcomed us with open arms,” Wilson explained. “My son Max and I learned so much from each location."
Hope for partnership
Lewis, district superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District, attended the 24th National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Philippine Central Conference Coordinating Council meetings with Andone and current Manila Area Bishop Rudy Juan.
"I participated as well in the Manila Feeding Program at the Manila Episcopal Office and preached at Good Samaritan UMC in Quezon City,” Lewis said. “I characterized the 24th NCCP conference as ecumenism at its best. I enjoyed preaching and meeting the members of Good Samaritan during the first Sunday in Advent and the ‘Harvest in the City’ celebration.
Lewis, who has been involved in missions in Africa and Jamaica, said that she joined the team because she was “touched” by a Bridges Philippines presentation in 2013.
"I pray that our partnership will be strengthened in the future by providing leadership development for clergy and especially, clergywomen, and by forming medical and dental mission teams," she added.
“We Filipinos say that we have been blessed with their presence and support; but they (North Georgia team) said that they have been blessed more as they head back home and take with them the … reality of God’s mission handiwork in the Philippines,” Paraso said.
Mangiduyos is a deaconess in the 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].