Message from Rev. John Calhoun Mission Advocate, Northeastern Jurisdiction
Message from Rev. John Calhoun Mission Advocate, Northeastern Jurisdiction
Dearest friends in Christ,
Greetings and peace to you all! I pray that you and your families and loved ones are well. Here in New York, the winter weather is quickly receding, and already little buds of flowers are appearing in the moist, warming soil. We give thanks to God for the coming spring, and for the season of resurrection that awaits us in these next weeks. May your hearts be filled with hope and joyful expectation, as we await the celebration of Jesus' victory over sin and death, and give thanks for God's eternal mercy and grace.
Over the past couple of months, my schedule has been filled with the usual activities that are carried out by Mission Advocates serving here in the United States. I spoke in local UMC congregations about the mission of Global Ministries and the service of our 360 global missionaries. With other staff, I participated in a training program at our headquarters in New York for 20 mission volunteers about to be deployed to ministry sites around the world. I helped interview candidates for new missionary assignments, assisted in the development of a new training program for pastors serving multicultural congregations, and worked with mission leaders in various conferences around the jurisdiction to plan for mission-related events to be held later in the spring.
The highlight of my service thus far in 2016 was my participation in last month's gathering of Global Ministries' missionaries in Johannesburg, South Africa. During February 5-10, nearly 70 missionaries serving in 14 countries across Africa gathered for a week of worship, fellowship, and workshops. Along with several other New York-based staff, I traveled to Johannesburg to help facilitate the gathering and serve as a resource to the missionaries and their families.
Our week together, spent in a Methodist retreat center under the warm African sun, was a blessing for us all. The missionaries were enriched by the fellowship and learning, and we staff were strengthened by the missionaries' own stories of endurance and faithfulness in the midst of hardship. It was a joy to be reminded of all the ways in which our United Methodist missionaries are sharing the love of Christ and serving those in need, in Africa and indeed around the world.
At the conclusion of our week together, I was asked to write an article about our gathering. You may click here to read the article as it appears on the Global Ministries' website, and to see a picture of the gathered missionaries. The text of the article also appears at the end of this email.
It is my honor and blessing to work with such inspired missionaries, and to share their stories with the churches of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of our United Methodist Church. Thank you for your continued support of my mission service, and for the mission ministry of the UMC Board of Global Ministries. May God continue to bless our partnership, as together we seek to fulfill Christ's commandment, "Go and make disciples of all nations!"
Your partner in Christ,
Rev. John Calhoun
Mission Advocate, Northeastern Jurisdiction
General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
phone: (347) 276-5676
GBGM Advance #13970Z
Witnesses to God’s Grace in AfricaBy John Calhoun
“We give you all the glory! We worship you, O Lord, you are worthy to be praised!”
This song of joy and thanksgiving served as the closing anthem to a recent meeting of Global Ministries missionaries in Johannesburg, South Africa. From February 5-10, 2016, nearly 70 missionaries from four continents serving in 14 countries across Africa gathered in this thriving metropolis for a week of worship, fellowship, study, and consultations with Global Ministries executives and other staff.
Held at Emseni Christian Center, a retreat community operated by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the gathering offered missionaries and their families an opportunity to rest and reflect on their ministries. Each morning began with a time of worship and prayer led by missionaries from a particular region of Africa, who incorporated traditions of their region. Throughout each day, missionaries gathered together in small groups to pose and answer challenging questions related to mission service, such as: What is our mission theology? How do we define and live out our guiding principles of mission? Do our lives reflect the love of Christ for the world?
Like many who serve the church in mission, United Methodist missionaries living in Africa face hardships and difficulties that at times challenge their commitment to service. Throughout the gathering, time was set aside for missionaries to share their stories, to witness to one another God’s unfailing love and grace, and to testify to remarkable acts of charity that have sustained their spirits over the years.
During one time of sharing, a missionary pilot serving in Democratic Republic of Congo told one such story:
I was asked to fly my plane to a remote village to deliver supplies to the local population. Not wanting to be a burden to the community, I packed enough food and water to last me five days. During the first few days of my visit to the village, I found myself sharing my clean water with many people in need. By the fourth day, I was nearly out of water, and thus it was time for me to cut my visit short and fly home. When I told the local elders, they asked me not to leave early, that they would provide me with water. By the end of the day, I was given a supply of clean water to last the rest of my visit. I don’t know where they got this water, for they did not have a nearby spring! But somehow, out of their own scarcity, they gave to me in abundance. I will never forget their generosity and love!
The gathered missionaries also found support and encouragement in their engagement with the local Methodist community. On Sunday, the missionaries divided up and worshiped with three local Methodist congregations. In these churches, pastors and laity prayed for the missionaries, offering blessings and thanksgiving in the name of God for their Christian service. Throughout the gathering, 10 laywomen from the Germiston Methodist Church joyfully provided guidance and care for the nearly 30 children of the gathered missionaries. Additionally, the Rev. Dr. Lumka Sigaba, a local Methodist pastor and counselor, led a Bible study based on 2 Kings and the story of Elisha’s service as a missionary of God.
A deeply moving experience was the group’s visit to the Apartheid Museum. This museum recounts the tumultuous history of race relations in South Africa: the initial separation of the races, the establishment of the apartheid regime, the rise of black consciousness and the protest movement, and the triumphant release of Nelson Mandela and his election as the nation’s first fully democratically elected president. The museum also refers to the heroism of church leaders who resisted the apartheid movement. Such leaders included the Rev. Peter Storey, an outspoken bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa who played a significant role in the anti-apartheid movement and helped promote the peaceful transition to democracy. The visit to this important museum provided a profound reminder of the power of telling the truth and seeking justice.
Having been uplifted by these inspirational encounters, and with the joyful words of the anthem still ringing in our ears, our closing worship service concluded with a benediction offered by the Rev. Judy Chung, Global Ministries associate general secretary for missionary services. And with the blessing of the Triune God upon us, we departed South Africa to return to our places of service, further inspired to fulfill the mission of our United Methodist Church: Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!
The Rev. John Calhoun is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. He is serving as mission advocate for the Northeastern Jurisdiction in the United States.