I am heading out of town this week for a trip to Nicaragua, to visit a good friend of mine whose family has been serving as Disciples missionaries there for the past several years. I’m looking forward to seeing the good work the church is doing in a very different part of the world.
I’ve always appreciated the Disciples’ approach to missionary work. We work together with the United Church of Christ to send missionaries to a number of places around the world – but we only go where we’re invited, and we don’t go with the explicit intention of converting people, or building new Disciples churches. Instead, missionaries are sent to do whatever is most helpful to the faith communities already active in local communities. In the case of Nicaragua, my friend Laura Jean Torgerson and her husband Tim Donaghy, have been working with La Mision Christiana, a Nicaraguan denomination of churches. Nicaragua is a very poor country – second only to Haiti in highest poverty levels in the Western hemisphere – and a century of civil war and natural disasters has meant that the country doesn’t have the infrastructure or education programs it needs. The church has tried to fill the gaps by providing food security programs with rural communities and after-school programs with neighborhood children. Both Tim and Laura Jean teach at the local university and seminary — Laura Jean teaches students who want to be pastors in the church, and Tim, who is a scientist by background, has worked with environmental education programs.
Missionaries who do this sort of work often refer to it as a “ministry of accompaniment.” That is, they walk with the people they have come to serve, doing whatever they can to help, but primarily just being with them. I think that’s a pretty powerful witness.
I’m excited to see this work first-hand, and I’ll bring back lots of pictures and stories to share. If you want to read more about what Disciples are doing in Nicaragua and around the world, visit www.globalministries.org. By the way, the gifts you make to our congregation – some of which get sent on to the Disciples Mission Fund, which helps support Global Ministries – make this important work possible. You are part of the body of Christ, here in Greensboro and around the world.