Latin American, Caribbean and US Churches Explore New Ways of Being in Mission Together
April 3, 2009—More than 100 Methodist leaders from Latin America, Caribbean and the United States gathered in Mexico City, March 24-27, to strengthen relationships through sending and receiving volunteers and when responding to local disasters. The four-day gathering, brought together by Global Ministries' Mission Contexts and Relationships, was marked by honest dialog across borders and cultures to strengthen understanding and partnership when engaging in mission together.
"We need to extend our hands to each other," said Rev. Juan de Dios Peña, from El Salvador regarding the need for Latin American and Caribbean countries to be senders as well as receivers of volunteer missionaries. Rev. De Dios acknowledged the economic challenges faced by many Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches in Latin America and the Caribbean (CIEMAL) and Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA) churches and also gave examples of how these have been overcome in his own and other countries in the region.
Sharing of models for volunteer sending and disaster response within the United States was part of the consultation that was led by United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Ways to adapt these models for the various cultural contexts were invited.
"United we can achieve much more," said Bishop Moisés Valderrama Gómez of Mexico, and president of CIEMAL. "We can do what God wants to do through our hands not just as volunteers working in Latin America, but all of us as part of the same church."
The idea for the consultation was born out of a pre-General Conference meeting in Panama when the need to develop volunteer coordinators and leaders within Latin American was raised.
Bishop Valderrama was one of the driving forces behind the consultation, "This is not the result of one individual," said Bishop Valderama of the consultation. "God is calling all of us together."
The meeting brought together volunteer coordinators and bishops from the entire region to explore new ways of doing mission. "This is especially important because Latin America suffers many disasters," said Joyce Torres Placa, general secretary of CIEMAL regarding the disaster response training that was led by UMCOR and Mission Volunteers and resourced by Mission Contexts and Relationships.
In addition to the goal of building the capacity of Latin American and Caribbean churches to respond to disaster was providing assistance for them to send as well as receive volunteer teams, "This event is bringing us together and I trust our future work together will produce good fruits-to not only receive volunteers, but to send them as well," commented Bishop Valderrama.