The Four Corners of the World: West Ohio's Global Mission

By Mariellyn Dunlap Grace

In his letter to Colossae, the Apostle Paul speaks of his prayers for the church there and the impact of their faith on other Christians, as well as unbelievers. “We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. …This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace” (Colossians 1:3-4, 6).

In the West Ohio Conference, opportunities abound to support – in numerous ways – the United Methodist Church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Great needs exist the world over, yet starting in 2002, the West Ohio Annual Conference voted to partner with four specific areas of the world: Congo, Mexico, Russia, and Southeast Asia.

These four areas literally represent the ‘Four Corners of the World’ and offer congregations and individuals in West Ohio the opportunity to dig deeper into global missions. Toward this end, some churches have formed ‘Covenant Relationships’ with a particular project, ministry, or congregation within West Ohio’s Mission Partnerships.

All too often, Christians equate mission with money, outreach with a hand-out. Admittedly, money is necessary for the survival and success of many ministries. Without it, orphans go homeless, children suffer malnutrition, malaria runs rampant, addicts remain hopeless, and young adults fail to break free from the cycle of poverty.

Yet mission is about so much more than money. It’s about relationship. The apostle Paul spent the majority of his years of Christian ministry in prison and still managed to impact the world for the cause of Christ. At a time when Paul had absolutely no material wealth to share with his fellow believers, he continued to support them through prayers and letters of encouragement and direction.

Covenant Relationships allow congregations on both sides of the partnership to participate in local ministry in other parts of the world. Opportunities include traveling to different cultures, hosting groups from other countries, praying for ministries and missionaries around the world, and sharing these experiences with friends, family, and other congregants. As one Methodist pastor in Mexico said, “It’s important for people to come here because…they can motivate others to come or support us. God sends angels to support His work.”

Through our Covenant Relationships, West Ohio is making a marked difference in the lives of children, youth, adults, and elders in all four corners of the world…

  • Beyond the danger of malnutrition, throughout the Congo, diseases including cholera, malaria, and typhoid fever spread at alarming rates. In some towns, United Methodists help elevate shops onto bricks to slow the spread of typhoid. Outside other communities, the church is draining ditches to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and decrease the cases of malaria. They also dig underground drainage systems to keep flood waters from going into homes, again to curb malaria. Mosquito nets purchased through the ‘Imagine No Malaria’ campaign by the United Methodist Church are also a vital component of preventing malaria, especially in children.
  • Sunday worship at Templo Aleluya in Piedras Negras, Mexico, invites all who attend to embrace God not only with their hearts, but also with their hands, feet, and voices. Yet Sunday worship is just the beginning at Templo Aleluya, where God’s love spills over from Sunday mornings into the rest of the week. Children’s devotions are held daily, along with a much-needed feeding program. On weekends, adult literacy classes are offered to men and women from the surrounding Colonia – the poorest community in Piedras Negras. A new school building stands off the side, ready to provide local children with a free education – once the funding for teachers’ salaries has been raised. At Templo Aleluya, the songs of life continue to be sung in the midst of a broken world.
  • St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Ulyanovsk, Russia, has taken to heart Jesus’ imperative in Mark 16:15: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” For Rev. Dina Berlyand, pastor of St. Luke’s, that meant starting a church in a state-run nursing home. In 1993, members of Ulyanovsk UMC began visiting the elderly and disabled residents of a local nursing home. Birthday tea parties and Bible studies soon turned into Sunday worship services complete with a choir. These gatherings bring comfort, peace, and cheer to the residents, who are grateful for the opportunity to fellowship together. In a place often associated with loneliness and despair, the United Methodist Church shines a healing, joyous light.
  • For many Cambodians, childhood does not bring carefree days. Raised in a culture of poverty, children enter the economy at early ages. Some sell trinkets late into the night, while others pick through garbage with their families. Education could be a way for people to break these cycles of poverty; but in a land dominated by the day-to-day fight to survive, where decent schooling is private and expensive, parents often decide to put their children to work instead of through school. To alter this cycle, the Methodist Mission in Cambodia supports multiple educational ministries for children and adults.

Disease prevented…children fed…hope offered…education provided. These and many other miracles occur daily in West Ohio’s four Mission Partnerships. In an effort to share these amazing ministry moments with the people of the West Ohio Conference, the Conference will soon be offering a variety of communication tools that congregations and individuals can use to become more informed, including videos, web pages, articles, prayer calendars, Bible studies, worship materials, and photos.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work….You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 11-12).

For more information, email mgrace [at] wocumc.org, dstickley [at] wocumc.org, or call 614-844-6200.