You Will Be Witnesses

By Mariellyn Dunlap Grace

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

During the 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples and instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The disciples asked Jesus if he was planning to restore the kingdom to Israel, but as usual, the disciples were thinking much too small. The point of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection wasn’t to bring about an earthly revolution. Instead, the focus was spiritual in nature: witnessing to the events they had seen on earth so that God’s heavenly kingdom of love and grace might be brought near.

As Christians today, we often fail to recognize the bigger picture. Our lives are so full of the here and now that we never stop to wonder if God’s plan might be greater than ours. Acts 1:8 doesn’t stop with the disciples being Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem; the verse goes on to say, “and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” In other words, the love and grace offered through Jesus Christ should be made known in every corner of the world. But how? Surely God isn’t asking every person to sell their possessions and move to ‘the ends of the earth.’ Perhaps not…but that doesn’t mean anyone is exempt from God’s calling to love the world as God does.

> LEARN

In a world of information overload, it may be hard to discern what charity, cause, or celebrity you should pay attention to. But if you’re interested in learning more about mass baptisms in Vietnam, a flight ministry transporting the seriously ill in Congo, dancing with Gypsies in Russia, or finding hope among the gang violence in Mexico, then check out the new ‘Four Corners of the World’ global mission web pages, starting here: http://www.westohioumc.org/conference/four-corners-world. There you’ll find information about all four Mission Partnerships, including photos, stories, a prayer calendar, and worship materials. A series of ‘Four Corners’ videos has also been released, along with a Bible study and other resources, allowing you to learn more about the ministries of the United Methodist Church around the world.

In Cambodia, for example, the Methodist Church is still relatively young, as are its members. From 1975 to 1979, at least 2 million Cambodians died under the brutal reign of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. Many of the nation’s young people were killed, leaving behind a vacuum of leadership. Today, 70% of the population is younger than 30, and 60% is younger than 18. For the Methodist Mission in Cambodia, leadership development is absolutely vital, as many church positions are filled by youth.

In Laos, people have recently begun emerging from a history of isolation. Following 300 years of shifting foreign dominance, Communist leadership in Laos ascended to power during the U.S.-Vietnam War, and the country became closely connected to Vietnam. After the war, Laos withdrew from most international affairs, separating itself from much of the world. Most forms of religious expression were forced underground. Though Christian missionaries have begun to witness, minority religions still are regulated by government officials.

In Vietnam, as United Methodism gains disciples and approaches official state recognition, congregations can still be targeted or harassed by public officials. But the United Methodist Church in Vietnam has been far from idle. Already United Methodism has spread to 12,000 members in roughly 200 congregations. The speed of growth, most of which takes place in rural communities, surpasses the Church’s ability to train pastors. Thanks in part to the United Methodist Church, many people in Vietnam have discovered the love and acceptance for which we all yearn.

> PRAY

Prayer is one of the best ways to support the missionaries and ministries of the United Methodist Church in places like Congo, Mexico, Russia, and Southeast Asia. To that end, an online Global Prayer Calendar is available with daily prayer requests (click here). Each week will focus on a ministry from one of West Ohio’s four Mission Partnerships and feature daily prayer requests, information about the ministry, photos, and links to other information. Prayer is a powerful instrument, as our brothers and sisters in the Mexico Oriental Conference can attest.

“Are you sure this is the place?” Pastor Hector Aguirre’s wife Berta asked in disbelief. With no water or electricity, the location of Templo Aleluya, Piedras Negras’s newest Methodist congregation, was not exactly ideal. Besides, how would they even get people to come? As Pastor Hector began visiting his church’s new neighbors, a pattern emerged. Living in tiny shacks beside the railroad tracks, these people were hungry. So Pastor Hector and his family prayed for enough food to satisfy the hunger of everyone who came to church. 

“One day, we had no food, but we came across some bags on the side of the road…and they were full of bread!” Pastor Hector recalls. “There was enough for every person in the church. We found out [that day] that God was in charge of the food!” The same year Pastor Hector’s family started ministering at Templo Aleluya, their daughter was diagnosed with cancer, stretching the family’s faith even farther than before. Four months later, though, she was completely cured. Time and again, Pastor Hector’s family has been amazed at God’s provision. “We thought we came here to teach, but we have learned much instead,” he says.

> GIVE

Financial support is a critical component of any ministry, particularly in nations where the majority of people live on less than $2 a day. You can donate to West Ohio Mission Partnership projects or missionaries online here, or checks can be made payable to ‘West Ohio Conference’ and should list the project or partner in the memo line. Send checks to Office of Mission & Justice, 32 Wesley Blvd., Worthington, OH 43085. One hundred percent of every gift donated through the West Ohio Advance goes directly to the person or project, such as Congo’s Wings of the Morning aviation ministry.

In the Congo, hospitals are scarce, the nearest one sometimes being more than 200 miles away. And going from one place to another can be a challenge. In a conference the size of Texas, with no paved roads, it can easily take a day, or even a week, to travel 150 miles. Through a ministry known as Wings of the Morning, The United Methodist Church offers air transportation for those who need it most. These flights bring hope to the otherwise hopeless in the form of medical supplies, Bibles, pastors, and mission teams, as well as evacuation of critically ill and injured villagers to hospitals in larger towns.

With so many needing help, Wings of the Morning hopes to purchase a refurbished Cessna Grand Caravan at a cost of $1.6 million. The new airplane will enable Wings of the Morning to expand its ministry with greater efficiency per hour of flight at significantly reduced operating costs. It will enable the pilot to nearly triple his capacity to carry people and supplies to remote towns and villages. This means that entire villages will receive better health care and that the gospel message will be accessible to villages that have yet to be reached.

> GO

Though prayer and financial support are essential for West Ohio’s Mission Partnerships, nothing can take the place of forming relationships with brothers and sisters living in countries around the world. Relationships foster trust and respect, allowing the love of Christ to shine more brightly. Volunteer in Mission teams allow West Ohioans to encounter new cultures and ideas, build new structures or repair old ones, worship God in a different language and style, and shower God’s love on vulnerable children. No one who joins in such experiences, as either giver or receiver, can remain unchanged.

Every winter, as the Christmas season looms closer, children around the world write letters to their culture’s adaptation of Santa Claus. Russian children are no different, sending missives to Father Christmas with lists of dreams and desires they hope will come true. But not the children at Orphanage #1 in Samara…they have no need to implore Father Christmas for presents. Their greatest gift comes each January in the form of a Volunteers in Mission team from the West Ohio Conference.

Part of the money raised by the VIM team is used to take each of the 128 children shopping for a new sweater and pair of shoes. But the real gift is that of time…time VIM teams spend playing games, throwing snowballs, and eating together with the children. The stigma of “orphan” begins to dissipate, and each child receives the true gift of Christmas—the gift that says they matter.  For the 128 children of Orphanage #1, Christmas arrives not on a reindeer-drawn sleigh from the North Pole, but on an airplane from the West Ohio Conference.

Learn. Pray. Give. Go. The choice is yours.

“Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name’” (Acts 22:14-16).

Will you be part of God’s global mission?

For more information on The Four Corners of the World: West Ohio's Global Mission, contact Dee Stickley-Miner at dstickley [at] wocumc.org, Mariellyn Dunlap Grace at mgrace [at] wocumc.org, or call 614-844-6200.