Ghana #1: Giving thanks with the Church across continents
by Juan Sarmiento
“To those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:24 (New Living Translation)
The word “mission” often brings up a set of negative connotations and assumptions. There is no doubt that missionary work has all too often been done as the attempt of the powerful and wise by the standards of this world to come to the rescue of those seen as weak and foolish. It is no wonder that mission, undertaken in that attitude of implicit superiority, can evoke adverse reactions.
But what if we begin to see mission less as the initiative of benefactors and more as the grateful response to the amazing grace of God manifested in Christ.
A grace that is being joyfully received and shared by God’s people in many places, including those that we would least expect.
Over the next few days, The Outreach Foundation is coordinating a visit of Brazilian Presbyterian pastors and leaders to our common partners in Ghana. Recognizing the growing commitment that partners in several countries have developed, The Outreach Foundation created the South to South fund. Since the late 1990’s the fund has helped provide resources for facilitating visits, consultations, and partnership agreements among fellow Presbyterians in different parts of the world. In the case of Ghana and Brazil, both countries are joined by historical bonds, being that Brazilian culture has been greatly influenced by the sizable percentage of its population that traces its roots to West African soil. Presbyterians in both countries are significantly growing in their mission vision and efforts. Just to mention an example the 1st Independent Presbyterian Church of Campinas helped financially in the construction of two church facilities in the rural areas of Northern Ghana.
The Brazilians which are participating in this journey are:
-José Carlos Pezini – Coordinator for Portuguese-speaking ministry with The Outreach Foundation
-Mario Góis – Senior Pastor at 1st Independent Presbyterian Church of Rio Preto and former Secretary of Mission and Evangelism of the denomination
-Fabio Quintanilha – Pastor at Thomaz Coelho Presbyterian Church in Rio de Janeiro
-William Ramos – Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church Presidente Prudente
-Lucas Borba – Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church Presidente Prudente
-Rafael de Castro – Minister of Worship at First Presbyterian Church Presidente Prudente
We will be visiting different ministry locations in the majority Muslim Northern and Upper regions, enjoying several opportunities for dialogue with denominational leaders, worshipping together, and exploring what the next steps in the partnership may look like. Following the motto of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana “That they all may be one” out of the 17th chapter of the gospel according to John, our group will be meditating on Jesus’ prayer and its implications for mission in partnership.
Thomas Merton once wrote “the grateful man knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference” (Thoughts on Solitude, 1958). Many of us in the United States are returning to our regular activities after a holiday dedicated to giving thanks. May these words serve as a reminder that, contrary to how we may sometimes feel, followers of Jesus in any given part of the world are far from being alone in their desire to live out their gratitude to God. Many people in Brazil, Ghana and countless other places are experiencing the goodness of God and are eager to join in sharing it with others. The differences that their gratitude make are certainly worth celebrating. I believe that the church in the traditionally “sending countries” could rediscover its calling by walking with our brothers and sisters who see Christ as their only reliable source of power and wisdom.
I appreciate your prayers as I serve as both trip coordinator and interpreter in two languages that I acquired later in life. Stay tuned to our updates in the next few days. I am bracing for a wonderful time.