Developing South-South Mission Partnerships - Update
What follows is adapted from an article by Rev. Mario Gois, who is a minister of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPIB, by its initials in Portuguese). It appeared in the latest issue of “O Estandarte” (“The Beacon”) which is the official monthly publication of the denomination. The IPIB is the partner church of The Outreach Foundation in the country.
It was a true pleasure to lead the trip and to see how God’s people in both Brazil and Ghana continue to strengthen their relationships in mission. Because of the trip, the youth at one of the Brazilian congregations have raised support to help fund the education of Ghanaian lay leaders. Outreach’s South to South efforts are avenues through which new global initiatives and collaborations can be initiated and expanded. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did!
Associate Director for Mission
“I’m Proud to be a PRESBYTERIAN”
It is a shock to see those words printed on the official cars, stickers and publications of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. From November 23-30, 2018 I had the privilege of being part of a group of Brazilians who visited this sister church with a partner denomination of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil. The trip was an initiative of The Outreach Foundation, a partner of the IPIB and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Outreach organizes several short-term mission trips every year to offer opportunities to connect Presbyterians around the world.
“Developing South-South Mission Partnerships” is an Outreach program that seeks to facilitate connections between Presbyterians in different parts of the world. Several trips have been made between the three countries (Ghana, Brazil, U.S.) over the past ten years where Presbyterian churches in the ‘global South’ have been able to get to know each other and find ways of cooperation. This trip was led by Rev. Juan Sarmiento, Associate Director for Mission at Outreach, and included Rev. José Carlos Pezini (Outreach’s Portuguese-Language Ministries Coordinator who resides in Curitiba), Rev. Mário Sérgio de Góis (First IPIB of SJ of Rio Preto and official representative of the IPIB on the trip), Revs. William Ramos and Lucas Borba (auxiliary pastors at the IPIB Central of Presidente Prudente), Rafael Guedes (from IPIB Central of Presidente Prudente), and Rev. Fábio Macedo Quintanilha (pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil located in Rio de Janeiro). The biblical text John 17:1-24 was our motto throughout the journey. Every day we reflected on the lessons that spoke to each one of our hearts as we prayed together.
The Presbyterian Church of Ghana
The Presbyterian Church of Ghana began with the work of Swiss missionaries coming from Basel in Switzerland in 1828 and its development continued with Scottish Presbyterian missionaries until it became an independent church. Its conciliar system differs somewhat from IPIB because there are no 'synods' as we know them. Its councils are the General Assembly, presbyteries, districts and local churches. Today, it has 21 presbyteries, 290 districts, 2,798 local churches, 1,565 preaching points and 12 mission fields. The total membership exceeds 1 million people.
Our trip focused on the northern part of the country, where we visited two presbyteries: Northern Presbytery based in the city of Tamale and then on to Upper Presbytery, further north with headquarters in the city of Bolgatanga. This north-northeast region of Ghana borders the countries of Burkina Faso, Togo, and the Ivory Coast.
We visited churches in the cities and rural areas and had meetings with the directors of the presbyteries. We toured their lay training centers and studied their phenomenal strategy for leadership formation and advancement of the church in this large region. We visited social projects developed by the presbyteries such as schools, a hospital and nursing school, water purification projects, agricultural microcredits, and dormitories for university students. One of the church’s ministries, the Go Home Project in the town of Gambaga, offers shelter to women accused of witchcraft by tribal villages. They are often mistreated (sometimes put to death) and expelled from their communities. The Presbyterian Church, despite facing opposition from other denominations, continues to serve and care for these women and reintegrate them back into their communities.
The central office of the Church in Accra was our next stop where we found excellent facilities and organization of the church. We were greeted by Human Resources Administrator Lydia Annan-Nai who introduced us to the history of the church and the offices. The next day, pastors William Ramos and Lucas Borba, along with Rafael Guedes and myself, participated in the inauguration ceremony of the new Moderator Rev. Prof. Joseph Obiri Yeboah. The rest of the team had returned to Brazil the night before.
Lessons Learned from the Trip
1. The country and the Church in Ghana share similarities with our country and the IPIB in several ways. As partners, it is worth exploring these convergences.
2. They have found an excellent strategy for the training of lay people that deserves our attention and adaptation to our context.
3. The leaders of the region we visited have developed a friendly relationship with Muslim leadership through interreligious dialogue, which gave us a new perspective on the subject.
4. They incorporated cultural elements into their religious life and liturgy which facilitates the proclamation and preaching of the gospel, something that Brazilian Christians need to consider.
5. It is interesting how they managed to combine missionary passion with relevant diaconal action in such a poor and needy region. We had much to learn from them.
To conclude, it is very difficult after a trip like this to stay the same and not do something tangible! The group that traveled to Ghana is mobilizing to respond in practical ways to the demands and possibilities of support and partnership with brothers and sisters of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.
Prepared by Juan Sarmiento
Associate Director for Mission
Read more about Developing South-South Mission Partnerships HERE.
The Outreach Foundation is seeking gifts totaling $15,000 to support these mission partnerships.