‘Every time, someone has a life-changing experience'
Written by Tod Gobledale
September 2001

Global partnerships teach people to ‘walk together'

On a warm winter's day in Plumtree, Zimbabwe, the Rev. Judith Gooch, on sabbatical from Congregational UCC in Plymouth, N.H., travels with a Dombodema Church deacon to visit shut-ins. Mr. Kulube leads Gooch down a dry, dusty path. Singing greets them as they approach the home of the Nleya family. The throng of neighbors, gathered in the anticipation of the pastor's visit, dance and shake hands in greeting.

The 80-year-old matriarch of the home, Mrs. Nleya, stands and smiles. No longer able to walk the five kilometers to church, Mrs. Nleya's spirit soars at the arrival of her deacon and this foreign pastor. The service of praise and thanksgiving begins. The Kalanga hymns drift out across the dusty Matabeleland fields. The Scripture reading fills the spirits of those gathered.

Gooch shares the cup and bread of communion, the universal language of Christians. Her thoughts travel back and forth: Kalanga–English; mud and thatch–clapboard and brick; Plumtree, Zimbabwe–Plymouth, USA. Her tears flow. Here in this strange place, Gooch discerns the same sharing, caring and company that define her congregation back in northern New Hampshire. The differences and contrasts merge in breaking of the bread together.

A world away from Plymouth and Plumtree, members of the Connecticut Conference travel to the Kyungki Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea. The Rev. Chang Ho Jun provides the delegation with lessons in history and culture.

The Rev. Paige Besse-Rankin, chairperson of the Connecticut Conference Korean Partnership Committee, writes of last June's visit, "Every time visitors go back and forth, someone else has a life-changing experience."

All are connected

Kyungki Presbytery, Plymouth, Plumtree. What have all these places in common? The Rev. Ana Gobledale, Executive for Local Church Relations for Wider Church Ministries and Global Ministries, explains: "They are all connected to the global partnerships of Global Ministries" [a common witness of the Division of Overseas Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Wider Church Ministries, UCC].

"Our world is not physically shrinking," Gobledale continues, "but through improved communications, less expensive access to this communication and travel opportunities, and, for better or worse, globalized economics, people across oceans are closer than ever. Christ's injunction ‘that they may all be one' has greater import for the church today than ever before."

She asks, "Are we in U.S. churches willing to let go of our own cultural baggage and try to learn how others share the Good News as they witness and serve the God of us all?"

Why bother?

Why get involved with Christians from other lands? In the following comments, UCC Conferences involved with Global Church Partnerships share some reasons:

"To seek to experience the unity of Christ that reaches across cultural, racial and national boundaries"—Nebraska Conference

 "To unite in spirit and service ... and to spread the light and love of God in Christ."—Wisconsin Conference

  "Fellowship."—Michigan Conference

 "That each partner bring respect and a genuine desire to enter the lives of the other not as a benefactor nor as a recipient, but as equals with strengths and needs that enhance the even growth of the relationship."—New Hampshire

 "Friendship without material benefits from either party."—New Hampshire Conference

 "Involvement of youth and young adults" —Michigan Conference

 "Experience a new way of relating equitably in a world where human relationships too often are marked by inequality and injustice.—Ohio Conference

 "Nurture our spiritual vitality through experiences and fellowship with other Christians."— Nebraska Conference

The New Hampshire Conference partnered with the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe in 1996. The Rev. Ben Crosby, Conference Minister, writes, "As the world becomes more and more interdependent, the human family can no longer be measured in ‘us' and ‘them' but instead ‘we.'"

One way to affirm our interdependence as well as to weave a network of personal and congregational contacts is by establishing global church partnerships. In these partnerships we walk together with our brothers and sisters around the world, and in this companionship the face of Christ is revealed to us, says Crosby.

The Rev. Tod Gobledale is a former missionary to South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Learn more

To see a list of Global Ministries Partnerships and read more partnership stories, go to www.globalministries.org/go/gmp.htm. For additional information, contact the Rev. Ana Gobledale, Wider Church Ministries, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115-1100; 216-736-3223 .

Planning a partnership visit? Global Ministries People-to-People Pilgrimage program is available to assist in the planning of partnership visits. Contact the program coordinator, Isabel Gonzalez, at Global Ministries, P.O. 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986; phone 317-713-2579; e-mail: igonzale@dom.disciples.org.

Considering an international sabbatical? Contact Julia Brown Karimu at Global Ministries, P.O. 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986; phone 317-713-2566; e-mail: jkarimu@dom.disciples.org.

Goals of Global Church Partnerships
from the Office of Local Church Relationships, Global Ministries

 Put a face on mission.

 Build enthusiasm and "ownership" for global mission.

 Give a clear picture of what support Our Church's Wider Mission and Basic Mission Finance is accomplishing.

  Educate the wider church about global mission.

 Strengthen the conferences, regions, and congregations for mission education.

 Encourage personal and congregational commitment to global mission.

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