1:30 P.M. EST March 2, 2010
Jurirat and Sompap are married in the first wedding at the Bowin United Methodist Church near Bangkok, Thailand. A UMNS photo courtesy of Mike & Sherri Morrissey.
The bride wore white—a Western tradition. The newlyweds cut their multi-tiered wedding cake with a sword—a Thai custom.
An unusual wedding? Perhaps by U.S. standards, but in a cross-cultural setting, the nuptials of Jurirat and Sompap made perfect sense.
The first wedding at the Bowin United Methodist Church near Bangkok, Thailand, blended Christian and traditional Thai cultures. That Feb. 14—Valentine’s Day—was also the Chinese New Year added to the excitement, according to the Revs. Mike and Sherri Morrissey, United Methodist missionaries affiliated with Bowin Church.
Gone are the days of missionaries forcing children to forsake their native language at boarding schools and Sunday school classes taking collections for “pagan babies.” Mission theology today incorporates traditional cultural expressions in Christian ceremonies and observances.
“Years ago,” says Jodi L. Cataldo, a former United Methodist missionary to the Philippines and Lithuania, “the Western world was the holder of the ‘truth’ and went out to ‘save’ the world —a sort of ‘turn or burn’ mentality. Missionaries ‘brought God’ to the world.
“We do not bring God to the world,” Cataldo continues. “God is already there working. We are to be participants as God's ambassadors through partnership and mutuality in mission. ”
“In an overly simplified statement,” adds the Rev. John Edward Nuessle, “we have moved from ‘how to Christianize the non-Christian world’ to ‘how is God moving among God's people of every place and how do we participate in what God is already doing?’” Nuessle is assistant general secretary for mission theology at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
The Rev. John Edward Nuessle says mission “comes from God.” A UMNS file photo by Cassandra Heller, GBGM.
“Mission,” Nuessle says, “comes from God at God's direction and initiative. Our task is to discern God's ongoing activity in the world. We are participants and collaborators with God in the ongoing creative reconciliation of all that is and will be.
“It is more important to be faithful people connecting with God's ongoing grace than to be good people doing good things for others.”
Cataldo, executive secretary of Emerging Churches' Resources at Global Ministries, says the best way to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is “by word and deed. We need to live it.”
She advises new missionaries “to grasp onto the awesome task God has given us—to be messengers of the good news by participating in God's mission to the world and not simply promoting our own agendas. We need to see ourselves as equal members at the same table.”
Attitude of a learner
“With the attitude of a learner,” Cataldo says, “we can see where God has been working in the lives of others, help others to recognize that work, bring connection and help bring about restored relationship with God. That is the good news! Despite us, God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us!”
The Morrisseys, the first United Methodist missionaries assigned to Thailand, are responsible for planting new congregations and mercy ministries and preparing United Methodist pastors and leaders for credentialing and ordination.
“The Lord used the inspiring lives of missionaries, missionary kids and professors to impress upon me the tremendous need for the gospel and for justice ministries around the globe,” Mike Morrissey says. “The Lord has blessed us as we have sought to be a blessing to internationals who dwell among us wherever we have lived. We are excited about the opportunity to serve in our calling.”
Sherri Morrissey adds, "Cross-cultural ministry is our passion—reaching people for Christ and developing Christian leaders.”
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications.
News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 or firstname.lastname@example.org.