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Q&A: General Board of Global Ministries

INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS KEMPER, TOP EXECUTIVE

Note: This interview was part of a 2012 series conducted by United Methodist News Service offering information to help readers better understand how the church works. UMNS asked the top executives of each agency to answer five questions about their agency's role in the church.

What is your agency’s primary mission? How do you accomplish this in the most effective manner?

Thomas Kemper

Global Ministries is committed to connecting the church in mission. We accomplish this by sending missionaries, including young adults, from everywhere and to everywhere; collaborating and engaging with volunteers; evangelizing and church planting through mission initiatives; addressing diseases of poverty and global health; and responding to natural and civil disasters. These are essential functions of the global church if we are to grow and be a vital presence for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Through UMCOR, the church responds to disasters and facilitates long-term development in relationship with the world’s most vulnerable people. Through connecting with the mission energy that vibrates within annual and central conferences; congregations, large and small; schools and colleges; hospitals; and ethnic, racial, geographical and social networks, Global Ministries is a facilitator of mission, one that is passionate for partnership and open to the mission visions of others.

Name at least one exciting thing in which your agency has been involved. How does it relate to the Four Areas of Focus?

New churches are being planted in new places through Global Ministries mission initiatives in Cambodia, Cameroon, Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan), Honduras, Latvia, Lithuania, Malawi, Mongolia, Russia, Senegal and Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand and Vietnam).

These mission initiatives are unique in many ways, but mostly because they represent areas where The United Methodist Church is new to the population. Local churches can be a part of this movement by supporting and learning from these vibrant congregations through a church-to-church partnership with the In Mission Together program. In Mission Together facilitates church planting abroad by developing partnerships with local congregations in the United States. The two churches create a partnership covenant, which fosters mutuality and respect for each other. This is important because this faith-building experience will transform and energize both churches.

The average age for a pastor in a Mission Initiative is just 35 years old. Church-planting efforts have been initiated in more than 25 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. All 50 U.S. states are represented in the In Mission Together church-to-church partnership program. More than 1,000 churches have been planted since the Global Ministries Mission Initiatives began in 1991.

How does the average United Methodist pastor or member benefit from your agency’s work? Social advocacy? Curriculum? Scholarships? Please give a concrete example, ideally quoting a testimonial from someone outside of your agency.

Volunteers in Mission
Global Ministries works with jurisdictional conferences and partner organizations to facilitate training and strategically identify and coordinate short-term projects for 100,000 U.S. Volunteers in Mission every year. VIM teams serve locally, nationally and internationally in ministries that include disaster response, health care, mission initiatives and other projects endorsed by the host Methodist church, partner church or agency, or nongovernmental organization.

Covenant Relationships
Churches become partners with missionaries when they enter into Covenant Relationships. This partnership is much more than a financial commitment. It is a dynamic relationship where the church and missionary pray for one another and communicate regularly. By deepening its awareness of the struggles and triumphs of the missionary, the congregation participates in truly connectional work. During itineration once every three years, the congregation has the opportunity to meet the missionary face-to-face by hosting him or her at their church.

One such relationship extended beyond the church roll and into the mission field.

Westwood United Methodist Church, Kalamazoo, Mich., supported mission interns to Haiti from its own congregation through The Advance, a giving channel of The United Methodist Church.

“When Stephanie and Ashley Norton were selected to be mission interns,” said Nancy VandenBrink, the church's missions team chair, “I was very excited for them and, of course, wanted to support ‘two of our own.’ Their work in Haiti allows this couple to extend their ministry passions and use (their) gifts and talents to make a lasting difference in the lives of the Haitians they serve.”

Marveling at the diversity of work their homegrown mission interns do (“Performing stitches on a dog, repairing a car with duct tape and caulk and teaching people to count.”), VandenBrink shares emails from the Nortons to encourage support for their work in income-generating, health-based and community education projects in rural Haiti.

Learn more: Website of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.