Mission initiatives build new communities of faith in new places

When people drop a check in the collection plate for The Advance or click on the online "donate" button, it's an act of faith.

Just ask the members of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan.  Members sent money online to the Eurasian Mission Initiative of the General Board of Global Ministries through The Advance.  The experience was so satisfying, according to the Rev. T. Cayce Stapp, pastor of Beyond Kansas City Mission, members will be encouraged to use the online donations feature on The Advance website for funding their support of the Malawi United Methodist Church.

"The response time for our gift to be processes exceeded our expectations and made it possible for us to provide support to The UMC in Eurasia according to Bishop Eduard Khegay's request in a time time-sensitive manner," Stapp said.

Faithful giving through The Advance is helping to create new communities of faith for new people throughout world, providing pastoral and lay education and worship space.  The specific work and ministry of each mission initiative is unique to the settling, but most are in places where The United Methodist Church is new to the population.  Mission initiatives are responses to God's calling to spread spiritual and social holiness throughout the world by working in specific locations.

"Funding (through) The Advance helped the mission initiative do a great job educating lay and clergy on policy, the Bible and the United Methodist connection at the local, circuit and conference levels," said Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries' general secretary.  "The entire leadership of the initiative and now the provisional conference has developed a self-sustaining plan for the church and continues to work towards meeting the requirements to become a full annual conference."

Lay mobilization in Malawi has been a strength in moving forward being a self-sufficient church.  As happens in many mission initiative areas, the growth of the church closely resembles the early Methodist movement.  For example, in Malawi, many new communities of faith meet at a preaching point in an outdoor location open to all.  There, said George Howard, a Global Ministries' executive, ministry is "not about starting a church; it's about sharing the gospel.  In sharing the gospel, in sharing what's happening in people's lives, the church has emerged.  Church means communities of faith.  They're not out to gather people together."

"Movements are characterized by lay mobilization, bi-vocational leadership and self-sufficiency," said Rev. Patrick Friday, director of Global Ministries' 50/50 In Mission Together Partnership program, which works with the mission initiatives.  "They are not institutions; they engage people where that are in small groups.  In this way, the Methodist movement has continued around the world."

Through In Mission Together partnerships and financial support through The Advance, 574 worshipping communities have been started since 2008 in Belarus, Cambodia, Cameroon, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Malawi, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Senegal, Thailand, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Sandra Brands, freelance writer in New York's Adirondack Mountains

The Advance is the accountable, designated-giving arm of The United Methodist Church. The Advance invites contributors to designate support for projects related to the General Board of Global Ministries. Individuals, local churches, organizations, districts and annual conferences may donate to The Advance. One hundred percent of every gift to The Advance goes to the project selected by the giver.