The United Methodist Executive Director of Missionary Services says “it takes a village” to support a missionary.
JUDY Y. CHUNG
General Board of Global Ministries
Almost 90 years ago, my maternal grandmother came to her faith in Manchuria, China, through a pastor serving in that region. Her pastor had become a Christian through the work of foreign missionaries serving in China. After several years of my grandmother’s fervent prayer, my grandfather eventually committed his life to Christ. As Korean immigrants living in China, they became actively involved in the Korean Christian community and were instrumental in planting and building a church that still exists in China today. They continued to serve faithfully after they returned to Korea—supporting church planters, pastors, and missionaries, helping those who were in need—especially in the aftermath of the Korean War—and dedicating their time, talent, and resources to further God’s kingdom. Even in their old age, living as immigrants in the United States, they continued to pray fervently, gave generously to support mission, and devoted their time to Scripture reading and worship.
Serving as the executive director of Missionary Service at the General Board of Global Ministries and working with more than 350 missionaries serving in 65 countries, I am often reminded of the legacy of faith that I have inherited from these spiritual ancestors—my parents who are dedicated and committed to serving God through prayer, worship, gifts, service, and witness; my grandparents who offered themselves sacrificially to serve God and others; and the missionaries who crossed many boundaries to plant and nurture the seeds of faith almost a century ago. The seeds planted by these missionaries who had responded to God’s call to “go and make disciples of Jesus Christ of all nations” have resulted in the fruits of my grandparents’, my parents’, and my family’s faith. And I am thankful for those missionaries and the church that supported them.
Coworkers in God’s Harvest
I am excited and grateful for the continued commitment that The United Methodist Church has for mission. The United Methodist Church is living out the command of Jesus, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8) It is exciting to know that United Methodists around the world are participating in God’s mission to share the grace, peace, and hope of Jesus Christ through words and deeds. In today’s world, where only 35 percent of the world’s population is Christian, there is a continued need for us, as disciples of Christ, to participate as coworkers in God’s harvest field. As followers of Christ, we need to become Christ’s hands and feet in this world, where people continue to struggle with poverty, inadequate access to water, and preventable diseases. As the body of Christ, we must share God’s grace and mercy in this world, where children suffer from lack of shelter, water, and health services. As God’s coworkers in mission, we must combat the injustices of the world working alongside others—to become agents of transformation—so that people can experience liberation, peace, grace, and hope.
Therefore it’s important for us as members of the church to continue to be in partnership with our missionaries who are laboring in the mission field. These missionaries are serving as agents of God’s transformation, not to be the ones to go and fix the problem on behalf of others, but to be in ministry with the local community—to learn, listen, and serve as witnesses of God’s transforming grace and power. Our missionaries are engaged in a variety of ministries—as teachers, farmers, educators, doctors, accountants, community developers, volunteer coordinators, pilots, nurses, doctors, professors, administrators, and more. They are serving to meet the needs of the mission field, needs that have been identified by the local leaders as their key priorities. And they are crossing many boundaries to dedicate their lives and the lives of their families to be in mission.
As these missionaries serve in various contexts, they also offer us, in our home contexts, the unique opportunity to engage in mission around the world as their partners and supporters. They serve as bridges to connect the church to mission ministry and bring closer the stories of how God is working in the world to our churches.
In my role, I have the privilege of hearing about God’s transforming grace in places around the world through our missionaries. One of our Church and Community Worker missionaries serving in the United States recently spoke about how a drug dealer with nine children was led to join a small Methodist church through their community ministry. And through the engagement of this one family, the church started a community garden. Then this led to a ministry of providing fresh vegetables for the community. The mission of one small congregation and the efforts of a Church and Community Worker missionary have resulted in the transformation of hearts and lives of not only one family but the entire community.
Another story I recently heard from one of our missionaries serving in Africa is that, since spring of 2016, she has led a series of discipleship and leadership trainings for more than 200 young people (ages 17 to 37). As a result of this training, seven Bible teachers were chosen who will now travel to different districts and remote villages to lead discipleship training with other youth. This is yet another story of how God is working around the world to transform hearts and lives through the faithful ministry of missionaries working with others.
Welcome to the Family
One of my favorite aspects of ministry at Global Ministries is our celebration of the commissioning services for our missionaries. This past summer, Global Ministries commissioned 60 young adult missionaries as Global Mission Fellows to serve for two years in mission. In May, at General Conference, we commissioned 29 people as global missionaries serving long-term assignments around the globe.
All of these missionaries completed three weeks of training and are being sent forth to places around the world—including Michigan, Zimbabwe, the Philippines, El Salvador, and Germany. Their call stories are powerful and inspirational. They will be engaging in amazing mission through the work of the Holy Spirit in them. I am so grateful for these people’s passion and commitment to God’s mission in the world—and for the parents, pastors, youth workers, Sunday school teachers, and men and women of God who planted that seed, nurtured these sprouts to grow, and continue to support these trees to bear fruit for God’s kingdom. Of course, as the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, ultimately it is God who makes things grow, yet we are active participants in that process. And I am reminded of this collaborative effort at each commissioning service.
Indeed, it takes a village to support a missionary—from discernment to deployment to ongoing support. Mission is not something that can be done in isolation but in community with others and in partnership. And engaging in mission together provides all of us the privilege to witness God’s transforming acts in the world. So it is my hope and prayer that we, as The United Methodist Church, will continue to commit ourselves to mission, to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
~The Rev. Dr. Judy Y. Chung serves as the executive director of Missionary Service, General Board of Global Ministries. Prior to her latest four years of service, she served as the executive secretary of Asian American and Pacific Islanders Ministries with Global Ministries and has pastored churches in Los Angeles and Orange counties in her home conference, the California-Pacific Conference.