Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

11/6 2013

A Different Kind of Trip

It’s that time of year again on the PTS campus when World Mission Initiative is recruiting students and others for the spring mission trips. As they gather together the last minute stragglers (I’m one), I can’t help but reflect on what it is that makes these trips different.

I had been on mission trips before coming to seminary. I am blessed to have been raised in a church and community that leans heavily toward being missional and through that to have had the opportunities to do short term mission trips. Those trips did transform me, so I don’t want what I say to be seen as devaluing those experiences. I treasured each and every one, hugged them close to my heart and let them seep into my core to become a part of my being.

However, there is something different, and after some intrapersonal excavating there is one key attribute that keeps coming to the forefront, and that is this quality of being relational. There is something profoundly relational about the trips hosted through WMI. This is a hard point to sell since a majority of the trips are one to two weeks long, so how can trips that short even be qualified of being relational? Regardless of the trips’ length, the trips in and of themselves are built around being a one hit wonder. They are built on the connections and the trips and the people that came before on the hopes of continuing those connections in years to come. Though the same people may not go each year, or the same trip not offered every year, they are part of a intential weaving of the Church, cultivating a larger picture of God at work in the world. They are not built around going to help perform this service but instead, bridging peoples and nations and nuturing relationships, and every person, every trip is a part of a long and growing lineage.

Yet, not only are the trips built on a foundation of being relational to the core of their being, but the foundation of that is built on the Triune God, the God of all tongues, nations, and people. Which is enough, honestly, to pull me in to another trip, so that I can keep seeing and discovering, through the people God transforms me with, what, and where God is moving in this large, beautiful world.

Written by Rebecca Dix, middler MDiv student

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4/25 2013

A Mission Reflection: Southeast Asia

Her name is Ester.

Upon inquiry about what she does, without hesitation she looked us straight in the eyes and said she’s a servant of God.  She uses art and puppets to reach and teach either stories she has written or stories from the Bible to children of the highlands.  It all started with an English class she was leading that became a Bible study, and now those members are the ones who help in her ministry.

Her name is Oahn.

It was 2004.  She knew God was Almighty and that Jesus was Christ and Lord, and that he came for her sins and in him she had salvation, but she didn’t feel it here, in her heart.  So one night she prayed that if God was the One God that He would then fill her heart, or she would go and follow another religion.  At that moment, she felt her heart being filled with what she called a sweet warmth.

Her name is Nim.

She works with her family weaving fabric by hand.  She and her aunt are the only Christians in their village.  When we stopped with them and read scripture with them, she would cradle her Bible close to her heart like a precious child.

Her name is Qua.

Her son lost fingers on one of his hands, which makes it hard for him to work.  And being an ethnic minority makes it hard in and of itself to get work anyway.  She has been praying for some sort of cure.  A miracle.  She had been told this happened to him because her husband doesn’t believe in Christ, and the weight of that guilt rested on her heart.  But as we prayed with her, one of our leaders put a hand on her shoulder and declared “You are the daughter of the King.  There is nothing that can come between you and the Father.  There is NOTHING that can come between you and the Father.”  Later, she said she felt free.

Her name is Hicn.

She was more reserved and quiet than most of the others, but there was a fire in her eyes that came out when she and other women would dance in worship and try to teach me the steps.  Her petite frame radiated strength, for her feet had complete trust in whom had built the foundations of the firmament upon which she tread.

Her name…I don’t remember.

When in 2000 she decided to follow Christ, her family and friends came and beat her, tied her up to the back of a truck, drug her around, and beat her some more.  She was badly hurt, but she said it didn’t matter to her if she lived or died, for she had Christ.

Their names were never offered, so again I don’t know them.

It was at a women’s conference, and translators were few.  But it didn’t matter. They clamoured over the language barrier between us and sang to me, touching my arms and nose and face, in so trying to tell me I was beautiful.  So I would touch them back, so they would know they too were beautiful, that they too had worth and value.  That they were loved.  And we sat there, together, speaking a language that requires no words.

Her name is daughter, sister, mother.

They are my sisters, our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, our nieces, our aunts.

We are family

By Rebecca Dix, storyteller and MDiv student.

Learn more about WMI and the work they do by liking their page on Facebook or going to their website: http://worldmissioninitiative.org/

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4/12 2013

A Mission Reflection: The Mexico Border

When you get home from a mission trip, people always ask, “What did you do?” A wise man once told me that hanging drywall is never the purpose of a short-term mission trip. The purpose is to immerse yourselves in a different cultural context, meet new people, learn about their lives, understand their context, and look for the ways that God is working in that corner of the world. You’re there to build relationships with people in that community and to strengthen the bonds within your own group; if you happen to hang some drywall while you’re there, that’s great, too. I would also add that seeing and participating in someone else’s reality helps to see your own corner of the world a little bit differently—ideally, you get a fresh perspective on your life and what God is calling you to do in your own community. We did not hang drywall during our trip to the Mexico border.

From left to right: Mary Morrow, Dave   Rupprecht, John Hoover, Karen Rupprecht, Sarah Ott, Alan Olson, Marty Neal,   James Lee, Brad Rito, Ken Love, Joca Gallegos, John Welch

 

We were a group of eleven pilgrims, many of whom were not from the PTS community. We were from different contexts and different world views—urban vs. rural, liberal vs. conservative. The trip was co-lead by the Rev. John Welch, Dean of Students at PTS and PTS alum Rev. Sarah Ott (class of 2010), the pastor of the First United Presbyterian Church of DuBois, PA. The group included three current students (James Lee, Alan Olson, and Bradley Rito), one other PTS alum (Ken Love), and five people from DuBois (John Hoover, Mary Morrow, Marty Neal, and Dave & Karen Rupprecht). We went to the city of Agua Prieta, Mexico.

Agua Prieta is a city of 120,000, located across the border from Douglas, AZ. While we were there, we coordinated with Frontera de Cristo, a mission agency of the PC (USA). We learned about Frontera’s various ministries on both sides of the border. We learned about U.S. immigration policy, and then we saw the human consequences of that unjust policy. We shared tables with migrant workers and we heard their stories. We enjoyed the hospitality of Mexican families. We walked the paths of migrant workers in the Sonora desert and we participated in a prayer vigil for those who lost their lives along the border.

 

The border wall was one of the inescapable features of the landscape. In most places the wall is thirteen feet high.

These crosses bear the names of all the migrants who have died near Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico since 2004

¡Presente! Brad Rito holds a cross in the vigil to honor the human victims of an unjust policy

For me, the most powerful event of the entire trip was a meal that we shared with migrant workers at a shelter (run by the Catholic Church) called CAME. We met the migrant workers as equals at the table; we heard their stories. I sat across from three men: Juan, Miguel Angel, and Jorge. Juan appeared to be in his forties. He had worked in California and his family was there. He was going to try to get back to his family. Jorge, 24, had last worked in Sheboygan, WI. He dropped out of school so that he could work and send money home—so his brothers and sisters could continue their education. All three men spoke of the pain of separation from their loved ones. Miguel Angel also dropped out of school and went to work so that his siblings could get an education. His last job was in the kitchen at a Chili’s restaurant in Bensalem, PA. I know where that restaurant is; it can’t be more than five miles from where my mother lives. I may have eaten there. Miguel Angel may have prepared my food. In that instant my world shrunk. Had I just traveled thousands of miles to meet a man who worked where my mother lived?

We were only in Mexico for five days, but still, there are too many stories to tell in one blog post. We saw God at work in many wonderful ways. I could tell you about the good work that’s being done by Café Justo, a fair-trade coffee company that was founded with seed money from Frontera de Cristo. I could tell you about the U.S. Border Patrol officer we ate lunch with, and how there are kind and decent people charged with enforcing this unjust policy in the United States. I could tell you all about the prayer vigil in Douglas, AZ, where we recognized the names of migrants who lost their lives, remembering those who might otherwise be forgotten. I could tell you so much, but there isn’t enough space.

I will tell you that the two groups on our trip became one while we were in Mexico. We all came to see that the fence was a symbol for an unjust immigration policy and that there is an urgent need to change that policy. The more time I spent looking at that fence, the more I became aware of the walls within my own heart. We are called by Christ to love one another, to practice agape love for all. None of us will ever live up to this completely, but if we are to be faithful to Christ’s call, we must begin to tear down the walls in our hearts. For me, this process began in earnest at a table, in Agua Prieta, while sharing a meal with Jaun, Miguel Angel, and Jorge.

By Alan Olson, MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Learn more about WMI and the work they do by liking their page on Facebook or going to their website: http://worldmissioninitiative.org/

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