International Borders Don’t Stop Launch Of Missional Partnership
Prosper UMC empowered to act after September 2019 trip to Honduras
A new kind of partnership emerged from Prosper UMC’s exploratory trip to Honduras in the fall of 2019. Like many churches, past national and international trips resembled more sponsorship efforts than missional partnerships. Support would be sent one way to an economically disadvantaged area – teams traveled to a distant location, provided resources for an isolated need and then left.
The September trip departed from this model. Sponsorship does not require relationship for success. A genuine partnership does … and creating a partnership was what this journey was about.
In the summer of 2019, the Center for Missional Outreach approached Prosper UMC, as well as other churches, to participate in an exploratory trip to Honduras. The purpose was to consider entering into a three-year partnership with a church in the United Methodist mission in Honduras. Unlike sponsorship, this association proposes a partnership that encourages and mutually benefits both churches in sharing the gospel.
Prosper UMC Mission team members Jennifer Taylor and Lauren Eichler, along with Associate Pastor Andy Nelms, traveled to Honduras. While there, they met leaders of individual churches and learned about their ministries. The trip fanned a fire within the three-person team. They returned believing God called Prosper UMC to enter into this partnership.
Upon returning, the team proposed Prosper UMC enter into a relationship with a Honduran Methodist church. The proposal was approved both by the Missions team as well as Administrative Council. After prayer, discernment and discussions with our local committees, the Center for Missional Outreach and the Honduran Missional Conference, El Pescadero was chosen as the partner church for Prosper UMC.
“We’re navigating new and unchartered territory here,” Pastor Nelms said. “We’re still working out the kinks, like how do you form genuine relationships with a community of a different culture and who speak a different language.”
Eichler acknowledged the challenge, as well.
“This partnership requires us to lay down at the cross personal comfort, preferences and preconceived notions,” Eichler said. “It means diving deep into the relationship, going the extra mile. But, in exchange, both congregations strengthen their faith and ability to love our neighbors as Christ called us.”
Only three months old, the effort is underway. It began with the three-person team texting back and forth with El Pescadero. (Note: Google Translate app helps a lot!) Information flowed about each church’s ministries and how the other can be praying for those ministries. During worship, Prosper UMC periodically raises up its sister church to remind the congregation of the partnership and to surround them in prayer. Prosper UMC has been praying for El Pescadero’s growing children’s ministry and leadership within its community. In turn, El Pescadero is joining them in prayer for the pastors, staff and congregation as they embark on a major building project.
Last December, Prosper UMC concentrated its Alternative Giving Tree on Honduran ministries. The Alternative Giving Tree is Prosper UMC’s mission-focused gift alternative. The tree was used as an opportunity to raise awareness of the partnership and also involve the congregation in fulfilling its financial commitment (one of the agreements in the Church-to-Church Partnership Covenant).
“Going forward, success of the partnership between El Pescadero and Prosper UMC hinges on two factors.
- Communication. While the churches are texting and praying for each other, the future entails writing formal communications through both North Texas Conference’s Center for Missional Outreach and Honduran Mission.
- Keeping an open mind. “This is a new kind of ministry that requires us to think outside the box,” Pastor Nelms said. “We aren’t just sending money to some far-off location and then forgetting them. We must think creatively how to respond to our sister church’s needs.”
The transformative potential of this collaborative effort is already evident.
Learning the difference between partnership and sponsorship has powerfully impacted my faith and the way I approach global and local missions and ministries,” Eichler said.
To anyone who is interested in exploring this partnership, Prosper UMC gives two pieces of advice. One, invite a team (or the congregation as a whole) to read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. The authors suggest that only by entering into genuine partnerships can we pursue sustainable change for ourselves and others.
“This book has sparked helpful discussion in our Mission Team and throughout our congregation,” Pastor Nelms said.
Two, see the need with your own eyes. Only by experiencing Honduras for yourself can you truly know what it is to partner with the vital ministries happening there.
“The first-hand account from our team upon their return was infectious,” Pastor Nelms said. “This partnership has sparked a change in the way our congregation sees its mission, and we are so thankful for it.”
Published: Friday, February 14, 2020