By Elliott Wright*
STAMFORD, CT, October 11, 2006--Fourteen new United Methodist missionaries, including a North Alabama couple, each received a loaf of bread for the journey from 14 retiring missionaries as the new missionaries were sent to serve in ten different countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The dramatic liturgical act took place during a service of worship in which the new missionaries were commissioned and retiring missionaries were honored by the denomination's General Board of Global Ministries. Directors of the mission agency met in Stamford, CT, on October 9 through 12.
Bishop Violet Fisher of North Central and Western New York said in a sermon that the work of the new missionaries would not be easy but that they would be sustained by Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life-bread with a capital B. Her biblical text was the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in the Gospel of John (6:1-13).
The commissioning of missionaries involves a ritual of solemnity and joy in which the Church, represented by laity and clergy, symbolically sets the missionaries apart for special work. Missionary is one of the oldest and most honorable designations for a professional Christian worker. Missionaries spread the good news of Jesus and serve people in varieties of ways.
The new missionaries include pastors, educators, health professionals, and an agronomist. They are assigned to Bolivia, Cambodia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Mozambique, Senegal, Thailand, and Zambia.
Two of the group, the Rev. Sherri Tabaka-Morrisey and her husband the Rev. Michael W. Morrissey, Jr., of the Kentucky Annual Conference are the first United Methodist missionaries assigned to Thailand.
Fourteen of 24 missionaries retiring this year were present in Stamford. Bishop Joel N. Martinez of San Antonio, president of the mission board, paid tribute to the retirees who collectively represent almost 500 years of mission service.
Deaconess Marian Martin, formerly director of the Gulfside Assembly in Waveland, MS, a center destroyed by Hurricane Katrina but being rebuilt, spoke on behalf of the retirees. Her counsel to the new missionaries: Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. (See list of retirees below).
Bishop Fisher, a vice president of the General Board of Global Ministries who was herself a missionary in Africa in her youth, spoke forcefully about the call to mission service and the servant role of missionaries. And, she said, God never calls anyone who God does not prepare.
The new missionaries come from ten annual conferences in the United States and Africa. In addition to the Morrisseys, they include:
The retiring missionaries and deaconesses, their years of service, and their places of service are:
The 14 retired missionaries present for the celebration were Lucille Barton, Wilson Boots, Dennis Holoway, Jean Jacobs, Marian Martin, Diane Ray, Ronald Ray, Jeannine Reynolds, Alan Streyffeler, Mavis Streyffeler, Donald Turman, Ramona Turman, Diana Upchurch, and William Upchurch.
*Elliott Wright is the information officer of the General Board of Global Ministries.