With heart-stopping stories and soul-stirring passion, the Ven. Carmen Guerrero challenged mission representatives from 29 dioceses to think about what it really means to sing the Lord's song in a foreign land.
But the land to which she referred was the United States, and her stories came from Los Angeles, where she is archdeacon for multicultural and congregational development. The occasion was the third annual meeting and educational institute of the Global Episcopal Mission (GEM) Network in Sarasota, FL, May 28-31.
Guerrero talked about helping to rescue 52 Thai women, enslaved in an illegal garment industry, and the slow process of gaining their trust and trying to communicate. She described working with gang members--there are said to be more than 20,000 in the city--and wondering, "How can the Lord's song be sung in such chaos?" She concluded, "People are losing their children because the churches are not willing to open their doors, and the gangs are."
She witnessed a gang squad leader telling a congregation, "When I leave your church, I have to walk alone. We assure our 'homeys' that they're never alone. We walk with them all the time."
"What would happen," Guerrero asked, "if we were this committed to the cause of Christ?" Another young man told her, "The only way to leave a gang is if you become a Christian. But it has to be real or they kill you."
"Isn't that amazing," she said, "that they can tell the difference and we can't?"
The Rt. Rev. Jubal Neves, bishop of South Western Brazil and longtime leader in Anglican discussions, emphasized in his keynote presentation that one cannot talk about mission isolated from ministry, or separate from evangelism. "There are many definitions of mission," he said, "but the best one is short and deep. 'Put love where there is no love.'"
Guerrero, Neves, and half a dozen other people led workshops for the 85 participants in subjects ranging from mission-sending, receiving, and re-entry to mission education and communication. The Rev. Dr. Ed Harvey of the Diocese of Georgia brought chaos theory, revelations of the Hubble telescope and other exciting features into Bible study each day.
The Rt. Rev. David Reed, retired bishop of Kentucky, was confirmed as the executive director of the GEM Network for the next year. (This is a part-time position and he will work from his home in Louisville.)
Two women were commissioned as missionaries. The outgoing GEM coordinator, the Rev. Patricia Powers, who served the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil for many years, will return as National Director of Mission and Dean of the Regional Seminary of the south of Brazil. Mrs. Elizabeth Gentry also was commissioned from the Diocese of Southwest Florida to do hospice care in Mukono, Uganda. She has been a short-term volunteer in Uganda for more than a decade, doing child immunizations.
The Global Episcopal Mission Network was founded in 1994 "to enable dioceses to increase awareness and understanding of global mission activities among congregations through education and communication and participation in the sending and receiving of missionaries to and from other dioceses." It now comprises 47 ECUSA dioceses as well as three mission partners in Brazil, North India, and Uganda.