Building Bridges Beyond Mission Travel

April 8, 2020

Jordan Moody is a youth leader at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel in Nashville, Tennessee. In the Fall of 2018, she met with a staff member of the chapel, the Rev. Alison Lutz. Alison is currently a PhD student at Vanderbilt University exploring the ethical assumptions that drive humanitarian aid and mission work especially looking at imbalances of power that derail efforts to relieve global poverty. Alison spent five years living and working in Haiti with Partners in Health, an international nonprofit focused on solutions to global public health, as the Haiti Program Coordinator.

Together the two of them dreamt up the idea of creating a partnership between university students at St. Augustine’s and students at Summits Education in the Central Plateau in Haiti.  Alison’s background in Haiti created the perfect link to begin this connection. Quickly the partnership began to fall together organically and “we could really feel the spirit leading that conversation,” Jordan shared. The Canterbury Circle, the college ministry program at St. Augustine’s, showed interest and excitement in beginning this partnership.

Jordan also attended Vanderbilt University and graduated with a Master’s in the Social Foundations of Health. She talks about how she watched as her academic and spiritual interests merged into one: “The work I am doing in the academic setting is inspired by my faith. I feel this deep calling that we have to do this the right way and that there is a better way to be in relationship with one another and with the best intention possible.” She wanted to explore through a partnership with Haitian students and Nashville students how can mission be truly mutually beneficial.

The initial idea for this partnership was for Nashville students to travel the first year to the Central Plateau in Haiti and the following year, the Haitian students would travel to Nashville. However, mission work always requires flexibility. With the current political unrest and rising humanitarian crisis in Haiti, neither group has been able to travel and visit one another. Without being able to interact in person, the leadership team in Nashville and Haiti have had to talk about what does it mean to be in partnership when mission trips are not possible. One bridge to this issue came in March 2019 when the two partners were able to meet in the Dominican Republic.

Together in the Dominican Republic each partner lead workshops in leadership development, environmental practices and justice work, but spent the majority of time sharing and listening to each other. Jordan reflected on this time: “The purpose of that was recognizing that there is something valuable and important in sharing your story and listening to someone else. Yes, I see you and hear you and recognize the pain, struggle and beauty in your story and that is a worthwhile cause. Your story matters and that is important.” Jordan emphasizes that while the hands-on work is critical, the listening is just as meaningful and spiritual.

This partnership is different from others because it does not have concrete deliverables. However, spiritual work also creates real impact. As Jordan says, “Being in community is hard and isn’t easy to genuinely and compassionately listen to someone’s struggles and that’s what makes this partnership so rare and important.” 

Presiding Bishop Curry has spoken about the Way of Love and when you tap into a selfless way of love feelings of me versus them goes away and a greater understanding of us comes in. This partnership has been able to create bridges between Nashville and the Central Plateau in Haiti and all through honest and effective communication and listening. Jordan shared her views on the way of love: “Together we have realized that you can’t give someone justice or bring justice to a place, you have to build it together. We use Jesus’s way of love as the embodiment and a way forward and caring for ourselves and our community.”