Thursday, June 28, 2012
What good is a new house?
Presbyterian World Mission has defined one of its critical global issues as responding to the root causes of poverty, especially as it affects women and children. The Presbytery of Carlisle has created a partnership with the Presbyterian Church in Honduras. An important aspect of our partnership is our working with the mission committee of the Pena de Horeb Presbyterian Church in Tegucigalpa to build new homes for their church members. We have now participated in the construction of six new homes located in some of the poorest, most difficult areas in Tegucigalpa. Is building new homes a fruitful expression of this huge, conceptual call to address the root causes of poverty?
I believe these new homes are a particularly important example of responding to the root causes of poverty because of the process we have used to do this work. The ministry belongs to the Hondurans. When we first started having conversation with Church leaders in Honduras about ways we could work together, they quickly complained that they had no resources, no organization, and no means to address the profound poverty all around. We encouraged them to gather a group within the congregation to discern and pray about ways they might be able to reach out and serve their members. This small kernel of an idea grew up into a powerful presence in their church. A mission committee was born with a vision of reaching out, gathering their resources, and serving the poorest of the poor in their midst.
The mission committee identified and prioritized a list of projects within their congregation. Some they are able to do one their own; for some they seek support from us. Then we put life into the vision of “communities of mission practice” which Presbyterian World Mission has named as a preferred method of doing mission today. What does a community of mission practice truly look like? I know; I have seen it. It looks like a circle of people gathering in the back corner of the sanctuary at the Pena de Horeb Presbyterian Church after their Sunday worship service. Within the circle are the members of the mission committee of the congregation; the chairperson of their mission committee leads our conversation. Within the circle are our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) missionaries in Honduras. Also within the circle is a small mission team from the Presbytery of Carlisle. This is a community of mission practice. Importantly, there are typically more Hondurans around the circle than North Americans. Out of the conversation within this circle, we conceived of the idea of building new homes for some of the poorest of the members of church. The members of the mission committee in Honduras identify the families, plan and prepare the construction project, and work with our missionaries to organize the work. Presbyterians from our Presbytery show up for a week at a time to walk alongside, offer our support, and get to know the family who is receiving the new home quite. What good is a new home? Come with me and chat with these families for awhile! The answer will be clear.