2015 Annual Report – Global Partnerships Team

-from Jessica Allen, Global Partnerships Team, Chair

The Global Partnerships team has had a busy and diverse year.  We continued nurturing our partnership with the Minnesota Conference’s sister jurisdiction in the Philippines, while working to deepen our own theological understanding of globalization, and addressing other issues as they arose.

As I wrote last year’s annual report, a delegation from the Minnesota Conference’s sister jurisdiction, the Southeast Mindanao Jurisdiction (SEMJur) of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), had just arrived in Minnesota for a three-week stay.  The goal of the trip was to strengthen the partnership through face-to-face meetings between the SEMJur delegates and Minnesota Conference personnel, and through an exchange of ideas around common issues.  To that end, we organized meetings and events around mining, human trafficking, Christian-Muslim dialogue, Minnesota’s historic and modern relationship with Native American communities, community organizing and civil society, LGBT issues, farming, food instability and homelessness.

In addition, the delegation met with members of the Filipino community in Duluth and the Twin Cities, and with staff from Senator Klobuchar’s office to discuss the relationship between the United States and the Philippines.  Bishop Modesto Villasanta preached at the 2014 Annual Meeting, and Ms. Hazel Corro Navarra led a workshop on mining, presenting jointly with Thom Haines of Mayflower Church, Minneapolis.  The Rev. Jesse Pagalan read part of the UCCP Statement on Mining at a presentation on Friday evening.

Other cities the delegation visited include Mankato, Cannon Falls, Freeborn and Saint Paul.  We believe the trip went well, and we learned a lot that will help us do better next time.  We are grateful to all Minnesota Conference personnel who interacted with our guests and made them feel welcome, and we hope to invite a new delegation in 2016.

To deepen our theological understanding of globalization, we have dedicated part of our meeting time to a book study of Burning Center, Porous Borders¸ by the Rev. Eleazar Fernandez of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and Union Theological Seminary in Manila.  We were ably led in these discussions by the Rev. Leah Benemerito, Campbell Scholar at UTS-Twin Cities and minister in SEMJur in the UCCP.

Pastor Leah also served the Global Partnerships team as part of a social transformation practicum through UTS-Twin Cities.  Leading our theological discussions was one portion of her work, and preaching and teaching in Minnesota UCC congregations around the state was another.  She spoke in six congregations and was well-received at all, including churches in Maple Lake, Northfield, Duluth, Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Other mission personnel to Minnesota include Amena Cristovao, who is being sponsored by Peace UCC in Duluth, through Global Ministries.  Amena worked at Clinic Imanuel in East Timor with Monica and Tom Liddle (see below). She was responsible for the clinic’s simple laboratory, where she performed malaria smears, sputum smears for TB, and basic urine tests.  She was also responsible for providing care for TB patients, which includes providing daily medicines, weight checks, and follow-up care.  Amena is here in Minnesota to study as a Medical Laboratory Technician.  While she was already working in this capacity at Clinic Imanuel, her additional schooling will increase her knowledge and skills, and she will return home as a leader in her chosen field.

Mission personnel from Minnesota who are serving in other parts of the world include Don and Maryjane Westra in Honduras.  Their tenure with Global Ministries began in 2009 in Mt. Selinda Mission Station, Zimbabwe.  In 2013 they moved to Honduras where they now serve with Global Ministries’ partner, the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  They work in the social service branch of the church Synod, AIEH, which oversees schools and clinics.  Specifically, they are assigned to a vocational school, CEVER, in Yoro in the state of Yoro, Honduras.  Maryjane works alongside the administration, and Don is working on sustainable projects to provide financial security into the future.  Currently, their most exciting assignment is the reopening of a clinic in an indigenous community, serving a catchment area of 35 small communities and about 36,000 people, who currently have no medical care available to them.

Throughout the 2014-15 year, Global Partnerships has been providing prayerful support to the Rev. Tom and Dr. Monica Liddle and their family, as they seek to return as mission personnel to East Timor.  Their appointment is contingent on sufficient funds being raised.

During the fall 2013, the Global Partnerships team spent much of our time getting organized, orienting our new team members, beginning our book study, and setting our priorities for the year.  We also wrote a new Statement of Purpose (see below).  In December, we dealt with typhoon relief, and how best to funnel money rapidly to devastated areas.

In January, we began to engage seriously with the topic of BDS (Boycott/Divest/Sanctions) with respect to the Israel/Palestine conflict.  In February, at the request of the Minnesota UCC Just Peace in Israel and Palestine Working Group, we composed and submitted a resolution for Annual Meeting, titled A Call for the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ to Take Actions Toward a Just Peace in the Israel-Palestine Conflict.  Many of Global Partnerships’ members are deeply involved in the work of the Just Peace working group.  In April, we undertook a study of the Kairos Palestine 2009 document, on which the Just Peace resolution is partly based.

In summary, our year has been full and productive.  We are grateful for the opportunity to serve the Minnesota Conference in this capacity, and we look forward to next year.

Team members: Jessica Allen (chair), Kathy Nelson, Glen Herrington-Hall, Thom Haines, Josephine Fernandez, Jim Leslie, Tom Liddle, ACM Steve Boorsma (staff)