-from Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
At our Church on the Move event a week-and-a-half ago, UCC General Minister & President John Dorhauer said that “the Church is not the Church unless it is on the move,”, following the consistent call of scripture to “GO” into all the world and serve others. I rejoice that we in the Minnesota Conference have played a part in making it possible for two of our own to follow that great commission all the way to East Timor.
I met Rev. Tom and Dr. Monica Liddle soon after I arrived in Minnesota back in 2013. They told me then about their previous service in East Timor from 2009-2012, and how much they hoped to return there. I remember how clear their call and passion for global mission service was to me that day, and how their love for the people of East Timor burned so brightly.
Two years later Tom had finished seminary and had been ordained, and the Liddles’ dream was in sight. They were appointed by the Common Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to serve once again in East Timor. They would serve at the invitation of the Protestant Church of East Timor (IPTL), a Reformed church in a predominantly Catholic country of one million people.
Their joy at being appointed to serve yet again and follow their call was soon tempered by challenge, however. New budget restrictions of Global Ministries required Tom and Monica to raise a significant amount of money to support their mission appointment before they could actually go. As their home Conference, we in the Minnesota Conference were asked by Global Ministries to consider making a financial commitment to this effort and to assist Tom and Monica with their fundraising in other ways. And we responded….generously!
Our Board of Directors made an initial pledge to the cause last summer and challenged congregations and individuals in the Conference to also make a commitment. By early January, our collective Conference fundraising had helped make the difference; enough money had been raised that Global Ministries gave the Liddles the ‘green light’ for their global mission adventure. Tom, Monica, and their two children, Hannah and Simon, will depart for East Timor within the next few months and begin a four-year term of service. Alleluia!
“We’re thrilled, excited, anxious, a little stressed, but trusting, faithful and ready to engage in the work again!” remarked Tom and Monica. “To the Minnesota Conference: thank you so much for your leadership – in so many ways, you have made this happen! We want to thank the Conference leadership, all the local churches and individuals that have made contributions. A special word of gratitude to Peace Church (Duluth) which has been an incredible support to us for over a decade! An experience like this shows that we’re all the church together.”
I couldn’t agree more. This is a beautiful example of what can happen when we are collectively committed to the wider mission of the Church. I am so proud of the Minnesota Conference for giving so generously to support Tom and Monica’s call to East Timor. And I remain inspired by Tom and Monica and their passion for global mission and service. They will be a wonderful blessing to the people of East Timor, and the East Timorese people will bless them too with their hospitality, perseverance, and faith. But we too have already been blessed by this experience. We’ve been given the opportunity to remember what it means to embrace that sacred commission to go out and serve, to be the Church together. And we’ve rediscovered how good it can feel to be generous for the sake of God’s mission in the world.
The partner church in East Timor has requested Tom’s assistance in two main areas: developing pastoral leaders for rural congregations and assisting with its social outreach foundation, which runs two clinics and a rural vocational school. Monica, who is a mid-wife and naturopathic physician, will work with IPTL’s health programs providing community-based health care, particularly for women and children.
As Tom and Monica prepare themselves and their children for this sacred journey, they reflect, “Although this work can be quite challenging at times, we feel it’s a great honor to represent the wider church’s commitment to being with and for people in East Timor. We hope our assignment will provide an opportunity for more local churches to learn about the global church, our many international partners, and the unique work Global Ministries is doing throughout the world.”
I invite all of us to surround Tom and Monica with our prayers now and throughout their time of service in East Timor. While global mission service is a wonderful adventure, it can also be lonely and isolating at times. I encourage you to send them occasional messages of encouragement via email and social media once they’ve settled in; the Conference office will help you connect with them when that time comes. To offer your blessings and a note of support now, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
I truly rejoice in Tom and Monica’s call to service, and in our generous response as the Minnesota Conference. May we always be a church decidedly ‘on the move’, engaged in service to our communities and world, working together to empower our shared mission as Christ’s Church.
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Did you know…
Don & Mary Jane Westra, members at Federated Church in Fergus Falls, also serve as global mission personnel for the United Church of Christ and Christian Church(Disciples of Christ) through our Common Global Ministries. Their placement is currently in Yoro, Honduras. Thank them for their service to the wider church by writing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.