Stories from Africa

“To say that our trip was whirlwind is an understatement. We visited three dioceses in Tanzania and one in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We were in three cities, at least a dozen villages. We saw three cathedrals, 13 churches, and six schools. We took eight different plane rides and countless car rides. And we were warmly welcomed wherever we went,” explained Weezie Blanchard during her Sunday, July 2 sermon. There are so many stories and reflections to be heard about Weezie and Buck’s trip to Africa this past June. Join them for some wine, cheese, and spectacular storytelling. Who knows where the Spirit may call St. Mary’s in the wake of this mission?

Something Beyond Yourself

A Weekly Reflection, Sunday, August 6, 2017

By: Matt Rawls

There is something about a mission trip that changes you. This is true regardless of where, how long, or with whom you go. Whatever the scenario, you return to life slightly different than you left it.

There are many reasons for this. You invariably squeeze a large amount of activity into a short span of time. When you know that your time is limited, you try to maximize every minute of it. You inevitably spend a lot time in close quarters with other people which forces even the most extroverted of us outside our normal comfort zones. Finally, you get tired, which means you must work harder at being kind, patient, and loving.

Looking at that list of things, you may be tempted to conclude that mission trips are beneficial because they are just plain difficult. That conclusion isn’t far from the truth.

But then you discover the surprise plot twist. Somehow in the difficulty you find joy. In your weakness, you find strength. In the physical discomfort, you find your soul comforted. You begin to discover why mission trips leave such an indelible imprint on your life. It’s because what you’re doing is something beyond yourself.

We all regularly do things for other people. Whether it’s volunteering with an organization or just helping out around the house. A mission trip is a service trip, but it is a service with a spiritual purpose. It puts you in a position to realize that in serving you are worshiping God and bringing God’s light and love to the world around you.

I had the privilege to participate in two mission trips this summer. I went to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota with Ashley Cameron, Currie Costen, Jack Deutsch, Ellieblue Gurkin, Addison Hagan, Harrison Holmes, Andy Howlett, Maddy Miller, Carter Payne, Rylan Pearsall, and Annie Stephens. Then I went to Lincoln County, WV with Adam Bailey, Zane Gurkin, Tyler Hagan, Robert Holmes, Jed Johnson, Ethan Snow, and Jack Snow.

Both of those trips and the people on them are now forever a part of me. They have helped shape me, change me, and teach me about God. And I am forever grateful.

Full of World-Changers

A Weekly Reflection, Sunday, June 4, 2017

By: Elizabeth Baker

Elizabeth-Baker-webWhen I was 16, I participated in my first international mission trip—to Honduras—which shook my entire world view. From that point on, I was hooked; three more trips to Honduras, as well as missions and learning tours to Sierra Leone, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala have solidified my love of experiencing other cultures and my passion for helping to effect positive change in developing countries. Additionally, I now serve on the Board of Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade store in Carytown, which has taught me the importance of avoiding the Toxic Charity* model; in other words, staying away from “mission” work that fosters dependence from or belittles others. Despite my museum background, my heart is wholly in mission work, which is what ultimately led me to St. Mary’s.

Last Tuesday through Friday (May 23-26), I had the pleasure of traveling to Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama and participating in the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) annual conference. Represented at GEMN were clergy members, parishioners, and missionaries from the U.S., England, Kenya, Canada, Uganda, Swaziland, Haiti, and more. I learned of Episcopal Church-sponsored projects aimed at facilitating racial and cultural reconciliation around the world. I was inspired by the growing mission trend of “Asset-Based Community Development”—of doing with, rather than for, others; of recognizing the resources and spiritual gifts of those a mission is serving; of understanding that everyone has something to offer the world, and that mission trips can be beneficial for everyone involved.

As each day that passes brings increasing media coverage of violence, discrimination, and pain, I too often find myself dwelling on the negative, feeling helpless. But how encouraging it is to spend my days here at St. Mary’s, surrounded by wonderfully kind, generous, good people; and how encouraging it was to spend the week engaged in discussion with the wider Episcopal network. As a lifelong Methodist I am, admittedly, very new to the Episcopal Church, but I am convinced that Episcopalians get it right. Despite my short time here thus far, I can tell that St. Mary’s is full of world changers—a congregation of friendly, welcoming, accepting people with enormous hearts for God and others, and an unending desire to make the world a little better, one step at a time. I left the GEMN conference with 60+ new friends and hundreds of ideas, and I am so very honored to have the opportunity to be even a small part of St. Mary’s local and global mission work now and in the future.

*Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton

2017 Lenten Speaker Series: Anglican Communion

Photo Apr 05, 6 28 07 PMThis year’s Lenten Supper and Speaker series focuses on Christian Community. On Wednesday, April 5, the series continued by focusing on the great worldwide Anglican Communion. As Weezie Blanchard said, “Tonight, we move on to how we at St. Mary’s have relationships in the greater Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion which is worldwide. There are Anglican or Episcopal churches on every continent, well, maybe not Antarctica.”

Last night’s speaker was Buck Blanchard, Director of Mission and Outreach for the Diocese of Virginia and Staff Officer for Global Mission Development for The Episcopal Church, who emphasized, “Our challenge to figure out is how do we connect to the place in the world that God has enabled us to connect with and where we have some sort of natural affinity, some reason to connect. Then we have to actually go and visit those people because to see what they do, experience what they experience is what we’re called to do by getting out in the world.”

To see a full map of the Anglican Communion, click here. And listen to Buck’s talk in its entirety below: