A Weekly Reflection, Sunday, June 4, 2017
By: Elizabeth Baker
When 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