It truly has been a privilege to serve as the Executive Director of the Moravian Board of World Mission in North America, and I am grateful for God’s faithfulness and guidance in this ministry. I want to take this opportunity to summarize some of the work of BWM over the past six-plus years.
Working off of efforts that were initiated prior to my arrival, the BWM finalized our concepts for favored practices that stressed being centered in Christ, encouraging mutuality in our relationships, promoting good accountability, and facilitating the development of self-reliance. Looking back we can see how these foundational principles have framed much of BWM’s efforts over the past years.
A primary initiative has been to promote self-reliance for our global partners, which affirms their gifts and ownership of the ministry that God has given them. Methods to move in this direction have been:
• decreasing partner subsidies for basic operations by 5-to-10 percent per year;
• capping the amount of subsidy provided to new work areas in order to encourage self-reliance from the beginning;
• using mission grants to promote leadership development, mission outreach, and economic strengthening as a different model of partnership that is less likely to create dependency;
• developing a business model for partners, which would help generate income for ministry.
Between 2012 and 2018 we decreased partner subsidies by 56 percent. Funds that would have gone to subsidy now go to mission grants in order to help global partners in ways that build them up, develop leaders, support their mission efforts, and encourage the development of income-generating projects, moving from dependency to promoting overall self-reliance for their churches.
Mission grants have been provided to the Alaska Moravian Church for mission outreach in Marshall, Alaska; to the businesses in Peru (an English academy, the Bubbles Laundromat, a Mariachi band, and a yogurt business); to support scholarships for pastor theological training beyond the basic Bible Institute level; to help with pastoral conferences in Honduras and Western Tanzania; and to help with mission outreach. The mission grant model provides a wonderful possibility for how we can partner in new ways and affirm the gifts and abilities already among our partners!
Another favored practice BWM has been trying to be more intentional about is mutuality with our global partners. This is extremely difficult because when much of the funding, and thus power, comes from the global north, it’s hard to have honesty and transparency at the table with our brothers and sisters from the global south. Our communication will likely always be handicapped to some degree because of this.
But our promotion of mutuality also entails recognizing the tremendous gifts that these Moravians are to us. Through these partners BWM provides an important connection for our congregations to the rest of the Unity, giving opportunities for mission service, resource sharing and growth in cross-cultural understandings.
Our partners often witness to a vibrant faith, and challenge us in our own. The risk-taking of our friends in Nepal within a Hindu culture, the passion to evangelize in Western Tanzania, and the desire to serve youth who are struggling in the Czech Republic are just some ways our partners witness to God’s call to mission.
We participate in mission outreach through our partners: support of the Sukumu in W. Tanzania, the Garífuna and Belize outreach in Honduras, and the ongoing ministry to youth in Cuba are some examples.
Our partners bring us diversity in how they worship, diversity in how they understand and live out scripture, diversity in how they view time, diversity in their food and their dress, to name just a few. While we don’t always agree, we ourselves grow more within this diversity that blesses us as much as it challenges us. It is worth the effort to continue to build relationships with these partners that move us closer to open and mutual dialogue.
Our desire for accountability is closely intertwined with the mutuality that we encourage. Again this is not always easy. Our focused efforts over the past five-plus years have been with the medical work in Ahuas, Honduras. With the help of Rick Nelson, we finally have a good financial system in place and an accountant that has received much of the training necessary to keep the records and generate helpful reports. We are excited that both the Honduras Province and Mission Province also want to improve their financial management process. There is still much to be done, including the need to address the underlying reality in Ahuas that income has not been sufficient to cover expenses for some time. But thanks to our efforts, we have better tools with which to assess this situation.
In addition to our work with global partners, BWM has worked to journey more effectively with our constituent congregations. Our Antioch program, under Jill Kolodziej, has been exploring different models for sending people of all ages in short-term mission. Staff has been working on developing a distinct mission curriculum, incorporating different levels of training for different levels of service. Mission engagement, under Justin Rabbach, has also increased communication with and training in congregations, developed an internship program with BWM, and held mission events for young adults. Staff has worked with congregations in mission discernment, with a new sense of direction growing out of these sessions. I believe that overall our relationship with our congregations is stronger than it was before.
Justin also recently developed an improved schematic for evaluating BWM disaster response, providing three smaller trailers of tools for more effective transport and use. We had a trailer helping with Tricklebee Café in Wisconsin that has now been moved to Texas to help with disaster relief there. Generous donations have allowed support to be sent to the Eastern West Indies (EWI) for rebuilding from their hurricanes, and we are working with Jamaica and the EWI to begin to improve the infrastructure of the church in Haiti.
Sam Gray, Director of Intercultural Ministry and New Work, has guided our mission areas of Peru, Cuba and Sierra Leone as they develop their constitutions and leadership structure. In 2016 Cuba was accepted as a mission province of the Unity and now has elected its first bishop, Rev. Armando Rusindo.
Our Likewise Ministry is somewhat in the background of our work, but it is truly worth celebrating. In addition to helping with HIV management in Honduras, Likewise helped to develop the HUKWAFA program in Western Tanzania, originally providing periodic food distributions, education and health care for vulnerable children in two communities. It then moved to forming groups within these communities and subsequently took a loan to start a small enterprise. Some bought land and raised corn, while others have begun a chicken project. We are seeing in just a short time, improvements in lifestyle and a sense of accomplishment within the people—to be caring for their families without depending upon outside funds.
For me this strengthening of people’s ability to care for themselves—to have dignity in their lives—is a crucial aspect of the gospel we share. It is easy for us as North Americans to just go in and “fix” things for people. It is extremely hard to hold back and let them make their own decisions and seek out their own solutions and resources. But when we just fix things, we imply that they are unable to fix things. We imply that their way is not good enough—that it has to be like we would do it. We imply that they need us, and, in all of this, lessen their own sense of self-esteem.
Promoting self-reliance and finding a healthy way to walk alongside our partners is hard, but it is a necessary thing if we truly want to affirm and equip the people we serve. The BWM has only scratched the surface in moving in this direction, but I pray that we continue to ask the hard questions of others and of ourselves, mindful of the underlying messages that our actions convey to others.
I cannot end without one more reminder to our church. Many will recall that my ministry has been founded on the verses in Isaiah 43:19, when the Lord God tells the people of Israel while they are in exile: “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” In the difficult times, in the “exiles” of our lives, may we never forget that our God is always about doing a new thing, about bringing new possibility to situations that appear hopeless.
As I have seen in these past six-plus years, this does not happen overnight and it takes a lot of hard work and consistent intention. But with God’s guidance we have moved three provinces off of subsidy and have new ways to support their ministries according to our self-reliance guidelines. Our mission areas are growing, and there are new possibilities for mission in Ecuador and Brazil for us to explore. New groups are being ministered to by our global partners and we are helping with that. Our North American congregations are showing increasing passion for the mission of the church, and are exploring new ways by which to reach out, be that local or global. We are developing a strong core of young adult leadership in mission.
I have no doubt that God is active in our church, and that God has much more for us to do in the mission that we have been given. Thanks to my staff, my board, and to all of you for your partnership with me these past years. May we faithfully continue to take up the challenge to follow!
The Rev. Judy Ganz retires as executive director of the Board of World Mission in December. She and her husband Charlie will be settling in Minnesota.