God doesn’t work just with United Methodists. We can glimpse God’s activity all around us! So why participate in God’s work through our Apportionments, or “Mission Shares”? For starters, it has to do with long arms and Jesus’ feet.
First of all, our Mission Shares really do support mission. “It’s an amazing thing when people in rural Montana and Wyoming can be part of the things going on in Angola, Cambodia and Mongolia,” says Sally McConnell, our Yellowstone Conference Missions Coordinator.
Yes, our Mission Shares support hundreds of full time missionaries here and around the world, but Yellowstone has a special relationship with three of them. We know they’re real people in real situations, and they keep in touch with us. For example, Ken Koome, missionary in eastern Angola, will visit churches in our Conference this September 4 through 16, traveling from Montana to Cody, Wyoming within that time frame. Watch for dates and locations so you can hear him.
The “Mission Inside and Out” event this spring was another great example of bringing our mission connections home. Jim Gulley, our missionary in Haiti, shared stories about the work being done and affirmed the long history this Conference has with them by providing money and sending mission teams. And local churches brought their contributions, as well. For example, the people from Missoula brought supplies for Family Promise, which helps homeless families, including school and health care supplies.
Second, Mission Shares reach beyond where a single congregation can go. Without our ministry connections, even the most mission-minded congregation only has one arm’s-length for direct, hands-on mission. But thanks to our worldwide network, all kinds of collaborative ministries are taking place, far beyond one congregation’s normal reach.
The Mission Extravaganza at Annual Conference Session this June not only raised a lot of money for Imagine No Malaria, but also raised awareness of human needs and of our great resources when we work together. Imagine No Malaria is an exciting second-mile effort (not part of our Mission Shares) where our denomination has teamed up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others to wipe out malaria around the globe. But this “extra effort” would not be possible if it weren’t for our existing mission network already in place, church-to-church and Conference-to-Conference, across the United States and elsewhere.
Third, Mission Shares put Jesus’ priorities into action. Jesus’ life and ministry embody love of God through love of neighbor. His Risen Presence and ongoing witness urge us to pay particular attention to people on the margins of power. So our Mission Shares have much to teach us about the gospel (what Paul calls “spiritual blessings”), even as we share our material blessings with them.
For example, together we support the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish, by providing the salary for a pastor who serves three congregations on the reservation. The Parish has a strong youth group there, and provides a clothing bank and other community services.
Speaking of youth and young adults, Mission Shares also support Campus Ministries here in our Conference. The students gather not only for worship and fellowship, but also for personal mission. Just this past January, a campus ministry team went to Haiti to help out.
Fourth, Mission Shares help us guard against turning into a club. They sustain people who live and work in our Conference to help us make connections with others. They help us fight against the tendency to become inwardly-focused, and so keep us being the Church, Christ at work in the world.
One of these Conference resources is Sally McConnell, our Conference Missions Coordinator. She keeps churches connected and helps bring them together to brainstorm responses to mission emergencies both nearby and far away. She raises awareness of needs and resources, and coordinates our responses. “It’s not glamorous, but somebody needs to do it,” she says. “There are good things happening all over, but it’s hard to put it all into words.”
So Mission Shares aren’t just a practical way of doing ministry together. They support honest-to-God mission. They give us a whole network of ministries that extend our reach. And they keep us living as the Church, focused on Jesus’ priorities.
*Betsy Schwarzentraub is the author of Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living (2013-2017 U.M. Guidelines) and Afire With God: Becoming Spirited Stewards. She consults in Stewardship and Generosity and has led workshops around our Conference, sponsored by the United Methodist Foundation and the Yellowstone Conference Stewardship office.
Mission Shares: Long Arms and Jesus’ Feet by Betsy Schwarzentraub is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.