Twenty-three new missionaries are being commissioned by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries on April 29 during General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Florida.
Among those being commissioned, 10 are from outside the US. Home countries include: Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Puerto Rico, and the Congo. Among the countries the missionaries will be serving are: Argentina, Bolivia, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Russia, and Switzerland.
Thomas Kemper, who leads the denomination's mission agency, is proud of the internationalization of the missionary community. Noting that 50 percent of missionaries now come from outside the US, Kemper says, "As we send Juan Guerrero and Alexandra Castro from Colombia to serve in the Honduras mission, Jean Claude Masuka Maleka from the Southern Congo Annual Conference to train pastors in Kenya, and the Rev. Saul Montiel to serve as a missionary in the San Diego district of the California-Pacific Annual Conference, we can say without exaggeration that our missionaries are from everywhere to everywhere."
The missionaries will receive formal training and discipleship at the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland, Florida, over the next few weeks. The commissioning will take place at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church at 2:00 p.m. and will be shown on live webcast at umcmission.org/live.
Following the service, missionaries will be honored at a celebration that evening.
Judy Chung is the executive for missionary services. She is excited by the diversity and gifts of the missionaries. Commissioning missionaries during General Conference is especially meaningful. "Engaging in mission is essential to who we are as a church," she says. "It is fitting that we, as The United Methodist Church, will be celebrating God's call to mission by affirming the call of these missionaries and by covenanting to support the work of mission as partners and co-workers."
"Missionary" is one of the oldest and most honored offices of the Christian church. To "commission" a missionary is for the church to recognize God's special call and to bless and send that person to spread the Good News of God's love. The term "commission" reflects the Great Commission of Matthew 28, a passage in which Jesus tells his disciples to take the gospel into all the world.
Alexandra Castro from Colombia serves as treasurer of the Honduras United Methodist Mission and looks forward to connecting with other missionaries. "I am very excited to meet other missionaries who serve in different countries," she said. "I want to know their stories and enjoy fellowship with them."
In addition to missionaries, 17 deaconesses and home missioners will also be commissioned during the service. Deaconesses and home missioners are professionally trained laypersons who have been led by the Holy Spirit to devote their lives to Christ-like service under the authority of the Church. Their ministries may be in a church-related vocation or helping profession. There are 149 deaconesses, 11 home missionaries, and 8 home missioners actively serving through the Women's Division.