Several years ago, when our Indiana Conference churches were asked to come together in clusters for the purpose of mutual encouragement and shared ministry, we were asked to consider the question, “What can you do better together than you can do alone?”
Each time I considered this question, I was led back to the idea of missions – specifically domestic and international mission trip experiences for our 10 Companions Cluster of churches in the Northeast District. The long distances between the ten churches in our cluster make most conventional shared ministries impractical as we live and minister in very different and distant communities, however, coming together to organize an international mission experience was something we could do better together than separately.
My own experiences in missions taught me a great deal about what the Apostle Paul meant when he called the church the Body of Christ (Romans 12), and it was my hope that through a shared mission experience the ten churches in our cluster would not only grow in their understanding of our relation with the church in the rest of the world, but also the importance of our relations with one another here at home.
Wil Bailey, the founder of Costa Rica Mission Projects, Inc., has always emphasized relationship building as the most important component of a mission experience. During his devotional meeting with each team, he always says that “at the end of the day, what Costa Rica Mission Projects is about is being church together. Through worshiping, praying, having fellowship, serving and witnessing together, we are church.”
In the months leading up to our 10 Companions Cluster Team trip and throughout the week (July 28-Aug. 5, 2012) we were there, we practiced being “church” together. Our team of ten women aged 16 to 76 years representing six churches from three different denominations were commissioned during our cluster-wide worship service in April. People from across all ten of our churches helped to provide financial and prayer support for our team.
While in Costa Rica, we served alongside a team from North Carolina, along with the church in Piedras Blancas where we were working. As we worked together, we learned to lean on one another for help and support. Those who knew Spanish translated for those who did not; those who had specialized skills gave direction to those who were ready helpers; and those who were well-rested relieved those who needed a break from their work. We sifted sand, mixed and spread stucco, sanded walls, cleaned floors and installed ceilings. By the end of the week, Pastor William and his church could begin to see the end of the project as the parsonage we were building neared completion.
Our work was built on the shoulders of those who came before us – teams who leveled the ground, poured the foundation and placed the walls and trusses. Our work would continue as other teams picked up where we left off.
Pastor William and his family are now living in the home we helped build and enjoying the fruits of our labors even as they construct a Sunday school wing for their growing congregation. The work we did was important, but the real value of our trip lies in the relations we formed over sand sifters and wheelbarrows and plates filled with rice and beans.
We learned to love and respect one another despite significant differences in age and experience and skill. We learned we can worship and pray together even when we can’t understand the language or sing the songs. We learned the Body of Christ is made up of many parts and each of us is an important part of that body.
We, in the Body of Christ, need each other to complete the work Christ has commissioned us to do; and when we work together, whether with the church down the road or a church in another country, the Body of Christ comes to life!
For more information about Costa Rica Mission Projects, Inc., go to www.costaricamissionprojects.com.
The Rev. Shalimar Holderly serves as the pastor of Nine Mile United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne and is the cluster leader for the 10 Companions Cluster, which includes these United Methodist churches: Bluffton Epworth, Bluffton First, Fort Wayne Nine Mile, Lancaster Chapel, Markle, Monson Chapel, Ossian, Prospect, Uniondale and Zanesville, all in the Northeast District.
“…what Costa Rica Mission Projects is about is being church together.”
– Wil Bailey
The 10 Companions Cluster team picture on top of the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica includes: (back row left to right) Phyllis Somers, Betty Oakes, Jean Mossburg, Linda Reed, Jan Carlo, Shalimar Holderly, Shannon Komach. Front: Krista Reed and Tara Hughes. Not pictured: Becky Easley.
Photo courtesy of Shalimar Holderly
Jan Carlo and Tara Hughes wash out a wheelbarrow during the 10 Companions Cluster mission trip to Costa Rica this summer.