Deaconesses and Home Missioners Bridge the Pacific in Historic Meeting

Deaconesses and Home Missioners Bridge the Pacific in Historic Meeting

The meeting began with excitement as nearly 100 deaconesses and home missioners from the Philippines and the United States logged onto Zoom. It ended with these inspiring words from Home Missioner Scott James-Vickery, “Is it possible that God is calling us to something new tonight? Can we live the Gospel together as one global community that we call deaconesses and home missioners?” These words have led attendees to envision a different future together, dreaming of possibilities for the Order of Deaconess/Home Missioner.

On November 5, 8 p.m. E.T in the U.S.  — November 6, 8 a.m. in the Philippines — United Methodist deaconesses and home missioners from the Philippines and the U.S. met together for the first time to build relationships and strengthen and encourage the work they do in the name of Jesus Christ.

Megan Hale, executive of the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner in the United States, and Sheila Faye Dayrit-Binuya, chairperson, Commission on Deaconess Service, Philippines, presented information about the similarities and differences in the way that the preparation and the work are carried out in each of the two countries. Mandates for the work of the order are found in the Book of Discipline (summarized as “love, justice, and service”), providing a common focus for the work, but the order has developed differently in the two countries, impacted by culture, history and other factors.

Sharing Their Ministries

Four deaconesses and home missioners shared their ministries as examples of the various ways that love, justice, and service are lived out within this covenant community. The speakers from the Philippines were Elizabeth Caducoy and Norma Dollaga, who have each served as deaconesses for more than 30 years. Elizabeth serves a church in North Cotabato, Mindanao, and also teaches at Southern Philippines Methodist College. She says that she serves “mostly in Children’s Ministry, but we can do a lot more.” She finds that “Our sisters [other deaconesses] make us strong” and remains convinced that “The calling [to be a deaconess] is still an important one.”

Norma serves in the Metro Manila area. Her ecumenical work for justice and peace and human rights is extensive, leading her to the mountains and across creeks in all kinds of weather. She says that, among other things, “My deaconess journey has led me to face authorities, engage them because something is not right.” She does this work because she believes that “Our faith continues to mandate the struggle to defend human rights.”

Serving in the United States, Jonah Ballesteros and Monica Bartley are new members of the deaconess/home missioner community, already living out their callings to love, justice, and service.

Jonah shared about his ministry as an equity, inclusion and diversity program specialist in the Richardson, Texas school district. He says, “My learning from the DHM opened up new opportunities for me. If I did not say anything about the anti-Asian racism, I would not have my current position.” Speaking out about how important it is for the school district to issue a statement expressing its anti-racism position led him to his current position in the school district, which, he says, “is all about love, justice, and service.”

Monica spoke of her calling as a disability advocate. Born in Jamaica, she contracted polio at 4 years old. By the time she became an adult, she had encountered and overcome many difficulties. Her advocacy work addresses many barriers in addition to accessibility. She is realistic and knows that “it takes a long time to see results” from her work. She attends to “the least, the lost and last. I try to make them feel special and important,” because she knows that they are often overlooked and forgotten.

This sharing paved the way for small group conversations about each person’s ministry and answering the question, “What empowers/strengthens you?” Lively discussions overflowed from the small groups back into the large group as greetings from classmates, batchmates and other friends rang out as people saw each other’s faces. Smiles and laughter attested to the success of this gathering.

Closing Statement

The group settled down to listen to the words of Scott James-Vickery as he gave the challenging closing statement quoted above. Those questions were preceded by showing a tapestry that was woven by Deaconess Julie Smith during a convocation of the National Association of Deaconesses, Home Missioners, and Home Missionaries (NADHM). He pointed out that even though we are all unique individuals, “the one common thread of our souls is that we are called to love, justice, and service, and we are...stronger and more beautiful together,” just as a tapestry is. He quoted from Matthew 25, saying that “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me” are the most beautiful words in scripture, and then asked the questions that are at the beginning of this article, leaving them unanswered — for now. “Is it possible that God is calling us to something new? Can we live the Gospel together as the global community that we call deaconesses and home missioners?”

The meeting ended as it began, with prayer.

Deaconess Sharon McCart serves as chair, Cal-Pac DisAbility Ministries Task Force, and vice chair, DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church.

Posted or updated: 11/11/2021 12:00:00 AM