On Sunday evening, July 12, a group of about 175 folks from dozens of congregations around Pittsburgh gathered to share in the worship of God at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church. As we did, we sang these words by John Bell:
Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown
In you and you in me?
And thus began the formal journey of the 2015 International Partnership Ministry Team mission to Malawi. Thirteen travelers representing ten congregations in Western Pennsylvania were commissioned to be the representatives of the church in Pittsburgh in partnership with God’s people in Malawi and South Sudan.
Our worship was led by the Rev. Dr. Hunter Farrell, the Director of World Mission for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We heard of Jesus’ call to follow him as empty-handed as possible in order to fully grasp the task at hand with the resources he would provide.
On Monday, we gathered at sites on the West and East and loaded our caravan to drive to Washington DC. En route, we shared stories of God’s call on our lives, the places we grew up, the children we love, the congregations that nurture us, and so much more. Our van and our trailer were full when we left Pittsburgh; our hearts were full as we arrived in DC for the night.
To be honest, more than our hearts were full. We stopped for a delicious team dinner at Weaver’s Restaurant in Hancock, MD, where we enjoyed some of the finest pie this side of Cumberland Street. Our first night as a team was spent engaged in good and rich conversation, in quiet anticipation, and deep reflection. In the morning, we arise and board an Ethiopian Airlines flight for Malawi, by way of Addis Ababa, where we will pick up our three South Sudanese counterparts.
As we fly, I’d like to ask you to go back and read the words to the hymn that we sang at the commissioning service and use them as a prayer for this team, that we might be willing to risk leaving some of the places, ideas, habits, prejudices, and experiences we have had in order to engage fully in that new place to which God is calling us. Pray that seeds of transformation might grow in hearts, in congregations, in communities in at least three different countries.