When I began working at VMM one year ago, the organization was in the midst of routine transition. A new strategic plan was in development, and several program directors were moving on from their posts. Like a plant entering a new season, the ongoing process of growth was being felt more acutely, in exciting and invigorating ways.
It was as I studied the program I had been asked to coordinate that I learned Partners in Mission was celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary. So, amidst the ongoing work of coming alongside Partners groups and hosts, we decided to step back. We needed to take time both to celebrate our history and to look forward to how God is calling us into the future as a program.
Through this process, it became clear how important the program’s name is to its identity. Partners in Mission is about partnership. Its core purpose is to build relationships within the global church that help both the host and the guest to collaborate in God’s reconciling activity through mutual service and learning. God has a big mission, and we want to participate in whatever way we can.
Even more, we hope we can be a conduit to a better understanding of the bigness and the immediacy of that mission. We recognize that we are not at its center, but we have been invited to participate. We know going with the grain of God’s universe takes more than lip service and requires better of us than our well-intentioned acts. God’s activity surrounds us, our job is to recognize and respond in a way that joins prayer and action, body and soul, the global and the local.
This robust response is at the heart the Partners in Mission program. This is why we are invigorated by our history and passionate about our direction into the future. With our partners, we are developing trips that integrate worship, and mutual service and learning. We do this in ways that disciple individuals, build community, and edify the Body of Christ.
As we move into fall, we are celebrating a successful season with Partners. In this issue of Connections, you will read reflections from a number of our five summer teams. One of these groups spent time with people struggling with poverty and homelessness in rural Appalachia. Another rekindled a relationship with a fraternal congregation. Another laid the foundations for future partnerships. Still another responded to a congregation’s desire for musical training and pastoral accompaniment. Yet another built inter- and intra-denominational relationships, and wrestled with the implications of their choices regarding stewardship of Creation. All of them sought to practice and pay attention to God’s reconciling activity in the world. I hope you will read their reflections.
Looking forward, we are already planning several opportunities for churches, families, youth groups, and individuals to connect through Partners in Mission. Pay attention for more information about a group to Israel and the Palestinian Territories that will explore historical and current contexts through home stays, hiking the Jesus Trail, and volunteering at Nazareth Village. Watch for updates about local Partners opportunities within migrant and refugee communities, and among those struggling with addiction and homelessness in Harrisonburg. Keep your eyes open; God’s mission is big, and we are partners in it.