Live from Stamford: The Commissioning
October 16, 2009
By Linda Bloom
Oct. 14, 2009 | STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)
Shannon and David Goran use the Internet to advertise their campus ministry to students in the Ukraine.
So it seemed fitting that the young couple's formal commissioning as missionaries of The United Methodist Church could be viewed live as a Webcast. "I think it's a good illustration of the global church in the 21st century," David Goran said.
They were among the 40 people commissioned in an Oct. 13 service during the annual meeting of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in Stamford, Connecticut.
For the first time, any United Methodist with computer access could watch that evening as one of the largest groups in recent years were blessed and sent out in service. Commissioned were eight international missionaries, 10 church and community workers, seven deaconesses, two home missioners, six mission interns, two Hispanic/Latino Plan missionaries and five US-2s, young adults serving two-year terms in the United States.
"This is not a Board of Global Ministries moment, it is a church wide mission moment," Bishop Joel Martínez, the board's interim top executive, explained as he opened the commissioning service.
According to a report from the mission agency following the Webcast, 300 sites stayed with the link for the entire service, with a peak at 1,000 sites. Viewers were identified as coming from the United States, Australia, Indonesia, Western Europe, the Caribbean and South America.
"A terrific idea to live stream the commissioning of UMC missionaries tonight," twittered Missy Buchanan, a writer from Texas. "People around the world sharing the experience!"
Sybil Dodson wrote on Facebook: "So enjoyed watching the commissioning of fellow deaconesses and home missioners as well as the other missionaries. Makes one proud to be a United Methodist!"
Because of the time difference - the Ukraine is five hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast - the Gorans weren't sure that any of their students would be watching. Nor, Shannon admitted, did the students totally understand the concept of commissioning. But, she added, "They're excited for us."
Student ministry in Ukraine
David, 26, an Illinois native, and Shannon, 31, a Texan, (at left) have been working among the roughly 150,000 college students in L'viv, Ukraine, for the past year. Because the schools there do not have campuses, they run their ministry from a fourth-floor apartment in a downtown building. There, they offer tea and cookies, free Internet access, a clean bathroom and a place for students to hang out, do homework and take part in Bible studies.
Married for two and a half years, the couple met while pursuing mission studies at Asbury College. Shannon, who was raised a United Methodist and has a master's degree in social work, decided to be a missionary in 2001 and interned in the L'viv program in 2003. David, a Free Methodist, is combining a calling by God with "the desire to do something of true value."
Haewon (Cindy) Moon, 53, and Sungchul (Gary) Moon, 57, members of Covenant United Methodist Church, a Korean-American congregation in Pomona, Calif., also felt the call and have prepared themselves through a number of short-term mission experiences.
For the past five months, the couple, who are parents of three adult children, has attended language school in Thailand. When they finish their studies next spring, the Moons plan to open an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS in Chonburi Province, about an hour south of Bangkok.
During the application process with the Board of Global Ministries, Sungchul, a chiropractor, and Haewon, who has administrative experience with assisted living programs, immersed themselves in study about HIV/AIDS to prepare to establish the orphanage. "We'll start very small, with about four kids," he said.
They were both excited about the Webcast of the service and hoped that friends from Bangkok, Los Angeles and Texas would be watching. "I sent out e-mails to a lot of people I know," he added.
Privilege and responsibility
Noting that mission service is both a "great privilege" and "solemn responsibility," Bishop Bruce Ough, the board's president, called on the Gorans, Moons and 36 others - representing 23 U.S. annual (regional) conferences and one partner church in the Caribbean - to make a public pledge of their dedication to that service.
After each had been individually called forward and commissioned with a laying on of hands "to take the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ into all the world," the group stood in a long line across the ballroom, reciting the Wesley Covenant Prayer, which begins: "I am no longer my own, but Yours."
The Gorans and Moons (at right) will soon head back to their assignments. In the Ukraine, the Gorans already have seen some progress with bringing students to the faith, reported David, who is studying for ordination through the United Methodist church there. "I think we've been able to mobilize some students in leadership," he added.
The Moons expect to rely on connections with other missionaries, as well as assistance from local hospitals, doctors and the staff of similar orphanages, during the start-up process for their orphanage. "I'm so grateful for the ministry we'll be involved in," Sungchul said.
The full list of those commissioned on Oct. 13, and their annual conferences, includes:
International missionaries: David and Shannon Goran, Texas; Jonathan McCurley, Florida; Haewon (Cindy) and Sungchul (Gary) Moon, California-Pacific; Helen Roberts-Evans, Northern Illinois; Serna Samuel, Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas; and Charles Tran, Virginia.
Church and community workers (engage in ministries with the poor in the United States): Deborah Archie, West Ohio; Jennifer Battiest, Oklahoma Indian Missionary; Steve Claris, Virginia; Alexandria Jones, New York; Soraya Montano, Colombia (South America)/West Ohio; Rebecca Parsons, Eastern Pennsylvania; Amy Spaur, Iowa; Anita Tracy, West Virginia; James Pat Watkins, Virginia; and Trina Scott-Zuor, Iowa.
Mission interns (young adults serving three-year terms, with experiences both inside and outside the United States): Joseph Bradley, Texas; Erin Eidenshink, Western Pennsylvania; Hannah Hanson, Virginia; Rachel Keller, Central Pennsylvania; Jennifer Tyler, Dakotas; and Holli Vining, North Alabama.
US-2 missionaries: Bethany Amey, Greater New Jersey; Heather Bishop, Virginia; Jennifer Chickering, New England; Amanda Thrasher, Western North Carolina; and Amihan Jones, Southwest Texas.
National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries missionaries: Jaime Nieves, Rocky Mountain; and Rosanna Panizo-Valladares, North Carolina.
Deaconesses (women) and home missioners (men) are lay people who make lifetime commitments to ministry, are members of annual conferences and obtain their own employment.
Deaconesses: Virginia Baker, Louisiana; Patricia Croley, Dakotas; Cynthia Andrade Johnson, Rio Grande; Mary Cameron Kempson, Western North Carolina; Susan Lewandowski, Virginia; Myka Kennedy Stephens, Northern Illinois; and Kyung O. Yu, West Ohio.
Home missioners: Charles Barrow, North Carolina; and Jeffrey Bruce Murrell, North Alabama.
(See related story: 'Young Adult Missionary Commissioned, Assigned to California-Nevada'.)