Building partnerships between missionaries and the local church

January 26, 2023 | by JB Brayfindley

Building partnerships between missionaries and the local church

“Labvakar, lai Dievs Devi sveti!” writes Rev. Courtney Randall in the Zoom chat and translates from Latvian to English as “Good evening, God bless you!” “Namastē!” adds Katherine Parker stating aloud the typical Nepalese greeting before she introduces herself during the November 16, 2022, panel discussion hosted by the California Nevada Conference Committee on Mission Service entitled, Conversation on how to build partnerships with GBGM Missionaries.
Rev. Dr. Felicisimo Cao, conference secretary of Global Ministries and the Global Ministries Team of the Conference Committee on Mission Service, welcomed participants including three panelists.
The first panelist, Katherine Parker, from Mt. Tamalpais UMC in Mill Valley, California is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, working in community development in Nepal. She serves as a Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) Advisor with the United Mission to Nepal (UMN).
The second panelist, Rev. Courtney Randall is from the Mountain Sky Conference currently a Mission Advocate for the Western Jurisdiction Global Ministries. She and her husband, Rev. Dan Randall, served as Global Ministry Missionaries in Latvia where their daughter was born. Their family of five is a missionary family rooted in the understanding that mission is both global and local. Randall speaks about partnerships with missionaries and what a Covenant relationship is all about.
"A two week bus trip—called the Southwest Mission Tour for high school students… across the Southwest to El Paso and Juarez, Mexico… cemented my lifelong desire to interact with people and cultures,” shares the third panelist, Suellen Rowlison, Lay Leader from Trinity UMC in Chico and member of the Missions Committee and Church and Society Committee. Katherine Parker is one of the missionaries that Trinity UMC supports. Rowlison shares how laity are empowered to support the mission of the church locally and globally.
“We are very intentional in inviting partnerships,” states Rev. Cao also serving as Circuit Leader of the Pentecost Circuit and pastoring both Faith and Riverside UMCs in Sacramento, “…to build existing or open new--with our siblings as missionaries through GBGM.”
The UMC General Board of Global Ministries, or GBGM, is the worldwide mission, relief and development agency of The United Methodist Church working with partners and churches to equip and transform people and places for God’s mission. GBGM connects our churches to these missions.
According to Roland Fernandez, general secretary of the GBGM and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), “Nearly 200 missionaries in service in 60 countries now represent the presence of Christ as they cross boundaries to share the good news of God’s constant love for all people.” Our United Methodist church has missionaries across five continents in many types of professional careers from pastors and teachers to nurses, agriculturists, and community organizers.

“For many of us who cannot be out there like the missionaries but at the same time we want to experience and participate in their ministry as their support here,” states Rev. Justin Ryu, chair of the Conference Committee on Mission Service serving New Creation UMC in Campbell, “I am happy we could have this webinar… so that we reinforce its connection and support. Hopefully God touches our heart so we can step up in some way to be part of this.”

During the webinar presentation, Parker speaks about her discernment of a call to mission work.  “I think that the discernment for all of us begins with that growing awareness that God needs people,” explains Parker. “And as we grow with that awareness, we look for places to connect… but as we discern where God needs people, we can start to see where our gifts match with God's needs.” Parker interests led her into plant biology and lab research where she questioned how such work might or might not help the global food security crisis.

“And when we have questions we can look to the church. The church is a place where we pray together, where we talk, where we discern, and in that process of bringing my own conflicts of what I was seeing to the church,” states Parker.

“The church offered me some opportunities for short term mission exploration--and I think that's a great place to start as well.” Parker was part of the 3 year UMC Global Mission Fellows Program spending time in Japan at the Asian Rural Institute and in the United States with the Practical Farmers of Iowa. “It opened my world to see where really are there needs and how people are practically addressing them.” Parker continued developing her skills in Ghana before receiving a call requesting her to apply to a missionary position with the UMC in Cambodia.

“Now, I currently serve with the United Mission to Nepal and Ecumenical agency in Nepal with about thirty-five different denominational partners from around the world,” states Parker noting that there continues to be a need for more people with a wide diversity of skills including communicators, engineers, healthcare workers, graphic designers as well as pastors. “As you're discerning a call, or, as we discern, a call as the Church, we have to take into account all these global practicalities of answering that call, but the need is there.”

“God calls missionaries from communities everywhere in the world to serve in communities anywhere in the world,” states Rev. Randall. “My role is to help connect churches, conferences, individuals with what is going on at global ministries specifically what's going on with the missionaries and the mission field.”
To promote connection and support of the missionaries, Randall assists churches in creating Covenant Partner Relationships with missionaries. Such relationships build upon the connectional relationships of the UMC and provide an opportunity for missionaries and churches to support one another spiritually, emotionally, missionally, and financially.

“One of the ways that missionaries get strength is through the connectional system and connecting to the local church,” states Randall, “and the local church being a voice of encouragement and support and prayers.”

Those in covenant with missionaries commit to four actions: 1) Pray for their health, safety, and work (and are similarity included in the missionary’s prayers); 2) Communicate regularly with the missionary through email, social media, Zoom or Skype; 3) Host the missionary virtually or in person; and 4) Invite the missionary to teach a Sunday School class, read Scripture in worship or lead a VBS session.

Randall explains that local churches are required to fill out specific paperwork to establish a Covenant Partner Relationship and set up a contact person. See forms at
Churches support missionaries by submitting donations to UMC Advances, the GBGM avenue for contributions. According to Randall, many churches can choose to support various missionaries based on geographical location, causes or specific ministries.

“We have conversations with churches all the time that say, ‘Hey, our church is interested in partnering with a missionary in this area’ and we say, ‘This is who we recommend, let’s set up a meeting to meet the missionary…” states Randall.
Rowlinson speaks about the ways her church supports Parker and promotes mission work with specific ideas from Trinity UMC. She also notes that “programs such as Sierra Service Project lead students to outreach projects and to help people with repairs on their homes or community improvement. So, check out the Sierra Service Project website. This early involvement may lead students to become missionaries themselves, or at least support one in the future, or maybe to join Volunteer In Mission project to the Methodist Church in the U.S. or abroad, which I have done as an adult.”
Parker notes, If you know any young adults - the Global Mission Fellows Applications are open
 Many missionaries will be itinerating in the Summer and Fall of 2023 including Parker. Opportunities are available to meet missionaries in person or host an event.
“I love having zoom conversations over zoom either one-on-one with church partners or with a small group,” states Parker. “Since there is a 12 hour time difference, I've set up a Calendly page where you can find a time that works for both of us. My next itineration is summer/fall of 2023. Looking forward to seeing all of you in-person then!”
Contact Parker at: to get on her calendar
and email kparker@umcmission.orgAdvance15187z
to see her biography go to
Current missionaries being supported by the California-Nevada Annual Conference with the Advance donation number and location are:

  • Katherine Parker (15187Z) Nepal;
  • J.J. Park (3022592) Vietnam;
  • Chae Suk (Terah) Park (3022591) Vietnam;
  • Jae Hyoung Choi (13973Z) MIIR;
  • Fatuma O. Kutela (3022312) Angola;
  • Sara Flores (13988Z) Ecuador;
  • Partick Abro (3022175) Burundi;
  • Emma Cantor (13954Z) East Asia/Pacific Region;
  • Venue Mae Barroga Gatudula (3022649) GMF-Cambodia.
Questions about Covenant and Missionary Relationships, support reach out to Rev. Fel Cao (CSGM for Cal-Nev) at
Or to Rev. Dan and Courtney Randall (Mission Advocates for the Western Jurisdiction) at
Click here to watch the recording of this webinar.

JB Brayfindley is a freelance journalist.