Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Mission Conference

by Katherine Parker
Last week I served as a Conference Secretary for the First Annual Session of the Methodist Mission Conference in Cambodia. It has been a busy month as my assistant Vannak and I put together the "Conference Book" of reports and I worked together with Pastor Var Borom to take minutes of the Conference. It is incredibly exciting to be part of the church in Cambodia during these formative stages.

During Conference, the Implementing Board shared a vision based on Isaiah 54:2 of "Expanding God's Kingdom in Cambodia" and our goal of establishing an autonomous structure for the People called Methodists in Cambodia. These are goals laid out for how to establish an autonomous (not independent) church: self-governing, self-propagating, self-supporting and self-theologizing. This year was a milestone as we previously were organized as a "meeting" and now we have met for the first time as a "mission conference."

There were many exciting reports at Conference that pointed to the successful steps in increased autonomy. There is a time-line in place for the goal of self-government to be achieved by 2016 with the election of the first Cambodian Bishop. To this end, we celebrated the ordination of 11 new Deacons and 8 new Elders. Self-propagation has always been a strength of the church in Cambodia. Many new baptisms and full membership reports were given and for the first time congregations were designated as Local Church, Preaching Point or Outreach. The Treasurer gave an astounding report on the goal of self-supporting. The "5% offering" from local churches to MMC increased from $364.06 in 2007 to $3,729.36 in 2008 and the Cabinet resolved to raise $10,000 from local congregations in 2010. The first book of Cambodian sermons will also be published this year towards the goal of self-theologizing. The vision is moving forward.

The vision for the CHAD program parallels this development, has grown, and is bigger than just establishing livelihood development projects for rural communities and training health advocates. It is also to help create local organizational structures to continue this work. We are focusing not just on the current activities, but the long haul, and how to support the next generation of the church in Cambodia to continue the work of being the hands of Christ in this world.

At the same time, Bishop Roy J. Sano reminded us that sometimes we get caught up in building organizational structure because that is actually easier than the hard work of creating a just and peaceful society. He encouraged us to stay focused on our true goal.

CHAD is excited for the coming year again to support the Social Concerns Committee (SCC) of the MMC as it implements its vision: Inspired by our faith in God, Methodist Mission in Cambodia churches are working together with communities to improve the quality of life and to respond to emergency and disaster situations in Cambodia. Based on the Community Based Organization (CBO) model from The Philippines, CHAD is working with passionate pastors to help establish what we are calling Local Social Concerns Committees (LSCC) in some of the communities where we are working.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced in all of our work as CHAD is monitoring and following up to support the various projects and ministries as they face challenges and adapt to meet current community needs. One immediate dream is that the LSCC will be able to work with the SCC to help solve some of these problems so that we few folks in the central office don't spend all of our time running around the country on crisis calls. But the long term goal is that there will be transparent structures in place to initiate ministries of social concern that lead to personal and communal transformation.

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