On their fact-finding mission, the UMCOR – Good Shepherd team is visiting places like Cienaguita, a village of indigenous people in Panama.
By Michelle Scott Okabayashi
Sept. 20, 2012—At this moment, a team from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Good Shepherd United Methodist Church of Kansas City, Missouri, is in Guatemala City. They’ve already traveled through Panama and Nicaragua and they’re yet to visit Honduras on their 17-day fact-finding mission.
UMCOR and Good Shepherd are working together to find new pathways for partnership in Central America. “This exploratory effort will help us to understand the specific health and development challenges of the Central American region,” explains Shannon Trilli, UMCOR’s director of Global Health Initiatives. This trip, in part, is to find ways for UMCOR to strengthen its work in Central America—a place where the organization historically has had few partners.
Good Shepherd’s presence in this endeavor is the result of a serendipitous meeting at the Large Church Initiative conference in January between Good Shepherd’s lead pastor, Mark Sheets and UMCOR’s executive for church relations, Landon Taylor. Sheets approached Taylor with the idea to partner with UMCOR for work in South or Central America. At the same time, UMCOR was looking for ways to expand its work in the same regions.
Good Shepherd’s associate pastor, Jamey Bentley is on the journey, as well as member Sue Pike-Bower. “Our Latin American family is growing so fast in the Kansas City area, and that makes it much more personal,” says Bentley.
The UMCOR-Good Shepherd team is meeting with Global Ministries missionaries, visiting indigenous communities, talking with local pastors and Volunteers in Mission, and visiting local partners during their journey.
“We wanted more than just a ‘one shot’ wonder trip,” explains Bentley of the kind of relationship Good Shepherd is looking to develop in Central America with UMCOR. “We want to walk alongside our brothers and sisters on this long journey of recovery, development, hope, and transformation.”
Follow Shannon Trilli (@ShannonUMCOR) and Rev. Jamey Bentley (@actorblues) on Twitter.
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