February 27, 2016
Thank you for your article in the volume E16, edition 4 (February 22) entitled, "United Methodist teenager killed, becomes national hero after saving others," by Annette Spence.
I am humbled by the brave and self-sacrificing actions of Zaevion Dobson which exemplify the words of Jesus, “There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.” At the same time, my heart is broken for the circumstances which led to this tragic event and my prayers are with the Dobson family, the fellowship at Martin Chapel, and Lonsdale community as they continue to grieve the loss of such a young life.
However, I was disheartened by Reverend Cross’ comment, “They can go to South Sudan but they can’t find us, and that’s a shame, because they have a ministry field right here ... It’s offensive to see millions of dollars go to Africa or Romania and see only lip service given here. We talk a lot about being connected, but it needs to have flesh and bone. Show up in Lonsdale. It won’t cost you any more.”
There are needs in every corner of the world, from our local neighborhoods to the “ends of the earth.” God invites and calls each of us to participate in God’s life-changing, transformative work in the world. John Wesley said, “The World is my parish.” It is not a choice whether or not we serve locally or globally.Our struggle is how we faithfully serve our neighbors next door and our neighbors around the world. It is offensive to God when we understand the call but choose to ignore that call out of self-interest.
All of God’s people are called to the mission field. As Reverend Cross rightly notes, “it needs to be flesh and bones.” True mission is more than offering financial support; it is developing relationships.Therefore, pastors are tasked with the responsibility of helping their congregations discover, respond and go to where God is leading. Church and community leaders should be challenged to step beyond their comfort zones to join together for the “transformation of the world.”
If there is an unmet need, let us unite to meet that need rather than complaining, comparing and competing with one another. We remember the Apostle Paul’s admonition when he said there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph 4:5-6). We cannot be faithful if we begin dividing ourselves, pitting one pastor, one church, one group or mission against another.
I have witnessed how the people of Holston have listened and responded to God’s call. Our conference supports missionaries within the boundaries of the conference and around the world. These are men and women who are serving with great sacrifice out of great love. In addition, the millions of dollars raised to support missionaries and missions in Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, India and the Middle East are matched by the millions of dollars that local churches are investing into their communities.
These are dollars and personal investments that provide clean water for our neighbors in Hancock County; tutoring and other ministries that empower young lives at the Bethlehem Center in Chattanooga; commitments that support free health care for those in need in the Marion, Virginia area; and outreach that provides hope and help to expectant mothers recovering from addiction. Some of these dollars came from the Children in Poverty grants made possible through last year’s Annual Conference Missions offering. I would encourage Reverend Cross and all of our pastors and church leaders to develop ministries which connect people in service to their local communities and to submit an application to receive a grant.
Holston, let us be sensitive to God’s nudges and leadings. Let us draw close together in relationship with our neighbors, both near and far. Let us be connected in all our churches, within our Conference, and in our communities. Let us be united in mission for the transformation of the world.
Grace and Peace,
Reverend Thomas Hancock
Holston Conference Missions Chair
The Rev. Tom Hancock is pastor at Cassidy United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tenn.