In February, during a worship service, we asked Cynthia Parker, Shelly Sanderlin, Jennifer Scott, and Martha Van Cleave to stand in the center aisle of our sanctuary. We reached our hands toward them and spoke aloud the words we hoped would surround them on their trip to and from Nicaragua and during their work there – “safety” and “connection” and “learning” and “joy” and much more. We’ll do a similar prayer ritual in a couple of weeks with the youth and their adult sponsors traveling on the Y.A.H.O.O. Mexico Mission Trip. We do it every time they go.
We call it a “commissioning,” and it’s a pretty powerful activity. It’s combined of root words that mean “sending” and “with.” We commission people as a way of blessing them for the journey ahead, and as a way of offering the promise, the intention, that those of us who physically stay behind accompany the traveling ones in our thoughts, with our hopes and prayers. It’s a way that we say, “Go, and know that our hearts both hold you here and go with you there.”
One of the most striking pieces of our Mission/Vision season last year, to me, was reading through the notecards where people wrote down ways that FBC lives out the values that matter most to them. Over and over and over again, people noted our work with AMOS Health & Hope in Nicaragua and with AMOR Ministries in Mexico through Y.A.H.O.O. as meaningful. Way more people wrote those down than have actually participated in those trips as travelers. It matters to folks here, even if they don’t travel, that others who are a part of this church do, and carry the goodwill and friendship of all of us with them when they go.
And that’s the power of commissioning. It folds in the whole community. It lets those who leave know that they don’t go alone, and it reminds those who stay that they are part of the healing and justice work that happens so far away – not only because they help provide the resources for the journey, but also because we are one body, made of different parts, all connected in our heart for serving the world.
The Nica Team has just returned. The Y.A.H.O.O. team will leave soon. Thanks to all of you for blessing – and being a part of – all of that good work, in all of the different ways that you do and are. And, as we say in our own mini-commissioning each week as we close our service, may the peace of Christ be with you.