Report of the Global Missions Commission 
180th Convention of the Diocese of Indianapolis
Report presented by The Rev. Jeffrey L. Bower

October 28, 2017

I am happy to report on the Global Missions Commission for the Diocese of Indianapolis. 

Transition has been a theme for the commission for the last two years, but we are steadying our course as we look forward to 2018 and beyond.  The Global Missions Commission has met regularly throughout the last year.  It is comprised of both clergy and lay leaders from throughout the diocese.  Moving forward, it is our hope to be a resource for the entire diocese, as we encourage each parish to engage intimately in a global mission initiative.

Investing time in education and learning together was part of our work on the commission.   To that end, we spent two of our meetings discussing Robert Lupton’s, Toxic Charity, an important resource, as we consider global missions and how we enter into relationships of mutuality and respect, not harming those with whom we seek to be in companionship with, moving from the work of charity to that of development.

In January of this year, I witnessed this important work first-hand as I was privileged to represent the Diocese of Indianapolis in the Presiding Bishop’s Pilgrimage to Ghana, sponsored by Episcopal Relief and Development.  Our work was two-fold, both to learn and reclaim the Episcopal Church’s responsibility for its part in the historic injustices of racism, and to visit the sites of Episcopal Relief and Development, as they engage in the work of Asset Based Community Development, in the most impoverished and rural areas of West Africa.

In May, three members of the commission and myself all attended this year’s Global Episcopal Missions Network Conference.  Each year, this program provides important insights about best practices and training, as parishes and dioceses seek to live out their ministry through global companionships.  While there, I completed a two-year certification program in Global Missions.  I am happy to share my training with you, as well as invite you to attend next year’s conference at Virginia Theological Seminary.  Simply search GEMN.org and it will take you to the homepage where you can find important dates and information about the conference.

Our primary focus for the Global Missions Commission in 2017 has been in fostering and nurturing our existing companionships with the Diocese of Brasilia and with St. Andre’s in Mithon, Haiti.

We were fortunate to have Bishop Mauricio and Sandra with us from the Diocese of Brasilia for an extended period between the celebration of ministry for Bishop Cate and the consecration of Bishop Jennifer.  The 10-day visit was hosted by the Global Missions Commission. They participated in many activities throughout the Diocese, including breakfast with the Mid-Central Deanery; an evening with Holy Family, Fishers; Eucharist and Dinner with St. Paul’s, “On The Way”; a celebration with the Deacons of the Diocese, and several other private dinners and gatherings. 

In addition, they toured the Indiana Youth Group facility (dedicated to the support of LGBTQ Youth in the State of Indiana).  It might come as a surprise to some that gender equality and issues around sexual orientation are among our mutual challenges in our respective parts of the world. 

Much of our financial support for the Diocese of Brasilia has gone to fund social agencies throughout the diocese.  These social agencies provide education and meals for young children, sports programs and other resources for the community, including computer labs, medical clinics, music instruction and social events.  Bishop Mauricio’s goal is to have social agencies associated with each parish in the Diocese of Brasilia. 

In September of this year, leaders of the Diocese of Brasilia began a 3-year strategic plan to achieve another objective, to become self-supporting.  A shared space model has already met with tremendous success at the cathedral, where a hair salon and private daycare are among some of the tenants that provide invaluable financial resources for use throughout the diocese.

In addition to other funds designated for The Diocese of Brasilia, we awarded the diocese, $882 earlier this summer (half of the offering collected at Bishop Cate’s ministry celebration).  Per her request, an additional, $882 was given to AFRECS (American Friends of the Episcopal Church for the Sudans) for ministry in the Sudan.   

Regarding Sudan, Bishop Jennifer and I met with Bishop Moses Anur Ayom from the Diocese of Athooch in Sudan.  This meeting occurred in March, prior to her consecration.  Bishop Moses initiated contact with us and expressed his desire to establish a companionship with the Diocese of Indianapolis, not having a full understanding of the fracture that occurred with the Diocese of Bor in early 2016.  The Diocese of Athooch is one of the newest dioceses in Sudan.  It will soon celebrate its three-year anniversary, with approximately 35,000 members.  Recently, we received a letter from Bishop Moses, expressing his desire to continue our conversation, but unfortunately, communication has been difficult.  Our hope is to re-establish contact and work to construct a companion relationship, recognizing that this will take time and intentionality.

Much of our focus since last October has been our care for the community of Mithon, Haiti. 

At last year’s convention, the household voted to support a resolution to extend the period of a fund known as the Haiti Fund for an additional three years.  You will recall, the fund was established by the Diocesan Convention in 2011 in the aftermath of the historic earthquake that claimed thousands of lives in Haiti.  As of last October, $120,000 remained in the fund, set to expire in December 2016.  A three-year extension was granted for the fund, recognizing that the needs were great in this region after Hurricane Matthew ripped through Mithon, destroying most of the crops, creating dangerous structural issues at the school that houses Lunches and Lessons, and damaging the only well, that supported the community with potable water.

I am pleased to report, through recommendation of the Global Missions Commission and approval of the Executive Council, repairs were made to the well in early November 2016, just after our diocesan convention (a cost of $20,300).   In addition, the school was structurally repaired in the early part of 2017, just prior to the children’s return after the holidays (a cost of $36,700).  And, in recent weeks, a crop mini-grant program was approved by our Executive Council to provide seedlings, fertilizer, plants, education and tools to 100 families in Mithon, to enable the replanting of destroyed crops and to provide much-needed food resources to this area (a cost of $56,700).  The remainder the Haiti Fund was given to support the Lunches and Lessons Program that was established by Trinity, Bloomington, in 2011.  This program is now in its sixth-year of success providing education and meals for children k-5th grade.  To date, all $120,000 of the Haiti Fund have been faithfully distributed to sustain, develop and contribute to the quality of life for the community of Mithon, Haiti.  This is work that we all should celebrate.

In addition, to aid in supporting the $30,000 budget to fund Lunches and Lessons in the new academic year, the Global Missions Commission launched a 303@99 campaign in August.  303 gifts of $99 each will fund this important program.  Each member of the commission has committed to give at least one gift of $99 toward our goal.  If each of you would do the same, we would be well on our way.  To that end, Global Missions is offering a match for the first $7500 of your donations.  It’s easy!  Just go to indydio.org/lunches and make your gift today.  With the match, we need a total of 227 gifts of $99 to fund this program.  #letsgetrdun #wecandothis

Earlier this month, I traveled to Mithon, Haiti, to visit with the children, teachers, residents of the community and Fr. Jean Michelin, to see the important work being done, in this rural village in the mountains.  I listened to the story of one man who told me that he has five children at the school.  If it were not for Lunches and Lessons, he admits, his children would likely not have food each day.   I heard the story of another woman who travels one hour by foot each way, wishing there were another well for potable water in her area where an additional 1,000 people live.  I heard the stories of many who lost everything in the hurricane last year, and others who long for a clinic to provide occasional wellness checks and medicines.  I met the children who walk over an hour each way to school every day and other children that have no opportunity for education after 5th grade because the closest school is in Leogane, one hour by motorcycle or vehicle, two hours on foot.  Fr. Michelin serves eight parishes, many of them in rural areas.  In addition, he is the Executive Director of the hospital in Leogane that is administrated by the Episcopal Church.  He said, “The people of the mountains have been forgotten by the government.  They are out of sight and are unimportant. The Episcopal Church’s presence represents hope.”

Despite the gravity of the situation, no running water in homes, no sanitation, little food, no access to healthcare, and the closest city, one hour by vehicle, the people give thanks to God by joining in song singing in their native Creole, “Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee, how great thou art, how great thou art.”

They expressed their gratitude to the Diocese of Indianapolis for the blessings of the well, for the blessings of Lunches and Lessons and the school, for the blessings of the mini-grants that will enable them to provide for themselves and their families. 

My hope is to return after the first of the year with other members of the commission, to see the results, first-hand, of the crop mini-grants and to begin planning a diocesan clergy and laity trip in 2018. 

A trip to the Diocese of Brasilia is also a possibility in the next year.

In other news, Christ Church Cathedral continues to grow its relationship with the Diocese of South East Mexico and consideration is being given to expand this relationship to include a diocesan relationship that would provide additional opportunities for parish-to parish companionships.

It is the hope of the Global Missions Commission to continue to nurture our relationships this year with The Diocese of Brasilia and with St. Andres and the community of Mithon, Haiti, while considering a reentry into a relationship in Sudan and potentially, South East, Mexico.

Would you like to be a part of our work?  Do you have interest in journeying on a Global Missions sponsored pilgrimage to Mithon, Haiti or to Brasilia?  Is your parish interested in joining with other parishes in a global initiative? Is your parish interested in developing a parish-to-parish relationship with another parish in Haiti?  Brasilia?  South East Mexico? Sudan?

Now that we have spent the better part of two years in transition and getting our feet on the ground, we are ready to engage more fully in our work of global missions.  I invite your participation with us as we seek to move beyond our borders to be agents of transformation for the world. Who knows we might even learn to be more attentive to the needs of our own community, in doing so? We might even discover something important about ourselves.

The following video highlights our important relationships in the Diocese of Brasilia and with St. Andre’s in Mithon.  Special thanks to Bryan Luce of Holy Family in Fishers for his work in its production and for the entire Global Missions Commission who have worked faithfully in this last year.

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