How appropriate to reflect on the visit of Elena Huegel to the Region of Mid-America as we celebrate Pentecost and the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:8 we read "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Elena has been a witness in Chile, which actually means the end of the earth. When she was here, she reminded us that God calls us to be witnesses where we live.
Global Ministries is a combined ministry of the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ, whose mission is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ by joining with partners throughout the world to work for justice, reconciliation and peace. These partners are Disciples, United Churches of Christ, other denominations & Christian organizations. Missionaries are called to various countries as a result of the discernment process which includes: the missionaries, Global Ministries and our partners. For example, when Elena went to Chile, she worked with our partner, the Pentecostal Church of Chile.
Elena helped the church set up a Sunday School program for the children. As a result of her interaction with the children and their teachers, they realized there was a need for further development through a camp that was named the Shalom Center, located in the foothills of the Andes. Their mission focuses on faith development, growth and transformation. It also re-enforces the dignity and creativity of each person as well as creating a safe place for those who come.
Elena reminded us that one goal of a missionary is to train leaders who will continue the work, not to create dependence on missionary. In her notes about leaving Chile, she states "Leaving here will be very difficult, but as I remind my friends in Chile: 'A missionary’s job is to. . . work herself out of a job.' The time has come for the new generation of young adults, many of whom I have known from when they were children in the national Sunday School program that I helped to create, to take their dreams and what they have learned and lead the church and the Shalom Center into new challenges and opportunities."*
By the time Elena shared with us her stories of ministry in Chile, she had experienced the difficult good-byes to friends with whom she had worked for 20 years. She presented examples ofhealing, through the Roots in the Ruins: Hope in Trauma. A program she and others developed to help people deal with the aftermath of the Pinochet dictatorship and the earthquake in 2010.
During the last 4 years Elena has also traveled to other countries in Latin America to help people deal with traumatic events in their life and sometimes in the life of their congregations. Be sure to read, The Earless Man from Chile**, in which Elena reflected on her ministry in Chile. In one of the stories entitled "The House that Love Built" she tells of a woman whose house was totally destroyed by the earthquake, who says she wouldn't give up the house for anything because “this home is blessed, because it was built by the love of my sisters and brothers in the US and Chile.” Offerings from churches and individuals of the Northwest part of Missouri helped to build 3 blessing cabins. People in the Pentecostal Church of Chile built the cabins and local congregations helped to furnish them. Because the cabins were so well built, people are adding on to them, rather than building new homes.
In an article Elena wrote about leaving Chile she says "Today I dug out my 1996 journal from the box in my closet. I am re-reading the entries from my first year of service with the Pentecostal Church of Chile on behalf of Global Ministries. An entry from January during those first few days in Chile says: 'In these moments of 'beginning again,' I ask you, Lord, to be with all those with whom I will walk.'"*
Her prayer today may be slightly different, but the meaning is much the same. As she prepares to begin again, please pray that the Lord will walk with her and those with whom she ministers. They are discerning requests from countries in Latin America that are a little closer to her parents who are living in Texas. She says "we have agreed that my ministry will in some way continue to combine trauma healing and resilience development with conflict transformation, environmental education, and Christian education ....With the knowledge of the past, God and I dream together of new travelers to be met, valleys to be crossed and heights to be reached."*
Please pray as Elena, our partners in Latin America, and Global ministries discern the new paths to which God is calling Elena.
*Quotes were taken from an online journal entry of March 16, 2016, entitled "A Missionary's Job is to ...". The link is: http://www.globalministries.org/a_missionary_s_job_is_to
**You can purchase The Earless Man from Chile by contacting Beth Miller, Global Ministries, P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206, 317-713-2570, firstname.lastname@example.org or find it at Chalice Press here.
Story and photos courtesy of Sandi Mull.