Thursday, May 9, 2013

2013 GEMN Conference, Bogota, Columbia

Our group at the Church of Divine Salvation

Bishop Holguin Khoury livening up the crowd

The Teacher is here and he calls you

Bishop WilfredoRamos (Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Connecticut)  and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori

Group picture with the presiding Bishop

GEMN Board of Directors

We spent May 4th through the 11th at the GEMN Conference in Bogota Columbia. GEMN stands for “The Global Episcopal Mission Network” but what it represents is much, much more.


·         Facilitates and strengthens mission programs.
·         Provides a training curriculum for Global Mission Agents.
·         Sponsors an annual mission conference (Institute) for education, training and exchange of global mission ideas.
·         Foster and support mutually responsible and interdependent relationships and accountability among mission-minded individuals, organizations and dioceses within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.



It was a rough start as we flew from El Salvador to the United States and then Columbia starting at 5:30 AM landing at 7:30 PM and our luggage was missing. The airlines assured us it would be rectified soon and Demos Gracias a Dios (Thanks be to God) it arrived Monday night.


The conference does cover all the bullet points. The main way it achieves these goals is by allowing us to network in an atmosphere of education and motivation among a group of like-minded people. The added bonus is that all of us differ in age, education, race, cultural backgrounds and professional experiences. You get to hear perspectives from totally different backgrounds which are a huge benefit in discussions. We also share all of the funny stories and challenges of stumbling through new languages, cultures, bad water, cold showers and foreign foods that have become our staples.


The conference has a host of speakers and presenters. All of them well known in their fields of economics, theology and motivation to name just a few of the speakers talents. The most valuable thing they share with us is their love for their fellow man. For example one speaker with many credentials in Theology started his presentation by bringing mission down to the simplest of statements, he said “Remember mission is not theoretical, it is not philosophical, it doesn’t start with our heads, it’s all in our feet. Where are you standing? If you aren’t with the people you want to serve then you need to rethink your view of mission”. I liked that very much because nothing prods my feelings of frustration (and anger) more than when I hear long winded explanations of what mission is, of how to change things, change people, make immediate impact, blah, blah, blah and these harangues never mention the importance of physically being with those who need help. You can’t empower people, teach them self-advocacy or love them by talking about it. You have to be there. You don’t need to be in El Salvador, Columbia or The Dominican Republic but where ever you are; you need to put your feet in front of the people who need your help. After that, everything else, with God’s help, will fall into place.


The programs have ranged from micro loans, liberation theology to how to plan and execute a proper project. In order to help us get to know each other we also split into small groups to do a 1 hour bible study on selected verses that apply to mission. We had site visits to Churches that turned struggles to successes, agricultural projects that feed and bring income into communities and a women’s group that fights injustice, violence and oppression on a daily basis to help their families survive. Sometimes the women win, sometimes they lose but they don’t lose their will to fight for themselves and their families. Inspiration is not a strong enough word to describe how they conduct themselves.


In the next 2 days, the conference will wrap up. Our Presiding Bishop Katherine Jeffers Schori will preside over our closing Eucharist with Bishop Ramos of Puerto Rico. I’m looking forward to hearing her speak to us about mission and feed off her insights.


Finally we’ll say our goodbyes and head our separate ways with the knowledge that we are part of a bigger community. Conferences like these remind us we are not alone and we should never feel that way. The power of community in Christ shouldn’t be underestimated.


Hebrews 10:24

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds




Tom & Dianne


  1. Amen to that, my dear friends. I love the pared down description of mission by that speaker, " doesn’t start with our heads, it’s all in our feet." I'm going to steal that. Glad you had such an inspiring conference. +

  2. God and you two are certainly using the hands and feet (and hearts and minds) that you were given! Hope you were able to catch up on some sleep before heading "home" to El Maizal... Ongoing prayers for a blessed Eastertide.

  3. Since I was the primary organizer of the GEMN conference, and am GEMN's President, I'm honored by your excellent overview and comments about the conference's content.