Mission Crossroads

SUM 2017

Mission Crossroads is a three-time-a-year magazine focused on worldwide work of the PC(USA). It offers news and feature stories about mission personnel, international partners and grassroots Presbyterians involved in God's mission in the world.

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14 Summer 2017 world. My father, who arrived in the Philippines in the late 1950s, saw a different situation. e "Presbyterian" plant had now been growing in the pot for over 50 years, and it was bearing fruit; but confined to the pot, it could not grow much further. e Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations (COEMAR) had now replaced the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions as the sending body for all international mission work of the Presbyterian Church, and a new paradigm for mission was emerging. is new paradigm used words like "contextual" mission and "fraternal worker," implying an openness to the possibility that the mission field might have something to contribute to the "Presbyterian" plant. But the plant could not touch the breadth of culture and indigenous music of the mission field because the plant's roots were bound up by the pot. ere were indigenous leaders of the mission field whose voices were not heard and their expertise not used because leadership was understood to be that of the missionary only. is was now all changing. e image that comes to mind is that of the indigenous leaders and the "fraternal workers" of which my father was part taking a hammer together to break the pot open so that the roots of the "Presbyterian" plant could finally touch and draw nutrients from the soil of the mission field. Finally, the culture, music, symbols and language of the mission field could be drawn into the "Presbyterian" plant, nourishing it, transforming it in a way that enabled it to speak to the heart and soul of the I f there is a revered profession in my family, it is a life given to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. In 1884, my great-grandfather J. Vernon Bell began his ministry as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dubois, Pennsylvania, almost 100 years to the day that I entered Union eological Seminary in New York City. In 1915, my grandfather Ralph Waldo Lloyd boarded a train to travel west to accept a calling to serve in mission at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in 1922 to serve as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ossian, Indiana. In 1956, my father, James E. Palm, sailed on a ship with my mother, Louise, to the Philippines to serve for 18 years in mission through the Presbyterian Church. In 1989, I boarded an airplane to the Philippines, where my wife, Dessa, and I continue to serve to this day. My family represents four generations and 133 years of mission and ministry with the Presbyterian Church. I did not have the opportunity to meet my great-grandfather, but I did have the privilege of knowing my grandfather and recall moments around the dinner table at his home in Florida. e Presbyterian Church and mission were always favorite and colorful topics. We lived in different periods of Presbyterian mission and, with my father in the mix, our perspectives on mission reflected mission in the early 1900s, mid- 1900s and late 1900s. We each defended our own perspective and argued with a passion. Looking back on those conversations, I have come to think of Presbyterian mission as the continuing and evolving story of the "potted plant." My grandfather saw mission from the perspective of the "empty lands," places around the world that had not been touched by the gifts of Presbyterian mission. During his time even Salt Lake City was just being introduced to Presbyterian mission. For my grandfather, the role of mission was to be "founder," and as founder to be "authority" merited by the responsibility of being the carrier and provider of the programs, knowledge and form. From this perspective, he understood the value of decisions over the recipient "mission field" coming from offices in New York, through the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, and the "leadership" of the mission in the field to be held by the more "qualified" Presbyterian missionary. e image that comes to mind is of a Presbyterian missionary carrying a potted plant named "Presbyterian" and placing it in empty places in the mission field determined by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in New York and ruled over by the more qualified Presbyterian missionary to ensure quality control and faithful obedience to Presbyterian norms. ere was much success, and the "Presbyterian" plant began to grow in these pots set in empty lands around the Four generations of Presbyterian mission: From potted plant to garden Cobbie Palm PROMOTE RESILIENCE AND RECONCILIATION Support the work of Cobbie and Dessa Palm in the Philippines. pcusa.org/donate/E200393

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