Mission Crossroads

FAL 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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The faith of Maria Fearing, a slave freed to serve I n God's mission we show our faith by our obedient service. In other words, as Francis of Assisi is believed to have said, "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words." is is the task and mission of disciples of Jesus — to let our lives speak for themselves of the gospel, and if necessary to use words to help enhance and amplify our faith. Presbyterian mission personnel face challenges around the world where actions are more needed than words. In this issue of Mission Crossroads, you'll find stories and examples of the actions and work of our mission co-workers and partners in Africa. ey are making an incredible difference for the future and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed on that continent. Speaking about stories of faith and witness — where actions speak louder than words — I am reminded of the story of Maria Fearing, born into slavery near Gainesville, Alabama, in 1838. Her biography, e Maria Fearing Story, written by Darius L. and Vera Poe Swann, begins with Maria, a black slave girl, listening to her white owner tell of little African children who had never heard of Jesus. "I will go to Africa someday if I can," Maria said. At 28 years old in 1865, Maria became a free woman. She learned to read and write at age 33, and went on to become a very successful teacher in Anniston, Alabama, after graduating from the Freedmen's Bureau school in Talladega. Despite her "old age of 56," she sold her home and traveled with the Rev. Dr. William Henry Sheppard to Africa in 1894 as a Presbyterian missionary. She worked in the Congo as a teacher and Bible translator for 20 years, and also bought many people out of slavery in the Congo. Her most famous achievement was the establishment of the Pantops Home for Girls in Luebo, Congo. She was known as mama wa Mputu, which means "Mother from far away." Despite the church's skepticism, Maria outlasted many of her colleagues in Africa and only retired from missionary service in 1915, due to age restrictions. She taught school in Selma, Alabama, until her death in 1937 at the age of 99. Her story was introduced in Alabama history textbooks during the turbulent days of the 1960s. She was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame in 2000. When we talk about the mission movement in Africa, we typically mention the name of the Rev. Dr. William Henry Sheppard first, and sometimes mention the name of Maria Fearing as another great African-American mission worker. Maybe it's time to correct the order and put her name in first place. Maria had to overcome the racism of a white society, the discriminatory treatment of the church for her age and society's bias against women. She had an "uphill" path to proclaim the gospel to the African children she felt called to serve when she was a little slave girl. But she finally did it, and did it well. Reading her story I was deeply moved in my heart to sing, "We shall overcome." A T T H E C R O S S R O A D S | Jose Luis Casal, director of Presbyterian World Mission Mission Crossroads is a Presbyterian Mission Agency publication about God's mission around the world through the PC(USA) and our church partners. EDITOR Kathy Melvin DIRECTOR OF WORLD MISSION Jose Luis Casal CONTENT MANAGER Debbie Braaksma Special Aica Issue PROJECT MANAGER Tammy Warren ART DIRECTOR Mark omson COPY EDITORS Karen Bosc Jennifer Cash STAY CONNECTED To subscribe or change your mailing address, contact development.services@pcusa.org or call 800-728-7228. To request additional free copies of Mission Crossroads, email nicole.gerkins@pcusa.org or call 800-728-7228, ext. 5611. SUPPORT WORLD MISSION Give online/phone: pcusa.org/supportwm 800-728-7228 Mail checks, payable to PC(USA): Presbyterian World Mission P.O. Box 643700 Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700 On the cover: A midwife at the Dzemeni maternity clinic in Ghana, supported by First Presbyterian Church of Fairfield, Connecticut, weighs an infant to check on healthy growth and development. Photo by Josh Heikkila Maria Fearing at the first Congo mission station in the city of Luebo Presbyterian Historical Society

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