Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
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During my recent visit to the Dumaguete City, Philippines, for a consultation on theological education in Asia (which you can read about here and here), I had an amazing opportunity to visit a ministry called the Little Children of the Philippines (LCP). This decades-old ministry reaches out to the poorest of the poor in multiple sites around Dumaguete City, housing orphans, running community centers, giving job training and opportunities, and holding Bible studies and worship.
It was especially meaningful to me because the church where I formerly served, Second Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, IL, has been a long-time supporter of this ministry. In fact, one of the LCP housing developments (somewhat similar to a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood) is called “Bloomington Village” thanks to the connection between the church and LCP. Many friends in Bloomington, IL, sponsor children at LCP; it was incredibly moving to meet one of the children sponsored, and to record him thanking her for her support.
Although not related to the Presbyterian Church (USA), LCP lives out one of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s goals in a very rich way: compassionate and prophetic discipleship. This goal encourages the PC(USA) to encourage an ever-deepening discipleship so that we become more and more like Jesus…and that when we become like Jesus, we witness more fully in both word and deed. LCP witnesses in deed with its wide-range of social services, helping kids and their families to thrive with better education, housing, psychological support, job training, etc., etc., etc. The breadth of their social justice ministries was very inspiring. At the same time, they are witnessing in word, so that these children understand God’s love for them in Jesus Christ through worship, neighborhood Bible studies, memorized scriptures, devotions, etc.
In my experience, the PC(USA) has historically been a church with more passion for witnessing in deed (social justice) than for witnessing in word (evangelism). Many parts of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s strategic plan emphasize witnessing in word much more prominently (e.g., 1001 new worship communities, World Missions’ focus on evangelism, poverty, and reconciliation).
We sometimes discuss whether the PC(USA) is most faithful if it is a denomination which witnesses in word in some ministries, and which witnesses in deed in other ministries. I firmly believe that we are at our best when we witness both in word and deed, in an integrated way, every chance we get. My visit to LCP was just one example of a ministry which lives out its faith in this way. Thanks be to God!