Thanks to some simple grade school mathematics and a determined committee chairperson, Shenandoah Presbytery has taken on a global-sized challenge.
So far, the 110-church presbytery, located in northern Virginia and West Virginia, has been up to the task.
Earlier this year, Shenandoah presented the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s World Mission area with a check for $11,000 as a contribution to its Second-Mile Missionary Support program. It’s the first installment in a commitment to raise $2 for each of the presbytery’s 17,000-plus members. The presbytery hopes to raise the final installment of $23,000 by the end of this year.
“It goes directly back to the scriptures,” said Doug Sensabaugh, communications coordinator for Shenandoah. “We are called on to not just take care of the neighbors we can see, but to also stand with our brothers and sisters around the world.”
In a letter to the Shenandoah Presbytery, Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission, thanked the presbytery for its support and for serving as a role model for other congregations.
“This was a vital gift to us,” stated Farrell, “both for its impact on reaching our goal to increase the number of mission co-workers that we send to our partner churches, and for the example that it provides to other presbyteries around the denomination.”
The 218th (2008) General Assembly of the PC(USA) created the Second-Mile program, calling for an increase in long-term mission personnel. Stating that many needs of mission partners haven’t been met because of limited funds, the GA established a goal of raising $1 million for World Mission.
Sensabaugh says Shenandoah Presbytery has always been passionate about world missions.
“The presbytery has been in partnership with the Synod in Ethiopia for 20 years this November,” he said. “Each year it sends 20 to 30 members to Ethiopia on mission projects. It was in large part because of this partnership that the presbytery became distressed over the dwindling support for world mission in the denomination as a whole.”
Much of the credit for initiating the $2 per person challenge should go to retired pastor Homer Cornish, chairman of the presbytery’s Worldwide Ministries Committee.
“It’s pretty simple when you think about it,” said Cornish, who has served churches in the Shenandoah Valley for nearly 50 years. “What it amounts to is giving up a couple of cups of coffee or a couple of soft drinks. Not every day, but just one time. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up. When we all work together, great things can be accomplished. Our churches have responded to the challenge in that very way.”
Sensabaugh said that individual churches are not required to hold a special offering on a particular Sunday to raise the money for the challenge. Each church sets its own time and collects the offerings in its own manner.
“Most churches find that those who support the challenge do not contribute just $2, but will in many cases give $5 or $10,” Sensabaugh said. “We have been very pleased with the response so far but we still have a very long way to go.”
Both Sensabaugh and Cornish point out that the $2 per person is not the only challenge the presbytery has taken on. It has also set the goal of having every church member adopt a mission worker.
The presbytery raises awareness for world missions on a year-round basis. In the past, it has held an annual presbytery-wide mission fair but is now urging each congregation to hold its own. The presbytery also produces a booklet each year that tells what each church has accomplished and is presently doing to contribute to world missions.
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of stories about congregations engaged in significant outreach and evangelism ministries, reflecting the General Assembly’s commitment to “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide.” —Jerry L. Van Marter