Mustard seeds in the Philippines

Training pastors and teachers ‘grows the gospel,’ say PC(USA) mission workers Paul Matheny and Mary Nebelsick

November 17, 2014

the Revs. Paul Matheny and Mary Nebelsick

the Revs. Paul Matheny and Mary Nebelsick —Jerry Van Marter

LOUISVILLE

The mission field of the Philippines is fertile soil in which the gospel is “growing like the parable of the mustard seed,” Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission workers the Revs. Paul Matheny and Mary Nebelsick told a group of Presbyterian Center staffers here Nov. 14.

“Christians in the Philippines see the world from the perspective of the oppressed,” Matheny said. “Children, the poor, youth ― the gospel never stops working for love and justice and hope,” the Manila resident said.

Matheny and Nebelsick, who are married, teach at Union Theological Seminary, a theological school of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, where they have served since 2001. Home on a six-month leave, they will be traveling around the PC(USA), telling their story and seeking support for their ministry.

There is much to be done. “Education has always been key in PC(USA) mission and in the Philippine church,” Matheny said. “The church is growing rapidly and there is acute need for more, trained leaders.”

All schools, not just Union Seminary, “need books and scholarships,” Nebelsick said. “Churches can’t afford to educate their pastors, so students have to come for a semester and then drop out and then come back for a semester and then drop out again.”

Teaching is central to the gospel, Matheny and Nebelsick believe. “Leaders have to be trained,” Nebelsick said, but books are very expensive, so “many students walk around with photocopies.”

The seminary has managed to accumulate a modest library during their tenure, but technology like Power Point presentations is still pretty much beyond their reach. “We have white boards now,” Nebelsick said. “That’s huge for us!”

Despite the drawbacks, the Philippine church “is very aware of the global church,” Matheny said. “They very much want us to see things from their perspective , they want the PC(USA) to understand that we are part of the global church and to come and walk alongside them.”

Nearly every church in Manila has a partnership with a U.S. church, Nebelsick said, “and more want them. They truly believe that we are all called to join together, to grow the gospel like the parable of the mustard seed.”