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July 12th, 2010
03:11 PM ET

My take: In face of Uganda blasts, mission spirit endures

A doctor treats a victim of the Kampala blasts on Sunday.

Editor's Note: Thomas Kemper is General Secretary of the United Methodist Church's General Board of Global Ministries, which works is more than 125 countries.

By Thomas Kemper, Special to CNN

The thoughts and prayers of the United Methodist mission community are with all those injured and the families of the persons killed in the bombing in Kampala, Uganda on July 11. We join our hearts to the injured mission volunteers from Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, several from Christ Community Church, a United Methodist congregation.

We are thankful that no one was injured in another volunteer mission group from Alabama in Uganda at the same time.

Short-term, voluntary service has become a common and compelling experience in Christian mission today. Groups such as the one from Selinsgrove working in Uganda go to many places, especially in summer, to join with local churches in building, educational, medical, and evangelism projects.

While different in scope and duration, these mission volunteers share with long-term, professional missionaries the joy of spreading the Good News of God’s love and serving human beings in the name of Jesus Christ. They go in humility, with respect for the cultures and societies where they are strangers.

Mission service also involves risks. The Apostle Paul, the first great missionary of the Christian movement, once gave a rundown of the trials and tribulations he had encountered in service to his faith: shipwreck, beating, stoning, imprisonment, banditry, dangers in cities and the country, and hunger (II Corinthians 11:23-28).

It has ever been so.

Missionaries are not exempt from political, economic, and social turmoil—not exempt from natural calamities. The General Board of Global Ministries has had recent experience with risk becoming tragedy. In January, two of our most beloved staff members were killed in the earthquake in Haiti. They were in Port-au-Prince helping local Christians plan economic development ministries.

Random and terrorist violence, such as in Uganda, is a threat. Military conflict or social upheaval sometimes requires the temporary withdrawal or relocation of missionaries, as in recent decades was the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and some parts of Asia. In recent years, we found it advisable to concentrate our personnel in Kenya in a safe location during widespread civil unrest.

Unanticipated natural disasters form another type of threat. Careful planning and action was required to bring volunteer mission teams out of Haiti in the days immediately after the earthquake.

Our agency is equipped, and our professional personnel trained, to deal with emergencies. We constantly monitor all aspects of the countries in which we have personnel, and are intensively alert to the impact of natural disasters—both for humanitarian and personnel implications.

Why do missionaries and mission volunteers keep going into all parts of the world when they know the risk factors? Why do they willingly agree to work in dangerous situations? Because they are called by God to witness to their faith. They have taken personally Jesus’ mandate to preach, that is, to show the love of God, to all people (Matthew 28:19); to provide humble, caring service.

Missionaries and mission volunteers will keep going to every part of the world in spite of risks and threats. They know that whatever happens, God is with them, and this awareness defines the mission spirit.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Thomas Kemper.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Christianity • Methodist • Uganda • Violence

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Anete Benedict

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    November 13, 2010 at 7:28 am |
  2. Chris

    Seems that the people that cannot stand Christians that want to argue about our cause just do not get it (and they never will based on biblical truths). So to try to convince you of "why" we go anywhere is basically futile. Many so called Christians also get it all wrong and they try to force Jesus on people but in the case of one person that responded here I think she got it right. Christians do not and cannot force Jesus Christ on anyone. We can love everyone, help everyone and if they are seeking God then we can share with them. It is up to them to decide just as many of you have already decided not to follow Jesus as Lord and savior. But as a Christian, you MUST try to understand that spreading the Gospel is as much of a part of being a Christian as Jesus Christ is a part of being a Christian. We cannot seperate that task and rightfully call ourselves Christians. There is a lot of intolerance unfortunately and that has caused many to harden their hearts. But a true Christian that follows biblical teachings TO THE LETTER would never be intolerant of other religions, how they worship, etc. We simply tell our beliefs, explain them, tell of Jesus and live a life that would glorify Him. If that does not open the eyes of the people then we just keep going until everyone has at least had the oportunity to make the choice.

    July 14, 2010 at 10:19 am |
  3. Sybaris

    Ironic how Christians in the "religious tolerant U.S." are against muslims building mosques but think nothing of exporting christianity to 3rd world countries and building churches.

    July 14, 2010 at 9:11 am |
    • Seraphim0

      Sybaris- Well, it’s not just American Christians, for one. Every country with a strong Christian base has Christian missions in other countries. It’s part of the way that the religion spreads.

      Did you seriously think only the US had missionaries?

      Additionally, is the mosque controversy you refer to the one at Ground Zero where the WTC used to be? That does happen to change matters, quite a bit. You’re not keeping things in context, and are making blanket statements.

      July 14, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  4. MYTHYX

    CNN Only did what any God Fearing person should do. Do not allow people to dissent. For dessinsion raises opposition. If people begin to oppose the mythyx of God whatever will we do?????? Perhaps we will begin to awaken and truly realize our potential. hmmmmmm

    July 13, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • Gecko

      There is something more to it than just a silly Myth. Take your chance, go for. your chance.

      July 14, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
  5. Seraphim0

    WOW. CNN cleared house on this one. Well over a hundred posts wiped.

    July 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • Seraphim0

      Kidding. Along the lines of: where is the expected flame war?

      July 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Steve

    So they go with humility with respect for the culture and society? Replacing their religion with another myth is not exactly respecting their culture.

    July 13, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  7. Sue

    Christian missionaries will only go where they have a chance of converting the native population......why do they not go to Asia ? The Middle East ? Because these regions already have strongly rooted religions which they will not give up. The desparately poor are always willing to convert to any faith that provides them with food and shelter. Sorry, but non-religious people go to the same places, also with the aim of helping the needy, but don't get mentioned anywhere because they're not attached to a "mission".

    July 13, 2010 at 8:35 am |
    • Tacoma

      They do go to Asia and the Middle East. I have had friends go on long term mission trips to Asia and two different places in the middle east that I can not mention for their safety. And I must contradict your statement that missionaries only go where there are poor. I have had friends who have gone on mission trips to Brazil (not the ghetto part the college part), London, France, and Australia. Jesus calls us to bring Christ to everyone, therefore we are to go everywhere no matter the condition, good or bad, rich or poor, hungry or fed. Christ is not so dicerning and neither should we be.

      July 13, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • Sue

      So.....your God tells you to force him on everyone ??? Even people who are happy in their own religion, no matter how "inferior" you might think it is to yours ? It's already starting to seem like Christians go less for the good that they can do, and more for proseltyzing, and you just reinforced that. Why don't people who go as individuals not get any press ?? And BTW, if Christians go to Middle East countries, are their good acts restricted to Christians ? Do they help muslims ?

      July 13, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
    • Tacoma

      I was only pointing out that Christians do go to places you say they don't and they are not dicerning in who they serve. I just want to say that the majority of Christians I know try not "force" Christ on anyone, as that would be futile exercise, but rather to show Christ by their words and actions and be there for those who are searching, as Jesus comissioned us in Matthew 28. Also, what would be the point of just serving Christians, God has called us to serve everyone and that includes muslims.

      July 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  8. Mustang

    In spite of all the experiences I've had with faith. I have never seen spirit this big. It's good to see this stuff happening again with a golden spirit!

    July 13, 2010 at 2:31 am |
    • MYTHYX

      Apparently God was not there to help in the first place. Let me KILL some of my followers so that I can strengthen their faith.

      July 13, 2010 at 4:40 pm |

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.