How mission work led me to become a disciple
November 4, 2019 / By Greg Forrester, Layperson, Cortland: First UMC
Coming from law enforcement as a New York State Trooper and working on child abuse investigations with the Child Protective Service staff, I was wondering where God was and what He was controlling. God didn’t seem all-powerful to me. I was raised in the Catholic church and married a preacher’s daughter whose grandfather, father, and eventually, brother, were all United Methodist pastors. It led to some very interesting family gatherings and discussions around the dinner table. While planning for a mission trip to Haiti, my father-in-law asked me to join the team. We were to build a welding shop at a vocational school. I agreed to go but was clear that I was there for the security of the team, not the “God” stuff. I think this is when the Holy Spirit said, “Watch this!”
Following a week of service, rooftop discussions on “where did you see the face of God today?” and Haitians praising God for what they had – not what they lacked, Christ and I started talking. A few months later, I left State Police work – started leading teams to Haiti, working on community projects, and officially joined the UMC. As I organized groups of committed Christians and professing nonbelievers - I found that they were like me – they could see God’s handprints and footprints in the mission field and in their lives – by serving others.
As my faith grew stronger, so did the desire to introduce others to Christ through mission – locally, nationally, and internationally. Eventually, I was led to service as the NEJ Volunteers in Mission’s director which transitioned to the Director of US Disaster Response for UMCOR, and now the President/CEO of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (an ecumenical group of 72 national organizations and a team in every US State/Territory). God has a plan but as a Disciple – we must agree to the journey.
The commonality has been to create an environment and opportunity for individuals to experience Christ as they serve others who need assistance. The servant becomes an answer to a prayer. For professed nonbelievers – missional outreach/service makes them ask questions about why they feel so good when helping individuals and communities recover from hardship. Soon, they are open to discussions of faith, what it means to be a Child of God, grace, and the Holy Spirit. For believers, missional service must be part of the Discipleship journey – how else do you share the Good News and let the light shine through? We must commit to understanding that mission/outreach/service is not something that We do – it is who we are as Christ followers, transforming the world.