By Jill Disbro, Program Coordinator for the Episcopal Mission Center
EMC Program Coordinator, Jill Disbro, shares her missional moment as she writes about her experience as a missionary in Mexico. She discusses how her understanding of mission in the Church has evolved to impact her work with mission at the EMC today.
Mission was a dirty word for much of my life. As I grew up in the church I was often turned off by the idea of historic missionaries who entered communities uninvited and imposed upon them a new language, religion, and way of life. I was turned off by some current ideas of mission that involve visiting distant countries to collect travel experiences and to gift something to a community deemed to be “in need” and lacking in some way.
This tumultuous relationship with what I saw as the harmful impacts of mission, mission trips, and missionaries all came to a head when I found myself graduated from college and about to embark on a yearlong journey as… you guessed it… a missionary in Mexico. Yes, the one thing that I found to be so negative in the church was now my next job assignment. Naturally I spent much of my year in Mexico describing myself as a volunteer or simply an employee of La Jugarreta and denying any connection to the Church. What I did not realize, however, was that my year as a missionary in Mexico was bringing me ever closer to God as I formed some really close bonds with my host family, my friends and the kids I worked with every day. I realized during my time in Tepoztlán that it was not mission I was trying to distance myself from, it was the power and privilege that comes with an attitude of “saving" a community. I spent a year walking alongside a community that I grew to love and found that they loved me too. It wasn’t about the help I gave them or the things they taught me. It wasn’t about any transaction that occurred. It was about showing love unconditionally and being loved. It was about accepting the third bowl of pozole from my host mom, it was about gossiping with Izette about boys and weddings and love, it was about visiting Nahir’s mom when she was diagnosed with colon cancer.
In these moments of true connection and caring I realized that mission is not the enemy. Mission is how we exist as followers of Christ in a real world, a world full of pride, insecurities, and difficulties, a world full of generosity, empathy, and love. It is about how we live Christ’s love; this is God’s mission. A call to be in the world, to be in relationship with one another and love each other with service and devotion. As my year in Mexico ended and my time at the EMC began in Philly, I carried with me this commitment to God’s mission and to walking alongside my neighbors wherever they are. As members of Christ body we are all called to mission, a mission that is every day and everywhere, a mission that lasts a lifetime, a mission rooted in love.
Giving voice to the many ways we experience mission in the church
Check back every Thursday to hear more about what mission looks like at the Episcopal Mission Center and throughout the Episcopal Church.
EMC youth alumni, Adult leaders in the Episcopal Church, volunteer site partners
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
Thank you for your radical hospitality!
Gwynedd Mercy University
Thank you for your hospitality in hosting students from Gwynedd Mercy and Alvernia University during their Alternative Break with the Interfaith Center. The facility was wonderful. We held several of our workshops there in your comfortable space. What an ideal setting! The students especially appreciated participating in your mass as getting a personal orientation from Rev Morris and such a warm welcome from your parishioners.
With much appreciation for all you do,
“Right now, my group is rating our experience as the best mission they've ever been a part of. The orientation and subsequent building of relationships with kids in the community broke down their racial and urban stereotypes. Most importantly, every one of them experienced a deepening of their faith in God, and tangible understanding of how that faith works itself out in mission and issues of social justice. We will definitely be coming back!”
— Rev. Jane Cornman, St. Mary’s Church, Wayne, PA