Five Life-giving Partnerships
Pullen has partners in Cuba, Nicaragua, Republic of Georgia, Zimbabwe, and Coventry, England. These relationships broaden our knowledge of the needs of the world and enrich us as individuals and as a church. They are central to our congregational life and ministry as we seek to learn from our partners what it means to witness to God’s love and justice in their settings.
We understand our relationships with our partners as mutual ministries of “accompaniment” as we strive to be companions of our sisters and brothers in these locations. Although contributions of work and financial support are important aspects of our partnerships, this ministry of presence is our central vocation and learning from their examples what God is calling us to do and be is our primary task.
Republic of Georgia
Our partnership with Baptists in the Republic of Georgia began developing in 1989 when Pullen members Roger and Mary Ruth Crook went to Georgia with the “Bridges for Peace” program. In 1998, Georgian Baptist Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili preached at Pullen for the first time. After visits by our pastors and several members, a group of ten Pullenites visited Georgia for Pentecost in 2014. This ten-day trip deepened our relationships with our Georgian partners and our understanding of the complex challenges they face as they do ecumenical, interfaith, justice-making ministry in their setting.
Special offerings have been taken to meet emergency needs in Georgia following the Russian invasion in 2008 and to support Yesidi refugees in 2014. Our financial contributions to the ministry of Baptists in Georgia have supported community outreach and theological education. In the spring of 2015 we hosted Bishop Malkhaz and held a fundraising dinner to provide additional support for repairs of Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi.
Contact: James Crook
First Baptist Church
Since 1989, the Pullen family has been richly blessed by its partnership with the First Baptist Church of Matanzas, Cuba. The partnership began when Roger and Mary Ruth Crook attended a Global Baptist Peace Conference in Sweden where they met Francisco “Paco” Rodes, pastor of FBC-Matanzas. They invited Paco to stay with them while he studied English at Wake Tech and our wonderful partnership was born.
Over the years, more than 100 Pullen people have visited Cuba and many have returned multiple times. Members of our chancel choir, Pullen Mission Women, youth and young adults, and other interested members have been among our pilgrims to Matanzas. Today, groups of Pullen people travel to Cuba each year. In 2014 several Pullen adults were present for the church’s 115th anniversary.
Through our annual missions budget and Advent Mission Offering, we support the outreach ministries of the Kairos Center, a ministry of First Baptist. We also fund a scholarship at the ecumenical seminary in Matanzas. Due to loosened travel restrictions, we received a visit from seven FBC-Matanzas members in September 2014 and a group of our young adults traveled to Cuba in July 2015.
Groups of adults and older youth visited our partners in Matanzas in 2016. Pullen’s Cuba pilgrims all agree that in spite of our efforts to be generous with our contributions of presence and funds, we have received far more from this partnership than we have given.
Facilitators: Vickie Leigh & Laurie Cone
Zimbabwe Theological Seminary
Our partnership in the troubled nation of Zimbabwe grew from the passion of Pullen member Bonnie Dixon, who visited the country as a seminary student in 1993. In the summer of 2006, some of our young adults and one of our pastors spent three weeks in Zimbabwe helping to build a water cistern on the grounds of the Baptist Conference Center in Gweru.
From 2003 to 2011, Baptist institutions in Gweru were recipients of Pullen funds through our outreach budget and Advent Mission offering. Then as a result of the ouster of the seminary’s president and Pullen friend Dr. Henry Mugabe as part of a conservative take-over of the seminary, we discontinued our support of these institutions. Today we contribute instead to the new Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe, a more progressive ecumenical seminary led by progressive Baptists where both men and women are trained for lay and pastoral leadership. Dr. Mugabe most recently visited Pullen in August of 2016.
Contact: Cathy Tamsberg, email@example.com
Community of the Cross of Nails
In 1940, the Anglican cathedral in Coventry was bombed by the German Air Force and 500 local citizens were killed. In the rubble that remained, several large nails were found melted together in the shape of a cross. When the cathedral was rebuilt, the ruins of the bombed-out structure were left as a reminder of the horrors of war. Vowing to respond to that devastation as Jesus would, the cathedral community created what has become a world-wide network to promote peace known as the Community of the Cross of Nails (CCN).
Pullen’s connection to that worldwide ministry of reconciliation was begun when the first group of young people from our church spent a month there in 1974. A second group made the pilgrimage in 1976 and in 1978 Pullen was named a Center of the Community Cross of Nails. Our Cross of Nails hangs in the back of our sanctuary. Dozens of Pullen people, mostly youth, participated in pilgrimages to Coventry every 3-5 years during the next several decades. In 2007 and 2012, groups of Pullen adults continued this tradition. In 2014 Pullen celebrated the 40th anniversary of this world-wide reconciliation community and the Dean of Coventry Cathedral visited Pullen in June of 2015. Our Cross of Nails Reconciliation Fellowship, one of our mission groups, oversees this partnership, encouraging us to be reconcilers within our congregation and beyond.
Facilitator: Erin Newton
AMOS Health and Hope
Pullen’s newest international partner is AMOS Health and Hope led by American Baptist medical missionaries Drs. Laura and David Parajón. After being asked by the American Baptist Churches-USA to support this missionary couple, our ABC Mission Group learned more about their ministry of developing community-based health care in rural Nicaraguan villages. Sensing that Pullen and the Parajón’s work were a good match, Pullen members Dr. Deb Norton, Jonathan Sledge, and Dr. Charlotte Sweeney traveled to Nicaragua in 2005 to see their ministry first hand.
In 2008, a group of Pullen pilgrims traveled to the village of El Bejuco to begin construction of a health clinic to serve the rural community’s residents who live too far from a government clinic to receive adequate health care. During subsequent trips to Nicaragua, Pullen team members have worked alongside AMOS staff and community volunteers to build additions to a clinic, dig a latrine and install water filters. In recent visits, we have provided simple eye exams and appropriate glasses to hundreds of Nicaraguans in several rural communities. In August of 2016 a Pullen group traveled to a remote area on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua to provide this support. It is anticipated that we will continue our recent focus upon vision. New travelers are always welcome.
Facilitators: Deb Norton & Jonathan Sledge
INTERNATIONAL TRIPS 2016-2017
- Cuba, Adults, Spring 2017
- Republic of Georgia, Adults, 2017
- Coventry, England, Adults, Fall 2017
Financial support for these partnerships beyond our annual budget is received through our annual Advent Offering and other individual contributions.