Five Life-giving Relationships
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.
Contact: Cathy Tamsberg, Associate Pastor
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. Since that time, dozens of Pullen people, mostly youth, participated in pilgrimages to Coventry every 3-5 years during the next several decades. In 2007, a group of Pullen adults continued this tradition and in 2012, five Pullen people represented us at CCN’s gathering to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the rebuilding of the cathedral in 1962. 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
First Baptist Church
Since 1988, the Pullen family has been richly blessed by its partnership with the First Baptist Church of Matanzas, Cuba. The partnership began when two Pullen members 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 different Pullen people have visited Cuba and many have returned multiple times. Members of our chancel choir, Pullen Mission Women, youth groups, and other interested members have been among our pilgrims to Matanzas. Today, groups of Pullen people travel to Cuba each year. In 2014 adults will go in May to help celebrate the church’s 115th anniversary and our older youth will go to Matanzas in July.
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 hope to receive a visit from a group of FBC members in September 2014. 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: Judy Mays, 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, the Baptist Seminary of Zimbabwe and the adjacent Conference Center 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 Dr. Mugabe where both men and women are trained for lay and pastoral leadership.
Contact: Cathy Tamsberg
Tibilisi, Republic of Georgia
Our partnership with Baptists in the Republic of Georgia began developing in 1989 when two Pullen members went to Georgia with the “Bridges for Peace” program. In 1998, Georgian Baptist Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili preached at Pullen for the first time. Since that time, Malkhaz has visited with us on a number of occasions. Our pastors traveled to Tbilisi for Pentecost in 2007 and several members returned in 2008 to represent Pullen at the celebration of Malkhaz’ wedding.
Our financial contributions to the ministry of Baptists in Georgia have supported community outreach and theological education. When the Russian invasion of Georgia displaced 100,000 Georgians in 2008, a special offering was sent to assist in addressing the consequences of the military action. In early June of 2014, a group of Pullenites will travel to Georgia to celebrate Pentecost and learn more about the vital and faithful ministry of our Georgian friends.
Contact: Cathy Tamsberg
AMOS Health and Hope
Pullen’s newest international partner is AMOS Health and Hope led by American Baptist medical missionaries Drs. Laura and David Parajon. 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 Parajons’ 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 on a health clinic to serve the rural community’s residents who live too far from a government clinic to receive adequate health care. In May of 2009, several members of the 2008 team returned to El Bejuco for the dedication of the new clinic and in 2012 a group installed water filters in the community. In September of 2013, Pullen pilgrims provided simple eye exams and appropriate glasses to Nicaraguans in several rural communities.
Facilitators: Deb Norton & Jonathan Sledge