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Along the south side of Annapurna in Nepal in 1979, our number-two Sherpa fell and seriously injured his right hip and leg. We set up camp nearby and he was given the cooking tent (this was a two-person trek supported by Sherpas and porters with limited tent space). A local shaman was summoned who performed a two-hour ritual with various implements that he manipulated for the benefit of his patient while seeking the intervention of the local deities. It was quite moving and invoked many of the same feelings as a mystical rite at a Jesuit seminary in Kansas. We were steadfast in our observation of the solemnities of the occasion as required. The Sherpa had to leave the trek, but he recovered quickly and was able to walk back to his village unassisted three days later.
John R. Powers (M.Div., 1963)
I was a postgraduate student in 1959 at PTS after returning from the mission field in Lebanon with the Presbyterian Mission to study specifically under Dr. Bruce Metzger, who taught New Testament studies in Greek.
Most recently I have ministered in Kenya, East Africa, where I met a young Kenyan minister who shared a vision with me two summers ago for a Christian primary school in the Turkana region near the Sudanese and Ethiopian border. These children had two options: to walk five miles to the nearest school, or to attend the nearby Islamic school. I can now say, to the glory of God, the school will be dedicated next month.
Thank you, Princeton, for inspiring me to continue throughout these years in Christian mission.
Lee C. Theodore (special student, 1959)
While a volunteer in Belize, Central America, I visited a church in a small jungle village. Colorful Mayan raiment, lively music, and fervent prayer blended beautifully with the Roman Catholic liturgy. I was impressed at the variety of ways people across the world experience God, and how the liturgy can flexibly be used to experience God in diverse settings.
Micah Kiel (M.Div., 2003)
In 1976 I visited good friends who were fraternal workers for our denomination in Yaounde, Cameroon. On Sunday I went to church in the Presbyterian Seminary chapel there. It was a communion Sunday and the service was in French. I was the only white person in the church. I understood most of the French but not all, yet it was my most memorable communion experience, celebrating on another continent in another country
in another language with brothers and sisters of another race who welcomed me warmly. It strongly reminded me of our brotherhood and sisterhood with God’s children all over the earth. It is a memory I cherish every time I have communion.
Ted Voelker (M.Div., 1967; Th.M., 1969)
Copake, New York
A most meaningful worship service for me took place in 1957 in Corumba, a town on the Brazil-Bolivia border. Twelve Presbyterians had moved there, built a chapel, and I was sent to be their first pastor. One hot, humid Sunday evening, after I preached for the sixth time in my halting Portuguese, a woman, Deonesia de Jesus, came up and said she wished to be a “believer.” Dona Deonesia, as we called her, was illiterate, an alcoholic, extremely poor, and had four grown children by four different men, none of whom had married her. By the world’s standards, she was not one of the “beautiful people.” But that night she discovered a Lord who loved her, and a Christian community that embraced her just as she was. She became for me a symbol of the powerful love of God for the marginalized and poor of our world.
Paul Pierson (M.Div., 1954; Ph.D., 1971)
I moderated the Cincinnati Taiwanese Presbyterian Ministry (CTPM) new church development of Cincinnati Presbytery while I served its nesting congregation. My Taiwanese never advanced beyond “thanks (dosha),” “Lord (Sion-Te),” and “Jim Boksu (Pastor Jim).” Fortunately, I preached with a translator. I practiced the lessons of God’s revelation to Peter (Acts 10:15) when invited to eat fried chicken’s feet at the 2007 Christmas banquet. Serving four years with the CTPM gave me new eyes for dignity and justice, for art and friendship, for Christ’s lordship over all and my kinship with brothers and sisters in faith. It was a blessing to serve.
Jim Brazell (M.Div., 1980)
Eager to experience a typical South American evangelical church service, I found out where a popular minister preached on Sunday mornings to a smaller group. Two things surprised me that morning. One was the service, which followed a typical contemporary style with a half hour of upbeat praise songs, obviously translated from English to Spanish and sung with the accompaniment of a standard rhythm band. The service could have taken place anywhere in the world. The other memory was being welcomed at the door with a handshake and a traditional Argentinean kiss on both cheeks. The experience was repeated during the service as the pastor invited people to greet one another. They did so exchanging the ancient formula with a porteño twist (La paz de Cristo sea con vos; y con vos también). Almost the entire congregation made sure to greet the newcomer. I had never been kissed on both cheeks by so many male and female strangers in my life! And have not been since!
Osvaldo (Osy) D. Nüesch (M.Div., 1993)
Monroe Township, New Jersey
Following is my experience seeing God’s presence in worship bringing joy in another culture—that of Alzheimer’s patients. Residents with Alzheimer’s can take great joy in singing their old favorite hymns and saying the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer. These beloved words bring reassurance, comfort, and hope. As chaplain at Spring Mill Presbyterian Village, I’ve learned that the earliest memories are among the last to be forgotten at the end of life. It is very important to teach children the Word of God that can sustain them during challenging times in their future.
Also, God’s presence in worship brings joy and hope to us. Although we come from diverse backgrounds, cities, and denominations, we are accepted and united by the one God who creates, redeems, and sustains us. Jesus invites all of us to the Lord’s Supper together.
B. Gail Simons (M.Div., 2005)
Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania
In 1975, I attended the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Nairobi, Kenya. The worship services introduced me to Cantate Domino, the hymnbook of the World Council, and to liturgies from around the world, including music from Scandinavia, dancers from North America and Asia, and fabrics used for worship settings from all over the world. It was my introduction to multicultural and inter-denominational worship, which changed my life. I also had the opportunity to preach and serve communion to small congregations in the Rift Valley where one minister served a dozen congregations. I am now fortunate enough to be in a congregation that already has seventeen different cultures represented, and is seeking to become a multicultural church, with people from Eastern and Western Europe, Latino, Caribbean, Arabic, and Asian cultures.
Thomas A. Hughart (attended in 1956)
Bedford, New York
In Cameroon, at dawn the drummer beats out a message on the immense log drum: “Come to church today.” Other drummers in the surrounding villages pick up the message on their smaller drums. In a few hours, nearly three thousand people have gathered in the big brick Elat church (“Church of the Covenant” in Bulu). There is excitement in the air as the congregation sings a cappella. A women’s choir from one of the villages—all dressed in the same print—stands and sings a song, followed by a high hum of approval; the preacher prays, and another choir, in a different print, sings, again to approval. The preacher stands—no notes, he just walks back and forth on the platform preaching, interrupted by another choir or two who stand to add their praise. It’s the family of God in Cameroon, gathered to worship.
Richard Rowe (M.Div., 1957)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The most memorable and impressive were the women of the southern rainforest of Cameroon, West Africa in the 1950s. When these women, often in polygamous marriages in an animistic society, discovered and came to Christ, their lives were totally transformed by the hope and joy they never dreamed of before. Their custom was to gather, after walking miles to church, and joyously singing, parade around the outside of the church to praise God and let all know and see the transformational hope they were experiencing in all phases of their new lives in Christian living and witness.
Nathaniel C. Roe (M.Div., 1950; Th.M., 1955)
In the summer of 2005 my family participated in a pulpit exchange with the Reverend Scott Burton of the Kelty Kirk in Scotland. Scott and I had certain expectations of what it would be like to worship in different cultures than our own. Scott envisioned most American churches possessing a contemporary flair, while I expected to find myself worshipping in a more traditional setting. We were both pleasantly surprised to find that our experiences were different from and yet far exceeded our expectations. It was as much a joy for me to worship while singing hymns projected onto a big screen as it was for Scott to worship in a setting which, by his own admission, he would have expected to find at St. Giles. It just goes to show that even when we think we know what to expect, God manages to present new things to us.
Holton Siegling (M.Div., 1998)
Fernandina Beach, Florida
In April 1992 I attended a week-long conference for Presbyterian church leaders in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On Sunday morning the 350 people at the conference were assigned to one of ten buses that would take them to places of worship. Only after the bus door was closed did we hear an announcement about where we were going. We were going to a charismatic Presbyterian church.
The news disturbed me because I had never worshipped in a charismatic church. The hour-long sermon was preached in Spanish with an English interpreter. The people sang, prayed, and gave personal witness with fervor. As I left the service I said to myself, these people worshipped from their hearts. If I had a choice I would not have attended the worship service, yet now as I look back, it was the highlight of the week.
Richard A. Hasler (M.Div., 1957)
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
While in Munich last August, my fiancé, Natasia Sexton, and I worshipped in the double onion-domed Mariankirche. The music that the organ and the choir performed during the service was classical and breath-taking! At a time when technology and contemporary music have dramatically shaped the content and flavor of American worship, this echo of traditional music and of high-quality performance was captivating and transforming.
Clifford C. Cain (M.Div., 1975)
In 2000 I had the opportunity to travel to Greece with classmates from Princeton, Al and Wylene Davies. We followed the footsteps of Paul on a wonderful journey which brought us to places we had only read about. The highlight was having communion and renewing our baptismal vows by the place where Paul baptized Lydia and viewing the chapel being built in her honor. We also went to Patmos as part of our journey to see where Revelation was written. It became very real. Interacting with Greeks was the highlight of it all.
Betty Kurtz Hamilton (attended 1953–1955)
I now lead a ministry to families known as “Summer’s Best Two Weeks.” Our two traditional properties are full as is our third property for inner-city folks. Almost 700 are on our 2008 wait lists.
This will be our second summer for Summer’s Best Two Weeks/Dominican Republic. Our Leadership in the Dominican is 50/50 Dominican/American. We sing and pray and teach daily.
This will be our eighth summer for Summer's Best Two Weeks/Russia. This operation is led entirely by Russians who continue to spent part of their summer with us in the US. The stories are priceless.
Each facility holds about 300 people who live and worship together for two weeks.
After speaking at a dinner one night last summer in Russia, an eighteen-year-old boy walked over and sat at my table. He asked me why I started a camp. I asked him if he was a Christian. “Yes,” he said. “I received Jesus as Lord and Savior this summer at Summer’s Best Two Weeks.” In the next half hour he brought a dozen others who had a similar story.
Jim Welch (M.Div., 1965)
This past April, 2008, I was privileged to return to Brazil where I served as a PCUSA missionary and where my wife, Marcia, a third-generation Brazilian Presbyterian, is from. I was asked to preach in her home church in the state of São Paulo, which is a part of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPB). The service started at 6:00 p.m. Worship was a lively blend of traditional and contemporary, and some 700 people of all ages were in attendance. That Sunday evening there was a special musical presentation by the church choir and I was asked to preach as long as I felt led to do so. I spoke for forty-five minutes and there was much attention given to the proclaimed word of God. The service ended at almost 9:00 p.m.! This experience once again impressed me with how Presbyterianism is alive and well in third-world countries and how these churches are making a difference in society and reaching others for Christ. It reminded me that Presbyterians in Brazil were continuing to minister to the holistic needs of their people (spiritual, intellectual, and social-physical). It made me think that maybe we need some of the leaders of that church to come and teach us how this is done as the early missionaries did when they took the gospel to the Latin American countries as well as other parts of the world.
Eriberto (Eddie) Soto-Concepcion (Th.M., 1989)
Charleston, South Carolina
Every year my church goes on a mission trip to La Romana, Dominican Republic. The past couple years we have worshipped at a church of poor Haitian immigrants outside of town. During the lengthy service I often sit trying to decipher some of the preacher’s words, which is difficult because they are in Creole and mostly shouted. This year we had the added blessing of taking communion. During the week when we’re working there, we’re warned not to drink water that we haven’t brought ourselves, so I was apprehensive about drinking what they had offered. I’m not used to real wine during communion, so I could definitely feel it going down. I remembered then reading about how wine was popular in the days before filtered water because the alcohol killed all the bacteria. That gave me peace of mind that this spiritual action wasn’t going to endanger my physical health!
Darren Pollock (M.Div., 2004)
La Crescenta, California
Typically, we had between twenty-five and thirty nationalities present each Sunday at worship at the Union Church of Istanbul. On Pentecost Sunday, we would read the story from Acts 2, changing things a bit at v. 9. Instead of reading the list of nations recorded in the text, I would read out the nations of folks who were part of our community of faith and a representative would stand and read John 3:16 in their native language. Before worship one Pentecost, I was explaining to a Chinese woman named Pichuan what we would be doing in worship and asked her to read. She readily agreed to do so. “What dialect of Chinese do you speak?” I asked.
“Oh, I don't speak Chinese,” she replied.
A bit surprised, I asked, “Well, what language is your Bible in?”
“Portuguese?” I replied in shock.
Pichuan smiled, “I grew up in Brazil.”
Mark Atkinson (M.Div., 1983)
Invited to preside as a guest pastor at holy communion at Iglesia Luterana Jésus Nuestro Refugio (Jesus Our Refuge Lutheran Church) in Pavas, Costa Rica, I lifted the chalice and meant to say that it was given for “el perdón de pecado”—the forgiveness of sins. Instead, I proclaimed that it was given for “el perdón de pescado”— the forgiveness of fish. The insertion of a single letter gave a whole new meaning to the term “cleaning fish.”
Mark Wm. Radecke (D.Min., 2007)