By Jessica Connor
COLUMBIA—Praising the unrelenting call to mission by a heavenly Father who makes an offer we can’t refuse, Bishop Jonathan Holston led worship at an S.C. United Methodist Volunteers in Mission gathering April 13 that brought dozens from across the state to pray, sing, praise and celebrate the risen Lord whose great love for us prompts us to serve others in His name.
“We share a unique ministry together, and when you consider what God is doing for us, with us and through us, I believe it’s an offer we can’t refuse,” Holston told the crowd to fervent applause.
Holston’s love for missions has taken him around the world and gained him recognition as a mission specialist in the North Georgia Conference Council of Ministries, prior to his episcopal election in 2012. In his work as conference disaster relief coordinator, Holston served on the United Methodist Committee on Relief, on the Catastrophic Disaster Response Team and as the Church World Service disaster consultant in Georgia. He traveled extensively as a specialist in missions to Uganda, Costa Rica, Haiti, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Kenya, India, China and Hong Kong.
At the UMVIM service, he recalled his very first international mission trip, when as a pastor in the North Georgia Annual Conference, his bishop Lloyd Knox turned to him unexpectedly and said, “Do you have a passport? I’m going to Costa Rica and you’re going with me.”
The experience was a turning point, Holston said.
“That’s when I began to understand what mission is all about: an opportunity to be what God had called me to be,” Holston said. “Any time you challenge yourself to be on the cutting edge of ministry is extraordinary.”
He urged those gathered to understand that when God calls us to do something and we accept, we are really giving God permission to work through us to do His work.
“We are called to shed light into the world of faith and hope and grace,” Holston said. “With mission work, God makes an offer … and it matters most when we say Lord, shine your light through me and make a difference.”
On one trip to Honduras to build latrines, he led a group of young missioners who couldn’t bear the thought of being without their phones for such a long time. But by the end of the trip, there was a total transformation; the young people didn’t want to go home.
“God calls us to go into places we have not even envisioned,” Holston said, asking the UMVIM members to open their minds and dream a little. “Where is it you believe God is calling you, your church, maybe even this annual conference, to go where we have not even dreamed of?”
Dream, he said—and next year, do it.
Rounding out the service were singing, prayer and other remarks, including deep appreciation to UMVIM founder Mike Watson and others responsible for the start of the mission organization.
For more information on S.C. UMVIM and upcoming trips, visit www.umvim-sc.org.