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Mission conference to bring stories of life, service abroad to Gainesville
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Banners commemorating the World Mission Conference hang in the Fellowship Hall of First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville, on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. - photo by David Barnes
First Presbyterian World Mission Conference

When: 8:45 a.m.. Jan. 29 through morning worship service Jan. 30

Where: 800 S. Enota Drive, Gainesville

More info: fpcga.org/welcome/serve-world

Stories of life, service and the outreach of the Christian gospel to the world’s far-flung corners will be told this weekend as First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville hosts its annual World Mission Conference.

The 23rd of its kind, the conference is set for Saturday, Jan. 29 and Sunday, Jan. 30, bringing missionaries in foreign and “unreached” places together to share glimpses of their work with those who support their efforts from afar.

Hosted virtually last year owing to COVID-19, the weekend’s events will be hosted both in-person and via livestream, allowing individuals to participate in the format they’re most comfortable with.

The conference will include a series of panels hosted by missionaries serving in Latin and South America, Africa and the 10/40 window — a rectangular geographic region across North Africa, the Middle East and Asia where Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam are most prominent. They’ll also share how COVID-19 has impacted and transformed their work abroad.

As a financial arm for about a dozen global ministries ranging from Bible translation, education and reforestation to addressing poverty and providing medical and dental care, the church has set a fundraising goal of $110,000 which, collected throughout the conference, will be funneled directly to the missionaries.

According to Walt McBride, co-chairman of the conference, First Presbyterian has collected more than $2 million for world missions over the last two decades, reiterating its stance as a “globally-oriented and mission-minded church family.”

“Our church has seen a need in the past couple of decades and felt a call to get involved,” McBride said. “Not everyone can travel, not everyone has the gifts and the talents and the ability to be able to provide the service directly as the boots on the ground, but they’re being the financial support. We talk in the New Testament about being the whole body of Christ. Some people have to be the feet, some people have to be the wallet.”

In addition to financially supporting the global mission field, the church has also assisted in physically supplementing it.

“Through the decades that we’ve been doing this conference, we’ve established relationships with ministries in certain areas, we have members that go to the Dominican Republic and do surgeries (and) medical missions; we have a member who set up a reforestation project that is focused on reforesting forests in Guatemala that are being deforested because of the need for fuel for cooking,” he said. “We’ve had as many as five homegrown missionaries that have come up in our church as youth and then gone into the mission field. They’ve gone to places like India, Pakistan, Nicaragua. That’s what we’re getting at when we say we’re a mission-minded church — it’s about going and doing and serving others.”

First Presbyterian also maintains a “very strong local presence” through benevolence ministries the church operates in the Gainesville community, McBride said.

With the pandemic’s impacts still felt across the world, McBride said this year’s conference is “differently important” from those hosted in the past.

“The funds that we can raise to support (missionaries) will give them the resources to respond to their call more effectively,” McBride said. “It is about making sure that the least of these are taken care of in ways big and small.”