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New United Methodist missionaries to serve 10 countries

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Cassandra Heller

The Revs. Sherri Tabaka-Morrissey and her husband, Michael W. Morrissey Jr., are the first United Methodist missionaries assigned to Thailand.
Oct. 16, 2006

By Elliott Wright*

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) — Fourteen new United Methodist missionaries each received a loaf of bread for the journey from 14 retiring missionaries as the new missionaries were sent to serve in 10 different countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The dramatic liturgical act took place during a service of worship, in which the new missionaries were commissioned and retiring missionaries were honored, at the Oct. 9-12 annual meeting of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Bishop Violet Fisher of North Central and Western New York said in a sermon that the work of the new missionaries would not be easy but that they would be sustained by Jesus Christ, the "Bread of Life  — bread with a capital B." Her biblical text was the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in John (6:1-13).

The new missionaries include pastors, educators, health professionals and an agronomist. They are assigned to Bolivia, Cambodia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Mozambique, Senegal, Thailand and Zambia.

Two of the group, the Rev. Sherri Tabaka-Morrissey and her husband, the Rev. Michael W. Morrissey Jr., of the Kentucky Annual Conference, are the first United Methodist missionaries assigned to Thailand.

The couple will serve as pastors and teachers at God's Purpose Church, a congregation in the city of Chon Buri, an hour outside of Bangkok, Thailand's capital. The independent congregation and the United Methodist mission agency have been forging ties during the past three years.

God's Purpose Church ("Pradumri" in Thai) was started in 1999 as a house church. It became a congregation in 2002 and today has an average Sunday worship attendance of more than 100. Thailand has only about 8,000 Christians, but Christianity is steadily growing, and there are no government restrictions against churches.

The congregation has active Bible and fellowship groups and hopes to become the base of a network of local churches and ministries in Thailand.

500 years of service

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Cassandra Heller

The Rev. R. Randy Day (left) and Bishop Joel N. Martinez (right) lay
hands on newly commissioned missionary Irene Mparutsa.
Fourteen of 24 missionaries retiring this year were at the meeting in Stamford. Bishop Joel N. Martinez of San Antonio, president of the mission board, paid tribute to the retirees, who collectively represent almost 500 years of mission service.
Deaconess Marian Martin, formerly director of the Gulfside Assembly in Waveland, Miss. — a center destroyed by Hurricane Katrina but being rebuilt — spoke on behalf of the retirees. Her counsel to the new missionaries: "Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind."

Fisher, a board vice president who was herself a missionary in Africa in her youth, spoke forcefully about the call to mission service and the "servant role" of missionaries. And, she said, "God never calls anyone who God does not prepare."

In addition to the Morrisseys, the new missionaries include:

  • The Rev. Kimberly Brown-Whale and the Rev. Richard Brown-Whale, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, who are returning to missionary service. They are assigned to the Senegal Mission and will be based in Dakar.
  • John and Suzanne Nunn Funk, North Alabama Annual Conference, who will be working at the Colorado Technical Agricultural High School in Rio Colorado, Bolivia.
  • Becky Harrell, Southwest Texas Annual Conference, who will continue as coordinator of Methodist Extension to Andean Youth, Iquique, Chile, a post she held for several years as a volunteer in mission.
  • Sun Lae Kim, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, who is assigned to congregational development work at the United Methodist Mission, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
  • The Rev. Dennis Lipke and Dale Lipke, Virginia Annual Conference, who are going to the Cambine Mission, Mozambique.
  • Irene Mparutsa, Zimbabwe West Annual Conference, who will serve as coordinator for community health, agriculture and microenterprise in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
  • Tshala Mwengo, South Congo Annual Conference, who is assigned as director of the Mujila Falls Agricultural Project in Mwinilunga, Zambia.
  • Hee Jin Park, California Pacific Annual Conference, who is coordinator of evangelism and church growth at the United Methodist Center in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
  • Farayi Tiriwepi, Zimbabwe West Annual Conference, who is area financial executive in the Central Congo Area, Democratic Republic of Congo, based in Kinshasa.

*Wright is the information officer of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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