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“In Mission Together (IMT) is being instead of doing. We create relationships. We have person-to-person interactions rather than just going and doing something like building a wall or painting a church,” says Judy Marnin. “It delves more into creating partnerships rather than finding out what people need and just giving it to them.”
IMT is a global partnership network made available through the General Board of Global Ministries, and it involves focusing on long-term needs that something like a short mission trip is unable to deal with. “We look at what the people have, what they are good at, what their gifts are, and how we can support the gifts they have so that they are the prime decision-maker as to what the mission is all about,” explains Marnin.
Partnerships have developed through IMT all over the world in places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and throughout Africa. Marnin herself has been involved with the program in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, particularly Lithuania. “It’s really a worldwide thing,” she says, “and, it’s also a very local thing. Instead of simply handing out food at food pantries, we actually try to give the people who are receiving food, for instance, ownership in the program. Maybe they will even work a few hours in the program. It’s a whole concept of mission that goes from local to global. They like to call it GLOCAL.”
IMT operates on the understanding that every person or congregation has a lot to offer, but that they might need a helping hand from people who may have more resources available. A church that wants to participate might choose to help a congregation right here in the U.S. that they know could use some assistance, or they might look further abroad to a country that has some special meaning or interest to them.
When forming a partnership, it’s important to look at what that church has already done to establish and grow itself. “For instance, in Lithuania, religion was illegal until the 1990s, and the United Methodist Church has come back very strongly,” says Marnin. “How did that happen? It wasn’t because of us; it was internal. So we can look at those congregations and say ‘You have done so much, but we can see that we could support what you have done.’”
That’s where the 50/50 Partnership Covenant comes in. “We would look at a document called the 50/50 Covenant – we would look at that together. One of the items on the covenant is that you don’t do for other people what they can do for themselves. You only do what they can’t do, and then you step in to help. If everybody agreed – both sides of the partnership have to be fully committed to this – then we would sign the partnership. And then we would begin working on details of how we can work together.”
Building and maintaining relationships between IMT partners is critical, so participants connect electronically – through Skype, Facetime, etc. – to keep in touch. They often keep up with each other through social media platforms like Facebook. “It’s like having a family in another country or another state or another part of your own state,” says Marnin.
For Marnin, IMT has been a reinvigorating experience, because she admits that she had felt some doubt at times about the effectiveness of church missions. “You do the same thing for year after year and people don’t seem to get any better; things don’t seem to change. When I heard about this program and became involved in it, I thought ‘This is what needs to be done.’ It’s not things, it’s not building, it’s not doing. It’s about creating relationships so that you can support people where they are.”
Marnin says that anyone who wants to consider getting involved need only reach out to her or the General Board of Global Ministries. You can email her at [email protected], and she has plenty of great resources available to share. “And I will come speak to any group, no matter how small, no matter what timeframe.”