Texas Gift Funds New Opportunities to ‘Encounter Christ’

Date Posted: 8/18/2008

Wilson Boots and Rev. Richard Laster, when the Texas Annual Conference made its first donation of $40,000 to Encounter with Christ in 2004 (Archive Photo).



By Eleanor L. Colvin, Director of Communications

A harvest of ministry partnerships and a potential for mission is being reaped throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, as a result of seeds planted in the Texas Annual Conference in 2004.


Encounter with Christ in Latin America and the Caribbean started in 1992 as a missional initiative to raise permanent funds to further and sustain ministry in those regions. The Texas Annual Conference made the project its Advance Special in 2003, and sewed a seed of $40,000 into the ministry. When establishing the fund, the General Board of Global Ministries stipulated that the fund had to reach $1 million before money could be disbursed.


Even while spending the summer serving in Bolivia through Encounter, Wilson T. Boots, director of mission interpretation for the ministry, is celebrating the attainment of that fund-raising goal and the recent decisions of the 2008 General Conference that will expand Encounter’s reach throughout the world.


“Encounter monies provide support for front edge mission projects in many of the countries where Texas Conference Partners in Mission have been serving,” Boots said. “Encounter complements the witness made by Texas Conference persons involved in mission partnership in the Caribbean and Latin America.”


Strength of the Denomination

The 2008 General Conference acknowledged the fruitfulness of Encounter with Christ, and endorsed the future partnerships of American Methodists in the United States and autonomous Methodists in Latin America and the Caribbean.


A General Conference plenary session formally addressed UM mission involvement with Methodists in these regions for the first time since the 1968 General Conference. Additionally, delegates approved a petition to establish a Committee on Connectional Program, a body to be constituted by bishops of the UMC with bishops/presidents of the churches of Latin America and the Caribbean, with leadership of CIEMAL (Council of Evangelical Methodist churches of Latin America and the Caribbean) and the MCCA (Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas) as well representatives of the boards and agencies of the UMC.


“For the past two decades, the UMC has been committed to enhancing the solidarity experienced among Methodists in the Latin America and Caribbean region,” said Bishop Elias Galvan in the report of the Study Committee to General Conference. “The program known as Encounter with Christ in Latin America and the Caribbean has succeeded in raising more than $1.5 million in permanent funds, the interest income from which is now enriching programs and projects of member churches throughout the region.”


I was raising a sum in excess of $1 million that enabled the interest revenue to be activated for mission.


“Some $300,000 has now been provided from the interest monies of the Encounter Permanent Fund for mission partnership projects with 16 national Methodist churches throughout the Latin American/Caribbean region,” Boots said. “The Texas Conference has given more than $70,000 to this fund.”


Among the most recent gifts from the TAC, was a $10,000 donation from a clergy spouse that was given at the 2008 ordination ceremony to celebrate the ordination his wife, Rev. Kelly Sullivan of La Porte UMC..


Such gifts are indicative of the strong ties Texas Conference Methodists have to mission in Latin America and the Caribbean. It also is a nod to the potential for growing more mission partnerships in these areas.


“We have people here in the Texas Annual Conference from many – probably all – of the countries we are in ministry with within this region,” Boots said. “This all creates a flow of missional energy – a flow of missional commitment, so that we are strengthened.”


As an example of the flow of missional energy, Boots noted TAC Missionary Diane Wimberly, who serves Bolivia, and Bolivian native Nataly Negrete, who is now serving the Hispanic ministry of St. Paul’s UMC in Houston.


More information on Encounter with Christ


The following countries are engaged in ministry partnerships through Encounter with Christ in Latin America and the Caribbean:

Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama