Inaugural International Trip for HELM Leadership Fellows

From May 27 to June 3, six participants in the HELM Leadership Fellows Program traveled to Cuba to visit Disciples partners and learn about the country’s cultures, history, and religious and political life. This was the first international trip for the Leadership Fellows Program and partner visits included the Martin Luther King Center, the Cuban Council of Churches, the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Matanzas, and Sunday worship with a local congregation of the Pentecostal Church of Cuba. Cultural visits included the old city of Havana, Revolution Square, the Museum of the Revolution, a conversation with local youth, salsa lessons, an organic farm, and the towns of Los Palos and Varadero.

The group was hosted by the Martin Luther King Center in Havana, an organization involved in contextual theology and popular education. In his conversation with the Fellows, Rev. Raúl Suárez, founder of the MLK Center and a member of the Cuban Parliament, shared that Cuba is in a time of transition. With the recent opening of relations with the United States, many anticipant economic and social changes as contact and inv
estment increases. Rev. Suárez noted that with these changes comes the need for Cubans to insist on an “ethics-based economy” so that a culture of consumption does not begin to erode the values that have guided Cuban society over the years. In a visit to the Cuban Council of Churches, Rev. Joel Ortega Dopico, President of the Council, shared with the Fellows his belief and hope that peace and justice in the future will be due to their generations engagement and leadership in the world.

The Leadership Fellows Program aims to develop leaders through an intentional focus on four major areas. While the first two years focus on Community and Transformation respectively, the third year focuses on Global Awareness and our obligations and responsibilities of faithful leadership in a global and interconnected world, including the call to standin solidarity with those from diverse backgrounds and contexts. This was the inaugural trip for the Leadership Fellowship Program and, going forward, subsequent international trips will be offered for students in the third year of the program. The fourth and final year of the Program focuses on Mentoring.

The Fellows participating in this trip are recent graduates who began the Leadership Fellows Program under a previous model that only had a three-year commitment. They were invited to join this first international experience as part of what would have been their post college participation under the previous model. The six participants were Annaliese Baker (Chapman University), Finley Baldwin (North Carolina State University), Abbi Frings (Culver-Stockton College), Abby Henegar (Texas Christian University), Jonaphine Rae Mata (University of Texas) and Toni Trujillo (Texas Christian University). The students were accompanied on the trip by Chris Dorsey, Rebecca Hale, Ben Bohren, Pam Sparks, and Dawn and Jon Barnes.

HELM Board Spring Meeting Takes Place at Chapman University

In April of this year, HELM’s board of directors met at Chapman University in Orange, California for the Spring HELM board meeting. The meeting began on Friday afternoon with a tour of the Chapman University campus, led by Rev. Nancy Brink, Director of Church Relations.  Many of the board members had never visited the campus and were impressed by the growth in the programs offered, with a new 140,000 square foot Center for Science and Technology opening in the fall of 2018 and the establishment of a school of engineering, set to open in 2019 or 2020. Saturday’s portion of the meeting took place at the beautiful Fish Interfaith Center.  Board members were able to spend some time talking with Dr. Daniele Stuppa, President of Chapman University, as he talked about his vision for the future of Chapman.

The day concluded with a time of fellowship and worship with students and staff from the Disciples Seminary Foundation, located in nearby Claremont.  Worship was led by Tevita Uesi, an M.Div. student and HELM board member.  Rev. Clemette Haskins and Rev. HaeJin Park, both Ph.D. students and Ann E. Dickerson Scholars, spoke about their calling to ministry and higher education as well as the specific topics they are researching. Other students who participated included Leah Laird (Ph.D), Sarah Fiske-Philips (M.Div) and Toni Bond Leonard (Ph.D.).  All present were moved by the talents, calling and commitments of those who participated in worship and give thanks for the leadership they are already providing the church.

During the business session of the meeting, the board took two significant actions. Having previously called Chris Dorsey to the presidency for a transitional period of three years, the board voted to extend the call to Chris Dorsey to become the permanent president of HELM. This is an affirmation of the work that has been done over the past three years and a commitment to continue the important work of transforming HELM. The board also voted to enter a period of intentional discernment about the future of HELM to ensure that the mission of HELM continues in a way that meets the needs of the church in the present age.