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Former missionary seeks to speak on mission and global church

Ruth Brandon, a member of the PNC and Disciples of Christ Region Global Ministries Committee, served for eight years as a missionary in Mozambique and seeks to keep people informed about Kim and Eric Free, an Oregon couple who are missionaries with the United Church of Christ in Mozambique.

Ruth Brandon was at the PNC Leadership Retreat at N-Sid-Sen.

She wants people in Northwest churches to be aware they are part of a world wide church.

Through study and Global Ministries, Ruth has been in various African countries, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Brazil.

She has been to Kenya, Chile and Cuba with conference and local church partnerships.  She spent a week in 2014  at Oaxaca, Mexico, studying roots of migration.  It’s near Guatemala on the route of migrants.

She also served two terms on the Global Ministries Board, ending in 2006.

The native of Vermont gave an overview of her involvement in mission, as a local pastor and on conference staffs before she moved to Everett in 2013 to be near her son, 44.  She is now involved at Everett UCC.

While she was studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Eduardo Mondlane, a graduate of Presbyterian missions who had worked at the United Nations, spoke about his people’s experience under Portuguese colonialism and their efforts to gain independence.

Ruth and her husband,  who were involved in anti-apartheid and civil rights movements, responded when Eduardo invited them to teach at the Mozambique Institute, a school for Mozambique students in Dar es Saalam, Tanzania.  After graduating from seminary in 1966, she taught there until 1969.  Because the Portuguese educated few Africans beyond a couple of years, she taught middle school to students from 12 to 21 years old.  The students had fled from Mozambicuan cities or rural areas at war or liberated in Northern Mozambique and were as refugees in Tanzania.

After being ordained in 1973 in Wisconsin, she went with her husband to teach again until 1976 at the FRELIMO Secondary School, helping it move as independence approached from Tanzania to a former Portuguese military base inside Mozambique.

“The churches sent us for a ministry of presence, which is now the way for missionaries to serve,” Ruth said.  “By our presence  and our teaching we were to show that God loves and cares about them.”

The Portuguese government and Catholic Church had worked together.  The government appointed priests, who supported the government and military,” Ruth said. “The church was equated with the colonial power.  In contrast, we were there because we were Christian, simply to express God’s love.  We brought a new image of Christians who respected African culture and understanding.”

Independence came in 1975 while she was there.

Ruth returned to Mozambique again from 1990 to 1993, and worked with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, a five-nation church.  The Mozambique Synod assigned her to teach ethics at the ecumenical seminary and to start a new church in Maputo, the capital.  The new church included educated people who worked in good jobs in government and business, while the local church at the time had only fourth-grade-educated pastors who feared educated members might go elsewhere.

Ruth’s appointments were ecumenical, with Presbyterians Methodists, United Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ. 

She served congregations in Massachusetts, and was on the staff of the Southern, Central Atlantic and Ohio conferences.  

Her ordination was while in campus ministry in Wisconsin.  She completed an STM degree on “church and world issues” in 1984, the year she divorced.

Now at Everett UCC, a church with 50 attending on Sundays, she is social action and mission committee chair.  The committee connects diverse ministries of the church, including its free Thursday meal that serves 100 to 250 people.  It also has a food pantry and uses part of its land for a Volunteers of America community garden that provides food for the meals and food pantry.

The church also helps at the Interfaith Association’s shelter and hosts a CROP Walk. Many groups meet at the church, including one for GLBTQ youth.

“Because we care, we stay in the community to serve it,” Ruth said.

Everett UCC shares its building with a Marshall Islands UCC church, a Micronesian church and a new Disciples of Christ church. The DOC has a drop-in center there for people from shelters to come in the mornings for coffee, conversation and information.

“Some in the UCC may think we can choose to follow Jesus or not,” she said, “but in Mozambique, I witnessed that Jesus gives life. In the face of poverty and devastation from war, they have no doubt that Jesus got them through.”

Churches were key in ending the war.  They trained people in peacemaking and how to live again with people who had wreaked havoc and terror among them. When the wars ended, the Christian Council of Mozambique exchanged sewing machines, hoes and other items for about 500,000 weapons for a Guns to Sculpture program that turned guns into art.

“Church people in Mozambique are our partners, not just a place for charity,” Ruth said. For example, when the synod told visiting Americans of a desire to build their own office building—rather than going from house to house—they rejected the offer to send volunteers to build, saying they just needed money for materials.

The Mozambicuans could design and build their own building.  For local church-building projects with no foreign help,  Mozambicuan faithful would raise a few dollars at a time and add a layer or two of bricks gradually over many years until complete.

For information, call 937-367-4978 or email


Copyright © February 2016 - Pacific Northwest Conference News


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