It’s amazing how many Scriptural references there are related to proclaiming the Good News of God’s love to the whole world. Most of us tend to hear those passages and think, “that’s nice.” We tend to view missionary service as something for select priests and religious who sacrifice their lives on behalf of the poor and needy in foreign countries. And rarely, a layperson—perhaps someone serving in the Peace Corps.
Six months ago, Pete and Joy Newburn and their three children left their parish community of Sacred Heart in Rancho Cucamonga, where Pete had served as Pastoral Coordinator for 8½ years, to prepare to serve as a missionary family in Africa for three years. Jan Donahue, from The Holy Name of Jesus parish in Redlands, is also answering a call to serve in mission. They are being sent by an organization called Lay Mission-Helpers. Ten adults, plus six children, completed four months of formation living in Los Angeles. The adults took classes in Scripture, mission theology, cross-cultural issues, Catholic social teaching, and much more. They lived in community, participating in daily Mass and communal prayer. These lay professionals and doctors were commissioned on May 20, each making a solemn promise to serve God’s people in the country to which they were assigned. Since its founding 57 years ago, Lay Mission-Helpers has sent over 700 lay missionaries to serve in 36 countries around the world, with the motto “Live your faith, share your gifts, change the world.”
The Newburn family is scheduled to arrive in Cameroon (next door to Nigeria) July 24 to begin a three- year stay. Pete will be teaching pastoral theology at the major seminary and the archdiocesan ministry formation institute. Joy will be serving part-time in one of the diocesan ministry offices, while the children attend a local English-speaking school. Jan, the mother of seven adult children, will be a teacher in Kenya, East Africa. All are excited to take this leap of faith, trusting that they will not only be a witness to others but will also grow and learn so much, themselves, from their experience.
To learn more about the Lay Mission-Helpers Association, or the Mission Doctors Association, visit the web sites LayMissionHelpers.org or MissionDoctors.org. These web sites include links to blogs of these and other lay missionaries.