Pulaski Wesleyan Church (PWC) and the Penn York District have discovered a fresh vision for discipleship through long-term partnership with The Wesleyan Church in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). The collaboration was possible because of the faithfulness of Reverend Bob Croft — a long-time pastor in Western Pennsylvania who established a local church (Hyde Wesleyan Church) and district partnership with Emmanuel Bible College (EBC) in Manzini, Eswatini.
For years, Rev. Croft would lead trips to EBC, where his sister, Dorcas, was an instructor and administrator. His trips focused on partnering with EBC’s leaders to host conferences, training and formation opportunities for area pastors. Over time, pastors and laypersons from other churches — from small congregations to larger ones — joined these trips and caught a vision of partnership that led many to return for additional ministry trips and for the fellowship.
Penn York District Superintendent Dr. Matthew Pickering accompanied Rev. Croft on one of these trips in 2019 and was struck by the warmth, kinship and shared esteem by both Penn York and Eswatini pastors.
“The ministry seemed more meaningful because it was clear our team was not dropping in one time, never to be seen again,” reflected Dr. Pickering. “When we got to the school [EBC], or wherever we went, people recognized Bob and others who went back multiple times — which established relationships creating greater opportunity for God to work because the credibility is there. The one-time thing isn’t bad, but you can’t have depth of ministry without continuity of commitment.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Pickering recommended Rev. Glenn Bozak to join a Penn York trip to Eswatini that was specifically focused on pouring into the EBC faculty and nearby ministers who were experiencing the difficulty of pandemic-shaped ministry.
Rev. Bozak’s upbringing as the child of Sierra Leone missionaries and his church’s strong tradition of generosity made this invitation an easy “yes.” What Rev. Bozak didn’t know was that this journey would catalyze a deeper connection and partnership with a congregation in Ezulwini, Eswatini.
During their visit to Eswatini, the team from the Penn York District experienced the reality of a church facing significant challenges. Emmanuel Wesleyan Church’s (EWC) congregation demonstrated extraordinary dedication by setting up and cleaning their rented school space each week. Because a storm had destroyed their restroom, the nearest toilet was a block away; and yet the congregation continued to grow, with new believers added to their number regularly.
Reflecting on the stark contrast between his church in Pulaski, Rev. Bozak saw the potential for PWC to engage in a long-term partnership with EWC — not only offering money, but committing to shared presence, learning and prayer. Upon returning to PWC’s missions committee and recounting his visit, the committee recalled PWC’s recent partnership with a church in Poland. As Poland was devastated and in need of help ministering to refugees from Ukraine, PWC took over their mortgage and had just recently finished paying that mortgage off. Reflecting on their congregation’s values, the committee felt compelled to replicate that spirit of generosity in Eswatini.
Backed by the strong commitment to missions within the Penn York District, Pulaski Wesleyan Church set a goal to raise $30,000 to support the construction of a building for Emmanuel Wesleyan Church. The congregation’s response surpassed all expectations, with donations pouring in from within and outside the church.
Rev. Bozak shared, “Our church said, ‘Let’s build the kingdom, not our kingdom.’ … Obviously, God did want us to partner … the seed is going to multiply from this investment.” As the donations approached the $27,000 mark, it became clear that the Penn York District’s dedication to missions and their collective support were making a significant impact.
The partnership between Pulaski Wesleyan Church, the Penn York District and Emmanuel Wesleyan Church is much more than constructing a physical building. The building symbolizes the shared commitment to spreading the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ, which touches lives and transforms communities.
The funds raised are not just financial contributions; they represent a powerful demonstration of faith and love. These monies will enable the people of Ezulwini to worship in a dedicated space, fostering spiritual growth and providing a beacon of hope in a community yearning to experience God’s presence.
As Rev. Bozak considers how his congregation has been formed by the experience of generosity and global partnership, he talks about the power of global partnership to reshape the way we see our resources and relationships. “It’s a chance for us to reevaluate our values,” said Rev. Bozak, “to think beyond our own needs and consider the needs of those around us and the world.”
Dr. Pickering visits churches of various sizes weekly, speaking firsthand of the importance of every congregation prioritizing — with their budget, attention and ministries — local and global neighbors. This challenge can seem daunting to many churches who are struggling to meet their budgets; and yet Dr. Pickering asserts that the goal is feasible if churches think creatively about partnerships. He recommends reaching out to one of our global Wesleyan Bible colleges or a Global Partners (GP) missionary and asking how a church might partner in prayer, finances and relationships. These partnerships can yield long-term relationships that shape everyone involved.
“You might talk to a GP missionary and discover a need for wells and decide to partner with a couple other Wesleyan churches to build a well. If it’s not feasible for your church, you might find four or five churches who could provide clean water for a village,” said Dr. Pickering. “The key thing is just to reach out to Wesleyan presence in global areas. People would be surprised that it’s not as hard as we make it out to be sometimes.”
Through global relationships Wesleyans can discover something about the character of God that we’d miss out on if we stayed within our familiar borders. Our neighbors — near and far — have something to teach us about what it means to see lives, churches and communities transformed with the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development Division.