Responding to Human Needs during the Cold War: Personal Growth and Organizational Change

Guiding Church World Service from 1975 through 1984

by Paul F. McCleary



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 11/15/2023

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 204
ISBN : 9798369411087
Format : Hardcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 204
ISBN : 9798369411094
Format : E-Book
Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 204
ISBN : 9798369411124

About the Book

One of the primary characteristics of life is change. To be alive is expressed in a constant adaptation to an environment in change. The underlying thesis of this story is the ever-changing reality in the life of a missionary family for whom doors of opportunity open to new work experiences. They become a part of an organization needing to undergo change in order to respond to the environmental change taking place in the world. The story is built around the personal growth of a missionary as he is challenged to assume new responsibilities. The element of personal growth is reflected in the transformation an organization must make to respond to changing global conditions in order to fulfill its mission. The background to the story is the radical change in the political scene which took place following World War II. Two aspects are highlighted. The first one is the emergence of newly formed nations that gained their independence from having been colonies of European nations. The second was the emergence of the Cold War reshaping the global political scene into a bipolar context between two superpowers. The organization in the story is Church World Service (CWS), the relief and refugee arm of the National Council of Churches. Its mandate was to respond to natural and man-made disasters anywhere in the world. The story is told of the formation of two world bodies that contributed to world peace, the United Nations and the World Council of Churches. The Cold War led to the formation of a series of walls and militarized borders around the world. The story details the intense endeavor to find ways to fulfill the mission of CWS in a fractured world. This book is not a specific history of Church World Service. The key to the story is the creative ways in which CWS reinvented itself to build bridges to overcome the political walls that had been built. The book is an important reading for anyone interested in the history of the Christian Church during the Cold War. It also has value for those who study organizational change.

About the Author

Paul F. McCleary shares how the trajectory of life was changed by a single encounter and the ramifications that were produced. The author assumed when he enrolled in seminary his future would probably involve being a pastor of a church in rural downstate Illinois. A visit to the seminary by a Methodist bishop from Latin America became an encounter that changed entirely the direction of his career from that of a local church pastor to a missionary. The McCleary family arrived in Bolivia in the last decade before Methodism transitioned from being a mission to becoming a national autonomous church. The author shares the challenges of contributing to the formation of a new church in a developing country struggling to find its new identity. The view of open country churches visible over the cornfields of Central Illinois, where he served as a student pastor, stands in sharp contrast to living in the poorest country in South America—a country second only to Haiti as the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Methodism’s footing in Bolivia came through the fact that at the turn of the century, the Bolivian president had a daughter who was sent to Santiago, Chile, to gain a high school education not yet available to girls in Bolivia. The author’s real education, even after a degree from college and seminary, came from Bolivia. Living among the poor and ministering to families with children is a quick course in understanding how conditions of absolute poverty shape the world in which many people live. As incongruous as it may seem, the country was rich in natural resources whose benefit failed to trickle down to improve the daily lives of the indigenous majority of society. As the author quickly learned, as insignificant as Bolivia appeared, it was an attractive pawn in the larger context of global politics. The expansion of Nazism took easy roots in the Bolivian quest for an alternative social order different from the past. The end of World War II in Europe only served to scatter the seed to other corners of the world. There were attempts to continue it in countries such as Bolivia. Klaus Barbie was a resident in Bolivia under protective cover offered by lenient military administrations. The emergence of a Cuban presence led by Che Guevarra was an effort to establish a colony in the more isolated Eastern area of Bolivia and was another political influence. The author shares how new theological currents were also influencing the Christian faith as an outgrowth of conditions in Latin America. These new challenges came in the form of liberation theology articulated by Gustavo Gutierrez, and identification with the poor by Paulo Freire was also gaining wider acceptance. The author was so influenced by these ten years in Bolivia that he went on to direct three different international nonprofit organizations that focus on combating the conditions of absolute poverty on children and families. In so doing, he served as staff of the National Council of Churches, on commissions of the World Council of Churches, as president of the Non-Governmental Organizations Committee to UNICEF, and as a member of the Bishops’ Task Force on Children and Poverty of the United Methodist Church.