Gary Dilley: Well Done!

Here in the national office, we’re excited about the upcoming arrival of Jeff Bleijerveld as the new Director of Global Ministries. He’s a quality guy who will fit right in. I’ll enjoy watching him take our missions program to the next level…whatever that is. Jeff starts on March 3.

Tomorrow, the office staff will hold a farewell luncheon for Gary Dilley, who served as Global Ministries director from August 2001 until January of this year. Because of a prior commitment, I’ll miss that luncheon. Pat Jones has offered to eat my pizza for me, and he’s welcome to it. But since I’ll be gone, I thought I’d use this space to say some words about Gary, who has been a beloved friend, in addition to a coworker.

The 1990s were a time of unprecedented expansion in our worldwide ministry. In 1993, Ray Seilhamer was elected bishop and Kyle McQuillen was elected as Director of Missions, and they both served until 2001. At that time, we had churches in eight countries, and had opened only one new field per decade–Nicaragua in the 1960s, India in the 1970s, and Macau in 1987.
But from 1993-2001, the number of fields nearly doubled:

  • 1993: Thailand
  • 1995: Costa Rica
  • 1997: Mexico
  • 1998: Myanmar
  • 1999: El Salvador
  • 2000: Haiti
  • 2000: Guatemala

In addition, the church planting work in India grew by leaps and bounds, and a number of Hispanic churches in the United States arose through the work of Denis Casco. Disclaimer: we in North America can’t take credit for this expansion. Much of it came from the initiative of our churches in Hong Kong and Central America. But in each case, we were involved, often heavily involved. So a great deal of new territory needed to be assimilated into worldwide United Brethrenism, and numerous new demands were placed on Global Ministries funds.

Just as the 1990s were transformative regarding the scope of our work, Gary Dilley was transformative in solidifying the dizzying expansion of the 1990s. His guidance was absolutely essential in helping Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, and Hong Kong become fully self-governing national conferences, a structural change which occurred in 2001 but which they weren’t necessarily ready for. This was a difficult transition, but Gary handled it with wisdom, tact, and frequent firmness.

With the help of a thoughtful, policy-centered Global Ministries Leadership Team, sound missions philosophy was injected into all of our missions work. Gary moved us to a system in which missionaries raise their own support; there was much opposition to this, but the benefits, in terms of greatly expanding our missionary base, are now obvious. We had done work teams for many years, but Gary and his staff, Donna Hollopeter and Darlene Burkett, developed procedures and training to make this component of UB missions better organized and more intentional. Work teams regularly go overseas (one group just left for Sierra Leone), and we sponsor several denominational trips each year.

In addition, Gary helped churches focus on developing their own missions vision. Now, individual churches spearhead significant ministry in other countries. The emphasis on mission projects, usually developed on the basis of proposals from our partnering countries, has worked well.

In short, the worldwide expansion of the 1990s was solidified under Gary Dilley’s leadership. He leaves Global Ministries in good financial condition (a far cry from when he took over), and with the philosophical and operational underpinnings needed to move ahead. And our partnering countries have become, or are becoming, true partners in the Great Commission.

So Gary–well done. You’ve been tremendous, and you richly deserve the high respect you command throughout our churches at home and abroad. And Jeff–you’re inheriting something that is a lot better than it was, but which still has great untapped potential. I know you’re up to the challenge. I trust that you’ll thrive in this new role. We look forward to working alongside you.

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