Here at JFK ready to depart for Malawi via Dakar and JoBurg are eleven mission team members, from all walks of life:

WorldHope Corps Mission Team (May 20-31, 2009)

Ministry Partners: CitiHope International, United Methodist Global AIDS Fund

Hosts in Malawi: Gabriel Wesley Msongole, Dennis Singini, Copeland Nkhata

Team Leader: Dr. Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D., National Director, Shalom Initiative, Drew University, and Founder of WorldHope Corps

Mission Team Members:

Michael Christensen teaches practical theology at Drew University where he directs a training institute and community development network known as Communities of Shalom. Dr. Christensen has worked with CitiHope International as a volunteer, staff, consultant or board member since 1990, and founded WorldHope Corps in 2007. This will be his fifth mission trip to Malawi. He plans to post daily travel blogs about the mission trip on his blogsite at
Ruth Bashe is chair of the Mission Council at the Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge. She was part of a small group that was instrumental in having the church accept Malawi as one of their mission projects. This will be her second trip to Malawi.

Michael Bond recently retired, is a past board member for the New Jersey Symphony and New Jersey Shakespeare Theater. His has traveled the world extensively for both business and pleasure reasons and has developed a deep appreciation for other cultures. He feels “it is his time to get directly involved” and is volunteering with WorldHope Corps in order to have the opportunity to offer a ministry of hands on hands work.

Christian Ciobanu just graduated from Drew University where he majored in Political Science and Economics. He will extending his trip to a one-month Shalom internship in Malawi focused on helping the United Methodist Church in Mzuzu develop an economic enterprise to support its orphan care program.

Claire Colcord, in the final throws of completing her MDiv degree at Drew, will extend her stay in Malawi for a month as a Shalom intern. Her “regular job” for the last several years has been as Director of educational programs at Summit’s Central Presbyterian Church. She also has organized educational programs for Tokyo Union Church in Japan. Loving God’s kids (of all ages) comes easily so Claire expects to have her heart soar while in Malawi and knows it will be broken as well.

Helen E. Hoens was trained as a Stephen Minister in 2003 and, since January 2004, has served as one of the leaders of the Stephen Ministry program at Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. She has taught Sunday School both in Basking Ridge and at the Third Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth where she also served as a Ruling Elder. She has long been active both in mission work and in volunteer work on behalf of autistic children and adults and their families. Her professional calling involves working for the cause of justice as a part of which she is a frequent author and speaker.

Robert Schwaneberg is now a full-time student in the health law and policy program at Seton Hall University School of Law. He previously spent 30 years covering state government as a reporter for The Star-Ledger. He is a member of Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church and serves on the Church Relations Committee of Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity. He lives in Basking Ridge with his wife, Helen Hoens, who also is traveling to Malawi.

Stacy Radmore serves as a Deacon at Oxford Second Presbyterian Church where she helped initiate and expand a local ministry called “Bountiful Sharing.” She also serves in a leadership role in the Presbyterian Women’s Fellowship. Working in the travel industry, Stacy has developed a deep appreciation for other cultures and has previously volunteered with CitiHope and WorldHope Corps to offer a ministry of presence and practical support. She hopes to be a source of encouragement and affirmation to the women and children of Malawi during this trip.

Dr. Robert Robinson is a pastoral counselor by training, working as a Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist at the Family Center in Ellicott City Maryland. Dr. Robinson has both personal and professional interests in understanding and helping youth-at-risk in Malawi, and is eager to volunteer where needed most. He was a member of the 2008 Mission Team and is eager to return to Malawi this year.

Elaine Scheetz, a retired teacher, has served as an officer in two Presbyterian churches: the first as a Deacon, and the present church, the First Presbyterian Church in Pitman, NJ, as an Elder. Presently serving on the Mission/Membership and Publicity Committees, her most recent service was as coordinator of her church’s first hosting of Family Promise-Interfaith Hospitality Network of Gloucester County. This trip will be her first International Mission trip which comes after 50+ years of nudging to follow God’s call to go wherever, do whatever, for whomever, and however God wishes.

Josie Dittrich – former CitiHope International staff for the last five years, has traveled to Malawi twice before taking pictures and video simultaneously – meaning one camera in one hand and the other camera in the her other hand. (As Josie will be taking video she is ecstatic that a professional photographer will also be along on this trip.) Josie is the producer for the “Alphabet of Needs” A-Z video series that Dr. Christensen has designed in an effort to bring to light the critically important needs of the people of Malawi. Prior to working for CitiHope, Josie was a television producer, professional singer, PR/Coordinator and has traveled to 32 countries, as well as all of the United States, usually in a professional capacity. Josie is delighted to have this opportunity to not only travel to Malawi again, but to travel with the 2009 Malawi Volunteers of WorldHope Corps. FYI: Josie will be flying stand-by on SAA, so pray there will be seat availability.

Yes, we are excited about our mission trip over the next two weeks. Follow my daily travel blog if you’re so inclined, and pray for our good success in participating in WorldHope Corps’ village wells project, orphan care, and creating a new ShalomZone with the United Methodist Church of Mzuzu.