The Rev. Paul Jeffrey is a General Board of Global Ministries missionary who writes about the work of the church around the world for Response, the magazine of United Methodist Women. Paul also provides coverage of emergencies for Action by Churches Together (ACT), the Geneva-based network of church disaster agencies. After living in Central America for 20 years, Paul and his family moved to Oregon in 2004. Yet his writing continues to focus on similar themes, including how Christians and church communities struggle for justice and peace in the midst of repression, violence, and rapid economic and social change.
Paul has filed stories from more than 35 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, writing about everything from hurricanes, health care, and massacres to indigenous rights, refugees, and ecumenism. He has interviewed religious and political leaders ranging from Pat Robertson to Yasser Arafat. In the course of his work, Paul has been trapped in combat, tear-gassed and shot at, taken prisoner by soldiers, and gotten sick from what he calls "every intestinal disorder known to modern science." He's also had what he terms the "privilege of witnessing the poor become subjects of their own history rather than the objects of someone else's history."
"I often write about what Christians are doing to empower people at the margins to live the abundant life that's promised to them in the Gospel. I focus on why they're doing that and what the consequences of that work may be for ordinary women and men in the pews," says Paul. "When I do that well, people in the global north begin to understand how we are intrinsically linked to our sisters and brothers in the global south, not just because they share the same Gospel, but also because we share an international economic system that manufactures poverty and injustice for the majority."
Paul's writing has also appeared in magazines such as New World Outlook, Latinamerica Press, the Christian Century, and the National Catholic Reporter. His photos have appeared in a number of magazines such as Sierra and National Geographic Explorer. Paul is the author of Recovery Memory, a book about the role of churches in the Guatemalan peace process. The book inspired "Precarious Peace," a 2003 documentary video about the church in Guatemala. He has also written chapters for two different books on Latin America, and is coauthor of a study of the effects of Hurricane Mitch on the political culture of Honduras.
Paul has won several awards for his writing and photography, including the top annual photography award of the United Methodist Association of Communicators (eight times), the top writing award of the same association (seven times), and the top magazine photography award of the Associated Church Press. In 2002, he won the Eileen Egan Award for third world reporting from Catholic Relief Services.
As part of his assignment with ACT, Paul serves as a member of the alliance's rapid deployment team. He also provides leadership in training nongovernmental organizations in communications strategies and practices to be implemented following emergencies.
Before his current assignment, Paul and his wife, the Rev. Dr. Lyda Pierce, served as missionaries in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras. Lyda is currently on a leave of absence from the General Board of Global Ministries and serves a pastoral appointment in Eugene, Oregon. Paul and Lyda have two children, Lucas and Abigail.
A native of Vancouver, Washington, Paul is an ordained elder in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. He served two rural churches in western Washington State before moving to Central America in 1984. He has a Bachelor of Arts in literature and political science from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and a Master of Divinity from Pacific School of Religion, part of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. In 2001, Paul and Lyda were named distinguished alums of Pacific School of Religion.