Meet Our New Mission Partners: Cobbie and Dessa Palm

This is the second in a series of five articles on the new mission partners approved by the Session in January. See our full list of mission partners here

The ministries of Cobbie and Dessa Palm are almost as vast and varied as the country they serve. The Palms are Presbyterian Church (USA) mission co-workers in the Philippines, a multicultural nation of 98 million people stretched across 7,000 islands in the Western Pacific. 

They are also among the newest mission partners of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. 

"The Palms are familiar to many of us at FAPC, for many different reasons,” says Kate Dunn, associate pastor for Congregational Care and Outreach. “Cobbie and Dessa have been deeply involved in recovery efforts with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance following the devastating typhoons that have struck the Philippines in recent years. FAPC members have generously supported those efforts.

"The Palms also were among our hosts when a mission trip team from FAPC toured the Philippines in 2012. And they worked with us as consultants when we created our mission partner model the following year. How appropriate that our mission partner program will now support the life-saving ministries that Cobbie and Dessa pursue."

Cobbie Palm was born in the Philippines to longtime Presbyterian missionaries James and Louise Palm. He has done mission work in his native country for more than two decades, working in church development and revitalization, Christian education and international partnerships. He is currently involved with the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, which is engaged in peace talks between the Filipino government and the National Democratic Front, a coalition of social and economic justice organizations, agricultural and trade unions, and indigenous rights groups.

Dessa Palm is of Filipino descent and has earned advanced degrees from universities in both the Philippines and the United States (the New School for Social Research in New York City). According to her PCUSA biography, Dessa traces her calling to mission to age 13, when she was a "sickly asthmatic girl who went to a theater workshop." The creative arts nurtured her spirit as a young woman and continues to inspire her ministry in theater and arts programs for women and at-risk youth and among indigenous cultures. The Palms married in 2006, and Dessa came under mission appointment with the PCUSA in 2012.

The Palms’ mission partner covenant with FAPC focuses on two principal areas of their mission work in the Phillipines: Cobbie’s Silliman Water Ministry, and Dessa’s work to combat human trafficking through Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA) and Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE). The Silliman Water Ministry produces water on the campus of Silliman University and sells it to campus offices and program units. The income helps provide clean drinking water to impoverished communities where fresh water is in short supply.

The Palms spent 2016 touring the United States, visiting churches (including FAPC) and spreading the word about their wide-ranging ministries. They returned to a very different Philippines, where the government led by the newly elected president, Rodrigo Duterte, has been accused of “extrajudicial killings” in its efforts to combat drug trafficking. 

In a New Year’s message to friends and supporters in the U.S., the Palms wrote: 

"We ended the year with deep appreciation for such grace God has provided our lives, but also with trepidation about the new political landscape in the Philippines. This fragile situation is not unique to the Philippines, and our concerted prayers and creative thinking and actions are more urgently needed as we enter into this new year of hope, resilience and faith. Blessings to all of you. We are strengthened constantly with the knowledge that we are all part of Christ’s Church anchored on peace, justice, mercy and overflowing love.”

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