US-2s Engage, Connect and Grow

1/8/2014

At first, Sara (not her real name) was unresponsive during community garden meetings.  She was a spectator as the carrot greens feathered and the snap peas twined. Each week, Darlene Logston — a US-2 working as the garden coordinator —tried to draw Sara out. After months of silence, Sara decided to plant a cabbage seed.

 

Over the following weeks, the seed sprouted, leafed out and grew at an incredible rate. “Have you seen your cabbage today?” other gardeners would ask. Sara began to smile and reply. “The more she saw how successful this project was, this plant was, the more she felt successful,” says Darlene.  Her mindset shifted to: “I can create something good. I am something good.” By the time Sara harvested, cooked and shared her cabbage with the other gardeners, she had unfurled.

Darlene shared this story with Global Ministries staff during her mid-term training event last fall in New York. She and her fellow US-2s were invited to speak about the program’s three core values. Global Mission Fellows (including US-2s) aim to:

·         ENGAGE with local communities

·         CONNECT the church in mission

·         GROW in personal and social holiness

 

Engage

The community garden gives Darlene a way to engage with people at the Primavera Foundation in Tucson, Ariz. She works with — not for — the other gardeners to “plant pathways out of poverty.” By living simply and becoming co-laborers, Global Mission Fellows discover ways in which God is already at work in their placement sites.

 

Partnering with local communities also gives young adult missionaries the chance to witness systemic injustice. Sarah McKay, who does campus ministry through a Wesley Foundation in Miami, has become more aware of issues like homelessness, children of inmates and human trafficking. “What I’ve been able to do is personally engage with the community,” she says, “and invite the students alongside to discover what issues are present.”

 

Connect

Connecting the local church with the global church is one big way young adults are making disciples for the transformation of the world. Tara Miller, who works with homeless women at Mary’s Place in Seattle, takes her storytelling job very seriously. In her hometown of Williamsburg, Va., she says, “homelessness was illegal, so they would ship people out to the next town.” She tells that story often at churches in the Seattle area to raise awareness about the challenges and stigmas faced by people without homes.

Tara also takes her Seattle stories back home with her to Virginia. She speaks warmly of friends and coworkers who came on hard times and needed help to get back on their feet. She’s invited many local churches to participate in mission projects through prayer, financial support, emotional care and common action.

 

Grow

John Wesley, our Methodist founder, used the terms “personal holiness” and “social holiness” to describe our inward growth in the love of God and neighbor, which in turn leads to outward works of love. Personal holiness is developed through service, contemplation and spiritual disciplines. Social holiness follows naturally from a deepened relationship with God as each young adult missionary tries to emulate the compassion of Christ.

 

Allen Bower, who serves at the Albany United Methodist Society in New York, says that one way he’s grown has been through leading a simple life. For him, that means not having a car at his placement site. He walks at least three miles a day getting to and from work—and in Albany’s winter weather, that’s nothing to sneeze at.  While he walks, he does a simple Taizé meditation.

 

As they grow in personal and social holiness, many Global Mission Fellows are becoming spiritual leaders. They understand that faith and mission cannot be separated. Mistead Sai, a US-2 at Interfaith Worker Justice in Chicago, describes his faith journey as a three-tiered cake. Baptism is first, then confirmation, then mission. “Mission is the intentionality of living out one’s faith,” he writes. “What better way to seek a Christ-like personhood than to receive God's call into mission and be a missionary.”

 

Do these three core values ring true for you? Are you interested in becoming a young adult missionary, or do you know someone who might be? Now is the time to apply! Application deadline is January 15,2014. Learn more at www.umcmission.org/gmfellows.

 

*Julia Kayser is a writer and regular contributor to umcmission.org.

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