Young Missionaries Drawn to Ministries with the Poor

New York, NY, September 22, 2011—To engage in ministry with the poor is a key mission service motivation for a majority of 26 new United Methodist young adult missionaries.

Rachael Berry, a recent college graduate from Champlain, Illinois, summed up much of the sentiment: “I’ve learned the theories as to why people are poor. I feel I have the attitudes and skills to help alleviate poverty. The next step is to get out there and take action.”

Ms. Berry is one of 18 United Methodist mission interns commissioned in mid-August for three year terms, half in an international setting and half in their home country. She is assigned to a project in the Philippines.

Mission as Faith in Action

Seeing mission as faith in action is also common among the young missionaries.

Joseph Kanyike, a mission intern from Uganda, taking part in ecumenical work in Switzerland, believes that “a call to mission is a call to action." He describes mission as “that zeal and desire to bring about change, to end extreme suffering, to respond to God's voice, to accept the call and say, 'Here I am Lord'.”

It was while on a mission trip in Sierra Leone that Christopher Alan Steppe from Berke, Virginia, became aware of the extent of poverty. “It truly hit me just how much need there is worldwide,” he said.  He is one of eight new youthful missionaries through a program of two years of service in the US (US-2). He is working in a Nome, Alaska community center related to United Methodist Women.

Zachary Ferguson of Martinsville, Virginia and a graduate of the University of Richmond, is putting his commitment to overcome poverty to work as a US-2 through the Workers Interfaith Network in Memphis, Tennessee. The network promotes fair, living wages for all employees.

Marjorie Hurder, a native of Louisiana, another US-2, hopes that her work in a Salt Lake City United Methodist community center will help her ‘to explore how I can use the experience to help further God's kingdom and be in mission with the poor.”

Awareness of Poverty in Faith Journeys

An awareness of Christian responsibility to identify with the poor and eradicate poverty appears in faith journey statements of about 80 per cent of the new youthful missionaries. These statements were made individually as the part of biographical information specifically provided for public use.

Of the 26 new mission interns and US-2s, some ninety per cent are assigned to ministries with the poor in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. Three are working with the poor in Haiti.

Joy Prim, a North Carolina native serving with a migrant ministry for women in Hong Kong, sees a close relation between ministry with the poor and justice.  This, says the mission intern, became evident to her on a mission trip to Kenya while enrolled in United Methodist-related Pfeiffer University, Meiseheimer, NC.

Influence of Mission Trips

Ms. Prim is among the large percentage of the new young adult missionaries citing volunteer in mission trips as strongly influencing both their sense of mission and their awareness of ministry with the poor as mission.

Stephanie Kimec, a US-2 missionary from Midlothian, Virginia, was also deeply influenced by her mission trips to Latin America and to the powerful faith she saw among poor people. “In my time in Guatemala, I was so amazed by the faith lives of the people I encountered who had so little, yet their faith was so much stronger than mine.”

 Michelle Dromgold, a native of Rochester, New York, also agrees with Ms. Prim about the relationship between injustice and poverty.  She is doing her international service with the Evangelisch-methodistische Salem-Gemeinde Neukölln, Kindertreff Delbrücke (Kindertreff), an interfaith ministry with children in Berlin, Germany.

“As a Christian,” she says, “I am called to action to help create sustainable change in the world with which God has blessed us and, in so doing, achieve a reality in which the peace and justice that Jesus exemplified is true for all individuals. As a young female adult, I must work to empower the leaders of tomorrow—the children, youth, and young adults, and particularly the women, who have the authority to change the present system.”

Concern about Use of Resources

Alexander DeVoid, another North Carolinian and Pfeiffer University graduate, is among the mission interns concerned about the use and misuse of natural resources as a factor in ministry with the poor. He is assigned to Acción Médica Christiana in Nicaragua. Alex has a strong sense of the need of Christians to stand against injustice and apathy whenever "resources are being depleted, healthcare is being denied, workers' rights are non-existent." Seeing the truth, he says, can lead to action because God is "in and around us, just beyond the facades, and can pull us into truth and give purpose to all our acts."

Rachel Michelle deBos, a US-2 from Southern California, is happy she is working with Project HEAL, a South Florida ministry in a four-county areas that includes a great many people evacuated as a result of the January, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. She is helping to identify families needing assistance and recruits volunteers to help with case management clinics.

Jesus as Model

Su Hyun Lim, an intern from South Korea serving in Switzerland, understands the importance of Jesus’ love and empowerment in all ministry, including ministry with the poor. She takes him as her model of ministry: “Jesus remained faithful to God’s mission and purpose. He had a brave heart and critical insight.” And, like Jesus, Ms. Lim wants “the reign of God to come in the world.”

Ministry with the poor is one of four priority focus areas of The United Methodist Church. Global Ministries is charged with keeping the spotlight on this priority. 

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