For information about the GMF program, please see my first blog post!
As the daughter of two pastors in the United Methodist Church, I participated in a variety of ministry opportunities growing up: after-school tutoring, mentoring younger students, directing Vacation Bible Schools, playing guitar in worship, and leading Youth Bible studies. My formative years spent working in urban communities with children and youth from differing socioeconomic circumstances opened my eyes to systematic injustice and the necessity for church programs that advocate for social justice. After graduating high school, I served hundreds of elementary and middle school students from across the state as a camp counselor and music minister at Warren W. Willis summer camp in Leesburg, Florida. My experience there, with children and youth from so many different backgrounds, showed me the prevailing need to provide love, mercy, and support to all students.
Being plugged into the local church and participating in outreach programs has continued into my adult life, and my cross-cultural experiences with missions have deepened my understanding of Jesus’ call for me: to be in ministry that empowers people to reach their maximum potential as learners and global citizens. I participated in three short-term international missions trips over the course of my undergraduate studies. The first trip was with an undergraduate student group to rural Guatemala, the second was to Africa University and the Fairfield Children’s Home in Zimbabwe, and most recently I served in Japan. These experiences helped me realize that discriminatory education policies need to be addressed all over the world.
In Guatemala, our team facilitated a VBS for hundreds of local children using Bible-based curriculum I wrote in Spanish. We also served on construction sites; building houses for needy community members. At Africa University, I participated in nightly Bible Study with college students from across the continent, volunteered daily at the nearby children’s home, and helped to lead worship both with students on campus and community members in the bush. My time in Japan was filled with connection-making ministry between my local church and the Japanese UMC. I taught English to elementary-aged students in Osaka and rural Japan, visited missionaries near Kobe and Hiroshima, and worshipped with several congregations in Hiroshima and Osaka.
While in college, I also served for two years as the Youth Ministries Director at John Wesley UMC in Tallahassee, Florida. I worked with a group of diverse middle and high school students including first generation immigrants from Kenya and Uganda and students from the PACE Center for Girls, a school that provides education for at-risk or special needs students. I continued my studies by pursuing a Masters of Science in Teaching with a focus on English Education because I wanted to learn how to take mission service one step further.
Rather than just acting as a pair of hands on a construction site or a smiling face in a worshipping congregation on a different continent, I feel called to serve disadvantaged communities with the best I can offer and to contribute to sustainable ministry and educational programming that promotes grassroots social change. In my graduate studies, I have developed a solid pedagogical skill set and educative philosophy that allow me to share my faith-inspired passion for social justice, multiculturalism, and working with children and youth. I prayed about my call to international missions at the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly in the Philippines. After the 2014 class of Global Mission Fellows was consecrated by an international council of bishops, the speaker asked anyone with an interest in serving in missions to stand. I found myself instantly rising to my feet and clearly feeling God call me to mission work as a GMF.
Through the Global Mission Fellows program, I hope to engage in cross-cultural missions, connect with Christians from all over the world, and grow spiritually and personally. My hope is that this experience will provide the opportunity to engage in kingdom-building work in other parts of the world and in my chosen field. I also hope to be immersed in and learn from other cultures through my placement site in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China. As a GMF, I will be able to actively engage in and contribute to the global church ministry reality I fell in love with on my short-term mission trips.
I look forward to growing with my cohort of GMFs, a multicultural group of inspired young people working in missions to address social justice issues around the globe. With this opportunity to serve as an international missionary for two years, I will be able to experience the profundity of Christ-centered connection that unites us all as the people of God. The more I have served through mission trips, the more I have come to realize that God made me with a heart for mission work. This is how God grows me, and it is where I feel the most effective in ministry. Each short-term international mission trip I have completed is a mountain top experience in my spiritual development. I feel humbled to have served in the past, and I treasure the friendship and the challenges I have shared with the people I met in Guatemala, Zimbabwe, and Japan. I know that God will continue to use me through missions, and I feel led by God to continue pursuing this call to mission work through the GMF program for the next couple of years.
My long-term vocational plans are in God’s hands, and through prayer, I have found peace in trusting that God has a design for my life. My experiences serving in local churches have helped me discern my call to missions, which I know will continue to be a very important piece of my life. Through my studies in education and teaching as well as my lifelong work with children and youth, it has become clear that God has given me spiritual gifts like teaching, compassion, leadership, and administration to be used in whatever contexts have need.
My hope is to offer my theory-supported pedagogy and practical skill set as tools for ministry. Its inspiring to be part of a program that exists to engage young adults in hands-on action for social justice through the church, and I know that these experiences will equip me to continue fighting for equal educational opportunities for all learners.