Monday, September 12, 2016

Ecuador Mission Discovery

It's been over 2.5 years since I came back from living in Ecuador. The 18 months I spent there transformed my understanding of my faith and a life called to social justice. I learned what it meant to truly be part of a community, to live and worship together, to share small moments in the every day. After completing my domestic missionary assignment in Alabama and finishing the Generation Transformation program, I knew I wanted to stay in touch with the global church, especially my friends and neighbors in Ecuador. 

At the beginning of last year, while completing my Master's degree in Social Work, a friend from Indiana Annual Conference contacted me because she had recently traveled to Ecuador and met Sara Flores, the missionary I worked closely with there. After some conversations with the conference, we decided a journey to Ecuador would further the global connection and mission of the church. The Ecuador Mission Discovery would be an opportunity for young people from the U.S. to meet young adults from Ecuador and build relationships while learning about the Methodist Church in a new context.

I was asked to co-lead this mission journey, which will take place in just a few months. We have been planning for the past year and have 8 young adults on the team. Our journey will begin in late December (after Christmas) and end the second week of January. While in Ecuador, we hope to invite several young Ecuadorians from local Methodist churches to join us in order to establish a connection between the two faith communities. The team will be working in various churches in the Sierra, or mountain region, doing some construction work, children's ministry, and exploration of the local culture with faith leaders.

The main focus of this trip is to foster intercultural dialogue and develop relationships between American and Ecuadorian Methodists. We believe that both nations and churches have much to learn from one another, and we hope to see God at work through the sharing of stories, experiences, and faith. Please pray for our team as we prepare for this incredible journey in la tierra de fuego

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Good Jobs Now

Well, it happened.

The day finally came. I finished my master's program and I am now an MSW! This past year has flown by, and I've been so blessed to have spent the last 12 months in the delightful city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the stores are hip, the coffee is freshly roasted, and the people are socially conscious. I am thankful for wonderful friends, connections with some hard-core social activists out there changing the world, a quality education, and my own personal success of toughing it up and going back to school. But, alas, my time in this cozy college town is coming to a close.

As a firm believer in living one's life in seasons, I am pleased to announce I have started a new (albeit short) season of my career: I've accepted a job as a Field Organizer with a non-profit organization called Good Jobs Now doing organizing around social justice issues in conjunction with the upcoming election. We are talking to residents of Detroit about five main issues: better jobs and a living wage, affordable child care, long-term care for seniors, racial justice, and immigration reform. We are also encouraging folks to register to vote, because this year's crucial election is only two months away! (So if you're not registered, go to your local Secretary of State office today).

Over the next few months, my team will be planning events locally in the city to build momentum around these issues and empower people to create changes in their own communities. Everyone has something to contribute: whether it's leadership skills, a knack for organization, relationships to others, speaking or writing, or just commitment of time. We know that when people come together to fight for improvements in their city, sparks will fly. Things will happen. I'm privileged to be a part of this critical work to make Detroit a better and more just place for everyone.

For today, I will leave you with this nugget of inspiration from Lilla Watson, a renowned indigenous Australian activist:

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Back to Academia

I'm doing it.

I'm getting a Master's degree.

I'm living the dream of a 20-something on a shoestring budget, sacrificing it all to feed her intellectual curiosity, hoping that one day she'll put the education to good use doing something worthwhile in the world. I'm working part-time and hanging out at the library on Saturday nights instead of socializing. Rushing around to the next meeting, class, or appointment like I haven't a moment to spare, because it's all good experience to put on my resume, you know.

Or maybe it's more than that.

Maybe I actually enjoy sitting in the classroom hour after hour because I find the idea of community organizing fascinating and see its potential to change the world. I soak in every word on the page and attend events on campus and try to get involved with local organizations working for justice. I listen to stories of my classmates and professors to learn about their experiences and dreams. Because I want to be a part of it. 

Returning to school after four years was not an easy decision to make. After graduating from Hope, I had made up my mind never to go back - I was done for good, forever. Grad school was just not for me. I could find a good job with my BSW or maybe live abroad for a while (I ended up doing just that, and it changed my life). However, near the end of those challenging and shaping years as a missionary, I heard God calling me to continue my studies. Steering me in a new direction. Beginning a new season of life.

I knew it would be difficult to get back into the "swing of things" as a student, learning to manage my time, focusing my mind to read for long hours, and of course, the dreaded group projects. I won't deny the first few weeks knocked the breath out of me, but I soon adjusted and developed a weekly rhythm. I even figured out the bus schedule.

Yes, there is lots and lots of reading. Papers and projects galore. But I find myself loving every minute of it. Every day brings with it experiences I never would have imagined. From planning a fundraising campaign for a local organization, to advocating for immigrants to naturalize, to exploring the injustice of gang violence in Central America, I couldn't be more excited about the work I'm doing. If that's not a sign that God has a plan and I'm in the right place, I don't know what is. I am forever grateful for this journey that I'm on.

For now, I'm going to keep focusing on school and gaining social work experience. In less than 8 months, I'll be an MSW! As I continue discerning what's next after school in August, your prayers would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading.