If you’re excited for me and my experiences in this program, but you keep wondering what exactly the program is, look no further. Here I will explain the Global Mission Fellows program to the best of my ability!
United Methodist Church (UMC): This is the church of which I’m a member. It’s a Protestant denomination that grew out of the teachings of John Wesley. I think some main things that make the UMC distinctive are the focus on God’s grace, the importance of social holiness, and the connectional nature of the church. The United Methodist Church, responding to God’s call for us to be in ministry with all the world, trains and commissions missionaries (like me!).
The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM): This is the agency of the UMC that is responsible for global missions. If you’ve heard of UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), that’s a part of GBGM. My program is run by GBGM.
Generation Transformation (GT): This is the conglomeration of several programs for young adult missionaries under GBGM. My program, Global Mission Fellows, is included in Generation Transformation.
Global Mission Fellows (GMF): My program! Global Mission Fellows is a two-year mission opportunity for young adults ages 20 to 30. There is an international track, and a US-2 (United States- 2 years) track, which is what I’m doing. When GMFs are accepted into the program, they are matched with an affiliate and worksite that they will partner with for two years, doing some kind of mission/social justice work.
THEOLOGY OF MISSION
What kind of program is this exactly? What does it mean to “do mission”/ to “be a missionary”? Different people and groups would answer that differently.
To me, being a missionary means following Jesus’ example by being in ministry with those who are oppressed by the principalities and powers of this world, and working with them to undo the sinful structures of oppression. It means loving and serving God by loving and serving those who society deems “the least of these.” It means working to transform the world bit by bit into the Kingdom of God, a universal family where justice and peace reign.
The General Board of Global Ministries lays out a “Theology of Mission” with seven parts. Here they are with little summaries by me:
God’s Mission from Creation to Completion: It’s not my mission or yours, it’s God’s mission. Mission “begins with God, belongs to God, and will be fulfilled by God at the end of time.”
The Self-Emptying Life of Jesus the Christ in Service to the Least and the Last: I like this one. It talks about how, because Jesus lived as a fully human being, “emptied himself of divine privilege,” and even died, we can be sure that God empathizes with human suffering, and that God is with us in the struggle against injustice. Jesus’ “self-emptying life” is also an example for missionaries, to give up privilege and be in solidarity with the people that we are in ministry with.
The Church as a Community of Servanthood in Mission: The Church exists for mission, and every single person in the Church is called to mission in one way or another. “The Church experiences and engages in God’s Mission as it pours itself out for others, ready to cross every boundary to call for true human dignity among all peoples, especially among those regarded as the least of God’s children.”
Grace at Work Everywhere: Our knowledge of the grace of God already at work is what inspires us to work to fulfill God’s promise of liberation to oppressed people and healing to all creation.
Transformative Witness: We tell stories and live in a way that reflects the love of Jesus.
God’s Prior Presence, Our Current Response: We have to recognize that God’s spirit is already moving everywhere in the world, and God’s image is already present in every human being. God favors no particular culture, tradition, political arrangement, or language.
The Spirit’s Surprising Activity: Be open-minded and receptive of the Spirit moving in radical and unexpected ways.
In addition to this theology of mission, the GMF US-2 program has three core values: ENGAGE with local communities, CONNECT the church in mission, and GROW in personal and social holiness.