Stephanie Kimec, St. Mark's UMC in Midlothian; Bishop Young Jin Cho; Zachary Ferguson, First UMC, Martinsville; and Hannah Hanson, Mt. Olivet UMC, Arlington.
Three Young Adults from Virginia Share Mission Paths at SEJ Conference
Three young adults from Virginia who are serving as missionaries with the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) attended the 2012 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference to tell their stories and encourage support for the GBGM US-2 and Mission Intern programs. All three helped lead opening worship and gave testimonies at business sessions.
Hannah Hanson, a 25-year-old from Mt. Olivet UMC in Arlington, just completed three years serving in South Africa and Orlando, Fla., as a GBGM missionary in the Mission Intern program.
Mission Interns, ages 20-30, commit to a three-year program of leadership development serving half the time in an international assignment and half in the intern's home country, based on the understanding that work for social justice is fundamental to the living out of their faith.
Hanson worked in South Africa providing training in community agriculture, poultry farming and fish pond management – areas in which she had no experience. The goal was to teach people how to grow enough not only to sustain their families but also to have enough left over to sell for additional income.
“I spent a lot of time researching at night and learning from students who had done this before,” she said. “Being a missionary means being really flexible and being able with integrity to best teach or support whatever ministry you’re doing.”
Hanson also worked in an HIV counseling and testing clinic named Bula Monyako (“Open the door”} that offered counseling to AIDS patients and attempted to break down stigmas against people with HIV/AIDS.
After returning to the U.S., she was assigned to Orlando as education and advocacy coordinator for Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) that provides welcome, legal services, education and advocacy for immigrants.
She tells of two active members of a United Methodist church youth group who were undocumented because they had been brought to the United States as children.
“They were afraid to tell their church what their status was,” Hanson said, “because their church was very anti-immigrants. It became very clear to me that we needed to work on education in our churches.”
Three young adults from Virginia who are General Board of Global
Ministries missionaries attended jurisdictional conference to encourage
support for US-2 and Mission Intern programs. Left to right: Hannah
Hanson, Mt. Olivet UMC, Arlington; Zachary Ferguson, First UMC,
Martinsville; and Stephanie Kimec, St. Mark's UMC in Midlothian.
She praised Bishop Timothy Whitaker, who was instrumental in establishing the JFON office in Florida, and Florida Conference district superintendents who provided support.
“Immigration affects us all,” Hanson said. “The decisions we make as a country and as individual consumers contribute to reasons behind global migration.”
She noted that there are more than 200 million migrants worldwide, and the immigration issue goes back to biblical times.
“So many of our prophets were sojourners,” she said. “We are called in the Bible to welcome the stranger.”
Hanson now will serve as a mission interpreter for young adult missionaries, a newly created position with GBGM, working out of GBGM’s New York City headquarters. She will be telling her stories and the stories of all young adult missionaries around the world in visits to local churches across the United States.
“We need to recruit more young people, and we need local churches to spread the word about these mission programs for young adults,” she said.
Hanson can be contacted at HannahHanson@umcmission.org. Her Advance Special number is 3021522.
Stephanie Kimec, 26, is a member of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Midlothian. For the past year she has been a US-2 working as an immigration task force coordinator for the California-Pacific Conference and serves as a justice disciple for immigrant welcoming congregations.
US-2s are young adults ages 20-30 who serve for two years in a social justice and leadership development program by working in faith-based agencies and community organizations throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In California, Kimec coordinates neighborhood immigration clinics that are held in churches and staffed with church member volunteers “so the churches can build relationships with the communities and so our neighbors will know that the churches are hospitable and welcoming,” she said.
Kimec said she first felt a call to do mission work when the Rev. Pat Watkins and the Rev. Denise Honeycutt, missionaries from the Virginia Conference, made a presentation at her church. “Through their sharing, I felt a call to mission and ministry,” Kimec said. “I denied that call for years, but I always came back to it.”
She worked one summer as an intern in the Virginia Conference offices and decided to go to seminary. Once she completes her US-2 service, she plans to begin the process to become an elder in the Virginia Conference.
“I come from a conference and a jurisdiction that loves young people and loves mission,” Kimec said. “For those two things I am incredibly grateful.”
She said the Virginia Conference has supported her financially, emotionally and spiritually. “On the hard days I know that all these people in Virginia are praying for me,” Kimec said. “That helps a lot.”
She encouraged church members to “talk about the mission and ministry that you all are doing because it inspires young people, it inspires everyone. And it is so important to the life of the church.”
She also encouraged church members to talk about the ministry of the General Board of Global Ministries because “it changes lives.”
Kimec can be contacted at SLKimec@gmail.com. Her Advance Special number is 3021353.
Zachary Ferguson, 24-year-old from First UMC of Martinsville, currently serves as a US-2 in Memphis, Tenn., working with the Workers Interfaith Network supporting workers’ rights and fighting wage theft.
Ferguson said, like many young adults today, he cares about social justice and is driven to do something to make a difference in the world. But he didn’t think the church offered him a way to do that.
“I wanted to live out the ministry of Jesus without being confined by four walls,” he said. “I thought that was impossible in the church.”
Ferguson had never heard of the GBGM young adult mission programs. He was on the http://rethinkchurch.org website and clicked on the link to a story. The link took him to the GBGM website. He kept trying to get to the story he wanted, but the link kept taking him to GBGM.
“It made me mad,” Ferguson said, “so I just closed my browser.”
Later he read a quote by Howard Thurman in Jesus and the Disinherited: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do it. Because the world needs people who have come alive.”
The quote reminded him of the young adult mission programs he had seen on the GBGM website, so he checked them out and ended up volunteering.
In Memphis, he affiliated with St. Luke’s UMC and has started a Sunday school class for young adults. Instead of using traditional curriculum, the class “looks at our faith through the lens of social justice.”
He said he thinks it can revitalize the church and reach out to young people who have been alienated, or even hurt, by the church.
“We are trying to live so we get outside the four walls of the church to connect with the community. The first goal of the class is to boldly live out the [United] Methodist motto of ‘Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.’”
“To the Virginia Conference,” Ferguson said, “I want to say thank you so much for your support, your prayers and your gifts that have made my mission possible.” He also expressed thanks to the Memphis Conference for welcoming him and to all the conferences in the jurisdiction that support young adult missionaries. “Your support means more to us than I could ever say.”
Ferguson can be reached at ZRF.email@example.com. His Advance Special number is 3021351.