Tuesday, July 31

I apologizing for taking so long to update my blog. I am really going to try to commit to updating at least on a weekly basis, because I really want you all to journey with me and be a part of this ministry.

This past week was jam packed with meetings and happenings. Along with two other missionaries, I traveled by train, along the beautiful Hudson Bay, to Newburgh, NY.  On Saturday night, we traveled out to the hilly, green town which is outside of the city in order to wake up and itinerate at a humble United Methodist Church in the morning. A couple from the church opened up there home to us for the evening. It's always overwhelming when complete "strangers" make you feel completely welcome in their homes. Surrounded by trees, the aroma of grass, and hills made me very aware of the presence of God. New York City is an adventure and has it's own unique beauty, but nothing beats being out in nature.

The session which had the greatest impact on me, since I last posted, is the Simple Living session. We discussed living simply involves not necessarily buying cheaper items, but buying resourcefully and intentionally. We talked about the huge impact shopping in local markets not only has on our own budgets, but the money also positively impacts the local economy. The session made me realize how much I do not need, yet I think I need things for comfort. Then, we met Lorenza. Lorenza is in ministry with the poor and marginalized, advocating for systemic changes by living on the streets in solidarity with the poor. Yes, she is living among the homeless in order to be a presence of God on the streets. She is an extremely humble lady and I know I'm not going to do her story any justice because her ministry is overwhelming to simply even hear about. She showed us the many things she carries in her pack- everything she owns she carries on her back. On the outside of her backpack, Lorenza has a wooden chalice and plate, in the past, she carried a metal chalice and plate for communion, but one homeless shelter denied her entry claiming the chalice could be used as a weapon. Instead, Lorenza spent the night on the bench, but was awoken in the middle of the night and handed a ticket by a police officer for sleeping in public. She has spent different nights in jail in order to passively protest how our justice system criminalizes the poor. Like I said, my few simple words can not even begin to describe how inspiration that is Lorenza. I do know I definitely saw Christ in the eyes of this beautiful woman.

Mission Interns and US-2s with Lorenza.

Monday, July 23

Park Slope UMC

From the corners of the world
from the confusion of life
from the loneliness of our hearts
Gather us, O God

To feed our minds
to fire our imagination
to free our hearts
Gather us, O God

Together with you,
Together with Christ,
Together with all our brothers and sisters in the Spirit.
Gather us, O God

Friends, a jaded and weary world why we are gathering here today.

Yesterday, Albert, Emma and I attended Park Slope United Methodist Church. We had the humble privilege of sharing our call stories with the congregation in place of the pastor's actual sermon. Once we arrived we soon discovered the woman leading worship that morning was actually a lay leader and the minister was out of town. I am impressed with how well the congregation welcomed each of us. The church actually has a "Circle of Ten" rule meaning "they will greet anyone, member or guest, who comes within ten feet of us." I'm proud of how all of the churches I've attended seem to welcome others fairly well; however, I love how intentional this congregation is with making others feel like apart of the church. They are extending God's kingdom.

I shared parts of my call story and Emma shared a story about the time she spent a year abroad in India. After meeting her host "sister" for one of the first times, Emma went to the local hot spot in town; Subway. While sitting outside enjoying their meal and getting to know each other, Emma noticed a community of people living under tarps just beside the restaurant. She asked her host sister "Who are those people?" The host sister replied, "What people?" Implying she does not acknowledge the people living under the tarps. Emma continued on to share it was a moment she realized one of the unjust systems within our society and the unjust ways people treat one another. She also asked the congregation to join each of our ministries through prayer, monetary donations, and sharing their own stories with us. I will share the impacts of asking other churches to join in our journey in just a little bit.

Albert preached. And man did he preach. Albert is the kind of guy who likes to plan things at the last minute which made me somewhat nervous as we tried to coordinate our messages the night before. Yesterday, Albert shared his beautiful understanding of how God breaks down boundaries and does not exclude anyone from His encompassing love. (Ephesians 2:19-22). It's always inspiring to listen to someone speak with such passion. Emma and I commented that he had "preacher arms" as he stretched out his arms to emphasize different points. The Holy Spirit was moving in the church.

After the service we had the opportunity of speaking with a few of the members. I think the most rewarding moments, as we continue to visit different churches, will involve the times I get to hear all the stories from my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I shared that by sharing God our stories with one another it allows us to be overwhelmed and inspired by one another in new ways. I was overwhelmed and inspired yesterday.

Finally, I want to share the creed of Park Slope United Methodist Church.... Do you think your own church is capable of such inclusive commitments?!

"Hand in Hand, we the people of Park Slope United Methodist Church - black and white, straight and gay, old and young, rich and poor - unite as a loving community in covenant with God and the Creation. Summoned by our faith in Jesus Christ, we commit ourselves to the humanization of urban life and to physical and spiritual growth."

Sunday, July 22

Training is non stop, but I feel like I am learning useful tools and having meaningful, growing conversations. We are now settled in New York City and jumped right back into activities and programming. Before leaving Stony Point, we all shared what we hope for or what we are excited about as we return to the city, while also stating an adjective that forms an alliteration with our names. I shared "Whhhispy Whitney". As for my excitement, I shared I am excited to encounter God within the big city. Most of the time I feel a desire to escape to a nature setting or somewhere quiet, but I want to seek God in business, in the hustle bustle, in the city.

Many of you may be wondering why in the world a bunch of missionaries need to train, even before departing to our countries of service, so let me share some of things we are learning.

  • We began training by discussion the overall theology of mission or the Missio dei. Our leader stated, "mission does not have anything to do with you" explaining how this is God's plan and we are just vessels used to spread the Lord's love and justice. He shared a quote from The Velveteen Rabbit,
"Once you are real it lasts FOREVER"
  •  We looked at the scripture John 3:16 and emphasized that Jesus preaches  
"For God so loved the WORLD..."  
not God so loved America.... or God so loved people who look similar to us.... or God so loved the Gentiles....or God so loved the middle class people.... NO!

"For God so loved the WORLD..." 

  • We discussed our strengths and how we manage conflict.
  • We discussed spiritual disciplines & christian practices.
  • We discussed Breaking the Chains of Power and Privlige
 And I could continue listing the topics we've covered; however, I think the main things I've gained so far from training is a deeper desire to be more intentional with my spirituality, time, perceptions,  and conversations. We are also given a beautiful opportunity to learn and grow together as a Young Adult Mission Service community. Yes, it is a little bit tough spending 12 hours everyday with the same people, but I feel we are growing in so many ways. It is such a unique group. Our groups hails all the way from California and spans the entire United States. There are people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, South Korea, Philippines, Ukraine, and Peru. Each of us is here with a different background, different theologies, and different encounters with God, yet we all share this calling from God to work for social justice in an international setting. More, I would say learning how to have a ministry of presence.

Tomorrow I will post about my experience humbly continuing to share my story with a small congregation in Brooklyn, NY.


Sunday, July 15

New Beginnings

I am currently sitting at the Stony Point Retreat center in Stony Point, NY at the end of my second day of training. For the next 3 weeks, I am participating in training led by staff from the Global Board of Global Ministries with the United Methodist Church as a Mission Intern. We are spending 10 days at this retreat center, 10 days in New York City and 3 days in Crystal City, Virgina/D.C. for our commissioning service. 

When I was a junior in High School, while attending my annual summer camp, I felt a calling into some kind of ministry. "Help others" are the words God placed on my heart. Also, I gained an intense desire to share the joy I had found in Christ with others. As I entered into my freshmen year at Texas Christian University, I carried, without clarification, a ministerial calling from the Lord.

I felt satisfied with my annual sacrifice to attend mission trip, but then I met Larry Cox and I was reminded that Jesus is calling us to do much more than give up one week once a year. Larry Cox understands when Jesus tells us to wash another's feet. When Jesus tells us Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. " For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." Matthew 16 or "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21.  Larry lived as a wealthy business man and after volunteering much of his time serving an impoverished community in Mexico he felt unsettled and did not want to simply serve once a year or every now and then. He decided to spend his life living and working with Dr. Nancy at Casa Bugumbilla in Matamorros, Mexico. He abandoned his life in comfort and chose to help this medical refuge, which mainly serves the sick and injured within the community.  After living and gaining the communities trust, Larry and Dr. Nancy also help with community development and act as faces of Jesus Chris in the community.  Out of happenstance one mission trip, my group stopped to use the restrooms at Casa Bugumbilla and as everyone started loading back into our van it happened to be me and our adult sponsor, Keith, remaining in the clinic. Keith and I briefly talked to Larry and he gave us a private tour of the facilities. I got to meet this average man who is a grand example of living like Christ and I got to see the people he blesses with his ministry. The Holy Spirit moved me and I have been unsettled ever since that day. 

I am excited and humbled to say that I will be working as a Mission Intern with the United Methodist church. The Mission Intern program is a social justice based program for young adults between ages 20-29. The young adults are placed throughout the globe working with partner ministries and organizations working for justice in many different aspects. The Mission Interns spend 18 months abroad and 18 months serving in a new placement within the Intern's home country. I think one of the coolest components of the program is the "from everywhere to everywhere" piece. Not only does GBGM send ministries from the United States to other countries, but the organization also recruits Interns from outside countries to come train in the United States. The international participants are also commissioned and sent to another country to serve. 

My placement is at Accion Medica Cristiana (AMC) (http://amcenglish.org/index.php) in Nicaragua, mainly in the city of Managua. AMC is an NGO which strives to improve community health through community development initiatives. From model farming to building latrines the organization aims to create sustainable programs which create healthier living situations. 

My job title is Facilitator for Volunteers and Communications. I will help organize the different volunteer groups who traveling to work at AMC, including traveling to many rural cities throughout Nicaragua. During the first 6-8 weeks I will take Spanish classes and live with a local family. 

I'm encouraging and inviting you to join me on my journey, because I want you to also experience what God is doing through hearing my stories and prayer. This adventure is not about ME. I am simply following where God is calling me. I'm going where God is already moving and working. Jesus calls all of us to learn from the meek, the poor, the needy.... I know I'm going to witness the Lord's love in extraordinary ways and I can't wait to share those moments with you. 

As part of my Mission Intern experience I'm expected to raise money for GBGM Young Adult Missionaries during the time I am serving. At first, this terrified me! I didn't want to ask others for money, but then I began learning about how it can turn into a spiritual experience in the sense that I am asking others to take part in this ministry through financial means. I will provide more information about financial support at a later time. I will also continue to ask for, along with monetary support, support through prayer. I know at times I will face trying times and the community are serve will also go through difficulties at times. I strongly believe in the power of prayer and would love for you to join in my ministry through prayer. 

I will continue to update you on my journey and share the overwhelming things I experience as I follow our Amazing God. 

I return to McKinney on August 5th and leave for Nicaragua on August 20th. 

Thanks for your support, love, and prayers!!