By Michelle Scott Okabayashi August 1, 2019 | ATLANTA
Fifty young adults were commissioned in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as Global Mission Fellows this past week. They worshipped and studied together during a three-week orientation to prepare for two years of service in social justice ministries. Hailing from 26 countries, these young adults on the International Track will soon depart for 33 other countries.
The commissioning service, presided by Bishop Chin Chung Chong of the Methodist Church in Singapore, was held July 28 in Phnom Penh. The service blessed and sent these young adults, ages 20-30, to various places and types of service that range from a lab scientist in Ganta Hospital, Liberia, to a youth minister in Russia. “The Christian church has a wonderful tradition of sending people into mission service. We, as the people of The United Methodist Church, understand that our call is to go forth into the world to share God’s grace with all people,” noted the Rev. Dr. Judy Chung, about the road ahead for these young adults. Chung is the executive director of Missionary Service for Global Ministries.
The three-week orientation included training in the classroom on topics such as negotiation and conflict resolution, community organizing, spiritual disciplines and the practice of living simply. Orientation also pushed the GMFs out into the community to get hands-on experience on how to actively engage with people around them. “I’ve learned a lot from the orientation. I’ve learned patience and humility. . . I’ve learned to step out of my comfort zone and be engaged with my place of assignment community, which is full of diversity,” said Wingamkamliu Rentta from Nagaland, India. She will be serving in St. Lucia in the Caribbean.
GMFs visited the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh. This greatly impacted Rentta as she drew connections between Cambodia’s history and that of her homeland. “I have realized that as a Christian, it is my duty to help promote peace and justice. God created all of us equally and gave us freedom to choose in life. Every human being deserves the freedom to choose and live freely.”
The young adults not only felt connected to the Cambodian community around them, they also forged connections among themselves during the 21-day orientation. “Even though we are all from different countries, and we all have different stories and backgrounds, I felt that we were all one. It didn’t matter where we were coming from,” commented Navya Hopkins from Kansas. She will be serving as a children’s worker in Germany.
“We celebrate the diversity of this class,” comments Hannah Hanson, director of Young Adult Mission Service for Global Ministries. “At the same time, we lament the increasing challenges and discrimination surrounding entry to countries and visa approvals. Most notably, the five promising young leaders denied entry to the country for this orientation.”
Anaclet Ndayikunda, the first GMF from the East African country of Burundi, will be serving as a social educator with the Methodist Foundation for Social and Cultural Action in Brazil. During orientation he has been working to get a head start on learning Portuguese by working together with another GMF who is from Brazil. And while this has been helpful in a practical sense, Ndayikunda notes how the orientation has also prepared him on deeper levels: “It has been a response to all the fear, doubt and challenges I had back home. It was my opportunity to … connect the church in mission and grow in personal and social holiness.”
The 2019–2021 Global Mission Fellow cohort “are the leaders our church and our world need. They have come to orientation steadfast in a call from God and willing to take risks for mission,” comments Hanson. “With integrity and deep listening from God, they are setting an example we should all follow and are my hope as we face global problems.”
Michelle Scott Okabayashi is a freelance writer for Global Ministries.
Are you interested in learning more or applying to become a Global Mission Fellow? The application period for the next cohort will open September 15, 2019. Learn more about becoming a Global Mission Fellow at umcmission.org/gmf. Support young leaders as they seek to serve from everywhere to everywhere by giving to the Global Mission Fellows program.