This missionary has completed service. The Advance number will remain active until December 31, 2021.
Michael W. Bennett III is a Global Mission Fellow with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, engaged in a two-year term of service. He was commissioned in August 2020.
The Global Mission Fellows program takes young adults ages 20-30 out of their home environments and places them in new contexts for mission experience and service. The program has a strong emphasis on faith and justice. Global Mission Fellows become active parts of their new local communities. They connect the church in mission across cultural and geographical boundaries. They grow in personal and social holiness and become strong young leaders working to build just communities in a peaceful world.
Michael is from Lakeland, Florida. He is a member of the Wesley Fellowship of Florida Southern College, Lakeland, in the Florida Annual Conference. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Economy and Business and Free Enterprise with minors in Religion and Economics and Finance from Florida Southern College. While in school, he was a member of Wesley Fellowship and served in various leadership roles in campus ministries.
Michael’s earliest memories come from the church. “I grew up in the church, I learned in the church, I cried in the church, and I encountered God in the church,” he said. “Because I had spent so much of my childhood in the church, I knew a lot of Scripture, but I was never taught how to apply the Scripture.”
When Michael started being sexually abused at age 12, he thought that God was allowing it to happen and that because his prayers didn’t seem to make a difference, he must not be very faithful. However, as a young adult, he started seeing the gospel in a fresh way and learned how much God really loves him.
“Through meeting with the campus minister,” he said, “my faith has been strengthened. I stepped out in faith and began to share my story of my childhood sexual abuse with youth from around the United States. God really started to work in this area of my life. My prayer through college was that God would teach me to forgive like Jesus did, so that I could move past the emotional and spiritual baggage that came with the six years of sexual abuse.
“I identify as a Christian, a follower of Christ, but have also embraced my identity as a sexual abuse survivor. My experience with and triumph over childhood sexual abuse has shaped my faith and has made me a better servant to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord has used the story of my faith journey to inspire others to open up about their individual experiences with sexual abuse and have led them to resuming their faith journeys.”
The call to mission, Michael said, “has been a long journey of wrestling with God.” For years, he planned to become a lawyer. “I had the grades and the experience to pursue this dream,” he explained, “but one day, the Lord completely removed this desire from my heart.” Driving through his childhood neighborhood, he realized that God did not call him to live an ordinary life.
“A crucial part to responding to this call to mission,” he said, “was that this was act of faith and service rather than a last resort that I was forced to accept. I was not going to go into ministry because I wanted to but because my faith called me to. No matter where God sends me, God’s will, still being perfect, will be done.”