Mari Ellyzsa Echon Valencia is an international Global Mission Fellow with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, engaged in a two-year term of service.
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.
Ellyzsa is a member of Augusta (Georgia) Korean American Methodist Church. Leading the youth group at St. James United Methodist Church in Athens, Georgia, she facilitated discussions for middle- and high-school students and discipled individuals.
“I hope to continue to develop my skills to lead others, specifically those younger than I am, into a life with God, and to use my experiences and creativity to further God’s love for both adults and children,” she said.
Ellyzsa holds a master’s degree in science education from the University of Georgia, Athens.
“Since coming to college,” Ellyzsa said, “I’ve learned what it truly means to grow closer to God. It is simply being intimate with God. I’d describe my spiritual growth as sweet and intimate, but also unfamiliar. As I spend time and effort with God, I become more aware of who he is as God and as my personal savior, which has helped me to find my identity in Christ. However, it is also unfamiliar because as I gain new experiences, God continues to reveal different parts of his mysteries, allowing me to see his next glory.
“It has become easier to be closer to God and to make the necessary sacrifices that have helped me to live in freedom and be bold in who God made me to be,” she added. “I am continuing to learn how to make God a priority in the midst of my busy life and to trust God in everything I do. Of course, I still struggle, but I find it easier to find God in my daily life because of how he’s been changing my life. Over the last five years, living in Athens on my own, I have become more intentional in my pursuit of becoming more like Christ, as my environments, relationships and circumstances constantly change. I am reminded of Romans 5:3-5; as I have persevered, my hope has grown.”
Although Ellyzsa’s parents are missionaries, she wanted to make her own decision about following in their footsteps. “For the past two years,” she admitted, “it’s been a constant turmoil of making sure my heart is right with the Lord, but after praying about it, I am confident that I am called to mission work. God has been preparing me as he created me specifically to love others well and to show every person I encounter what it means personally to experience love from the Lord. I want to be obedient to what God has placed on my heart and to step out in faith wherever God sends me.”