Before his internship with the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), future lawyer Joshua S. Kulah admits he had no idea how involved and socially conscious his denomination is.
Kulah was an Ethnic Young Adult (EYA) intern with Church and Society in 2013. "I interned for the national policy director of Interfaith Worker Justice, a nonprofit based in Chicago with offices in Washington, D.C.," he said.
The summer internship exceeded this lifelong United Methodist's expectations.
"It was an opportunity to learn more about The United Methodist Church, a time to commune and fellowship with other interns from diverse backgrounds and have long discussions on socially significant issues," Kulah said. The EYA internship also included evening devotions, weekly reflection papers, a seminar at the United Nations in New York City and evening receptions and events with an international and national focus.
Interns provided cultural presentations about their home country and community, discussed topics centered on social justice and mercy, participated in daily Bible study and reflection and met key personalities in the social justice and religious arenas and members of Congress.
"My experience with the EYA was pivotal in affirming my passion for young people, development and leadership capacity building, and social justice advocacy," Kulah said. "I am eternally grateful to God for such a unique opportunity to learn so much about myself and the many life lessons I would not get in a regular classroom."
Deciding how to fit his passion with his career path was challenging, but the internship sharpened Kulah's focus.
"I was studying political science and international affairs at Asbury University in Kentucky," he said.
Through the internship, Kulah visited the United Methodist Office at the United Nations in New York. There he learned he could pursue a career in international law and human rights, so that he could fulfill his passion by advocating for policies affecting the lives of young people in societies around the world."
Today Kulah is a student at Atlanta's John Marshall Law School in Georgia, pursuing a Juris Doctorate in international law and human rights. He works with the Office of Student Services connecting pro bono opportunities for law students to give free services in the Metro-Atlanta area. He also is involved with the Immigration Law Society.
Kulah is no stranger to United Methodism.
"I grew up a United Methodist in Liberia," he said. "I was baptized and confirmed at the age of seven in the S.T. Nagbe United Methodist Church in Monrovia. My family later moved to another community where we affiliated with the New Georgia United Methodist Church in Gardnersville."
He was involved in youth activities on local church, district and annual conference levels. His father, the Rev. Jerry P. Kulah, is dean of the Gabarnga School of Theology. His uncle is Bishop Arthur F. Kulah.
Now affiliated with Northwoods United Methodist Church in Doraville, Georgia, Kulah volunteers at the church's health clinic and takes advantage of other outreach opportunities.
Kulah will soon return to Liberia – at the invitation of the Rev. Neal Christie, Church and Society's assistant general secretary for education and leadership formation. He will spend the summer teaching the Social Principles and working with youth clubs that GBCS organizers there have started.
Kulah is eager to nurture young leaders in his homeland. "I want to be a part of the great work they are doing in Liberia with grassroots outreach and social advocacy," he said.
"The best way to safeguard the future of any society is to prepare the young people to be responsible and productive adults."
Barbara Dunlap-Berg is general church content editor at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee.
Originally published in Interpreter Magazine, March –April , 2016.