From Fall 2004 through Spring 2006, the Rev. Paul Perez – then a student at Wesley Theological Seminary – served as an intern in the Peace with Justice and education and leadership formation programs at the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). In the summer of 2005, Perez coordinated GBCS' Ethnic Young Adult Internship Program (EYA).
"Accompanying GBCS staff and other (United Methodist) leaders to meet with elected officials on Capitol Hill was extremely empowering," said Perez. "I discovered that on the issues that matter most to me I was the expert and lawmakers needed to hear from their constituents. The experience gave me courage to claim the power of my voice and to encourage others to claim the power of their voices.
"Coordinating the EYA program was a blessing for my vocational discernment. Through that work, I discovered a passion for young adult leadership development through experiential learning."
Today Perez, a deacon in the Detroit Conference, is director for mission and justice engagement and leadership recruitment for the conference. "My time as a seminary intern at GBCS was integral to living out my call as a deacon," Perez said. "I drew on my experiences while serving as founding director of Justice for Our Neighbors – Southeastern Michigan, an immigration legal aid clinic. My work on the Central American Free Trade Agreement while an intern at GBCS helped me to understand many of the root causes of global migration and connect my work in Metro Detroit to larger issues of economic justice.
"Currently, as a conference staff member, I have the opportunity to lead the Detroit Conference to be a prophetic and compassionate presence in Michigan as we seek to be in ministry with people affected by immigration, refugee resettlement, poverty and the Flint Water Crisis.
"In addition, I administer our conference's young adult Mission Intern Program and serve as the Detroit Conference Affiliate Coordinator for the Global Mission Fellows Program. Both responsibilities offer the privilege of accompanying young adults as they engage in ministries of compassion and justice and discern their calling."
Cindy Solomon is a freelance writer and communications consultant based in Franklin, Tennessee.
Originally published in Interpreter Magazine, March–April, 2016