Whether they choose to serve as short-term missionaries or in ongoing programs or secular ministries, millennials (young adults born between 1980 and 1999) are leaving their mark in the world.
Generation Transformation, an initiative of the General Board of Global Ministries, provides opportunities for young people to engage in mission throughout the United Methodist connection. The programs include Global Mission Fellows (two years, ages 20-30); Global Justice Volunteers (two months, 18-30); and individual volunteers (flexible length, 18 and older).
Global Mission Fellows work with organizations worldwide that address human trafficking, workers' rights, collegiate ministry, youth and children's concerns, women's rights and other social justice issues. Joyful Evangelista "Joy Eva" Bohol is a Global Mission Fellow.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in mass communication from the University of Philippines, Bohol worked as a mainstream media journalist for four years before serving as national president of The United Methodist Youth Fellowship in the Philippines. (Ed. Note: Young Filipino United Methodists often leave good jobs to spend a year or longer serving the church as the fellowship president. "Youth" includes both teens and young people in their mid- to late 20s.) Bohol also was a Discipleship Resources team member in the Philippines and worked as an Emmaus Walk community coordinator. "I knew for years that I would enter mission as a vocation," Bohol says.
She now initiates digital projects involving women and children as part of Centro Popular para América Latina de Comunicación in Bogotá, Colombia. "Experiencing the struggles and issues in Colombia has empowered me to be more active in responding to our own issues in the Philippines," Bohol says.
"My passion for mission and to be God's agent of peace and justice is burning wildly. My exposure confirmed my calling for long-term mission work."
Global Justice Volunteers draws young adult participants from all over the world to serve all over the world. Teams of volunteers spend eight weeks in the summer exploring faith and social justice as they work with grass-roots organizations. Volunteers serve with people from their host community to address issues such as HIV and AIDS, poverty, human trafficking and migrants' rights.
Jason Riffe first heard about the program while interning with United Methodist Women at the United Nations. "My calling is to work for the affirmation of dignity for all persons in our global society. I felt I needed more contextual experience in order to truly comprehend the marginalization and suffering in which most of humanity exists," Riffe says.
He and two other volunteers spent 10 weeks in Dallas resettling refugees to the United States. "We would meet them at the airport; prepare their apartments; secure Social Security cards, food stamps and Medicaid; and place them in jobs," he says. "The profound work came in listening to the refugees' stories, sharing our hearts and being present to alleviate their trauma. Many had waited more than eight years in a refugee camp. All had fled some form of violent persecution."
Riffe returned to Union Theological Seminary in New York for his second year. Today he is an individual volunteer coordinating volunteers for the Methodist Church of Haiti. "Being a (Global Justice Volunteer) exposed me to the opportunities to answer my call through (Global Ministries). Without participation in the GJV program, I would not have been able to integrate both my vocation and calling into my work today."
Young People's Ministry in the Philippines
As the United Methodist Youth Fellowship president in the Philippines Annual Conference, Clarence Marrick Ancheta is the official representative of the UMYF-PAC. She presides over sessions, meets with district leaders, organizes and conducts executive meetings, spearheads fellowship activities and participates in other church programs and with partner ecumenical institutions.
"I've been blessed with my loving and supportive family, a passionate team of officers and lay people who are continuously supporting the ministry of the youth in our conference," Ancheta says.
She plans to apply to be a Global Mission Fellow or continue serving as a youth adviser. "Being in the young people's ministry or in youth ministry itself ... is a chance to develop one's self, faith, vision, aspirations for the youth and for the leaders that you are working with," she says. "It serves as an avenue to educate, inspire and train future youth who want to serve" in any service ministry to which they have been called.
Millennials in the secular workplace
Some young adults work within the United Methodist structure or take a year before beginning college to serve with other faith-based groups. God also is present through people who serve in secular jobs. Emily Ling and Nathan Jerkins from Servant United Methodist Church, Austin, Texas, are two of them.
Ling is a project coordinator for the Texas Jail Project, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of people incarcerated in county jails in Texas. Staff and volunteers help families of inmates get needed resources and advocate for improved jail regulations.
Ling manages a program documenting the impact of detention on inmates, families and communities. "Approximately 60 percent of inmates in jail have not been convicted of anything," Ling says. "They are considered pretrial. In theory, many will post bond and go home while things are settled." The trend she sees in Texas and elsewhere is that "many people are not wealthy enough to afford bail, and so our jails are often full of poor people who wait weeks, months and sometimes years for their case to get settled."
She adds, "We've got to be using the energy and creativity God gives us to enter into suffering and sorrow and work for restoration, healing and love in those darker places. Sometimes all we can do is be present and bear witness to the pain of others, but even that can be redemptive.
"Hopefully, on good days, we can help bring health where there is sickness, bring hope where there is despair, bring love where there is shame and bring freedom where there was captivity."
Jerkins is co-founder and associate artistic director of the seven-year-old Penfold Theatre Company in Austin. Penfold has produced dozens of show and events, won nominations and awards and established a reputation for high-quality contemporary theater. "We tell stories in the hope that our audiences might leave better able to imagine themselves in others' shoes, to empathize more deeply with those whom they have a hard time seeing as their sisters and brothers, and to more easily recognize the image of God in others and their works of the Spirit in the world," Jerkins says.
He credits his other role – as a social worker for the American Cancer Society – with strengthening the "empathy and concern for humanity that have served me well in my theatrical endeavors as well as in my life and faith."
Cindy Solomon is a marketing consultant and content writer living in Franklin, Tennessee. Originally published in Interpreter magazine, May-June 2015.