The globe spun: red, yellow and green countries whirled past, surrounded by bright blue oceans and rivers. My sister and I took turns spinning the globe faster and faster. We closed our eyes and touched the quickly-revolving ball, stopping it with a finger. My sister always aimed south, hoping to land on Australia, while I aimed for Great Britain, where I was born and baptized and where the Wesleys lived and worked. Since Britain is such a small island, however, my finger generally landed in Siberia. That was okay—I wanted to go anywhere besides West Virginia.
I grew up taking the mountains for granted, just as I took for granted the love of my church, my town, and my family. The West Virginia Annual Conference and my home church nurtured me while encouraging me to explore God’s call on my life. God was there in our community as we took communion, worshiped, and fellowshipped. I learned to see God in the poorly educated, in people with fewer material possessions, and in people with bad grammar and even worse accents. While I did not grow up in poverty, my passion for social justice developed as I grew up in a community in which you would sometimes “do without” and would always help a neighbor in need.
Eventually, my globe-spinning led me to major in International Studies and eventually to Galicia, an autonomous community of Spain where I studied abroad in 2006. In Galicia, my eyes opened to new expressions of love between God and God’s people as I became friends with several faithful women in the Catholic organization Opus Dei. My friend Marina, a numerary in Opus Dei, and I had many long discussions about religion that awoke a passion in me to dismantle the stereotypes that surround our faiths and our respective faith communities. We did not agree on every detail about God and Church, but we respected each other’s faith; we were united by the cross.
In addition to my friends in the Catholic Church, in Galicia I also became close to an atheist, who could not understand why my faith was important to me. As I listened and learned from him, he helped to clarify my vocational call. One night I finally blurted out to him, “God wants me to be a priest!” If I had been speaking in English, I would have said, “I think that perhaps God just might be calling me into some sort of vocational ministry,” but those qualifiers were absent in my rapid-fire Spanish. From the time those words flew out of my mouth, I knew they were true.
The next time I spun the globe, my finger landed on Nicaragua. This was not my first visit to Nicaragua. I initially went during high school, as part of a Mission of Peace (MOP) sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s Council on Youth Ministries of the United Methodist Church. The purpose of the Mission of Peace was to see God’s presence in Nicaragua, dispelling myths and stereotypes about the people we are visiting and about ourselves. We saw how God works in all of us, in all places. After seeing the need in Nicaragua, my MOP group raised the funds necessary to move ten families from the Managua city dump to a rural area, where they could start their lives anew. Five years later, I returned to Nicaragua to teach, translate, and work with the mission program. When we started Project Chacocente, there were no faces, names and stories; there was only the abstract concept of “ten families from the dump.” When I worked at Project Chacocente this summer, I could finally connect flesh and bones, struggles and dreams, to the individual people we were helping.
The globe has now spun back to the U.S. My sense of community has expanded to include “outsiders” like the adult immigrants I teach in my English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. My understanding of Christian community has also grown from the United Methodist Church in West Virginia to the worldwide body of Christ. I lead my university’s Council for Christian Unity (CCU), comprised of representatives from each Christian campus ministry; together, we have wrestled with what it means to be connected as Christ’s body.
While recognizing what binds us as children of God, I have also learned that we can still take a prophetic stand and speak truth to unjust situations. My prophetic voice has developed in regard to inter-group relations, particularly on issues concerning poverty, race and ethnicity, immigration, LGBT issues, and gender. I want to be part of Candler’s diverse community—an inclusive community that has women and men of various denominations, ethnicities, races, nationalities, and sexual orientations. Within Candler’s community, I look forward to engaging the hard questions of who we are and who God is. I expect to be challenged on my preconceived notions of theology and Scripture even while I learn more about my Wesleyan heritage. I want to learn and grow in the classroom as well as in worship, out-of-class discussions, and contextual education. I would be interested specifically in the Program for Women in Theology and Ministry, and campus groups like Sacred Worth and the Order of St. Luke. Finally, I want to gain both the practical and theological preparation necessary for pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church. I believe that Candler’s rigorous academic environment and inclusive community will prepare me for a life in ministry.
After Candler, I do not know where the globe will spin. I feel called to work in the local church, to empower other people to go on long and short-term missions; I want to engage mission-minded congregations to go out and change the world. Maybe the globe will spin to Latin America, where I can watch God set captives free. Perhaps I will work with the Church in Europe, hailing small signs of life in the now-dormant “cradle of Christianity.”* I could dedicate my life to increasing ecumenical dialogue and interaction, so that we all define ourselves as children of God. And maybe I will end up in my home among the hills, connecting Appalachians to God and to the world. Regardless of where I end up, I know that I will continue to seek God and follow God. I will embrace the world as my parish, spinning the globe as I think, pray, and engage.
~my seminary application, ca. two years ago~