I thought I’d take a pause midway through the week to write about the “Why” behind this mission trip. After all, we got underway with a pretty sparse post and here we are, halfway in without much context, save for those who are here and/or who have sent loved ones. And with that, let’s take a moment to explore why we’re here and why we’re doing what we’re doing in Washington, D.C. and Steubenville, Ohio.
Rev. Lyndy Zabel is the Director of Missional Impact for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Through his office, he helps steer the Conference’s connections with outreach ministries and partnerships across the nation and the world. Through a Conference grant, Pastor Lyndy hoped to revive an old Conference tradition of bringing young people out east for a taste of faith meets politics. When I found out this trip to Washington, D.C. would happen during the same week that Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church traditionally goes on a mission trip, I spoke with my team about the possibility, and here we are. It’s a Conference-wide trip with teens and adults from at least six churches coming together.
This mission trip has three distinct mission fields: justice, compassion, and community. Here’s the context that participants and their families received before departure:
Justice Mission Field
The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) is one of four international general program boards of the United Methodist Church. Their headquarters is on Capitol Hill in Washington DC in the Methodist Building, which is the only non-government building on Capitol Hill (in-between the Senate Office Buildings and the Supreme Court). The ministry focus of GBCS is five-fold: public witness and advocacy, administration, ministry of resourcing congregational life, United Nations ministry, and Communications.
The Seminar program is about learning, experiencing, growing and engaging around issues that affect our communities. Activities during a seminar include experiential exercises, small group discussions, and opportunities to express what we’ve learned in various art forms. Our primary area of learning will revolve around immigration justice, anti-racism, racial justice, and reconciliation. We’ll encounter speakers from GBCS, National Justice for Our Neighbors, United We Dream, the General Commission on Religion and Race (UMC), an NAACP Award-winning artist, and more.
Through the Seminar program, we hope to return to our Annual Conference with new understanding in our minds and new hope in our hearts for bringing justice and racial equality to Minnesota and beyond. Learn more: dev.umc-gbcs.org/about-us
Compassion Mission Field
The J.O.S.H.U.A. program is a mission ministry of Urban Mission Ministries, an ecumenical Christian social service agency with United Methodist roots. JOSHUA stands for Journeys Of Service Helping Upper Appalachia and its ministry is changing the lives of families in and around Steubenville, OH. This 19,000-person city, known as “The City of Murals” and located within a greater metropolitan area of over 124,000 people, has been in economic decline for some time. After the steel industry waned in the 1980s, there have been less jobs and a need to create new industries. JOSHUA has been alive and well in the area since 1959 as a social service agency and since 1990 as a mission ministry. The mission is to provide integrated services that nurture, restore dignity, and serve as a witness of the love of God in a hurting world. Learn more: urbanmission.org/j-o-s-h-u-a/
They are excited for us to come and serve as volunteers. Some typical volunteer experiences include, but are not limited to:
- Preparation of food at Unity Kitchen
- Gardening at Unity Garden
- Stocking food at the Choice Pantry
- Home Repair including construction, painting, siding, and plumbing
- Ramp repair or construction
- Landscaping and neighborhood beautification
- Providing worship through Mission Rejoice weekly services
- Volunteering at Hutton House Shelter
- Volunteering at local special events
Compassion Mission Field
Our mission team is our church for the week. We are coming together from several United Methodist churches from across Minnesota to serve God and God’s children together – to “do church” out in the world! We will work with each other side by side, we will guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride. We will all work hard – adults, teens, staff, clergy – to maintain a healthy community and positive attitude throughout our experience together. Justice and compassion for the world starts with how we offer justice and compassion to one another; with God’s help, we will have a strong team and stronger connections across the Annual Conference upon our return.
There will be Evening Program events, group outings, and some personal time. Evening Programs will typically include worship, icebreakers, devotions, time to share and discuss our experience from the day, and looking ahead as a group to the next day.
As you can see, we’re doing our best to take our mission fields seriously. We won’t all be perfect all the time. And it takes some hard work to bring 24 very different people together to assemble as the body of Christ, and yet we will do what we can to hold each other dear. Hopefully, this post helps give you some additional context for who we are, why we’re gathered together, and what we hope to accomplish.
See you soon with more updates from our compassion mission field in Steubenville.