From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[ENS] Young Adult Service Corps missionaries engage in servant
"Mika Larson" <email@example.com>
Sun, 3 Aug 2003 20:50:23 -0400
August 3, 2003
Young Adult Service Corps missionaries engage in servant ministries
by Sharon Sheridan
[ENS] They left comfortable homes, often to the dismay of family and
friends, to follow a call to become overseas missionaries. Through
their service, they broadened their own understanding of their gifts
and how God calls them to use them.
Nearly 500 overseas bishops, guests and United Thank Offering supporters
gathered Thursday night at the UTO Sharing Dinner to hear Young Adult
Service Corps missionaries tell their stories.
Four young adults, reflecting the convention theme of "Receive, Repent,
Reconcile and Restore," described their experiences in Honduras,
Jerusalem, South Africa and Uganda. At the presentation's end, the ECW
delegation from the Virgin Islands announced a monetary donation to
show its enthusiastic endorsement of the program.
The 2000 General Convention called for establishing the youth corps "to
engage in servant ministry throughout the Anglican Communion."
Participants ages 18 to 30 serve one year overseas in what Associate
Coordinator Willis Jenkins called "a unique mode of mission." YASC
challenges young adults to reach out to a broken world, he said, while
"the communion does a real service to us by accepting these young
people and mentoring them and forming them."
Teaching in Honduras
For Valeska Daley of the Diocese of Massachusetts, "the hardest part was
preparing the journey." Daughter of Honduran immigrants, she thought
her parents would be proud she was returning to that country as a
missionary, "but it was quite the opposite.
"They didn't know why I wanted to go back and serve them," she said.
Giving up control to God also was tough for a "type A" person, she
In Honduras, she taught at a bilingual school in a small town and
accompanied a nongovernmental organization on assistance trips to poor
communities. She vividly recalled meeting a 24-year-old woman with
eight children - three born in the four years she had waited on a
hospital list to have her tubes tied, a move her husband opposed.
"During the whole time, she kept talking about God and her faith, how
she loves God."
Daley returned to her room and cried, questioning her own mission and
the difference in their circumstances. "I felt so depressed because I
kept thinking, God, if I was in her position, would I really have faith
in God?" she said.
"I am so happy that I had the opportunity to serve," she concluded.
"That night, I think God allowed me to see the strength and faith of
others, especially the true meaning of faith."
Listening in Israel
A missionary to the Diocese of Jerusalem, Jonathan Partridge of the
Diocese of San Joaquin said he never would forget what he saw one day
in Gaza. "I can still recall the shocking sight of scattered stones
intermixed with the remains of children's clothes." He recalled the
rubble of a destroyed building and boys playing nearby.
"It was Sept. 11, 2002, and I felt that I was looking at the world
through a kaleidoscope backwards," he said. While most Americans were
commemorating the previous year's terrorist attacks, he was witnessing
devastation wrought with American-made weapons when Israeli fighters
killed 15 people - including children - in targeting a prominent Hamas
Through this and other experiences, he learned "terrorism was somewhat
of a relative term," he said. "I wondered how does one repent for the
actions carried out by one's country? Repentance is a difficult road to
"In the context of being a missionary, it meant taking time to listen to
people instead of being an armchair expert," he said. "Particularly, it
meant just being present, and particularly with the Palestinian
Christian minority." Back home, he said, it means communicating those
"Loving one's God is not about being nice," he said. "It's not about
mere tolerance. It's about self-sacrifice. It's about stepping outside
one's comfort zone, and it's a love that comes from God that transcends
Bridging cultures in Uganda
For Wesley Fletcher of the Diocese of West Texas, bridging cultures
called to mind how as children she and her sister used to try to hold
their breath all the way across a bridge to an island where her family
vacationed. "We never quite made it all the way," she said, adding, "the
bridge was always the most exciting part of the trip to the beach."
When she headed to Uganda to teach biology at an Anglican boarding
school after graduating from college two years ago, she said, "I could
feel my family holding its breath as I boarded the plane."
The answer to why she went to Uganda will continue to be revealed, she
said. "Tonight, it has something to do with reconciliation. Mission
itself has something to do with reconciliation. Mission work, for those
who have tried it, is hard work. "Mission is all too often a call to
suffer with and among people without having any answers or a cure," she
"The biggest bridge we can ever imagine is being built right here in the
hearts of God's people," she said. Fletcher said she hoped one day
people would know the Episcopal Church "as a church willing to reach
beyond ourselves to a world that is suffering ... that one day, because
of us, people can say joyfully and expectantly, 'We all belong to the
same God. We are all forgiven, and each of us is called.'
"Please join us in this bridge-building process," she said.
Serving HIV/AIDS youth in South Africa
Like Daley's family, Ranjit Mathews' parents wondered why he chose to go
to a less-developed country. Mathews of the Diocese of Massachusetts
went to the Province of Southern Africa as an HIV/AIDS youth organizer
in Cape Town.
The reason was that he needed "to see Jesus in a different context,"
said Mathews, who also spoke at the presiding bishop's program on
global reconciliation at St. Mark's Cathedral.
In South Africa, he said, there is a sin "that is common even around the
world. It's manifest in South Africa by the stigmatization of people
with HIV and AIDS. In different parts of South African society, and
even in the church, there's a tendency to ostracize and belittle people
Mathews likened this to the sins of racism, homophobia and sexism in
American society. "What exacerbates the sin is that there's a myth in
South Africa that if you are HIV-positive and you sleep with a virgin,
then you will be cured of HIV," he said.
He recounted the story of a friend he met in Cape Town who became
HIV-positive after being raped by her HIV-positive uncle. "What
transpired after this gave me my own sense of hope," he said. "Although
she was heavily ostracized, chastised by friends and neighbors who often
didn't speak to her, and left alone in the proverbial corner, there
were revolutionary people who came to her, and these people were in
some sense of the word Christian.
"She was brought to a place where she wasn't just looked at as if she
were an object of derision but as if she were somebody to be actually
loved and cared for in the image of the Holy One," he said. "She was
raised up because people like ourselves who call ourselves Christians
came up to her and showed her in a very real and powerful way a love
that actually puts our arms around her and says, 'We stand with you.'
"It's a testimony to the living God to see someone go from a place of
voicelessness and then be raised up and empowered," he said.
After the presentations, audience members questioned the speakers and
some of the other assembled YASC participants. One woman wanted to know
whether Mathews' and Daley's parents now were proud of their mission
"It took a long time," Daley said. "They still think I'm a little crazy,
but they understand now that I want to serve God. They're very
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