By Emily R. Kvalheim
Last night I spent a few hours inside of the Krome Service Processing Center, an immigration detention center for adult men in Miami-Dade County, FL. It was freezing inside of the building, the men wore prison jumpsuits and bracelets with their identification information, and we spoke through thick glass using telephones on the wall. As I talked—and laughed—with them, I couldn’t help but wonder if their biggest crime was not being born on American soil. I was volunteering with Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees (FOMDD), a visitation program sponsored by a local faith community.
I use this example to highlight some of the greatest gifts the Church has offered me: opportunities to meet people from diverse backgrounds, chances to build relationships and offer love to one another, and stories to share as we advocate for social justice.
Growing up in Church of the Messiah, United Methodist in Westerville, OH, meant that I had lots of opportunities to engage in service both in my local community and abroad. I really enjoyed meeting new people and witnessing the incredible work that God is doing through so many ministries in the world.
In about ninth grade, after my first few mission trips with Church of the Messiah, I remember thinking that I wanted to be a missionary. Being a missionary meant traveling, spending time with new people, worshiping God, cultivating new skills, and having a lot of fun. As it turns out, if you try to love everyone, new people start to feel less like strangers and more like friends.
By the time I was in my last semester as an undergraduate student at American University, I was discerning a call to faith-based social justice ministry and realized that ordained ministry as a deacon could help me to amplify my voice within the church, thereby fighting to make it a more inclusive and welcoming place.
I then discovered the United Methodist Church’s Global Mission Fellow (GMF) program and, after much prayerful consideration, decided that it would be my next step toward living out my call. GMFs “are faith-filled young adults between the ages of 20-30 who have a passion for service, care about justice, and are committed to serve for two years.” The Global Mission Fellow program provides opportunities for fellowship and support, chances to attend international conferences and events at local churches, and a challenging and fulfilling service experience.
We serve all over the world—from everywhere to everywhere—in church ministries and non-profits that tackle a variety of “issues around migration/immigration, homelessness, children and youth, education, environmental justice, and more.” I am serving with South Florida Justice For Our Neighbors in Miami-Dade County, FL. We provide free immigration legal services to low income immigrants, engage in advocacy for immigrant rights, and offer education opportunities to communities of faith and to the public. I spend much of my time interpreting for Spanish-speaking unaccompanied minors, working with clients and two attorneys to fill out Immigration forms, drafting grants, and attending community events.
If you are a young adult who might be interested in mission service, I would encourage you to apply! The application is available online from September 30, 2016 through March 31, 2017. For more information, please contact the Young Adult Mission Service office at mayams [at] umcmission.org.
I can be reached at EKvalheim [at] umcmission.org. I am happy to share about my personal experiences with you.
Not a young adult and still interested in supporting the Global Mission Fellow program? Please keep us in your prayers and consider making a financial contribution to young adult missions through my Advance #3022060. Thank you!