UMCOR / News Room / News & Features / Archives 2009 / 0612 - A Mission Intern and Sojourner: From North Carolina to South Africa to New York

A Mission Intern and Sojourner: From North Carolina to South Africa to New York

By Mary Beth Coudal

New York, New York, June 12, 2009--Six years after Brittany Brooks' father dropped her off at Pfeiffer University for her first year in college, he drove her back again last month. However, Ms. Brooks returned to the United Methodist University not to pick up her dorm-room keys but to give the keynote address for "Mission Awareness Week."

Although Ms. Brooks is shy, she knew her topic well. She spoke about her experience as a young adult missionary. Since graduating from Pfeiffer in 2007, Ms. Brooks has served in South Africa with SHADE (Sojourners: Help, Advocacy, Development, and Education). SHADE is a project of The United Methodist Church through the General Board of Global Ministries. The safe and inclusive center has satellites throughout South and Central Africa.

Ms. Brooks spoke to two religion classes taught by Dr. Philip Wingeier-Rayo. She addressed undergraduates in the large chapel, talking about her work with sojourners, or displaced individuals and families, in Cape Town.

She told the students, "I'm really glad I chose this [Mission Internship] over the Peace Corps. You get to see both sides (internationally and nationally). Ms. Brooks said about her 16 months in South Africa as a young adult missionary, "I was ready to leave, but I didn't want to go."

At SHADE, Ms. Brooks ran Le Berceau, or The Cradle, a safe place for children and youth to learn, play, and make good decisions. SHADE replaces the terms "immigrant" and "refugee" with the word "sojourner" to endow displaced families with a sense of dignity and unity. The word also has Biblical connotations of strangers traveling to new places, running from persecution and seeking God.

Many sojourners become angry with God, Ms. Brooks said. SHADE is a place to express those feelings, claim their faith, learn skills, and gather self-esteem. Supportive resources include multicultural support groups, business classes, HIV/AIDS health trainings, and leadership programs. Her assignment, Ms. Brooks reported, "was all about relationships. We were trying to uplift the women."

Mission Interns serve for three years--half the time internationally, and the other half nationally. The United Methodist Church-related community centers where the Mission Interns serve address issues of social justice, such as immigration, poverty, homelessness, and economic injustice.

Ms. Brooks can be considered a sojourner; recently, she began her assignment with the Seminar Program at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York. The Seminar Program is a short-term experiential learning opportunity for anyone who would like to study a social justice issue.

Pfeiffer University, where Ms. Brooks graduated and spoke, is the only United Methodist college or university to grant an undergraduate degree in missions. Pfeiffer is one of the 99 community and institutional ministries of Global Ministries that make up the caring connection. Pfeiffer is one of the few Global Ministries institutions dedicated to higher learning.

In 2009, Pfeiffer graduated two Christian missions majors. "There are jobs and ministries at the end of this major," university president Charles Ambrose promised.

"Pfeiffer was founded as a mission school, and it's now a school of mission," Dr. Ambrose said. At a meeting on June 2, 2009, with Global Ministries General Secretary Edward Paup and Women's Division Deputy General Secretary, Harriett Jane Olson, Dr. Ambrose emphasized the interconnectedness of Pfeiffer University with the General Board of Global Ministries.

Dr. Ambrose repeated the school's motto: "The nature to serve; the knowledge to lead."

Mary Beth Coudal is the staff writer for Global Ministries.