From the Other Side
I recently returned from my first ever Mission u with the California-Pacific Conference United Methodist Women. I've been to a number of Schools of Christian Missions since I was young, but this was my first school under the new name Mission u. This was the first one on the West Coast-all the others I had attended were on the East Coast. This was also the first one for which I was a study leader at instead of just a student. I got to see the other side of the classroom.
The Mission u was held at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., a pretty campus with many brick buildings in southern California. The diversity of the people at Mission u reminded me of what a truly diverse world we live in and how beautiful it can be, a world in which first languages differ but the love of Christ does not.
This other side has been a blessed, challenging and eye-opening experience. I facilitated a class of mainly young adults, and through conversations and sharing of experiences we were able to learn from one another. The ladies really pushed me to think about what it means for me to live sacramentally while walking justly in my daily life. The book I taught was The Call: Living Sacramentally, Walking Justly, a United Methodist Women mission study I suggest to anyone, especially anyone trying to discern what God's call in her or his life may be.
Through our conversations on the topic we expanded our knowledge, struggled with hard questions and realized that while we have different viewpoints, it's OK. As we recapped at the end of the class, we tried to put into concrete ways how to live sacramentally and walk justly, I realized how humbled I was to be sitting in the conversations with a diverse group of ladies who want to break barriers and aren't going to stop until they do.
Through conversations and plenaries I got to know some of the other United Methodist Women members on various district teams. I shared about some of the work I am a part of at the Filipino Migrant Center in Long Beach, Calif., and had challenging conversations. A quote from one of these women sticks with me: "To walk Justly, you have to have Courage."
Yet as I celebrate the weekend, my heart reflects back on previous Schools of Christian Mission, to a time before I left the country for my mission service, when Deaconess Nazgul William was serving at Brooks-Howell Home, a retirement home for United Methodist missionaries and deaconesses in Asheville, N.C. Ms. William, a Pakistani deaconess, blessed us with her smile and love for dance at many conference events. Each time we saw each other she would do her best to teach me the simple steps of her native dances, and each time it seemed like she had to go back to square, but she was always there, smiling, bubbling over with Christ's Love ready to try yet again. "Just keep trying, Joy, and always smile," she encouraged me. She lived her life through her faith in pursuit of justice.
I hadn't seen Ms. William in years when I got a text from my mother July 18: "Have you heard about the deaconess?" Before responded to my mother I got on Facebook and saw mutual friends posting the news. Ms. William had died in a random act of extreme violence in Beijing, China. It shook my soul-I wasn't sure what to do, how to respond or what to think. I needed to reflect, and I stepped away from my computer.
A recently contributed an article to New World Outlook magazine about finding my voice through dance during my mission experience. I realized that the process of finding my voice started much earlier than my mission in Hong Kong; it started with a young deaconess and a reminder to "just keep trying, and always smile."
My heart still aches in many ways, but I feel the loving arms of God surrounding me and holding me close. I know the death of Ms. William may never make sense, and I'm beginning to be OK with that, because my Christian community is united, and Ms. William's kindness, love and dance will live on in those who knew her. Even as she has left earth, I know there are many dancing angels in heaven.
My Mission u weekend helped me see life from many angles. It left me tired, but a good tired. It was a weekend I won't soon forget, and a weekend I am thankful for.
Joy Prim is a mission intern with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church serving in Long Beach, Calif. This reflection originally appeared July 22, 2013, on Ms. Prim's blog. Reprinted with permission.