So the next logical question is, if you want to make a difference in the world with whom are you going to work? This question is important. There are an array of governmental and non-governmental organizations and businesses aiming to make the world a better place. That is fantastic! Participation in one does not preclude work in another. Indeed, drawing on the words of the Psalmist we heard in session two, everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made with unique gifts and abilities. Working together empowers us to accomplish more. As the African proverb reminds, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
As we learn to work together, working with United Methodists proves a unique. Three things stick out: 1) Engaging in mission and service is fundamentally relational, 2) There is tremendous opportunity to synergize resources; 3) Faith matters. Let’s explore these.
First, we know service with others requires relationship. Think of your own workplace or school, within your own family relations or an organization of which you are a part; relationship and effort are intimately tied. We also know that relationship takes time! This only increases as we work in different cultures and contexts.
Longterm connections are important. When working with cultures different than our own and in places unfamiliar, we are dependent on the quality of relationship we have with hosts and friends. Consider your own hometown. When a friend or a family member comes to town you know the perfect restaurant to take them, that place with the best view, the people to whom you want to introduce them and so much more. You know the history; you can explain things that seem confusing from the outside. There is nothing like talking to someone who really knows a place and people; they offer connection, understanding, commonality. Relationship is key for hosts and guests as we work together making a difference in the world. Work requires relationship.
Second, there is a tremendous opportunity to synergize resources. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, memorably said, “There is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness.” Said simply, community is central to faith! The early Methodist movement was comprised of small groups of people who met together to talk about life and faith. As Methodism expanded and eventually became a Protestant denomination, connection remained central. You might know that Methodist pastors move regularly, there is a structure of local and regional relationships — Methodists are known (we hope) as a connected people!
This connection has spilled over in Methodist’s efforts to make a difference in the world. A wide expanse of Methodist projects and programs takes place all around the world today. Methodists lead schools, organize environmental programs, build churches, fight for food security, finance small business and so much more. Methodists religion is social religion.
That brings us to another important distinction — faith matters! There is great theological diversity within the Methodist tradition but whether Methodists organize a farm loan program in Uganda or open a university in the Ukraine, Methodists lean into the fundamental convictions: Not all is right with the world, God is involved, we can join together and be involved, too! The work is complex but the foundation is not.
At the beginning of this session I mentioned that there are many organizations doing great work in the world. Methodists are involved with these organizations ranging from the governmental agencies, foundations, other faith groups and of course people on the ground. Methodism is an open community; we work together!
There is something important about the way the Methodist Church is organized. The people who take part in Methodist mission come from all walks of life and from all different places. The General Board of Global Ministries of the Methodist Church has described this as “from everywhere to everywhere.” This provides a fantastic richness of resources and perspectives. People from all over the world unite hand and heart in service to God and neighbor creating an amazing kaleidoscope. We are better together.
While working together, we share life together, we share faith together. Rather than believing God is only interested in us after we die or if we have checked all the right moral boxes, Methodists believe that God is involved in transforming the world. That God is interested in the here and now in addition to what happens next. So as we work, we pray. As we serve, we look for God to intervene. Like the man with the skin disease of leprosy, we come to God and say “Lord, if you are willing…” and trust that God’s answer remains “I am willing!”
In an attempt to explain the power present in working together we have highlighted three main things. Yet, even in this short description it is easy to see how all of these elements blend together. If you want to make a difference in the world, we will walk with you. If you want to connect with others in a place you have never been, there are likely Methodists in the neighborhood. If you want space and friends to think about how your faith relates to all you see, let’s join together! As we said in session one, the idea is not simply to prepare for an experience or check a box that you have been “trained.” This is more important than that. How will you live? How will you work? With whom will you join your best efforts and resources?
Before moving to the next session, explore some of these resources. See the faces. Hear the stories. Consider the projects. Is God calling you? Is this a place you might serve?
The truth is we need you. The world needs you. That is what we will look at in the fourth and final section of part one. See you there.