“This is a big day long dreamed for.” – Clarke Campbell-Evans
|Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans discusses the blblical meaning of mission with the Florida Conference's inaugural Young Adult Missional Movement participants. Photo by Susan Green.|
LAKELAND – This week, a dozen young adults ages 18 to 30 will be deployed to three different mission fields in the state, where they will live and work together in a Florida Conference pilot project called the Young Adult Missional Movement (YAMM).
Most of the group – which will number 14 by January – gathered Thursday for an orientation session at the Florida United Methodist Center, where they got to know one another and received tips for getting along in settings ripe for cultural clash as well as spiritual growth.
“Do we want to pray?” asked Rachael Sumner, Florida Conference associate lay leader for Reaching Next Generations and a member of the YAMM design team, as orientation began.
“I think we want to pray a lot,” responded Heidi Aspinwall, who is spearheading the movement for the conference.
The young people will be assigned to teams that will live and work in mission together until July 2015. With conference, district and local church support, housing has been arranged in three different parts of the state: Jacksonville, St. Petersburg and Orlando. Move-in started Sunday.
Each team will receive mission tasks according to the needs of the assigned area. Some may be working in education programs for immigrants who don’t speak English well, while others may focus on improving the economic outlook for an impoverished neighborhood.
YAMM is one of several initiatives in the Florida Conference aimed at engaging young adults in the church and facilitating their passion for mission work. The movement has been designated to receive half of the funds collected from the bishop’s offering this year.
It’s an effort dear to the heart of Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans, director of Missional Engagement for the Florida Conference and a veteran of mission work in and out of the U.S. He told the YAMM participants his initiation to mission service came when he reported for an assignment 24 years ago.
“I remember the flutter in my stomach and … [being] a little bit scared about whether I would be able to do what I said I was going to do,” Campbell-Evans said. “That experience changed my life.”
|Orlando YAMM team members use technology to plan their mission together. To keep up with all the YAMM teams, click here. Photo from Heidi Aspinwall.|
Though the young emissaries are signed up to do worthy, life-changing community good, there’s a bigger mission at stake.
“Really, the heart of what this time is about is who you are … and how you’re going to grow in your faith and your understanding of the world,” Campbell-Evans said.
Dr. Harold Lewis, director of Justice & Multicultural Ministries for the conference, said the young adults will likely encounter racial and cultural challenges inside the living quarters and in the surrounding community. It is wise to consider the “historically included and excluded” groups of people in daily interactions, Lewis said.
“We have to struggle through the storms of getting along,” he told the group.
Nicole Cornwell, who was accepted to the mission program from Florida State University’s Wesley Foundation, said she hopes to experience “the truest spirit of community.”
“YAMM appealed because it seemed like an adventurous way of figuring out the next step in my life,” she said.
Sarah Howell, who has been an intern and student leader at Central Florida Wesley Foundation and recently graduated with a degree in social work, said she hopes the experience will help her grow in her passion for Christ and social justice.
“During this year of service, I hope to be challenged to grow and discover more about God, myself and my relationship with God, as well as to learn more about where my passions and talents lie for my future career.”
Samantha Aupperlee of West Palm Beach grew up in The United Methodist Church and would like to become a full-time missionary abroad.
“I’ve always wanted to do missions, and when I learned of this opportunity, I knew God was calling me to this,” she said.
Meet the YAMMers:
|Amelia Pierre, 22,
of Florida City
| Kyler Coleman, 18,
|Danesha Burrows, 25,
of Miami/The Bahamas
|Lauren Ballatoni, 23,
Ruth Berlus, 20,
|Pedro Bonilla, 19, of Miami
||Samantha Aupperlee, 25, of West Palm Beach
||Sarah Howell, 22, of Orlando||Shakeria Mitchell, 20, of Jacksonville||Owain Campton, 19, of Belfast, Northern Ireland|
St. Petersburg House
| Keri LaBrant, 30, of Largo
Christian Culbert, 23,
| Genise Austin Holiday, 26, of Hampton, Va.
|| Nicole Cornwell, 22,
-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.