December 2021 – Global Mission Fellows (GMF), a United Methodist Church program, are young adults committed to serve in social justice ministries for two years. Fellows partner with global community organizations to address a variety of issues, including education, public health, and poverty.
It’s no surprise that Drew Theological School is the next stop for many fellows upon completion of their global assignments.
The Theological School integrates social and environmental justice into its curriculum and beyond by including interdisciplinary courses that demand out-of-the-box thinking, apprenticeship training that addresses real-world issues, and modes of learning that promote adaptability and innovation.
“Drew Theological School was a special place for me to internalize, evaluate, re-examine, and reinterpret my experience serving as a young adult Global Mission Fellow as I embark again to engage, connect, and grow with communities of all colors, languages, classes, sexual orientation, gender, and nationalities,” said Peter Karanja T’19, whose GMF assignment was in Germany assisting Syrian refugees. Karanja is now continuing his cross-cultural ministry as a United Methodist associate pastor in Nebraska.
We spoke with four Masters of Divinity international students who found their way to Drew once their GMF assignments were completed. The GMF community at Drew shares a strong camaraderie, with many landing at Drew purely coincidentally.
While I’m originally from Angola, as a child of God, I belong everywhere! I was assigned to serve in Brazil with GMF to support a project called Shared and Fresh Water. We implemented many different types of activities for kids, adolescents, and their parents, such as Bible studies, English classes, computer skills, music and art, sports, and recreation. The project also exposed the kids to educational places in their communities like museums. Since I was a psychology major at Africa University Zimbabwe, I observed and participated in all activities to provide psychological evaluations and assistance when needed.
I originally wanted to major in Business Administration. I studied accounting in high school and decided this would be a sustainable path. When I arrived at Africa University, I was granted a full scholarship! It was then that I felt a call to do something more to expose myself to the community and to help others through pastoral care and counseling. I have been blessed, and I need to serve my God.
I met Peter Karanja through the fellowship, and he shared his experiences at Drew Theological School. I knew I needed to come to Drew and pursue my dreams.
I was working as a receptionist in Zimbabwe and wasn’t happy. I wanted to do something that connected me with the community—especially helping people. I joined the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe as a young chairperson for the young women’s forum. I taught women about gender issues, government, policy-making, and reproductive health.
I was excited about the GMF program because I was able to serve in another country—learning things I could take back to Zimbabwe. In Fiji, I was working as a social justice advocate volunteer to educate women on how we can use theology in advocating for gender justice. By doing this, I realized that there’s much more we can do as Christians, and I grew the passion to continue my work in social justice.
I want to serve my church for the community in advocating for social justice. While in Fiji, I realized we can use religion and the Bible to advocate for social justice—and this is why I came to Drew.
Before GMF, I worked with Rozaria Memorial Trust in Murewa, Zimbabwe, advocating for women’s and girl’s rights and an end to child marriages. Because of this work, GMF assigned me to the Philippines where I worked with and taught children, and preached on a monthly basis.
I realized that some people in the community thought that God is quiet or silent, and did not see them. Our role at GMF is to let the community know that God is God, and God wants justice for all. It was such encouraging work—more than praying and going to church on Sunday and returning home. It’s also about us observing justice in the community and leaving no one behind. It’s about moving forward with everyone.
I decided I want to become a pastor. I met a pastor in the Philippines who encouraged me to go to theological school. I realized Drew doesn’t just teach ministry, they also observe social justice—which complements each other and my vocational goals.
I grew up highly involved in the church but I was always unsure sure about my calling. While exploring if full-time church ministry is for me, I learned about the GMF program when I attended and volunteered in a Global Young People’s Convocation. Since my background was in project and client management, I was matched with the Council of Churches in Zambia.
Most of the work we did with the church and grassroots leaders was related to human rights, along with environmental and health projects. It was here, working with these communities, that I received an affirmation of my vocation to be “out on a mission.” I felt can I do more if I have a deeper theological background. Plus, I’m exploring the possibility of becoming an ordained elder with an environmental and interfaith connection.
When I was researching seminaries, Drew shared my environmental and interfaith values—everything started coming together. Now, I am involved with the Community Garden at the Theological School and TERRA (Transforming Environmental and Religious Resources for Action) which provides opportunities for education and advocacy regarding ecological issues.