Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Mission Musings


Young Adult Mission: A Generation Risking Transformation

Thomas Kemper, general secretary for Global Ministries, addresses young adults during missionary training last summer.
Thomas Kemper, general secretary for Global Ministries, addresses young adults during missionary training last summer.

By Thomas Kemper*

I was introduced and called to mission service as a young adult. As a young German man, working with migrants and youth in Great Britain was a transformational experience. My engagement with mission at a young age helped me understand how important it is for the church to present the missionary vocation to youth in appealing and realistic ways. In that spirit, Global Ministries is renewing our emphasis on both the spiritual and social values of young adult mission work.

This past year, we had nearly 100 young adults, 29 of whom were commissioned in 2013 and who represented five continents – North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. Over the next few years, our goal is to multiply this number into the hundreds. The Mission Intern and US-2 programs are being combined and updated into the exciting Generation Transformation initiative.

The new Generation Transformation program recognizes that young adulthood is a time of energy, vigor and strong commitments to worthwhile goals, such as sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every place and to working with justice, mercy and peace ministries. It is also a time when attitudes and vocational goals are being formed, a range of options expanded by living and working with indigenous Christians in situations that are often on the economic and social margin. Young adults interested in serving in 2014 should contact miyams@umcmission.org as soon as possible.

Engage. Connect. Grow. These three objectives are the hallmarks of Generation Transformation, which will be a network of “Global Mission Fellows” and other options. Young people from ages 20 to 30 can take part in service lasting from a few weeks to two years. The Global Mission Fellows can choose international placement or remain in their home country, a feature that continues aspects of both the Mission Intern and US-2 models. 

The 2013 class is highly diverse and the mission interns carrying out the theme of “missionaries from everywhere to everywhere.” There is Angelia Ali Alarcon from Bolivia working in Hong Kong, Joy Eva Bohol from the Philippines in Colombia, Victor L. Kahudi from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Brazil, Hanna Song from South Korea in Brazil, and Danny Kalangwa from Tanzania in the Philippines — to name just a few. More than 70 young adults from the United States are serving around the world in various capacities of social justice ministries including Kharissa Allman from the Greater New Jersey Conference in Fayette, Mo.; Sarah Mudge from the Upper New York Conference in Seattle; Beth Kauffman from the Texas Annual Conference in Hong Kong, and Andrew Millman from the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference in Russia.

The international and intercultural character of our young adult missionary program illustrates and helps shape the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church. It builds awareness that Methodism today comprises many streams of commitment and equips us with globally and culturally sensitive leaders in the present and future. 

Aiming for both the transformation of the world and the transformation of young lives, we recognize that there are risks in transformation but these risks are taken in the certainty of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Transformation is something we experience as well as wish for others. God is the transforming power, through Christ pointing us in the right direction, filling us with the desire to work for justice and peace. We experience and share the hope of transformation in relationships with others, allowing them to change our lives even as we work to transform theirs. That is real mutuality in mission.

As a young adult, my eyes were opened to the difficulties individuals and families encounter as they struggle to get by economically, to find safe havens against persecution and abandonment; to put down new roots and establish trust with new neighbors. I became more sensitive to other languages, ways of worship, domestic relations, and cultural differences.  I learned as much practical knowledge in that work as I did at the university; it clarified for me that God was calling me to become a missionary; it turned me toward preparation for the eight years my wife and I spent as missionaries in Brazil.

Generation Transformation offers several ways for young adults to risk becoming agents of transformation even as they are transformed. The details of the program can be found online (umcmission.org/gt).

Pray for our young adult missionaries now in service and soon to enter a time of transforming opportunity — times to engage, connect and grow.

*Kemper is the General Secretary for the General Board of Global Ministries