The Journey Is Not Over
On July 4, 2014, I watched the fireworks boom over Lake Kampeska, South Dakota, spreading their sparks across the black sky, their reflection bright on the still water. Family and friends surrounded me. Laughter and conversation ebbed and flowed with the rising fireworks, but I remained quiet. A new journey was beginning for me. I had been accepted as a Global Mission Fellow (GMF)
and would be flying across the world for training the next day.
Maria Niechwiadowicz with Chinese students. Photo by MARIA NIECHWIADOWICZ
I headed to the Philippines 30 days of intensive professional development, devotion and prayer, dialogue, personal discovery, and lots of program information. We participated in the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly, lots of multicultural worship and self-assembled choirs, and survived a category-5 typhoon. I walked away with abounding memories and a mind exploding with information! So, I was thrilled to be selected as a member of the core training team for the 2016 GMF training in Atlanta, Georgia, this past summer.
Maria Niechwiadowicz (kneeling far right) poses with the many Global Mission Fellows who went to General
Conference in Portland, Oregon. Photo by PAUL JEFFERY
It was empowering to teach and facilitate sessions based on what I have learned in service. It was neat to sit in on sessions after two years, listening with more experienced ears. It was rewarding to see that newfound spark of passion in the faces of the candidates as they delve into what being a missionary means in the 21st century and what justice-seeking might look like in their placement context. It was beautiful to see them sitting in the tension of theology and injustice, just like my class of 2014 did. All of this helped me to understand one crucial thing: the journey is not over.
Maria Niechwiadowicz walks through the autumn streets of Kyoto, Japan. Photo by ERIN HANCOCK
When I sat on the lawn watching fireworks in 2014, I was entering the GMF program with a two-year focus: two years to engage with local communities, connect the church in mission, and grow in personal and social holiness. But at the 2016 training, it became clear that as I was ending the program, the values of the program and the search for justice are not limited to two years. I can continue to question and to live in the tension, seeking out peace, unity, and equality in the world. I left with a renewed call to mission, knowing that the journey is not over; it is just beginning.
*Maria Niechwiadowicz, who served a two-year term as a Global Mission Fellow education specialist with Amity Foundation, based in Nanjing, China. She has accepted a position as the program director for Bread & Roses, a ministry of Trinity Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, November-December 2016 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.