Settling in Seattle
By Chasity Jones*
Newly commissioned Global Mission Fellows of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries celebrate in song during a service at Grace United Methodist Church in Atlanta. From right are: Chasity Jones, Audra Hudson, and Cristal Winu. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE/UMNS
Before boarding the plane that brought me to my placement in Seattle, Washington, I knew that my beliefs would be tested and challenged. My beliefs and core values were tested greatly during the Global Mission Fellow training—and I knew that was just the beginning.
In Seattle, things that I had believed in with my whole heart and mind are suddenly viewed as odd, ridiculous, and crazy-conservative. Not only were the things that I believed considered crazy, but the people who believed them were ostracized in front of me.
I have always wanted to bridge the gap between the polar opposites of our nation. Hearing how divided the church is, as well as how some who did not hold the same beliefs as others were demonized and demeaned, was absolutely shocking. The same people who demonstrated for justice, peace, and tolerance were not tolerant when it came to conflicting ideology or theology.
Although I came to Seattle with the resolve not to let this place change me, my easy-going nature and curiosity won that fight as I set out to truly understand those that seemed so very different from me. When I concluded that I simply could not understand how people of a particular faith community or denomination could come to believe as they do, I began to understand that I didn’t see them as people—but as my enemies, in a way. I began to contemplate deeply about, not their beliefs, but their humanity (family life, childhood, regional/cultural influence, achievements, devotion).
Chasity Jones with her coworkers from the Seattle District, downtown in front of the Space Needle. PHOTO: CHASITY JONES
* Chasity Jones is a Global Mission Fellow US-2 from Louisiana serving with the Seattle District of the Pacific Northwest Conference.
When I saw the people I had initially judged as my enemies—or as people who did not understand the true teachings that they claimed to follow—doing amazing things in the name of Christ, I was confused. I realized I had been looking down upon those with whom I was here to serve. (I also remembered that, in the past, this practice was detrimental to the work of many missionaries!) I realized that my grip on what I thought I knew needed to be loosened. This propelled me into a journey of re-evaluating everything that I know and believe. Have I changed my beliefs to fit into the majority in Seattle? NO! But I can now appreciate our differences.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Winter 2017 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.