Global Mission Fellow Chelsea Spyres assists volunteers as they prepare for lunch, which is served daily at the NOAH Project.
Global Mission Fellow to Represent Young People at General Conference 2016
Global Mission Fellow Chelsea Spyres stands with a client who proudly displays her artwork at the 5-year celebration of Art & Soul, an art program run by Birmingham First UMC in partnership with NOAH.
A talk with Global Mission Fellow Chelsea Spyres
By Judith Santiago*
Chelsea Spyres is a Global Mission Fellow with Global Ministries, serving as a US-2 missionary with the NOAH Project in Detroit, Michigan. Recently, Spyres, along with Peter Cibuabua from the DR Congo, was invited to represent young United Methodists at General Conference in 2016. The United Methodist Young People’s Address is an opportunity for youth and young adults to witness boldly about the church’s impact in their lives and to cast their vision for the future of our work together as Christ’s body.
Judith Santiago of Global Ministries sat down with Spyres to learn about her current assignment and how she is preparing for General Conference.
Santiago: Tell us about your current mission assignment with the NOAH Project in Detroit.
Spyres: NOAH stands for Networking, Organizing, and Advocating for the Homeless. We run a community center where we serve lunch to more than 200 individuals a day. We also offer one-on-one case work services for 20-25 people each day. My job is focused on the case work sessions.
What we do at NOAH is more than just provide lunch. NOAH addresses the needs of the whole person. It’s about honoring the relationships that are being built around the table and through one-on-one case work sessions. I am privileged to journey with our clients and to hear their stories.
Santiago: Tell us about the clients you currently serve. What are some of their challenges?
Spyres: Most of our clients are experiencing homelessness or have a low level of income. Some of them come to NOAH because of established relationships. I really have found in this first year of service that homelessness does not have one face. There is not one situation that causes folks to be in this kind of experience. Individual circumstances may involve a loss of income, or sometimes a relationship breaking up within a family, with one person needing to move out of that household, or a person returning from the prison system and having nowhere to go.
That has been a huge piece of education for me, and the issue of homelessness is also a discussion to have with others because it does not have one cause, one skin tone, or one background… it [homelessness] takes on many forms.
Santiago: How did the opportunity to represent young people at General Conference 2016 come about? What key message do you want to plant in the hearts of United Methodists?
Spyres: So, the announcement of my invitation to address General Conference 2016 came as a very big surprise, and it’s a huge honor. I submitted a video for the [United Methodist] Young People’s Ministry [#UMYPA] back in March. They were collecting video submissions and written submissions from youth and young adults across the world.
I shared about my time in training as a US-2 and how I experienced the power of relationships through those three weeks together. I shared about how we were able to build community in the midst of differences that sometimes clashed.
At the end of day we realized that we have more in common than not.
If we start with building relationships first, we are able as a church and as a community to overcome our differences. We are able to come to the table and respect each other in those differences and challenge each other. And really, be in an attitude of love in all that we say and do.
I think if the global church can do that on some type of level…it would be a beautiful picture of the kingdom. And, we could see The United Methodist Church in a whole new light and have a whole new life.
Santiago: So, will this be the essence of your message for General Conference 2016?
Spyres: Yes, and Peter Cibuabua is giving this address with me. He is a young adult from DR Congo who is very involved with The United Methodist Church there. We both share this idea of the power of relationships; the relationships that have invited us into the church, and how powerful they have been. The global church needs to hear and be challenged to embrace relationships, but also celebrate the ways relationships are making a difference right now.
Many pieces of this address are not just our message but that of the young people’s, and so we are looking for young people to engage in this conversation. Young People’s Ministries has invited youth and young adults to expand upon the videos that they have already submitted and to really be a part of crafting the conversation.
The presentation will be a collective address from around the world…it’s an exciting time!
Become a Global Mission Fellow!
Global Mission Fellow applications are now being accepted for the Global Missions Fellows class of 2016–2018. The early submission date is December 31, 2015; late submissions are due by March 31, 2016. Learn more about this program.
*Judith Santiago is the Content and Editorial Coordinator for Global Ministries.