Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Global Mission Fellows reunite in Nome

By Rhonda Schneider*

Mission volunteers have served in Nome, Alaska, for many years. Some of our closest neighbors and friends came to Nome as nurses, communication specialists and other professionals. Looking for a faith-based service opportunity, young adults have traveled to Nome to work among the many programs of the Nome Community Center as Global Mission Fellows (formerly the US-2 Program) who engage in mission service in the U.S. for two years. A summer reunion celebrated those who are still in Nome and one who recently returned for a visit.

Under the direction of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, applicants who are willing to serve for two years within the United States are considered for service in areas where the social justice priorities of the church can be impacted. Nome is one of only six states in the U.S. where service opportunities through this program are currently available. These priorities include human rights, children and youth, health, migration, gender justice, poverty, community organizing, advocacy and education.

All programs of the Nome Community Center align themselves with these issues, making it an easy match for those who want to serve. The program requires the affiliate (Nome Community Center) to provide housing and a worksite that corresponds with the skills and gifts of each Fellow. These volunteers work alongside NCC staff to provide programming.

The first US-2 missionary to Nome was Marsha (Maroelli) Sloan in 1995. She and many others stayed in Nome after their two-year terms ended. Since then, 13 US-2s and Fellows have come to serve at Nome Community Center. In fact, of all the mission opportunities in the program, Nome has a reputation for keeping its missionaries! Many met their spouses here and stayed and worked for other agencies in the community; others remain as NCC employees.

One challenge for this group of young adults when they are assigned to a worksite is to connect to the community and become a contributing member. Historically, Fellows wear many hats, working among the variety of programs and meeting needs as they arise. Sloan, for example, served for many years in several capacities, working at Nome Eskimo Community before leaving the town last year after 22 years.

Beth (Pond) Smit brought her family to Nome this summer to do volunteer work. She served for two years back in 1998 and has fond memories of her time in Nome. Julie Elmore, a US-2 before becoming the pastor of the Community United Methodist Church, stayed for 12 years. Chris Steppe, the current director of the Boys & Girls Club of Nome came in 2011, served for two years and continues to serve today.

Before becoming a missionary, Lily Fawn White struggled with identifying her place in the world. But her two years of service in Nome from 2008–2010 impacted her deeply, and continues to shape her: “Five years after my term has ended, I still live and work in the community where I was placed. I have found my soul mate, we have built our family, and I have a church and community from which I can draw strength and love. I have found the place where I belong.”

Greg and Kimberly Bishop arrived in 2015, the first couple to serve in Nome together as Global Mission Fellows. They immediately made friends with other young couples, became Emergency Medical Technician certified and have invested in many ways in the community. As their terms ended, they saw so much to enjoy about living here. Both are currently employed by NCC as an administrative assistant and a property manager.

Jennie Diggs and Alisha Rohrer arrived last fall to begin their terms as the newest Fellows assigned to Nome. They serve at the Boys & Girls Club and the Food Bank, and planned and organized Camp CRAVE for the summer of 2018. In addition, they are making connections and help wherever they are needed.

In August, Nome Community Center welcomed two new Fellows to Nome. Hannah Schnaidt and Hannah Newton will follow in the footsteps of those who have paved the way to successful mission service, living on a simple living stipend, giving fully of themselves and asking little in return.

GMF Nomes reunion.jpg
US-2 and Global Mission Fellows who have served in the past and those who are currently serving at Nome Community Center. From left to right – back: Chris Steppe, Greg Bishop, Kimberly Bishop, Alisha Rohrer, front: Beth Pond, Fawn White, Jennie Diggs.
PHOTO: RHONDA SCHNEIDER

*Rhonda Schneider is the executive director of the Nome Community Center.

Want to learn more about the Global Mission Fellows program or apply to be a part of the 2019 cohort? Visit their website https://www.umcmission.org/Get-Involved/Generation-Transformation/Global-Mission-Fellows/Fellows for more information.