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Ripple Effects and Global Connections
“We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.”—Dorothy Day
What does a Sanctuary in Bossier City, Louisiana have to do with an English classroom in China? Turns out, everything for Megan Marie Rittenberry, one of Global Ministries newest Global Missions Fellow candidates and a member of the Louisiana Conference.
Megan (who goes by Marie)—a 25-year-old, soon-to-be graduate of Louisiana State University in Shreveport—has been serving First UMC Bossier as their administrative assistant, missions liaison, and family life coordinator since January of 2020. Twelve months into her work there, Marie began to look at her upcoming college graduation (set for August of this year) and ask herself what would be the next step in her journey.
|First United Methodist Church,
Bossier City, LA
“It came at just the right moment,” she said of January 2021’s Louisiana Now (our conference’s periodic e-newsletter which shares news, opportunities, and witnesses of the Louisiana Conference). “The deadline [to apply to be a Global Missions Fellow] was in two days.” With the counsel of her mother at her side and only hours to spare, Marie applied and was accepted. “I had never heard about it until then!” she recalled.
A program of the UMC Global Ministries, Global Mission Fellows are young adults, ages 20–30, who are committed to working in social justice ministries for two years. They serve outside of their home communities, either in the United States or overseas. This graduate-level fellowship allows participants to address the root causes of oppression and alleviate human suffering alongside community organizations in a variety of issues including public health (including HIV/AIDS), migration/immigration, education, and poverty. Creating opportunities for young adults is a priority of Global Ministries. Young adults play a critical role as agents of change in The United Methodist Church.
Marie—who went through an extensive application process, series of interviews, and matching exercise in order to move from Candidate to Fellow in the coming months—said that this opportunity combined two of the aspects in life that she feels most passionate about; learning about other countries and her faith. Among the other possible routes, she was considering after college were the Peace Corps, immediate grad school, and the military. But after laying eyes on the Global Missions Fellows information, she felt the clarity of the call.
“My grandparents are also more comfortable with this option,” she said of her impending solo travels to a continent and country where she’s never been.
“Are they United Methodists?” we asked, and she confirmed. A beautiful thing about this denomination: connection is possible on the local level and global level and everywhere in between.
And speaking of local level, the pebble that dropped in the pond of Marie’s story—rippling out eventually to China, as soon as visas open once again—came first from a mission trip to Mexico organized between First UMC Bossier and Noel Memorial UMC.
“I had never even considered missions until [then],” she noted, “Going on that initial mission trip changed everything for me.” An annual team by and/or between both congregations travels to Juarez, Mexico to work through Proyecto Abrigo Ministry to build cinder block houses and relationships and to work in the medical clinic. “You don’t realize the impact that one small decision . . . has on a community. It’s a long-lasting impact for them and you.”
Now, Ms. Rittenberry is preparing for 24-months overseas by gathering all the information needed for when the time comes for her move (hopefully happening this fall), learning Mandarin alongside her mom, and keeping in contact with her area liaisons. Despite her once-held conviction that teaching was not in the cards for her, she will follow in her educator-mother’s footprints as an English teacher in China.
“This is very different than anything I’ve ever done before,” she said, thrill and nerves competing. “It’s exciting but quite scary.”
When asked what part of the process has most surprised her thus far, Marie said that she hadn’t expected to enjoy the interviews with her China connections as much as she has. “You really learn about people by the types of questions they ask”—though said in passing, this alone should add significant hope and trust to readers that Marie is the person for the journey ahead of her, as there are no servants quite like the curious ones.
“How can we support you?” I asked her before we ended the call, agreeing to check back in six months after she lands in-country. “Please pray that the visa process goes smoothly,” she said with the urgency of someone waiting on their life to change. Donors can also give financially through The Advance to support Marie’s work directly.
“I want to continue to bring God’s love and the church out into the world. I want to learn and discover new ways of doing missions work. I want to be the difference and change for at least one person,” she named.
One person may be the hope, but we know how these things go. One person is given one invitation to go on one trip. One experience with one congregation in one community changes one perspective. And one email comes right on time for one woman to answer one call. One connection leads to one more, and one more, and one more so that one story can be totally different than it would have been otherwise. The seeds we plant in our churches this decade grow fruit half a world over the next. If Marie’s story reminds us of anything, it is that in God’s economy, there are no insignificant pebbles.
Marie, your conference is with you and we echo the words of Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey: “The extraordinary courage of young persons like Marie is an inspiration. Marie’s willingness to serve in an environment literally across the planet is certainly a call from God to serve in ways that make a difference in the world. Our prayers are with Marie, and I invite everyone to go to The Advance and contribute to Marie’s journey and that of future Global Fellows. I hope that in reading this article, like Marie earlier this year, a sacred curiosity may be sparked in others. You take our continued prayers and hope as you go.”
May you have each day what you need for the day, so that God’s story—which connects Juarez and Bossier and China in love—may be illuminated even more through your service.
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