Missionary working with 'Workers Interfaith Network' in Memphis tells his story at 2012 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference
Zachary Ferguson serves as a US-2 volunteer with Workers Interfaith Network in Memphis. He spoke about his work at this year's Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church. Submitted photo
Adapted from an article by Linda Rhodes for 2012 Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference news coverage
One young missionary serving in the Memphis Conference told his story at this year’s Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference (SEJC) of the United Methodist Church.
Zachary Ferguson, 24, from First UMC of Martinsville, Va., talked about his experience supporting workers’ rights as a US-2 volunteer for Workers Interfaith Network (WIN) in Memphis, Tenn.
The SEJC took place in July in Western North Carolina.
Ferguson, along with three other young missionaries, hoped to encourage support within the conference for the General Board of Global Ministries’ (GBGM) US-2 program, as well as for its mission internships. During the conference, they helped lead one of the worship sessions and closed business sessions with their testimonies.
The US-2 program in which Ferguson participates allows young adults between the ages of 20 and 30 to serve in a social justice and leadership program for two years as they work in faith-based agencies and community organizations throughout the country. Conversely, the GBGM mission internships facilitate young adults of the same age who wish to enroll in a three-year leadership development program that splits their time between an international and a domestic assignment.
Ferguson said before he became interested in the GBGM program, he cared deeply about social justice and felt driven to make a difference in the world. However, he didn’t think the church offered a way for him to accomplish that.
“I wanted to live out the ministry of Jesus without being confined by four walls,” he said. “I thought that was impossible in the church.”
Yet, that all changed one night as he surfed the Internet. He visited RethinkChurch.org and clicked on a story he found interesting. Instead of connecting him to the story, the link took him to the GBGM Web site. At the time, he had never heard of GBGM adult mission programs and he would have rather read the story he wanted than check out their details. But, that didn’t happen. No matter how many times he tried, the link took him to GBGM material.
“It made me mad, so I just closed my browser,” Ferguson said.
Later, however, he read a quote by Howard Thurman in “Jesus Disinherited” that said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do it. Because the world needs people who have come alive.”
Those words reminded Ferguson of the young adult mission programs GBGM had listed online, so he revisited the organization’s page and eventually signed up as a volunteer. Additionally, after moving to Memphis, he began a young adult Sunday school class at St. Luke’s UMC.
“We are trying to live so we get outside the four walls of the church to connect with the community,” Ferguson said.
The other three GBGM missionaries who attended the SEJ conference are Hannah Hanson, 25, Stephanie Kimec, 26, and Rachel DeBos, 22. Hanson served in South Africa and Orlando, Fla., while Kimec and Debos work in California and Florida, respectively.