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World Communion Sunday: An Opportunity to Support the Education and Training of Church and
Community Leaders
Photos of six students.
The Crusade Scholarships program benefits from the World Communion Sunday special offering. Several current Crusade Scholars are - Top row: Lilian Siwila, Jasmine Smothers; middle row: Joo Cha, Julio Valenzuela; bottom row: Jonsen Sembiring, Raúl Sosa.
Image by: GBGM Administration

This Sunday, October 1, 2006, United Methodists will come together once again to celebrate World Communion Sunday, a time of communion with Christians all over the world, and a joining together in an effort to serve God in life-changing ministries.  The offerings from this special Sunday will help to support the education and training of church and community leadership – individual students from around the world whose future work will have a lasting impact on the communities in which they serve. 

Drawn from across all of the regions of the world, as well as from racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, Crusade scholars are committed to the life and mission of the Church, as well as to its ministry to society and the world.  On our roster for the 2006/2007 academic year are 78 students, 39 of whom are women and 39 are men.  Two-thirds of the students are involved in religious-based studies such as theological studies, Christian education, pastoral care and church development.  The other students are in fields such as peace studies and conflict management, economics and rural development, gender studies, Islamic studies and philosophy of education, to name a few.   All Crusade scholars are endorsed by their conference leadership, and have a commitment to working with the church upon completion of their studies.

A sampling of the voices of this year’s new students include:

Lilian Siwila (Crusade International - Zambia)
Currently living in South Africa, Lilian Siwila is actively involved with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, is a member of the Circle for Concerned African Women Theologians and the Africa Tamar Campaign (a Christian organization dealing with violence against women and children).  In August of 2006, Ms. Siwila began her second year of the PhD program in gender and theology at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa.  Ms. Siwila’s goal is to work with different denominations and ethnic groups, sensitizing the churches on issues of sexual violence within the churches and in Christian homes. Ms. Siwila will continue this work after graduation as she already has
offers for a position as a full-time staff member with the Tamar Campaign, a post with the University of Kwazulu-Natal, and for a pastoral position with her church after her coming ordination.

Jonsen Sembiring (Crusade International – Indonesia)
Jonsen Sembiring of the Methodist Church of Indonesia has just entered his first year of PhD work in Islamic studies at the South East Asia Graduate School of Theology in the Philippines.  Mr. Sembiring describes Indonesia as one of the biggest Muslim countries in the world, with a population of 224 million.  85% are Muslim, and 13% are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Kong Hucu, Taoist or Animist.  Mr. Sembiring’s goal is to develop holistic ministries, showing God’s love to all people through church programs. He feels it is within the realm of Christian mission to dialogue with his Muslim neighbors to build mutual understanding and to work together for a better life for everyone.  On completion of his studies, Mr. Sembiring will be taking a position as lecturer/researcher with the Methodist Church in North Sumatra.

Raúl Sosa  (Crusade International – Uruguay)
The Rev. Sosa of the Methodist Church of Uruguay is a full-time local pastor in Montevideo.  He is also visiting professor at the Instituto Universitario ISEDET in Argentina.  Rev. Sosa began his PhD studies in missiology in July 2006 at ISEDET.  Rev. Sosa tells us that “extreme poverty and social exclusion suffered by the vast majority of people in (Latin American) countries is stark evidence of the excruciating problems affecting this region.”  In this context, he asks:  “How can the church influence social structures through its prophetic voice?  In what ways can the faith community become a true alternative, a welcoming community where no one is excluded, a community that advances just, loving and humane relationships?”  He feels that this is the field of missiology, where it connects the missionary practice of the Church to theological reflection.  He urges that theology not lose sight of mission.  Rev. Sosa will continue his pastoral work and teaching after graduation.

Joo Cha (Crusade National – Asian American)
Born in South Korea, Joo Cha began her preparation this year for a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Texas/Arlington.  As a social worker, she feels her job will be to “embrace those who are marginalized by society and enable them to stand on their own two feet…Jesus Christ,” she notes, “was the ultimate social worker when He was walking on this earth.”  Once her studies are complete, she and her husband (a student at Dallas Theological Seminary) plan to return to New York to serve at Vision Christian Fellowship United Methodist Church.  Joo will focus on broken families and troubled teenagers, especially those of immigrant families.  Additionally, Joo has a strong interest in working to defend those who are persecuted because of their religious beliefs.  “No one’s human rights should be violated because of their beliefs…as Christians, we need to do everything we can…to uphold the sanctity of life.”

Jasmine Smothers (Crusade National – African American)
Jasmine Smothers will begin the second year of her Master of Divinity program in parish ministry and advocacy at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia.  Once motivated to go into the study of law and become a supreme court justice, Jasmine experienced a turning point in her life that drew her back to the church.  She became a youth pastor, and through this and other related experiences, found her calling to become a pastor.  Concerned about the world that her peers and future generations will inherit, Jasmine wants to emphasize the love, compassion and grace of Christ through her ministry. 

Julio Valenzuela (Crusade National – Latino)
In his second year of the Master of Divinity program at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas, Julio Valenzuela intends to serve as an ordained elder in the Rio Grande Conference for The United Methodist Church.   He currently is serving as a local pastor.  Some issues of deep concern to Julio are, globally, the injustice that generates suffering among the poorest people of the world, and locally, the small number of young people who are in our congregations today.  He is interested in re-examining the contextualization of our message in reaching out to the younger generations.    

These are just a few examples of the prophetic work undertaken by students who are funded through the Crusade Scholarship Program. 

As we join hands to support and celebrate this ministry on October 1, we join together with our mission partners all over the world – those whose hopes, dreams, prayers and hard work are helping to forge a more peaceful, more just and healthier tomorrow.  Please join us in nourishing our future leaders.  Give as generously as you can.  Each gift makes a difference not only in the life of one individual, but in the ongoing life of our churches and our communities. 


Date posted: Sep 28, 2006