Moving to a new place can be scary, and having a familiar face nearby can help.
That was the case for Tapiwa Manyonga, a Zimbabwean and summer intern at Albert Lea United Methodist Church who goes to school on the east coast. But before arriving for the summer, she already had connections in the area.
“The pastor who helped me apply is from here Albert Lea,” Manyonga said, referring to a pastor who did missionary work with her in the Philippines in 2018.
Prior to doing missionary work, she did development studies in Zimbabwe with a focus on social justice.
For her, social justice included the rights of women and children, but she said the concept depends on where a person is.
“Where I come from, the main issues were child marriage,” she said. “So I was mainly interested in the rights of young girls who got married when they were young.”
She also wanted to work in the ministry.
“I wanted to be a pastor too,” she says. “So I needed a connection between ministry and social justice.”
After seeing a connection between ministry and social justice, she joined Global Mission Fellows, where she was sent to the Philippines and met Rev. Randall Cirksena, pastor of Ellendale United Methodist Church, who introduced her. encouraged to apply to Drew University.
Cirksena told him about the Exploring Leadership Internship Project (ELI), which was developed in 2015 to “identify, encourage and support young adults who are exploring a call to ordained ministry.”
“I want to learn more about ministry, learn more about engaging with the community, and learn more about engaging with social justice issues,” she said.
Manyonga also wants to see what she can do for the community, engage people and build relationships.
She described the locals as welcoming and said she felt “at home”.
“I really got a warm welcome (earlier this week),” she said.
And so far, apart from church services, nothing has really surprised her.
“In Zimbabwe we do two hours and 30 minutes,” she said. “…So here it’s like 45 minutes or an hour.”
Manyonga, who is here until mid-August, is entering her third year at Drew University in New Jersey. After graduation, she plans to stay involved in ministry.
During her internship, she will lead a Bible study in July, help lead worship, and engage with the community.
She will have one year of optional practical training in the United States.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to be an ELI trainee,” she said. “…And I’m grateful to be in this church, and I hope to learn more from people. To learn more (about) this call, and I also hope to do more.