Inaugural missions conference marks new collaboration
LaGRANGE — A historic partnership between Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church and LaGrange College was celebrated this week during the inaugural Missions Celebration on campus.
In his keynote address Thursday morning, General Secretary Thomas Kemper of Global Ministries commended the college for its commitment to international action and service.
“I am very encouraged to find a college situated here that wants to be globally engaged,” he said. “You make it very clear that you want to confront your students with new ideas, new research and new scientific methods, but that isn’t enough. You also want to engage and confront your students with new relationships with people they have never met, often in uncomfortable situations.”
For example, Kemper mentioned the college’s Jan Term work in the Philippines.
“You take your students into a cemetery in Manila to interact with and live with these people and share their lives,” he said. “You know how important it is. If we don’t learn to live in diversity, if we don’t learn in college how to live with these differences, then we will not be able to change this world and we will not be able to live together in a peaceful world in the 21st century.”
Sometimes a life of service can be uncomfortable, he said.
“But in the end, it will make you a better person and will lead you to be the person God wants you to be, a leader in the church and a college graduate who makes a difference in your own lives, in the lives of your families, your communities and your careers.”
The two-day conference featured Global Ministries staff who work in areas such as global health, education, business, religion/music, sociology, history/political science and athletics. They met with students in class and during other activities.
A worship simulcast of services in LaGrange, Honduras and Russia was hosted Thursday night at First United Methodist Church.
David Ahearn, professor of religion, helped organize the conference and said it is the first time Global Ministries has partnered with a college on a program like this.
“They were excited because they could see a chance to develop a model on how to reach college students in other regions of the country.”
The conference offered many opportunities to LaGrange students, he said.
“It focused on helping college students learn more about a vocation in global missions,” he said. “This was an amazing event for the college and our students.”
LaGrange College President Dan McAlexander expressed his gratitude to Global Ministries for its recognition of the college’s commitment to its mission.
“We prepare our students to be successful, responsible citizens who aspire to lives of integrity and moral courage,” he said. “That goal is an energizing force and is embedded in everything we do. Through it, we learn what we can do for the world if we can just work together. We are so grateful that you are here.”
Kemper said he is excited about the new partnership.
“This is about being connected globally,” he said. “It’s about helping each other discover that our call is more than one to just ourselves. It is also to our communities and to service. I hope this is just the beginning of an exciting relationship between LaGrange College and the general board of Global Ministries. I am looking forward to many great things.”