NEJ youth stretch their horizons on Mission of Peace

Bishop Peggy Johnson returned home Jan. 15 with 18 youth and other adult guides from a fascinating three-week Mission of Peace in and around Johannesburg and Capetown, South Africa. The young people from across the UMC Northeastern Jurisdiction, including three EPA youth, learned much about the country’s complex history, politics and mixture of faiths and cultures, as well as its challenges and hopeful outlook for the future.

Here is tour correspondent Thomas Schmid’s last epistle home, sent on the eve of their departure:

Subject: Our last night in South Africa

It has been a great and blessed two and a half weeks here in SA with this wonderful group of MOP’ers. We spent the day taking time to process what’s we’ve experienced during our time here. We’ve seen the beauty of the people and the land but also the hell that was caused by Apartheid and other atrocities. Throughout this journey these young people saw the face of God everywhere. It was evident in their thoughts as they shared them this afternoon that these youth will make a difference in the world.

Tonight we had a nice meal together and then our MOP talent show. We had a lot of fun, laughs and some really great talent. After that we had our closing worship service. Many good friends were made here and a few tears were shed as we finished late tonight. Tomorrow morning there will be one final walk on the beach for a few before we leave here at 9:30am to head to the airport. We fly from Cape Town to Joburg to Durban to Dulles in Washington, DC. We land there around 6:30am eastern time. At that point we will start heading to our home airports.

As this Mission of Peace ends here in S.A., it will begin for the youth as they begin to live it when they get home.

Peace, Tom
Thomas W. Schmidt,

They began their trek with a commissioning service and have since worshipped, dialogued and enjoyed fellowship with welcoming South African youth and adults in and around Johannesburg and Capetown, highlighting the purpose of this annual global peacemaking adventure. So far they have visited:

  • the Apartheid Museum (“a very powerful experience,” according to mission leader Thomas Schmidt);
  • teeming, urban Soweto, where the popular and lethal struggle against Apartheid began;
  • the Mosaic program in the town of Ikageng, which provides mothers raising children orphaned by AIDS with housing and skills to help support their adopted families;
  • Kliptown, an impoverished, crowded area of Soweto;
  • a residential AA ministry to engage in candid talks with the men who live there; and
  • the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town to learn about political concerns and diplomatic relationships between the two countries.

They’ve also witnessed wonders of God’s creation in visits to a lions park, towering Table Mountain, and the Cape of Good Hope where the Atlantic and Indian oceans come together in a miraculous comingling of their distinct waters. To learn more, read reflections and see photos of this life-changing journey, visit their Facebook page.

Mission of Peace, established in 1984, is a yearly global journey of discovery in the spirit of Shalom, sponsored by the NEJ Council on Youth Ministries and taken together by up to four youth from each NEJ conference. For almost three weeks they worship, form bonds, tour sites and interact with youth and adults in churches and civic organizations who have a similar yearning for peace and cross-cultural understanding.

The youth must raise funds for their trips with help from their conferences and supportive churches, and they must share their insights and experiences with their conferences when they return. The three EPA youth on this MOP journey are Mia Sanchez, Madeleine Devitis and Adrienne Newcomer. They join Bishop Johnson on her first as an episcopal chaperon.

Previous MOP destinations have included The People’s Republic of China, Eastern Europe, Zimbabwe, Guyana, India, Nicaragua, Brazil and Cuba. This is the third MOP group to visit South Africa. For more information about Mission of Peace contact the Rev. Ted Anderson, of the Upper New York Conference, at 585-340-9525 or by e-mail at

–John Coleman, EPA Conference Director of Communications