Jun 01, 2014

Two young women from the EPA Conference will journey to the Philippines, enduring 22 hours in flight, to gather with nearly 400 other United Methodists from 34 countries at the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly July 16-20. They will worship, pray and serve in ministry together, as they also explore and help create the future of their church.

Lauren Lomas (left), 20, of Lima UMC, and Ashley Thompson, 17, of Wharton-Wesley UMC, will join other youth, young adults and adults who work with youth at the Center for Community Transformation, a retreat center in Tagaytay, Philippines.

Lomas is a junior at Penn State University’s Brandywine Campus. Thompson is a senior at Upper Darby High School. Both are longtime active members of their churches, and the two just met weeks ago for the first time.

Actually, there will be a third member of the EPA Conference at this quadrennial, global meet-up event. Ann Jacobs is co-chairwoman of the sponsoring General Board of Discipleship’s Division of Ministries with Young People. The youngest daughter of Connectional Ministries Director the Rev. Christopher J. Kurien, she has co-led planning for the event for the past two years, while earning her undergraduate degree from Boston University. She will enroll in seminary in the fall.

Ann, Lauren and Ashley are all participating as representatives of  the denomination’s Northeastern Jurisdiction. Each Central and Jurisdictional conference can send five youth, five young adults, and two adult youth workers as voting delegates to the legislative assembly, in addition to 12 non-voting delegates.

The assembly will consider numerous petitions submitted by young people on various topics, ranging from global warming to same-sex marriage. It is designed to give young UMC members a collective voice and direct access for their supported proposals to the General Conference. Petitions discussed at the Legislative Assembly could find their way onto the docket for the 2016 General Conference.

Ashley Thompson feels she may have been chosen for this experience of a lifetime because of her  passion for legislative advocacy–“getting everyone’s voice heard”–as expressed in her application essay. She wants to be a psychologist and an ambassador for the U.S. State Department someday.

She said she is just a little nervous about her first overseas trip, but even more excited about “meeting, conversing and learning with so many other young people from different cultures,” something she already enjoys in her culturally diverse high school. The Sunday school teacher and occasional worship leader has also attended the UMW-sponsored “Girls on the Go” for two years.

Lauren Lomas has been overseas–to Italy and Barcelona, Spain, as a student. Majoring in Human Development and Family Studies, she is considering a career as a “Child-Life Specialist” to help children in hospitals understand and adjust to the effects of medical procedures they undergo. This summer she is researching “how technology impacts a child’s ability to self-regulate.”

At Lima UMC, Lauren has been a youth and young adult representative on the Church Council, a delegate to Annual Conference, a volunteer with children in the before- and after-school programs, and a singer in the praise band. She also preaches a monthly children’s sermon. No less a leader in college, she takes visitors on campus tours as an ambassador and is treasurer of the Lions Club.

“I actually enjoy going to church meetings that deal with important matters,” she confided. “Church is just a huge part of my life. It has impacted my life in so many ways.

“I’m excited to see the diversity of United Methodists from around the world, just like the diversity we have here in Eastern PA, but more,” said Lomas. “It would be cool to room with people from other countries and to take trips together, like on the volcano trek.”

Participants will ride in jeepneys, the iconic local form of Filipino transportation, and learn some Filipino history, culture and language with a “fiesta,” a cultural dinner in the Intramuros of Manila and visits to local congregations.

“The theme of the event is Crossroads, symbolizing a place where we come together, experience growth and change, and go out into our church and the world to change them,” said Michael Ratliff, Associate General Secretary at GBOD and head of Young People’s Ministries. Fifty recently trained young adult missioners will be commissioned there also, Ratliff said.

Twenty-five workshops will prepare participants to more effectively live out their response to God, as they move beyond the crossroads that brings the group together. An “Open Space” experience will allow them to connect with others who share their concerns and make plans together for future leadership opportunities.

“I hope for more insight about what I might want to do with my life,” said Lomas. “God will show me a path to follow.”

Ann Jacobs encouraged both young women to apply to attend the Global Convocation, and now she asks the EPA Conference to hold them and everyone involved in prayer. She also asks that churches and groups extend invitations to Ashley and Lauren to come discuss their experiences, especially with youth and young adult groups.

By John W. Coleman
EPA Conference Communications Director