Minute for Mission: Young Adult Volunteer Program

A Year of Service that Changes Lives and Transforms our Church

Hannah Weinberg-KinseyThe racially motivated murder of nine people last year at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, sent shock waves of distress and heartache across our nation and around the world. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Young Adult Volunteer Hannah Weinberg-Kinsey was one of the millions who grieved the tragedy from afar. She was serving in Zambia, an impoverished country in southern Africa, when the shooting occurred. While watching the televised funeral service of Emanuel’s pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, tears welled in her eyes.

Hannah began to ponder the situation in the context of some past and present experiences. Her mind raced back to her student days at the University of Wisconsin, when her Presbyterian campus ministry group visited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Fifty years before their visit, white supremacists had bombed the congregation, and four African American girls died as a result. Like the people at Emanuel, the girls had gathered to study the Holy Bible and were subjected to a most unholy act.

Her thoughts turned to another person whose life ended too soon—a Zambian teaching colleague known as “Teacher Mekelina.” She had died about a month earlier at age 39, leaving behind a husband and five children ranging in age from 5 to 18. Hannah wondered if better medical care might have saved Teacher Mekelina’s life. She lamented the poverty that people of African descent experience in the United States, Zambia, and everywhere else in the world. “The correlation between poverty and less education, more violent deaths, and more disease cannot be ignored,” she told herself. “Neither can the link between economics and race.”

Rather than rising to fight these injustices, Hannah felt a more appropriate response would be to kneel in humility. “As a white person, I don’t need to rise,” she says. “I’m already on top. I need to stop ignoring the reality of the injustice of my getting more than others. I need to realize that evil is real, and I have a role to play in fighting it.”

Just weeks after watching Rev. Pinckney’s funeral, Hannah returned to the United States. Four people who sang in the choir with her at the Zambian Presbyterian church she attended accompanied her to the airport. Presbyterian mission co-worker Sherri Ellington snapped a picture of them peering through a security gate as Hannah checked her bags. They wanted to get one last look at someone who had no doubt made a lasting impression on them. Yet Hannah says it was her own life that was most shaped by her time in Zambia.

“I found God every day just by looking for God at work in the community,” she says. “It was an everyday life of faith.”

Her experience taught her the importance of putting her faith in action, she says. “I don’t want to be a Presbyterian who ‘just goes to church on Sunday’ and doesn’t consider the implications of faith for everyday life.”

Healthcare, she says, is one of the issues about which she is passionate. “It was eye-opening to see how unfair it was for good, hard-working people to get a minor illness and die from it,” she emphasizes. “I became aware of how that contributes to the cycle of poverty.”

Please give generously to the Pentecost Offering. Your gifts to the Pentecost Offering will help transform the lives of more young adults like Hannah as they work for change alongside communities around the world.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)