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Pastor Pamela Coy

Pastor Pamela Coy

Pastor of Smith River United Methodist Church in Smith River, California

When I was first assigned as part time ‘retired’ pastor to Smith River UMC, and before I met the congregation, I looked on their Facebook page. I saw youth, lots of young people, full of energy. This will be fun, I thought!

It turned out the youth were from Sierra Service Project, who used the Smith River United Methodist Church campus as their base of operations during summer. It is delightful having the staff around all summer so we can really get to know them. Then, each week, a new team comes. It is exciting to discover who they are.

The youth and adults are all interesting and adventurous people…why else would they come to this remote region of California? Everyone is invited to community dinner on Tuesdays with the volunteers, and that is when we get to hear their remarkable stories.

“I believe the love does linger…the energy clings to the walls even when the church becomes silent and much older in the fall.”

The first summer I was here, SSP volunteers helped rebuild a gate in the parsonage yard and I got to know several teams. Last summer my neighbor got a ramp in her backyard so she could get out there in her wheelchair. She has been spending more time outside this fall, yay!

All year, people in and around Smith River who have worked with Sierra Service Project talk about the gift they received from SSP. The staff is truly dedicated – ready to greet the teams, house and feed them, and make sure they have what they need to get the jobs done. I am amazed at their stamina.

I believe the Smith River UMC congregation remains vital all year round because of the love and excitement that fills the church all summer. Jesus calls us to love one another, and build a sturdy foundation. I believe the love does linger…the energy clings to the walls even when the church becomes silent and much older in the fall. SSP is so welcome here every year. Hugs all around…

Editor’s note: This article is featured in SSP’s 2018 Annual Newsletter; read all the stories written by youth volunteers, summer staff, and community members. Request a hard copy newsletter to be mailed to you.

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Joseph Makunga: San Diego Regional Coordinator

Joseph Makunga: San Diego Regional Coordinator

Joseph Makunga
Citrus College, Senior
San Diego Regional Coordinator
Former youth volunteer with Claremont United Methodist Church

I’m Joseph Makunga and I’m thrilled to be Sierra Service Project’s new Regional Coordinator in Imperial Beach, CA. I’ve served on SSP staff for three summers; twice in the San Diego region. SSP San Diego is so special to me because it’s where I had my first ever SSP experience as a graduated high school senior. Unsure of what the week had in store, and a few weeks after an ankle surgery, I arrived timid and uncertain. By the end of the week, the youth and staff had changed my mind and I’ve been serving every summer since.

“Just minutes from the Pacific Ocean and the US Mexico border, ‘home’ this summer was Imperial Beach.”

In 2018 I was lucky enough to return to San Diego; this time in a new location. Just minutes from the Pacific Ocean and the US Mexico border, “home” this summer was Imperial Beach (IB). Organizing this move from the City Heights neighborhood to IB was an incredible feat to take on. In less than a year the site was up and running, hosting over 350 volunteers across six weeks. This would not have been possible without collaboration between the SSP office, the local community in IB, and my predecessor Shaila Homan.

“In exploring what it means to ‘Love Courageously,’ we discussed ways we as friends and neighbors could build strong relationships, able to withstand the tumultuous tides of everyday life. There is nowhere better to observe this in action than in the tight-knit community of Imperial Beach.”

As with any new site, our staff team had to remain adaptable amidst challenges, but it quickly became clear we were experiencing something truly special. In exploring what it means to “Love Courageously,” we discussed ways we as friends and neighbors could build strong relationships, able to withstand the tumultuous tides of everyday life. There is nowhere better to observe this in action than in the tight-knit community of Imperial Beach.

I strive as the Regional Coordinator to continue being a representative of SSP’s vision and mission. This year, I’ll work on maintaining and creating new relationships to provide the best experience for volunteers and homeowners as our work in the region progresses. I look forward to the future and all the exciting prospects it holds!

SSP Leadership Academy

SSP Leadership Academy

What is it?

A year-long leadership development program for 8 to 10 selected staff members aimed at improving their leadership skills and helping to discern their life-long calling to live out their Christian faith through service to others. The Academy is a collaboration between SSP and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

What does it entail?

Participant (“fellows”) will spend three weekends in discernment and study at Wesley in Washington. Fellows will also be assigned a mentor who they will work with throughout the year.

The weekends will take place on October 5 – 7, January 25 – 27, and April 5 – 7.

Who will lead this?

The weekend retreats will be led by two dynamic Wesley faculty members. One leader will be Kim Bloom, whose area of expertise is “helping others discover insights about their life, work, and relationships. Through conversations and activities, a person’s theology and world-view are explored and integrated into these insights about everyday life.”

The other leader will be Michael Koppel. Michael is Professor of Pastoral Theology and Congregational Care at Wesley Theological Seminary. An ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), he has served as pastor, campus minister, hospital clinical care supervisor, hospice chaplain, and youth minister. He teaches and researches in the field of pastoral theology and care ministries. Michael is the author and editor of several books, numerous professional journal articles, and church publications. He has a B.A. from the University of California, Davis, an M.Div. from Yale University Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Claremont School of Theology.

What else will happen while we are in DC?

The weekends will be full, but there will be time for some sightseeing and educational activities.

How similar will this be to last year’s Leadership Academy?

Logistically, it will be very similar. You will be flown to DC on Friday and return either Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. You will stay in student housing at Wesley, and your meals will be there as well. The curriculum will be similar to last year’s, but will tie in more closely with SSP training.

Who can apply?

Any current staff member may apply. Everyone is encouraged to apply, but priority will be given to staff who have worked one or two summers and are committed to working future summers at SSP. Other requirements are:

  • You commit to attending all three weekend sessions.
  • You are serious about grappling with how your faith and commitment to serving others will play out in your future.

What does it cost?

All of this is free-of-cost to the Fellows. Transportation, lodging and meals are covered.

Questions? Ask Rick or Veronica.

Apply here now!

Fellows will be selected and notified in early September.

Spotlight on Staff-In-Training Griffin Maguire

Spotlight on Staff-In-Training Griffin Maguire

Griffin Maguire
Senior at First Congregational Church Eugene
Eugene, OR

 

Tell us why you would like to work as an SIT this summer.

This will be my first summer after I graduate high school and the last summer before I start college. Functionally that might not mean much but it feels like a huge step in other ways. A transition to a new part of my life. I want this new period in my life to revolve first and foremost around serving others.

“I want this new period in my life to revolve first and foremost around serving others.”

Being an SIT would not only be a step forward in my life, it would be exactly the sort of undertaking that I want to characterize my time on this earth.

I know the number of summers in which I will be able to do this sort of thing are now limited, eventually I’ll have to work, i’ll hopefully leave academia, and I may not have the time or energy for this sort of experience.

This is an opportunity to seize the chance to give my labor to something that could open up new paths for me to humbly serve something greater than myself.

Why are you interested in being on SSP staff in the future? 

SSP has continually been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s made me immeasurably more humble and introspective and I owe huge amounts of my personal growth to the project.

I think beyond how rewarding working at SSP may be, giving back to an organization that has done so much to shape me would be an incredible opportunity in itself. Anyone who has the chance to work in such an organization is lucky to have the tools and circumstances to do so much for culturally, economically and geographically marginalized communities.

“The work that SSP staff put into creating the experience and guiding the service of these communities is inspiring and I believe it calls all of us to do more for what we believe in.”

The work that SSP staff put into creating the experience and guiding the service of these communities is inspiring and I believe it calls all of us to do more for what we believe in.

Working at SSP is just one way, perhaps the best way, of living up to that. It’s a beautiful model for cooperation and just distribution of both resources and labor which some of us have in excess while too many others find in short supply.

What are your plans for next year?

I plan to attend my local community college to take classes and explore opportunities. I don’t have a concrete vision for my distant future, but I want to move forward without accruing large amounts of student debt.

The obvious choice to me seemed to be community college instead of immediately enrolling in a four year university. What is certain is that I feel the need to ensure that whatever it is I do with my life needs to revolve around or clearly center the advancement of social justice and the dismantling of unjustified hierarchy.

“What is certain is that I feel the need to ensure that whatever it is I do with my life needs to revolve around or clearly center the advancement of social justice and the dismantling of unjustified hierarchy.”

Inequity anywhere is worthy of our attention and I believe above all else that those of us with labor to spare, particularly those of us who benefit from inequity, have the responsibility to rectify said inequity.

That principle will guide me to a satisfying and acceptable path, regardless of whether it be writing, speaking, physical labor, organizing or another road to service.

Please tell us anything else about yourself that you think we should know!

I’m a firm believer in a sense of justice, particularly when it comes to marginalization and unfair distribution of resources.

I personally believe that SSP is an inspiring model for redistributing both resources and more importantly labor to people who need it. Spiritually this is key to how I view my faith, which personally is expressed through advocacy and ally-ship with underprivileged communities and individuals.

“Spiritually this is key to how I view my faith, which personally is expressed through advocacy and ally-ship with underprivileged communities and individuals.”

I believe that serving our fellow human beings is more important than personal wealth, career advancement, academic achievement, and many other traditional standards of success.

Building community and friendship and sharing compassion is simply the best way to sustain that service. Humbling ourselves before any calling is more productive when the experience is shared with people you trust, respect and care for.

That’s what SSP means to me, its why I’ll always remember it, and its why I’ll never stop being inspired by it.

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  • SSPers in SoCal: have you been waiting for an SSP meet-up near you? Join the 2019 Site Directors, office staff, and volunteers next Friday December 14 for one of two meet-ups in West Los Angeles! The first is coffee hour for volunteers and group leaders at @westwoodumcla from 9:30-11:30am. The second is a staff interest dinner, for staff alumni, SITs, and graduated youth. You can see more details and RSVP on SSP’s Facebook event page (link in bio). DM us with any questions!
  • "Seeing God’s work in action proved to me that good exists in this world of hurt; it just needs to be facilitated; igniting a new hope in me." Read Andrea Maniti's story about how serving with SSP changed her view on what it means to have faith: SierraServiceProject.org/Andrea
  • "SSP reminds me to always find grace, know God is always with me, remember how blessed I am, and to always be thankful." Read Emma Healy's story about how SSP has inspired her to bring SSP to her own community: SierraServiceProject.org/emma

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