Students bring to seminary a wealth of experiences, and serving in global mission has played no small role for current M.Div intern Ally Streed, who spent three years in Japan through the ELCA global mission program J-3.
What draws a person to global mission? Why leave everyone and everything familiar to live in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people?
A dream realized
For Streed, her experience started with a childhood dream to live in Japan. When she heard a speaker at her college discuss J-3, it sparked her interest. “I was most drawn to the relational aspects with students and teachers,” she says.
“The opportunity to work closely with others was significant for me.”
Upon arriving in Japan, Streed first spent six months in language classes in Tokyo before moving to the city of Kumamoto to teach English conversation at a Lutheran school for junior- and senior-high students. Although it was a Lutheran school, the student population reflected that of greater Japan—less than one percent of Japan is Christian. In light of this, one memory in particular stands out to her: “I had a student who wanted to learn more conversational English, so we met twice a week for lunch. I prayed before meals. She wasn’t Christian, but she started praying at one of our lunches each week, and she began attending our Lutheran English service at church. By the end of our two years together, she articulated a very beautiful and profound prayer for not having been a Christian.” Here, Streed saw God manifest in a relationship, which is where she experienced God the most in Japan. “Respect and care for others is ingrained in their culture,” she says, “unlike the U.S. where suspicion is the norm. Whatever their religion, they are very open and caring for each other.”
Streed grew up learning the history of the crusades and harming indigenous peoples, but she says the accompaniment model “takes away the ‘us vs. them’ dichotomy— we are all together accompanying one another in mutual learning and growing. Mission is showing the love of Christ, showing grace, being a witness to these things.”
Serving in global mission has shaped her time in seminary and current ministry as well. Streed found a passion for international mission and mission with diverse populations, influencing the courses she takes and where she feels called to ministry.
Showing God’s love in mission matters deeply to Streed, who says, “There’s a difference between being a good person and living in response to the love of Christ. Having the faith convictions I have and feeling the call to share the love and grace Christ has shown me with others means it’s no longer just me caring but Christ profoundly caring through me.”