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A call to service

US-2 Isaac Dunn “cultivates kinship” as a case worker for The NOAH Project in downtown Detroit.

US-2, NOAH Project

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is Moses and the burning bush. Moses, after being exiled from Egypt, stumbles upon a burning bush one day that is imbued with God’s spirit. From this burning bush, Moses receives his call to free the Israelites from captivity. It’s a transformative moment in Moses’ life. Yet, however much I enjoy this story, I never experienced a “burning bush” moment.

Instead, my call to service through Global Mission Fellows came from an examination of my heart. I began discerning a call to ministry during college and became involved in several ministries. My senior year of college, I worked in a local church as a missions intern. During my internship, I began to spend more time outside the church in the local community, meeting some of the people experiencing homelessness in our community. I liked to visit a woman who went by the name of “Q.” We discussed the latest news, our favorite Bible stories, and why Q paints to make a living. These interactions taught me how ministry is about building relationships with people. I was drawn to the US-2 program because of its commitment to serving alongside communities, not serving “to” or “for” someone. At the heart of the program is the idea of building equitable relationships.

When I began my service with Networking, Outreach, and Advocacy for the Homeless (NOAH), my boss suggested I read Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. Boyle lays out his belief that “kinship is what God is pressing us on to.” As a caseworker, I’ve learned how to live out this kinship with our clients. Some of my favorite moments happen in small ways. With one client, we discussed who would make it to the Super Bowl that year, checking in after every game. Another liked to talk about music and share new tunes he had learned to play on the piano. One of my favorite clients decided to teach me his favorite gospel song, “God is Greater.” Out of these interactions comes a greater trust and a willingness to take steps, together, toward their goals. Each of these moments allows us to break down society’s barriers and find ourselves as God intended—as equals, as kin.

The NOAH Project serves downtown Detroit from a community center located at Central United Methodist Church. Isaac joined the staff in 2016. Left-right: Director Amy Brown, Isaac Dunn, James, Kevin Sanders, Alexis Mitchell, and Angela Loewen. ~photo courtesy Isaac Dunn

I’ve learned this year that no matter how we receive our call, it is predicated on our relationships; with God, with others, with our own souls. As these relationships grow, so does our sense of how to live out our calling. Moses’ call may have been conveyed through an impossible flame on a fire-repellent bush, but Moses learned to live out his call through his relationship with God and the Israelite people. Our call is not a fixed thing; it is instead an ongoing conversation with God, with one another, and with ourselves as we seek to cultivate kinship. 

Isaac Dunn, from Abilene, Texas, serves as a Global Mission Fellow US-2 (Advance #3022220), class of 2016-2018. The NOAH Project (Networking, Organizing, and Advocating for the Homeless) is a ministry related to Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, Michigan.

This article first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of New World Outlook magazine, General Board of Global Ministries. Used by permission.

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