HADDONFIELD – Seventeen-year-old Moselle Jules has been a member of Haddonfield United Methodist Church for the past four years and an active participant in the church’s youth ministry since sixth grade. Working with Pastor Chris Heckert and youth leader Bethany Amey-Sutton, she also helped launch a youth council showing great ambition and initiative in her local community.
But her most noteworthy and life-changing experience to date has been a trip she recently took with 13 other youth to Matanzas, Cuba where they worked with Cuba Connection Ministry led by Yodalis Santiago. In what Jules called “mind-opening,” she had the opportunity to participate in Mission of Peace (MOP), “a yearly journey of discovery and Shalom to nations in the global community” sponsored by the Northeast Jurisdictional Council on Youth Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Each year, every Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in the Northeast Jurisdiction selects up to three youth to share in this experience, with Jules representing GNJ.
“Our trip began December 27th and we left Cuba on January 12th. I traveled with 13 other youth, four leaders and Bishop Cynthia Moore-KoiKoi and her husband Raphael. We worshipped in churches, met youth in their churches and civic organizations and shared with people who have a similar longing for peace and understanding. These times have been the high points of each MOP experience,” she said. “It was my last year to attend MOP and I really wanted to experience this trip. I wanted to immerse myself into another culture.”
According to Jules, the mission of the trip, was, as stated in their newsletter, to “approach another people, another culture, another religion… by taking off our shoes… for the place we are approaching is holy. Or we may find ourselves treading on another’s dream… more serious still we may forget that God was there before our arrival.”
She added that they made mission goals during their trip to Cuba including, “to deeply experience the culture and faith of the people of Cuba; to experience and see the love of Christ through our friends in Cuba and to allow them to see the love of Christ in us; to discover and grow in our own personal and collective faith, and to continue to practice what we learned in order to live more spiritually meaningful lives.”
While in Cuba, Jules said she stayed in Mantanzas and visited Old Havana and New Havana. They also went to the CCM Farm, Bay of Pigs Museum and Alabanza Church of Jovellanos.
“We also went to two orphanages. Our mission was to be in community with the people there. The people of Cuba showed me that they were not this government. I saw a country that needs help but can’t receive it because of the position it is in. I will never forget the welcoming faces and warm smiles that I received,” she continued.
Jules, who is a high school senior, believes that youth should understand the importance of helping others but also be aware that mission trips aren’t just about giving.
“It is also about being in the community with the people who you serve. Those people can end up changing your life more than you realize,” she said.
According to the NEJ Council on Youth Ministries Mission of Peace history statement, “MOP is a journey which leads each participant to discover God’s Spirit at work in the world. It is an experience of God’s extended family. It is primarily a people to people experience in which we learn from our hosts how they live as disciples of Jesus Christ in their country. It is a mission which has brought us closer to God’s hoped for community where all are sisters and brothers. The Mission of Peace has traveled to the USSR, the People’s Republic of China, Eastern Europe, Zimbabewe, Guyana, India, Nicaragua, Brazil, Cuba and Africa.”
“I am beyond grateful that I had a chance to participate in Mission of Peace. It was a mind-opening and life-changing experience,” she said. “One of the leaders, Ted Anderson, led us in song almost every day. I will always continue to sing in my heart, ‘We are travelin’ on a road we’ve never seen before, and o it’s hard to know which way to go, but somewhere there’s a promise ’bout some distant shore, that those who seek will someday know.’”