An identifying phrase, “Called Unto Holiness,” is painted on the wall near the staircase leading up to the second floor of the Global Ministry Center, which houses the administration offices of departments within the Church of the Nazarene. Included on the floor are Nazarene Youth International (NYI), Nazarene Missions International (NMI), and includes Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM). As the dozen different languages on the wall portray, the motto , “Called Unto Holiness,” shows up on their denominational printing and media in many languages–in over 100 world countries in fact. Christian holiness is an emphasis of other denominations which emerged before or during the 19th century Holiness movement, including the Church of the Nazarene and The Wesleyan Church where my wife and I have our membership, and the Free Methodist Church, where my father spend his early childhood years. With these deep roots that I have in the Holiness branch of the evangelical church, I came into this internship with some connections to the organization that even some employees of NCM do not possess.
One of the departments on this floor is Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM), which plays an important part in the denomination’s mission to teach holiness to Christ’s disciples. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries recognizes the denomination’s Holiness roots in the context of grass roots ministry based in local churches worldwide. Meanwhile, for easier access to donations and grants beyond the Church of the Nazarene (COTN) denominational structure, NCM also operates under the name, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, Inc. (NCMI), for taxation and grant purposes. Regardless of the name (NCM or NCMI), the organization remains unified by common staffing structure with paid and volunteer workers and their benefactors spread to the corners of the earth.
During my 30-hour information seeking visit, I learned in detail how NCM approaches their vision to teach all members of the COTN “Compassion as a Lifestyle.” The mission of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) is listed in their web site, which reads in part, “Following the example of Jesus, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) partners with local Nazarene congregations around the world to clothe, shelter, feed, heal, educate, and live in solidarity with those who suffer under oppression, injustice, violence, poverty, hunger, and disease.” Nazarene Compassionate Ministries International includes in its mission, that “NCMI accomplishes its mission through collaborative and cooperative partnerships between non-denominational donors for the support of relief and development projects designed and directed by local leaders in over 150 countries where the [Church of the Nazarene] through NCM is actively engaged.” I feel closely tied to this passion in my own life calling, as I share the conviction with NCM staff that an essential form of the Christian Gospel is in the form of cross-cultural servanthood to, and restoration of, life dignified by the good news of the kingdom of God. With NCM’s mission of enabling the COTN to be stewards of their resources, the NCM applies their principles of the social gospel to their work, making the daily office routine something that is routine, yet, meaningful for the people who work there.
One way that NCM gives meaning to its work is their desire to seek the gifting of Nazarenes around the globe. Although NCM has its organizational hub in Lenexa, Kansas (in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area), several personnel work from the regional offices of the Church of the Nazarene, and a few work remotely. Most of the employees who I interviewed work from the NCM/NCMI office at the Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, KS. Amongst the people who I interviewed, nations represented included Ethiopia, South Africa, the Philippines, and the United States (one person of United States nationality grew up in a missionary family in Ecuador). Perhaps the more memorable interview was the video call across the Pacific Ocean to the NCM/NCMI office and call-center in Manila, Philippines. In short, I received many opportunities to hear varying perspectives of the professional non-profit sector according to the NCM perspective.
While I searched for a clear action strategy that many NCM staff used to support the central mission of NCM/NCMI, I interviewed in most detail Dr. Cort Miller, who is the Senior Director of Development within Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. I prepared the same questions for Dr. Miller as I did for most other interviews. Questions that I asked were with interest to responsibilities, duties, experiences, daily routine, services to children and youth, NCM strengths, NCM challenges, personal education, personal skills, and recommendations for someone who is preparing to enter the human services side of the non-profit sector. The parts of the interview that I found are tantamount to my interest in working in human services are highlighted below.
Dr. Miller’s responsibilities encompass all donor and constituent engagement that NCM does, including the call center in the Philippines, Kansas City-Area and USA sponsors, and the staff of 19 personnel both in Lenexa and elsewhere. He oversees his staff’s implementation and execution of the fundraising strategies. Goal setting is an important part of the process, which comes natural to his own skill set. One example of an extraordinary story involved what Dr. Miller calls a “widow’s mite” offering, which references a parable that Jesus told of a woman who gave the last two coins that she possessed. The gift of a child to NCM is a story that he compares to this “widow’s mite.” In a framed envelope sitting on his desk, with ink now fading from 16 years of light exposure, was the handwriting of an 8-year old (at the time). Dr. Miller explained that this child in Blue Springs, Mo, had saved money for one year to donate to the children in a particular (location not disclosed) country, who needed food and clothing. The envelope had contained over $17 for the annual denominational giving drive for NCM.The December drive is known as Compassionate Ministries Month, and is promoted to churches of the Nazarene in the United States and Canada.Miller told another story in which a child dying of cancer informed her grandmother that she wanted her stuffed animals to be sold and the money to be given to the children who she had seen on TV without the abundance that she had. Miller uses “widow’s mite” offerings of this boy and the girl to keep his passion alive for the mission of NCM.
I also asked Dr. Miller to highlight strengths and challenges of NCM in addition to personal skills and education that have allowed him to serve at his capacity. Two areas of strength for NCM are the organization’s use of the denominational structure to deliver the resources needed, and the compassionate conscience which they teach to the church. In the structure of the local church, each ministry assesses its own cultural and community context for needs, and creates a program unique to its own outreach possibilities. Thus, NCM merely “lifts the arms,” as Miller has said, of the workers on the ministry field. Secondly, the compassionate conscience of the gospel of Christ is brought forth through initiating and carrying forth compassionate education for the church as a whole, with the goal that the denomination takes personal ownership of the call to be Christ to marginalized and hurting members of their communities. Thus, the goal of NCM is to promote the compassion of Jesus through educating people to embrace the call to live in obedience to servanthood, and so it is to not to merely concentrate the efforts of the compassionate-minded members of the COTN apart from the collaborative participation with their local church communities.
Some challenges with NCM discussed my Miller include creative ways to raise funds then the denomination has diverse perspectives and priorities. Many local churches may balance ministry of the preached word with servant-minded ministries such as that which is done through NCM. Yet, the challenge lies in the cases where local churches feel that the preached word is of primary importance over the actions of justice and mercy. However, the strength in this challenge of being within a denominational structure is the potential access to world areas where larger name organizations do not have easy access. For example, World Vision recently used NCM to provide to an area that they could not access alone. Thus, because of NCM’s denominational structure, both World Vision and NCM used the Nazarene churches in a needy area had the ability to bring positive impact to an area that would otherwise out of reach for donors and constituents of larger organizations.
Beyond my interview of Dr. Miller, most of my interviews included educational background of each staff member. I discovered that NCM is a place for people who carry many degrees, including Intercultural studies, Organizational Leadership, Business Administration, Theology and Ministry, and even Counseling. With this discovery, I was amazed at how much I had in common with various individuals. My own degrees in Philosophy / Theology, Master of Divinity, and an MA in Intercultural Studies often provided meaningful connection between myself and my interviewees. Most unexpected, however, was the common principle that my Education degree (in-progress) has with a degree in Counseling. This is because both educators and counselors excel at assessing skills and knowledge as people with the objective of guiding them to personal growth. As such, the growth mindset of the educational classes that I took at MNU in the Accelerated Elementary Education program have given me a skill set which has significant potential for someone interested in working to improve the quality of life for people.
I will take away from my time at Nazarene Compassionate Ministries my shared personality traits of eternal optimism and dreaming for a better future beyond what can presently be asked for or imagined. As we obverse the second Sunday of Advent, I cannot help but to place my hope in the Kingdom that is barely visible today, where the body of Christ comes together to work for justice and peace for vulnerable strangers in their midst and abroad. As I prayerfully think through my next steps, I will remain hopeful that my strengths will reveal themselves in the present in order that God may use my new skills and tools for a vision that is consistent with my passion, my talent, and my preparation.