Andrew Fleming (front left) and Tony Elkins (back left) share a meal together with two others. Andrew and Anthony are Arkansas Methodists serving the world in different mission areas as Global Mission Fellows. || Photo provided by Andrew Fleming

By Sam Pierce

Featured Contributor

Shortly after graduating from college, Andrew Fleming was not sure what he wanted to pursue, so he thought becoming a part of the Global Mission Fellows gave him a sense of direction.

“It seemed like a good program,” Fleming said. “And I could go out and have another two years of pretty structured stuff to do and give me time to think of what I want to do in the future.

“That was the beginning of it. As it got closer, and I started talking to some of the other people involved, one of the big reasons, I decided to join, was for the opportunity to serve with people.”

According to the website umcmission.org, “the Global Mission Fellows program takes young adults ages 20 to 30 out of their home environments and places them in new contexts for mission experience and service … They connect the church in mission across culture and geographical boundaries.”

“It really is a valuable opportunity,” Fleming said. “I’ve never really had a calling to ministry, but this is something that I have wondered for a while. I don’t think I want to be ordained, but this was a good way to explore that a little bit.

“My dad is a pastor, and I know I don’t want to do that because I have seen all the hard things he has had to deal with it … I still don’t have the best grasp on what I want to do, but by going through this program, it has given me a better understanding.”

As a Global Mission Fellow, Fleming works for Metropolitan Ministries, a nonprofit organization in Tampa, Florida that serves people who are homeless or at risk. Fleming said he works on the spiritual formation team and helps lead chapel services and bible studies.

“I think we have the space for 50 families on our main campus,” Fleming said. “Families generally live there from three months to a year or even longer. We also serve our community through an outreach program, in order to prevent others from becoming homeless; we provide assistance to them.

“I help organize and plan some of our chapel services and we do three short services a week. I help facilitate the choir that we started and things with our Bible study on campus.”

He said part of his role is focused on outreach by talking and praying with those looking for assistance.

“I think in a way it is a little empowering,” Fleming said. “To be able to do this work with these people and provide for them, while also serving alongside them.

“It forms a sense of community and it is cool to work with all of our clients. The whole process of moving here, and understanding my place in all of it and some of my privilege and the injustice that I have been complacent in – that has been a humbling experience.”

Fleming’s dad, David, is the senior pastor at Grand Avenue United Methodist Church in Hot Springs.

“Our family is so excited that Andrew chose to pursue service as a Global Mission Fellow,” David said. “He has been a committed Christian since his youth and has always had a heart for social justice issues.

“Having completed his college degree, he has an opportunity with this mission to serve others, to continue to learn about his faith and the world, and to take a break before continuing his education or starting his career.”

Tony Elkins works on a robot as part of his mission field, serving teens in Florida. || Photo provided by Tony Elkins

Andrew graduated from Watson Chapel High School in 2014 and from Hendrix College in 2018. Tony Elkins, who is also serving in Florida as a Global Mission Fellow, was a year behind Fleming in high school. The pair sang in the choir together and participated in quiz bowl together in school.

“The lessons Andrew learned through his participation in the religious life programs at Hendrix College have provided well for his qualification as a Global Mission Fellow,” David Fleming said.

He said his son’s participation in the choir and in chapel services provided the ability to serve as a worship leader. Andrew also spent a year living in the Bonhoeffer House, an international Christian community.

“It taught him so much about his own discipleship and about sharing faith through precept and example in relationship to others,” David said.

Andrew said having Elkins as a part of the fellowship in the beginning was beneficial and made “it less scary” but he said, since Elkins and Andrew work in different departments, Andrew has already begun forming friendships and relationships outside the two of them.

“I really enjoy it,” Elkins said. “I get to help people who have gone through so much. These kids are so diligent and have so much hope, love and promise and we are able to facilitate that.

“I work with the teen department and I also do different classes with them and help watch over the kids. Right now, we are wrapping up the robotic season and I know what I am doing there, so I am able to guide them.”

He said they have about 20 to 25 kids and have about 10 that really like robotics. He said it is very interesting to give them that activity and for them “to take to it like a moth to the flame.”

“It was a little scary at first,” said Elkins, who has never been but a short drive away from his family. “But I was able to answer the call that God gave me. I found a new family and a good group to help me through it, and through being homesick and all that stuff.”

“One of the biggest ways I have seen God is in the ways I feel supported,” Andrew said. “Especially from my family and from my new friends that I have made here.”

Elkins is a member of Good Faith Carr United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff and earned his mechanical degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2018.

“These kids have been through so much, but yet, they continue to push on and do the best they can,” Elkins said. “Metropolitan is a transitional living facility for those on the verge of being homeless or were homeless.

“Some of the stories that I have heard from them – it is so amazing. It is definitely very humbling.”

“Years ago, I considered serving as a Global Mission Fellow; I had other friends from college who did as well,” David said.

“It is an excellent context for those who are exploring a call to ordination or another full-time Christian service to learn about ministry and about their spiritual gifts.

“It is also one of the best ways that young people of faith take what they have received from their home congregations and campus ministries and ‘pay it forward’ before getting on with the rest of their lives.”

To learn more about Anthony and Andrew’s journeys as Global Mission Fellows and to financially support them, visit https://advance.umcmission.org/p-2003-elkins-anthony-e.aspx for Anthony and https://advance.umcmission.org/p-2002-fleming-andrew-d.aspx for Andrew’s page.