Our second missionary conversation for Advent 2020 is with Lily Maijama'a, a Global Missions Fellow with the General Board of Global Ministries serving the West Africa Initiative of Liberia where he serves as a project manager. But Lily's service goes far beyond his office job.
He trains young people in the dangers of the internet and might organize a football match (what we in the U.S. call soccer) just to meet people and invite them into a small group. A passion for connecting people to one another and to Jesus Christ, drives him. Hear how he began to understand his skills for church leadership and how he uses them to reach out to those who are not yet part of the church.
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This episode posted on December 4, 2020.
Joe Iovino, host: Welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape, United Methodist Communications and UMC.org’s podcast to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. My name is Joe Iovino.
Today we’re continuing with our Give Love series of conversations with United Methodist missionaries – one for each week of Advent. Our guest today is Lily Maijama’a, a Global Missions Fellow who is serving the West Africa Initiative of Liberia. He’s originally from Nigeria, and has gone to serve in this new way.
In this conversation, we talk about his call to becoming a Mission Fellow and his passions for ministry that include computers, graphic design, internet, and more.
Joe: Lily, welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape.
Lily Maijamaa: Yeah, thank you. Nice to meet you Joe.
Joe: Good to meet you, and thank you so much for taking time to talk with me today. You are serving the West Africa Initiative of Liberia as a global mission fellow with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. Can you tell me about your ministries? What do you do there?
Lily Maijamaa: Well, that’s a huge question. I work with the West Africa Initiative of Liberia as a global mission fellow. I’m serving here as a community worker. So the organization is agricultural development initiatives. And we work on food security, poverty alleviation, and microfinance loans for groups in rural areas.
So the organization was actually established in 2008 in response the civil war in Liberia, which had displaced many households and led many families to struggle with hunger and poverty.
So, as the mission of the process we seek to address poverty and food insecurity as an organization. But we engage communities youth, farmer’s groups in good farming practices and mechanism, as well as good food storage methodologies so that every one can secure for themselves farmer’s materials during the dry season.
So this is a little about what I do with the organization that I’m serving here.
Joe: I notice a lot of your training is in computer sciences, and web design and things of that nature. Are you using those gifts in your mission today?
Lily Maijamaa: Yeah. Definitely. In fact, people with the organization I’m working for, I work in the office of project management where we get in touch with partners, we share projects, and other things like that.
I’m definitely making use of my skills in internet and graphic design, especially to orient people… especially young people on how to make good use of Internet, in order to utilize it and not to be carried away into the negative impact of the Internet. I’m very deliberate on trying to see how we can educate young people in that area.
I’m so deliberate to see anywhere I work, because Internet is something that I’ve come to see and we need Internet for our daily meetings, for how we get connect with people on the internet. So we try to guide people how do we make good use of the Internet without being lured into the negative impact, especially on young people and teenagers.
Joe: Like a lot of tools, right? There is a good side – we can do things like this, we get to communicate when we’re thousands of miles apart. But there’s also that negative side, and people can get caught up into that. So, that’s really important.
I also saw that you have a real passion for what you call soul-winning in something I saw that you wrote. Can you tell me more about that?
Lily Maijamaa: I’ve always had passion especially in social justice work in the society. Trying to see how I can give my quarter in the community. So I joined the youth and young adults ministry of the United Methodist church where I was a member and I’m still a member of, in my annual conference.
we initiated many community works, trying to see how we can hone an avenue for people in the rural areas, where people cannot reach. We do Bible studies, and we encourage each other on all the social justice issues that are around society.
So I engaged also into prison ministry, medical outreach where we go to a rural area where they don’t have access to medical procedures. We invite people into discipleship if they are interested and we go in there for follow-up.
Joe: Do you see yourself kind of becoming a missionary fulltime when your two years as a global mission fellow? Is that kind of the next step?
Lily Maijamaa: Yeah. I feel myself in that shoe. I still have that passion to continue in that line because I was so excited to see how I am helping the community by trying to guide people, help people to grow up physically and mentally.
Joe: Was there specific…did something happen in your life…did God work in a special way to lead you…and put this passion in you for mission work?
Lily Maijamaa: So, coming up a young man I never knew Christ on a personal basis. Though I used to go to church, attend Sunday school. But I never knew exactly what God would have me to do in life. I was not a member of the United Methodist at first.
When my mom and my dad transferred to United Methodist, I was attending another denomination. Then I said, almost all of my family members are attending United Methodist. Only me attending other church in the family.
One day something just came to my mind that why wouldn’t I just join them so we would all be together in one church as a family? And that’s where that passion began.
When I came to the United Methodists, the church we joined was just a little church that was coming up. It was not a very big and crowded church where the small assembly has diverse opportunities and yet almost all new members. And the church which I was attending before then, it was a very high crowded assembly. I loved being in the youth group where we had the Bible studies from the local church members. From there I was elected as the youth president of the church.
From there, I was elected as a youth leader in the annual conference, and from there the passion continued and it became very clear to me in the process that God is calling me into service for community, especially the families that are out of the boundary of church building. Church should come out into the society in order to meet the needs of the society in discipleship and in other social justice work. That’s where the passion began and that’s what I find most interesting doing.
Joe: Yes, and it sounds like people in the church saw leadership skills in you, maybe before you did?
Lily Maijamaa: They saw the leadership skills in me, sure, because one of my pastors told me that, “You are a great leader. Develop that talent and God will help you go far.”
I thought it was a joke because I’m not used to sharing with people or standing to give a talk in a group of people. I’m not… I’m not used to that. In school, I’m just a quiet person. I just like to live an individual life.
I jumped into young people’s ministry where we tried to see how we can engage young people into ministry for God. See how young people would be alert that they can do something for God within the church and outside the church.
Joe: One of the things that I’m hearing you say that I’m really enjoying is that you feel called to lead the church outside of its building, and to reach out into the community both in areas of like mission and social justice, but also in the areas of evangelism. Can you say more about that?
Lily Maijamaa: Yeah, that’s true. I learned that the church should be a lampstand to every society, where the perfect work of grace should be practically demonstrated in our relationships to one another in the society.
When I discovered that when we neglect discipleship in the church, actually, we will just be growing members but we will not be growing the church spiritually. And that the people outside the church, they actually need and enjoy that kind of fellowship that we have in the church. How do we reach those people?
So, that’s where my passion was actual…and the vision was actually geared toward. The outcome was ministries outside the church, so we can also engage people into going into society to carry out an awareness of particular diseases with the community.
“Why are we doing that?” We are trying to look for opportunities where we can meet with people, address their needs, help them in the society so that we can invite them into discipleship.
Joe: Yeah, that’s wonderful. So on a more kind of mundane topic, how is life in Liberia different than your life was growing up in Nigeria?
Lily Maijamaa: It was quite different actually, because of a different culture, and different people. So coming down to Liberia, one of the questions I asked myself, apart from my professional work with the organization I was assigned to, what will I engage myself into so that I will continue with what I felt called to do. Because the organization is not a Christian-based organization, it is a non-government help organization where I’m assigned to work with then.
Therefore, part of our core values as global mission fellow is to connect the church in mission. Try to bring the church into mission and try to engage with local communities, and then the third one is to grow in personal and social holiness.
So learning that the organization is not a Christian-based organization, I tried to see how I can join myself with the young people of the Liberia Annual Conference.
So, though I have primary assignments to do, also I am very deliberate that I need to see how I can connect the church into some kind of mission. So that the community will see the impact of the church where they are. Sometimes we can just organize a football match inside the community where many people will come together, and outside of that we just invite them. We are a church community, inviting them into discipleship.
Joe: Wow. That’s just fantastic. I so appreciate the work that you’re doing and the ministry that you also get to be involved in. What’s something that’s really exciting in your ministry right now?
Lily Maijamaa: Yeah. It is so exciting in my work here in Liberia to see how
young people, to see how men and women in the rural communities, they are just in a marginalized community, being helped. Because, as I said earlier that Liberia has going on here, very long, like 14 years of civil war, which has destabilized many things, especially in the rural areas.
So now being a community worker here, I try to see how we create initiatives with communities, try to see how we work on programs to alleviate poverty and try to see how we can engage cultural practices to secure food for themselves.
In doing that, I’m so overwhelmed by the impact of the work. Seeing the testimonies of people, seeing how people who thought life was gone for them, now try to recover, to own a farm of their own, to own a business of their own. They can feed their families. And sometimes, it is so emotional to see how people are so grateful to God for such kind of the work we are doing.
So this is one of the most interesting part of it. And I’m just feeling so committed to the community, where I’ve spent more than a year now, and next year I will be ending my service. I’m just feeling that kind of emotional, how do I live there in that kind of mutuality, where I try to get out of them. To feel the impact of your work as so real in their lives, is probably the most interesting thing I’ve found as I work in the community here.
Joe: That sounds tremendously rewarding, to just have the emotional impact that you’re having.
The final question that I ask every guest on Get Your Spirit in Shape is simply this: how do you keep your spirit in shape?
Lily Maijamaa: Thank you for this question. Actually, there are 2 things that I’ve found most helpful in keeping my spirit in shape. One of them is solitary reflection and meditation, where I have my quiet self-evaluation of my physical and spiritual progress. I always find it very helpful for me to have a quiet time for reflection. Am I progressing in my spiritual life? Am I progressing in my professional work? Am I progressing in my physical life? Such kinds of questions as I sit down to reflect on the life I’m leading and how I live. It’s actually an encouragement and gives me foresight on where to go from there.
The second thing I’ve found most exciting is connecting with mentors to share my challenges or weaknesses. Where I receive good counseling on how to move on from that point.
That has really helped me most… connecting with mentors on different aspects of my life. Spiritually I have a mentor. At my professional work I have a mentor. and on my other pressures, I have a mentor. So I reach out to them in times of challenge or times when I’m feeling weak or something. That’s really been very helpful, receiving encouragement and counseling to move forward from that point.
These are two things that I always find most helpful in keeping my spirit in shape.
Joe: Lily, I just want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us today and sharing your enthusiasm for your ministry and for your wisdom in all of the things that you are teaching us about how we can grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. Thank you so much.
Lily Maijamaa: Yeah, thanks Joe for the opportunity you’ve given me to talk with you this morning. I wish we could connect again.
Joe: That was Lily Maijama’a, a Global Missions Fellow with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries serving the West Africa Initiative of Liberia. To learn more about Global Missions Fellows, the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, and to donate to the Give Love campaign which supports these missionaries, go to UMC.org/podcasts and look for the notes page of this episode. We’ve put some links on there to help you learn more and make that donation.
Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week with another conversation with a United Methodist missionary that will help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino. Peace.