By Kira Azzam
Edge Campus Ministry @ San Francisco State student
Young people from around the California-Nevada Conference are finding unique and inspiring ways to live out their faith as United Methodists. Such is the case of Kira Azzam, who joined the Edge Campus Ministry at San Francisco State University in February. It was just where she needed to be when word spread of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Kira took the lead in helping the Edge Campus Ministry respond, by helping collect, fold, and string origami cranes that had prayers written on the inside. She alone collected more than 500 cranes. Kira is also a member of the United Methodist Student Movement. She will be living at the Edge next year, and will coordinate communications for our annual conference for the UMSF. Below are her reflections on participating in the United Methodist Student Forum this past May in Tacoma, Washington. She was one of 18 students from the California-Nevada Annual Conference who attended this event. The contingent from California-Nevada was the largest group from any one annual conference. Students attending were from Centennial United Methodist Church, UC Davis, San Francisco State, Sacramento State and UC Berkeley.
Way to take your faith “to the Edge,” Kira!
Carolyn Talmadge, Campus Ministry Director, The Edge
“My whole life I’ve grown up in the Methodist church. When I turned 13 I was in the rotation for liturgy and served on the Pastor Parish Relations Committee. My church was very small, and I was the eldest of nine children in the church. The entire church consisted of about 40 members, half of whom were my family. But I never quite understood my role in the church, and more importantly, I never understood what being a United Methodist meant. I just knew that the church was my family and they supported everything I did.
“When I went to San Francisco to go to school I found “The Edge,” Christian Ministry on campus. I’d heard about it through my aunt, but I wasn’t sure if that’s where I wanted to be, considering I didn’t know much about my own faith. But I knew my church had always been my family, so I started attending Bible study and Monday night dinners. At the end of May, they took me with them to Student Forum, where I must admit I was a little intimidated. I arrived late on the second evening because I was finishing up finals at school. I sat in a room with nine strangers, all of whom were somehow actively involved in their church or campus ministry, and they were all nine Caucasian. I thought to myself, “Please Lord, let me not look like an idiot here.” I am a Filipina girl from Southern California, and as soon as I walked in, I knew I didn’t fit in, and I definitely am not an expert in the workings of the church. But what I found to be was that they weren’t either. We were just a group of kids trying to learn about each other and trying to understand this world that God has given us.
That weekend, I was only able to attend one of three group sessions, in which I heard about homosexuality in America. The man who spoke was incredibly powerful. He educated us about the difference between sexual preference and sexual orientation, and also other things as well. But these two concepts seemed to have people particularly baffled. And when I got into a smaller group with people, they had so many questions for me about homosexuality, about living in San Francisco, and assumed that being from Los Angeles, I must know all about it. At first I didn’t know how to respond, because I didn’t know if they were being rude or were just genuinely interested. So I talked to them and answered their questions. Quite honestly, the entire weekend I had never felt so out of place and yet, at the same time, right where I should be. I was there with my group, my family, whom consisted of my friends who are a lesbian couple, two African-Americans, myself, and our pastor.
We met up with friends from Sacramento, all of whom are Pacific Islander. Our group stuck out like a sore thumb, and I remember someone coming up to me in a small group discussion and telling me that they were very glad we were there, and that this is the most diverse group they’d ever been with. Now, mind you, there were about three hundred students there, and it felt like our 20, plus about five other people, were the only ones who were not Caucasian. I know that there were more people of color at the conference, but it was a unique time in my life when I really felt like a minority.
Going to Student Forum was a powerful experience, and we as a group were part of the faith and hope that was needed to bring this larger group light, bring them diversity, and bring them a different voice, a voice that needed to be heard. That weekend we were just a group of kids learning about each other, learning about our Lord’s teachings, and learning about ourselves. Talking about our differences and realizing how similar we are.”- Kira Azzam
All United Methodist students are invited to be a part of the United Methodist Student Movement. If you are studying at a community college you are welcome. If you are studying at a UC you are welcome. If you are studying at a vocational school, a Cal State School, or a private university, you are welcome. The United Methodist Student movement welcomes all students in higher education to be a part of this movement!
If you would like to find out more about the United Methodist Student Movement please contact Kira Assam: firstname.lastname@example.org or United Methodist Student Movement advisor Rev. Kristin Stoneking: Kristin@cahouse.org.