July 13, 2014

Greetings brothers and sisters,
 
As I write this, both my head and heart are awash with a flurry of information, 
ideas, conversations, images, prayers and more prayers. In three days, I will join 
23 others as we depart for a week to the Navajo Nation as one team of many who 
will be participating in the Sierra Service Project this summer. This will be my sixth 
year on a SSP mission team serving as an adult leader and my second time to the 
Navajo Nation SSP site. During the year, I also serve the SSP organization as 
Clergy Advisor for the Youth and Young Adult Ministries. 
 
A lot has changed for me since I was first in Tsaile, Arizona. Since then, I have 
moved 3 times; been engaged and married; had 2 children; begun and completed 
my Masters of Divinity; and I now serve the United Methodist church in my 
vocational call, not the Los Angeles Opera. Needless to say, I am curious, excited, 
and a little nervous to return to the Navajo Nation, but I am hopeful that I will have 
a week of deep connection with God, Jesus, and all of God’s people that I 
encounter. 
 
You see, for me the experience of SSP will always be a special one. It was at my 
first SSP in the Navajo Nation where God gave me the words and courage to 
articulate that God may be calling me to the ordained ministry. I still remember the 
SSP evening where I spoke these words out loud. I remember my trepidation, and 
yet, the peace that I felt even as I said them. I remember feeling that I would be 
supported by this circle of new friends no matter what I shared; this community that 
had been formed would embrace my words and my fear as their own. 
 
Yes, that week at SSP will always be special for me — and every SSP summer 
thereafter. However, what is even more special is not related to any one week, 
team, or worksite. The “very most special” thing about SSP is the opportunity it 
offers, the opportunity to see that beloved community is available and achievable 
for each of us and that God’s desire for all of us to come together as one in the 
love Christ can be fulfilled in the everyday. 
 
My prayer is that we may all know this Christian experience of the beloved 
community, and that we, the Los Altos UMC might work together to build and 
share such community right here in Long Beach. It’s not limited to one week for 
the SSP team — Jesus has opened our hearts and shown us the way to create 
that community every day of the year. 
 
 Your sister in Christ, 
 Pastor Melinda T. Dodge