Worldwide experience, personal connections lead Megan Mong to LSTC
Megan Mong’s call to ministry came in high school, increased through college, and peaked after her return from Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Mong, a first-year MDiv student, said she first felt stirred to ministry during high school in Salina, Kan., when she attended a Youth Leadership School in Iowa. A deep dive into the book of Ruth pushed her beyond the basics that she had learned in Sunday school at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Salina.
Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, was her next landing place. Mong majored in religion with a minor in sociology, but pastoral work and care filled her free time.
“I would create my own events,” she said. “I was helping with chapel events.” However, her help went beyond campus ministry to pastoral care. She would check on friends in mental health crisis and in the hospital and get people resources they needed. It wasn’t a stretch to see herself doing this as a vocation.
However, following graduation, Mong was chosen for the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. In late summer 2019, she found herself in Jerusalem and the West Bank. She volunteered at the Al-Mahaba Nursery and Preschool on Augusta Victoria Hospital’s campus and in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land’s bishop’s office.
In March 2020, the YAGM program received word that Covid-19 had reached pandemic status. Many YAGM volunteers in Jerusalem and the West Bank were brought to Jerusalem for quarantine and a hastily planned retreat in Galilee. Then came the call – prepare for departure immediately.
“I was the only one who was able to pack my own stuff,” Mong said. She was able to say goodbye to her host family in person. Many colleagues’ families packed for them and had their final goodbyes online, she said.
After quarantining at home, Mong worked at a nursing home as a certified nursing assistant. With its synod connections, many former Lutheran pastors lived there. She remembers many questions as they learned she was leaning toward ministry. She was drawn to working with adults with disabilities. Some wanted to go to church, like one man she described.
“He had all these questions, and no one would engage with him,” Mong said. She was good at her work, but her colleagues knew by her discussions and chaplain-like care that she was destined for ministry. Finally, her supervisors nudged her onward.
Most people would be upset by the “We can tell you’re not really happy here—go do what you really want to do” conversation. Mong said it was bittersweet. Yes, she loved working there; however, it wasn’t where she was called. And candidacy was the next step.
Mong already had been involved in the church at many levels, from her church council to three ELCA churchwide assemblies (CWA), two as a voting member. At one CWA, she volunteered with Global Young Reformers, an arm of the Lutheran World Federation.
Mong is beyond grateful that her ELCA Fund for Leaders full-tuition scholarship helped her choose to be at LSTC, where friends and colleagues pointed her. Her quick assimilation into the student community was beyond her expectations.
“I really like how supportive everyone is,” she said. “I have never felt so close to a community so fast.”
And the diverse international student population was the factor that sealed her desire to be at LSTC.
“I would not have been able to be with so many international students if I would have gone elsewhere,” she said.
As for the future, Mong said chaplaincy or hospice is one area of interest, so she is looking forward to Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) this summer. While most seminarians can do CPE after either their first or second year, Mong needs to do it in 2023: she is on the planning committee for the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans in 2024.
From her YAGM and work experience, she has basic knowledge of Arabic, German, Spanish and ASL, and is currently taking Biblical Greek. So, working within a multilingual church seems natural as well.
However, disability ministry heads her list. She has been around individuals with physical and developmental disabilities since she was born. Her sister had cardiac issues and was missing a foot. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer shortly after Mong was born. So, her family leaned on their church family and her mother’s work colleague, who had children with intellectual disabilities. Working with people with disabilities is a recurring thread.
“I just am very comfortable with people with disabilities,” she said. “I could see myself working in disability ministry.” Sharing her gifts with people from various cultures, in many languages, and with different abilities— seminary is the place where Mong believes she will discern where God is leading her.
By Gail Kenny, who is an MDiv student and a student worker on the Communications and Marketing team.