A Passion for Social Justice
Senior education major Ted Wilson already had a passion for helping others before he came to Southwestern. But his classes at Southwestern, as well as a summer internship with the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries, have only served to further that passion.
“Many of my courses have asked me some hard questions about inequalities in our society,” Wilson says.
Last summer, Wilson was one of 15 students nationwide selected to be summer missionary interns with the General Board of Global Ministries. He and other students selected for the program received a week of training in New York City, where they learned about social justice issues such as economic inequality, free trade, education and racism. Then, they were assigned to work at various locations across the country for eight weeks. Wilson worked at the headquarters of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Baldwin, La., where he helped with national and global relief efforts.
As one of his duties, Wilson worked on assembling and sending out relief supplies such as school and medical kits for low-income areas around the world. He also helped with hurricane relief efforts by serving as a mediator for homeowners and directing mission groups working on local housing rehabilitation projects.
“Being able to visit with the community members was the most meaningful part of my summer,” Wilson says.
Wilson says the Methodist Church’s commitment to making a difference in people’s lives and providing justice for all is what intrigued him to take part in the summer missionary program.
Through his hometown church, Hamby United Methodist Church in Abilene, Wilson has taken part in mission trips since middle school. His first mission trip actually took place at UMCOR in eighth grade; he also has made three trips to the Navajo reservation in Arizona, where he helped remodel several churches and a youth center.
At Southwestern, Wilson has volunteered his time to programs such as Habitat for Humanity, Operation Achievement, Boys and Girls Club and the Ride On Center for Kids. He also attends Georgetown’s Hope for the Homeless Forum and is involved with their efforts to respond to the needs of those in the local community who are without permanent housing.
Even though the summer missionary program is over, Wilson says his experiences and insight will live on for a long time.
“They prepared us to go out and share the stories of the people we saw suffering,” he says.
Wilson will share stories about his summer experience with his home congregation in Abilene Dec. 28. At this presentation, he will talk about the differences between justice and charity and how both play different roles when dealing with an issue. He explains that charity only changes a problem at the surface, while justice repairs it at the root of the cause.
After graduation, Wilson plans to continue working with the United Methodist Church and contributing to social justice issues, specifically those dealing with children and the homeless. As part of his education coursework at Southwestern, he has done extensive research on the academic achievement gap between races and economic groups. He explains that low-income students and children of color often receive a lower quality education.
“Resources should be spread more evenly, highly qualified teachers should be in a variety of schools and the list goes on and on,” he says. “I want to seek out opportunities to make changes in institutional policies.”