We are delighted to welcome Alan Ma onto our staff team as program director for the Montreal Mission Internship (MMI).
MMI is a nine-week program that combines theological reflection with service learning. As program director, Alan combines his expertise as a coach and social service worker with his Christian faith in order to guide others as they draw closer to God through service. In late May, we will welcome twelve interns from across the country. Each intern will be placed at a social service organization in the city that suits their unique interests. The interns will gather weekly to reflect on their experiences, build community, and develop their vocation as a young person of faith in the world. Alan will be responsible for arranging service placements, facilitating the reflective aspect of the program, organizing activities for the interns, and otherwise guiding them throughout the summer.
Alan describes himself as “a Christian, father, Asian-Canadian, educator, and community organizer whose commitment to demonstrating God’s love is manifested in service and work amongst marginalized communities in our society”. Trained first as an educator and coach, his main philosophy when it comes to working with youth is that of “guided discovery through experiential learning”. “I see myself more so as a facilitator to learning than a traditional teacher,” he says. “Learning through trial and error, and experiencing the consequences of decisions is the true hallmark of a lesson learned. However, I do believe there is an important role in walking alongside one another. We participate as a body by supporting others in their learning journey.”
Alan’s interest in social service work began twenty years ago when he interned with a missional organization in Toronto. He became connected to the organization through the church he was attending while living there. “I vividly remember the day when I was confronted with the reality of our fallen world – living in a city of abundance but witnessing the day-to-day suffering and lack of access of the many.” Over the following two decades he became certified as a teacher and as a coach, and eventually began using those skills in the non-profit sector where he honed his craft first at the local then the national level. “I worked with community residents and collectively reshaped programs and services. I built up organizational and communal capacities. And I mentored the young people that came through our doors. To this day, I am honoured that many alumni of the organizations I worked with are still open to listening to some of my discounted wisdom.”
It was his church membership that led Alan into social service work and is a huge part of why he continues to do the work that he does. He stresses the importance of remaining in Him. “God is constantly at work, and we are merely invited to participate. Whenever our fallible nature gets the best of us, we stray and become enamored by the invitation. We become dangerously consumed by the work. We hold tightly to the image as saviours as if we were the redeemer Himself. This is a constant tension that we must wrestle and seek the Spirit’s strength in returning to Him and submitting before him. I participate where He permits.”
This summer, Alan is excited to walk alongside other Christians in their journey with God. “It is my hope that all the interns may draw closer to God the Father, the Son and the Spirit during their placements. Through the application of their faith in this community setting, I hope they will experience the different attributes of God and be led by the Spirit to discern potential paths and vocations for their future.”