I knew from the beginning that I had a passion for social justice so I knew Thailand would be a good fit for me. #ZionBuffalo

Social Justice Passion

Marie is proud of her deep Lutheran roots. Her parents are Pastor Ted and Pastor Sara (also an ELCA Lutheran pastor, currently serving Buffalo Presbyterian Church). She also has a sister, Heidi, who is a senior at Gustavus College in St Peter, Minnesota.

Family is one of the most important aspects of my life! My parents are my biggest supporters and encouragers both for my faith and my future as a post-college adult. I was always the first to arrive at church and the first to leave when I grew up. I was heavily involved in my church’s youth group and always knew that God loved me. I went to Camp Wapo every summer and learned more about who God was and how much He loved me.

Marie remembers singing Psalm 51:10 as a little girl:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

I cling to the promise that God can always renew my spirit and wash away anything that makes me feel like I am unworthy of God’s love.

Since the family came to Buffalo in 2011, Marie enjoys the buzz and activity around Zion.

Home is where the heart is, and my heart is with my parents. When my parents decided to make Buffalo their home, I knew that I would undeniably be impacted by the place that has them. I love watching people laugh and enjoy each others company. Nothing says community like sharing life with your friends!

Marie’s love of reading led her to pursue a degree in English Literature and Communication Studies and a joint minor in History and Political Science at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

I like a variety of genres including historical fiction, mystery/thriller, and spiritual living. I try to read all the best-selling novels that I can.  I think my love for reading is why I wanted to be an English Literature major.

Marie also enjoys music. She was in band and choir at Concordia, and recently picked up guitar playing.

When I settle down I really want to be in a community band or choir! The thought of not being in an ensemble is a tough thought.

It was in college that Marie truly grasped the depth at which she could have a relationship with God.

There was an upper-class girl walking down my dorm hallway telling girls about the Bible study she would be hosting. I remember thinking to myself “here is what everyone told me would happen…I can choose to go or not to go.” I knew I wanted to stay connected to my faith and so I decided to check it out. I found one of my best friends in that Bible study. Kaitie met up with me and pursued a friendship with me with the intention of pushing me in my faith. She was not scared to ask me tough questions and really help me understand how much God wanted more than I was giving Him. Her friendship and consistency in my life showed me the true nature of God’s character: unrelenting love. During my time there that I grew exponentially.

Through that Bible study group, Marie connected with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), an international college ministry on campus. During her sophomore, junior, and senior years she led a bible study for girls in one of the on-campus dorms, met up individually with some of the girls, and participated in events on campus. During her senior year, she spoke at an on-campus student-led worship service.

Marie was completely against the idea of studying abroad, but in her junior year she felt that God changed her heart in an instant and she was completely convinced she was supposed to spend a semester in Ireland.

I was surprised at how God could speak through my gut feelings and show me His peace. It was also this trip to Ireland that gave me the hope to make traveling the world a part of my future. My time in college really prepared me for my future by providing me with not only an education, but also knowledge of who I am and what I stand for.

After graduating in 2014, Marie knew she wanted to travel and experience more of life before committing full-time to the career field.

I received the confirmation I needed when the career counselor at Concordia told me that it was “now or never” so I decided I would go for it! I wanted to see what God could teach me so that I could be an engaged citizen in my future.

Marie applied to a number of outreach mission programs, including YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission), LVC (Lutheran Volunteer Corps), and YWAM (Youth With A Mission). When she was accepted by YWAM it felt like a good match.

YWAM had the one-on-one discipleship that I wanted for my time, a person who would push me (as Kaitie had) and make me think critically about my faith and why I believed what I believe.

YWAM offered opportunities in both Thailand and China.

I knew from the beginning that I had a passion for social justice issues and so when I found out that a big part of the team going to Thailand would focus on exploitation, I knew Thailand would be a good fit for me.

Marie has a lot of fun memories from her time in Thailand (riding elephants, bamboo rafting, swimming in the ocean, and harvesting an entire rice field for a family in the north of Thailand), but she most enjoyed seeing the smiles of the people she met, hearing their stories, and the opportunity to help provide the opportunity of a new life filled with hope to people she worked with.

I think the most impacting aspect of my time in Thailand was the time I spend with victims of sex-trafficking. Playing with children in the slums of Chaing Mai showed me so much about the world. I realized that life is so much more than my iPhone and Netflix. I was able to spend a week in a Hmong village teaching English, where knowing how to speak some English could be the difference of getting a well-paying job and being sold into the brothels.

As I look back, I see all the little ways God guided my path to be able and willing to go to Thailand. Looking back on my life always surprises me when I see the connections God makes for me.

Marie is currently home in Buffalo before beginning another YWAM program in April.

I am taking seven weeks at home before doing a three-month Biblical School for Discipleship with YWAM. In the mean time I am volunteering my time at a new maternity home opening up in Saint Micheal called The Nest. I am volunteering as a part-time PR coordinator and helping them renovate the facility. I am also helping out with the Sr. High ministry Graceland  here at Zion for the next month or so. I am so excited to have so many ways to get plugged into the community for my quick break between life.