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Nepal-bound student chooses year of service over Fulbright

In early March, just three months from graduation, Malcolm McDermond ’13 found himself in an honorable position. With several opportunities to apply his international experience—and his desire to empower others—McDermond felt torn between prestige and a passion for service.

Like many students, McDermond entered his senior year without a firm plan for the future. His desire to work overseas brought opportunities to teach English, though his passion for agriculture seemed to overshadow this possibility. In November, McDermond received an email from Distinguished Professor of Politics John Harles, who presented McDermond with an intriguing recommendation. Harles urged McDermond to apply for a Fulbright U.S. Student Award to teach English in Malaysia.

“I saw teaching English as a means of empowering people, providing them with the opportunity to enter the global market,” McDermond said.“I remember thinking, ‘I could still do good by doing this.’”

While finalizing the rigorous Fulbright application, however, McDermond considered a second possibility: the Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) SALT program, a year-long cross-cultural experience for young adults. Once again, English emerged as a dominant theme, presenting opportunities to teach in Korea and Indonesia. McDermond found inspiration in the possibilities, but knew his passion stood elsewhere; he wanted to serve Nepal with his agricultural background.

In late February, McDermond received an unexpected request from John and Lynn Williamson, MCC representatives in South Asia. The couple wanted to interview McDermond for an agricultural position in rural Nepal.

“The call came out of nowhere,” McDermond said. “But right away, I knew the opportunity with  MCC was something I was passionate about.”

And so, with questions lingering and uncertainty surrounding his Fulbright application, McDermond accepted the opportunity to serve with MCC. Just one week later, the Fulbright came knocking, offering McDermond the opportunity to teach in Malaysia.

“People kept congratulating me, assuming I would accept the Fulbright,” McDermond continued. “So I started to question myself – did I make the right decision?”

After seeking counsel from Keith Jones Pomeroy, the Program Manager at Messiah’s Agape Center for Service Learning, McDermond found peace in his decision to join MCC. Though honored to receive a prestigious Fulbright, he couldn’t help but pursue a passion for service. On August 21, McDermond will travel to rural Nepal, stepping into a role as an Agricultural Promoter.

Upon arriving, McDermond will join the Nepali administered Rural Institution for Community Development (RICOD), an organization that will help him to learn the Nepali language, build relationships and work the land. But for the motivated senior, the behind-the-scenes work provides the ultimate inspiration. McDermond looks forward to entering into the homes of the Nepali people and “doing something tangible about building the Kingdom of God.”

“In the Brethren in Christ Church, it has always been clear that life should be a reflection of what you believe in,” McDermond said. “MCC fulfills the next step in discerning that vision.”

Torn between prestige and a passion for service, McDermond selected the latter, opting to serve people, serve the land and serve God’s call for his enthusiastic life of service.

“The Book of Matthew talks about seeking the Kingdom of God, both here and in the missions field,” McDermond concluded. “I’m excited to actually do it­– a comforting and inspiring decision.”

Story by Nick Hemming `13.

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