Bishop Grant Hagiya and Tara Miller present the benediction during the Closing Worship service at The 2013 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Sessions.
Get to Know Tara Miller, US-2
By Megan Ernst Kilpatrick
Tara Lynn Miller is a long way from home, and yet she’s right at home.
Through her work as a missionary stationed at Mary’s Place and Church of Mary Magdalene (Seattle, Wash.), she’s found a surrogate family of many of the homeless women she helps support. She’s impacted many lives in positive ways – whether she’s coordinating meals, setting up meetings & classes, or helping newly homeless women in crisis.
Tara didn’t always set out to be a missionary. Growing up in Virginia in both Presbyterian and non-denominational churches, she was originally drawn to youth ministry and worked at a middle school camp for five years. However, she also felt connected to folks of all ages through her work in various service projects. She attended William and Mary College and earned a degree in psychology because she felt this would help her relate to people, but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after that. Luckily, a friend of hers was a US-2 missionary and encouraged her to apply for the program.
Tara found the interview and discernment process very helpful, not only for the application process but for her personal growth. She wanted some ‘real world’ experience before she went on to grad school. Tara felt quite strongly that she didn’t want to be so focused on graduate school academics, filling the “head space”… at the cost of losing her “heart space”, or her foundation for the human connection.
A typical day for Tara isn’t really ‘typical!’ A few days a week, she coordinates volunteer placement, helping to match skills and interests with needed work, plus miscellaneous office work. The rest of the week she spends with the homeless women who visit Mary’s Place—organizing community meetings and zumba classes, connecting with women new to the program, arranging meals, fundraising, and working with the children in the program. She really is a “Jill-of-all-trades,” helping out wherever is needed! Saturdays she works at the Church of Mary Magdalene where she prepares the space, coordinates meals, and provides hospitality to those who visit.
Mission work has proven to be both challenging and rewarding for Tara. A major challenge for Tara is getting used to being in a position of authority! She works hard to live up to expectations and fill the shoes that come with being in her position. It’s a new role for her and one she is excited about, as daunting as it seems. Tara stresses, though, that she has been so richly blessed by her work with the women at Mary’s Place. They have welcomed her fully into their lives, even outside the shelter. She noted that even at her bus stop she will meet homeless women she knows, and their welcomes have helped her feel safe and given her a sense of belonging.
A BRIGHT FUTURE AHEAD
Tara has learned so much from her work at Mary’s Place and Church of Mary Magdalene! She struggles to put into words how her time as a missionary has shaped her worldview and faith, simply because she knows she has changed so much and in many different ways. She’s not quite sure of her plans after her time as a missionary ends, but she is thinking about applying to seminaries in California or Washington. She hopes to continue to be involved in the good work that Mary’s Place and the Church of Mary Magdalene in service of homeless women. She is confident that God will help her discern her future career and faith journey.
We in the PNWUMC have been blessed by Tara’s presence at Annual Conference and are thankful for her work in mission, living Jesus’ call to ‘feed my sheep!’
Megan Ernst Kilpatrick is a member of Puyallup UMC.