Sarah Rakhmankulova, Director of Children’s and Family Ministries
I’ve come to FUMC Melrose by a long, indirect route that begins in my home church in Mississippi, Wesley UMC. The pastor there was involved in trips to Belarus, and after my freshman year of college I got to join him on a Volunteers In Mission trip to an orphanage. My first time surrounded by another language and culture really impacted me, and eventually Russian became the concentration for my bachelor’s degree. When I entered Boston University School of Theology, little did I know that it had a connection with the Moscow UMC Theological School!
In summer 2011, a group from the Moscow school came to Boston for a joint program, and I volunteered to translate. Among them was Artur Rakhmankulov. We realized a mutual interest and kept in touch. The next year, I went to Moscow for my final semester, and he proposed before I returned home. In August 2012, we were married in my hometown of Ocean Springs and flew to Russia to begin our life together.
While living in Russia, I worked mostly as an English tutor, but from 2013-2014, I served as the Mississippi Conference’s Liaison to the Eurasia Episcopal Area. During one of the projects, coordinating a John Wesley book club among churches in Mississippi and Russia, I recognized a deep desire to be a conversation partner and shepherd for folks wrestling with theological questions. Recalling various points in my life where I’d felt drawn to ministry, I finally promised God to seriously discern how I was being called to minister. My time at Melrose will be a continuation of that discernment process, and I am grateful that God opened doors to make this possible. From 2014-2015, I coordinated Sunday School for the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, an English-speaking congregation. I enjoyed the opportunity to share the good news about a God of love with the children, and I feel this experience has prepared me to serve at Melrose. I am excited and humbled by the opportunity to get to know the people here at FUMC and to help lay a foundation of faith for their children!
My faith is nurtured by connecting to God, which I do through scripture, song, and prayer, and especially through noticing God’s creation in the everyday or spending time in natural settings. Stunning sunsets, flying through textured clouds, the intricacies of a flower; wonder in a baby’s eye’s, the abandon of children’s laughter; the hush surrounding new blankets of snow—all of these things tend to evoke awe, worship, and joy for me. I also feel connected to God in community where all people are truly welcome and included. God’s love is so evident to me when we tune out our success filters and focus on the divine dignity and gifts within each person. I think this radical love is one of the main reasons why church exists—to make this kind of community happen and to season society with this wholesomeness.
Outside of church I enjoy the luxury of attending a good symphony or ballet, curling up with hot tea and a book, hiking, bicycling, figure skating—both watching and attempting it, or watching baseball. I grew up a Braves fan and fell away from the sport in early adulthood, but I converted to the RedSox when I came to study in Boston and have even enjoyed one glorious game at Fenway!