How To Use This Issue (June 2017)


Sheelove Ferdinand, 23, plugs cables into a computer during computer hardware class at ODEMIHF in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo © Nile Sprague.

Living in New York, I am constantly reminded of the plight of the poor because they are all around me. I encounter panhandlers most days, and two men’s shelters are less than a mile from my home. I’ve seen men and women, both young and old, camped out on busy streets holding handmade signs asking for help. One night as I waited for a subway train, the doors of a train going in the opposite direction opened and revealed several homeless people riding aimlessly to escape winter’s chill.

Current budget proposals at the federal government level eliminate or reduce support of many social programs that assist the vulnerable. As women of faith, we must continue to advocate for the vulnerable and work to destroy the myths and falsehood that demonize “the other.” But for the grace of God go any of us, no matter how secure we presently feel. The work we do remains very necessary, as the articles you’re about to read attest.

In this issue we continue to explore the spiritual growth study Living As a Covenant Community. “Covenant Living With God and Community,” on pages 8 to 12, looks at the role of deaconesses and home missioners. Use the study questions at the end to contemplate what you feel called to do to put faith, hope and love into action.
Pastor and professor Henri Nouwen considered flexibility a virtue. “It means moving a little with the winds of the time while remaining solidly anchored in the ground,” he wrote. Bethlehem Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, puts that virtue into practice, as Jessica Brodie reports in “A Solid Foundation” on pages 19 to 23.

For “Empowering Women Through Technology” on pages 27 to 34, photojournalist Nile Sprague traveled to the Dominican Republic and met young women who are gaining valuable computer training through a nonprofit organization that supports Haitian immigrants. With computers and smartphones so commonplace, it’s easy to assume that everyone is connected. But a Pew Research Center study reports people of lower income are being left behind in a digitally dependent world. Make the digital divide a meeting topic in your group.

United Methodist Women has historical roots in the Red Bird region of Kentucky. Today, the Red Bird Missionary Conference very actively serves nine counties in the region and preserves their legacy by getting youth involved in their activities. Is this something you could do as well? Read about them in “United Methodist Women in the Red Bird Missionary Conference” on pages 36 to 37.

The case of Freddie Gray, a young man who died of injuries suffered in police custody, exposed the stark racial and socioeconomic contrasts that exist in Baltimore. But “Charm City” began to erode long before his death. Decades of urban flight coupled with the loss of thousands of jobs when its steel plant closed in 2003 have contributed to the city’s high rate of poverty. “Manna House,” on pages 38 to 41, tells the story of a Baltimore institution that’s been feeding the community since the 1970s and now offers additional resources to help improve their lives. Encourage members of your unit or church to volunteer at a soup kitchen, pantry or national mission institution throughout the year.


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Message From the President (June 2017)

Learning to Transform Lives

We are called to live together. As Christians we are meant to live with one another. Our faith calls us to build community in Christ, not by standing alone but by working alongside those we serve. Editor Tara Barnes writes in this month’s LEARN intro, “We can’t avoid discomfort. It’s what Jesus calls us to, for on the other side is deeper knowledge, understanding and love. In the discomfort is community. In the discomfort is God.” And in the LIVE intro, “Being part of United Methodist Women means the opportunity to change the world and yourself for the better through spiritual growth, leadership development, transformative education and service and advocacy.”

We are called as Christians to learn and transform in our faith. Utilize the resources available to you. This is why Mission u exists. As we enter the summer months, Mission u events are happening around the country. Thinking back to my first Mission u and the many since, I see transformation happening in the lives of the women attending. For me, Mission u is learning that the world is bigger than your own backyard. It is not enough to just learn and understand—Mission u empowers and implores us to take what we learn and share it with others. Mission u works provides the tools necessary to take the lessons back to your local unit or district. How many of us were nervous the first time we used Mission u for a local program? This supportive community will not judge you but instead help you develop your leadership skills so that the next time you are less nervous to stand up and present.

United Methodist Women knows education is important. Just reading the mission studies can be transformative. United Methodist Women also offers the resources to dig deeper into priority issues and partnerships through our Reading Program. There is a reason one of our first missionaries was a teacher—to empower women through education. Today, many of our grants and international mission partnerships support education for women, because when you educate one woman, you educate a village.

As a woman of faith, how do you grow? I know I need to learn and try new things. I need to identify difference and celebrate it through community in Christ. I know I need the fellowship of community, because I believe Jesus did not want us to work alone. It is community that keeps United Methodist Women moving forward. It is the purpose of community that has moved United Methodist Women through 150 years.
Psalm 46:5 says, “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day” (NIV). I love this Bible verse for many reasons. I find it comforting, because this verse does not say she is on her own or that she is alone. God gives us the strength to build community, to educate and transform our faith. God gives me United Methodist Women and the tools to succeed. This year, as you register and plan for Mission u, think about how you will use the tools God is giving you. I stand beside you as you grow and transform in your faith. I am your community.

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Bright Lights (May 2017)


United Methodist Women’s Ministry Hosts Annual Fundraiser
United Methodist Women at Trinity United Methodist Church in Greenwood, South Carolina, offers its annual soup and salad luncheon.

St. John’s United Methodist Women hosts Mother/Daughter Banquet
United Methodist Women at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Parsons, West Virginia, held its annual mother-daughter banquet.

New Holland United Methodist Women Celebrate Mothers, Daughters
United Methodist Women at New Holland United Methodist Church in New Holland, Ohio, hosts mother-daughter banquet.

Women’s Day Planned
United Methodist Women at Angola United Methodist Church in Angola, Indiana, hosts Community Women’s Day Away.

Vincent Memorial United Methodist Women Meet in April
United Methodist Women at Vincent Memorial United Methodist Church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia, holds monthly meeting.

United Methodist Women to Host Pie Fundraiser
United Methodist Women at Trinity United Methodist Church in Attica, New York, to sell slices of pie and coffee at Attica Founder’s Day.

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From the Editor (June 2017)

The May 2017 issue of response included an article on a United Methodist Women-sponsored rally against North Carolina’s House Bill 2 in January 2017. United Methodist Women chose to stand against HB2 because it used women’s rights to privacy and safety as a ruse to enact legislation that harms low-income workers, targets transgender persons, and promotes injustice, because it took aim at workers’ wages and right to seek redress for workplace grievances, and because it shortened the time period in which workers can take action against discrimination. I was proud to be a United Methodist Women member at that rally.

Before acting we consulted with the North Carolina Conference and Western North Carolina Conference United Methodist Women presidents, who shared our concerns about the three areas addressed in the bill. Women do have a right to privacy and safety in locker rooms and bathrooms, and navigating this new landscape will take thoughtful efforts that respect the rights of all. HB2 did not approach this careful bar.

The United Methodist Social Principles support policies promoting adequate income (¶163E) and call for equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation (¶162J). By removing sexual orientation from the list of protected conditions, HB2 allowed discrimination in public accommodations. United Methodist Women affirms the dignity and personhood of all women, children and youth. At our rally, marginalized communities affected by the bill were given a space to share their experiences. United Methodist Women has always been a space for people most affected by discriminatory policies and practices to speak and be heard.

We may have a wide variety of views about how we can address these matters, but they are also issues that impact the people United Methodist Women has been called by God to serve. United Methodist Women members do not shy away from controversial issues as we seek to be faithful to our call to mission. The new so-called HB2 repeal bill enacted in March 2017 still includes many of the same economic and civil rights violations, so it is important to continue to listen to those most affected. Our foremothers lived their commitment to serve the needs and improve the lives of women, children and youth of their day, even with their own array of viewpoints, and today we can do no less.

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How To Use This Issue (May 2017)


Red Bird Mission

Mission work is never easy, and in some areas, due to geography or politics, it can be particularly challenging. This issue focuses on mission either run or supported by United Methodist Women, mission making a big difference in thousands of lives.

We open with “Jesus of Nazareth: Our Model for Mission” by Judith Pierre-Okerson on pages 8 to 11. In it she says, “Too often we act as if tending the sheep means to nurture others to fit our mold.” She also reminds us that Jesus told his disciples go forth and make disciples of all. True mission involves reaching beyond what’s familiar—literally going to places we’ve never been or acquainting ourselves with people from different backgrounds, races, nationalities, regions or socioeconomic groups to spread the word of God. At your next United Methodist Women meeting, make a list of five to 10 pro-jects or efforts you can do as a group to nudge you out of your comfort zone.

In “United Methodist Women in the Rio Texas Conference” on page 16, Lizz Leyva describes the merging of the former Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Conferences, two groups with numerous and varied ways of serving the communities they are close to. “Organizing and putting things together is not easy,” Leyva says, but their shared passion for supporting mission, fighting for justices and loving people keeps them on track.

On pages 17 to 18, Susan Williams, United Methodist Women director for the Alaska Conference shares what it’s like serving the complex needs of those living in our largest state, where the landscape can impede accessibility to some areas. There, 14 United Methodist Women units and two national mission institutions are helping formerly incarcerated women to get back on their feet, providing comfort for abused children, raising money for summer camp scholarships, maintaining a food pantry for the hungry and more.

“Red Bird Mission” by Richard Lord on pages 20 to 23 tells how this Kentucky institution—the largest and most comprehensive United Methodist mission in the United States—addresses the needs of more than 10,000 people annually. In this region where many have lost jobs due to coal mines closing, the work of Red Bird Mission is particularly imperative.

In “More Than a Line” on pages 24 to 32, Paul Jeffrey exposes us to a different side of the U.S.-Mexico border, one that’s robust and vibrant where Mexican children cross daily to attend the school, “a moment of rare ecumenical cooperation” is helping South American and Cuban asylum seekers, and United Meth-odist Women members and deaconess volunteer at a nearby shelter. According to one of the people Jeffrey spoke to for this article, the border is not a barrier that separates people but rather a place of encounter where culture is accepting and open.

We hope that reading about these missions encourages you to learn more about the work they do, visit them if you’re in the area or donate money or supplies to them individually or as a group. A simple gesture to let them know that you appreciate all that they do for United Methodist Women is a thank-you letter. They’d love to hear from you.

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Message From the President (May 2017)

Your Giving Matters

This year, International Women’s Day, March 8, kicked off the 61st United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, its purpose to address economic empowerment of women. There women from around the world met to discuss issues of human trafficking, unjust labor laws, and maternal and child health. These issues should sound familiar to you as a United Methodist Women member. We work in community, in mission, to put faith, hope and love into action around our four priority areas: economic inequality, maternal and child health, climate justice and ending criminalization of communities of color.

Comprising the United Methodist Women CSW delegation were four women from the program advisory group’s act of repentance working group, three from the executive committee of the board of directors, one former and one current executive director of two national mission institutes, and seven women from around the world. What a week!
Three Scranton Women’s Leadership Center Scholars, from the Philippians, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan, were part of the delegation. United Methodist Women mission dollars support the center in Seoul, Korea, which creates educational opportunities for women and trains women leaders. These young women are leaders in their countries, through work in nonprofit organizations, supported by their faith in Christ.

Two women, from Kenya and Mozambique, are supported by your mission dollars working for the district office of the church and for Operation HOPE. Their personal stories exemplify what United Methodist Women is doing around the world: Empowering women, giving each one the skills to rise, lead by their faith in Christ. Our international delegation also included a woman working with youth in Moscow, Russia, a young leader from Pakistan, and a pastor from Japan—the only Christian in her family.
Their stories were echoed in every session attended. Despite geographical differences, many of our stories are the same, grounded in faith, hope and love in action.
United Methodist Women builds relationship by being in fellowship. We put our mission dollars to work together to help women around the world.

So, what does all this mean? The work you are doing matters. The dollars you pledge and raise for mission matters. Your work comes from the heart, it’s something you are passionate about, and you do it in faith. When you work in your community for women, youth and children, you are empowering women to build community and relationships in their lives. When you raise money and send your Pledge to Mission, that money goes all over the world. The women your Mission Giving supports bring food to their families and opportunities for education. Education gives women options.

Thank you for all you do for women, youth and children at home and around the world. You put faith, hope and love into action.

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Message From the Editor (May 2017)

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This issue supplements the new United Methodist Women geographical study: Missionary Conferences of The United Methodist Church in the United States by J. Ann Craig. The conferences covered in the book and this issue are the Red Bird Missionary Conference, Oklahoma Missionary Conference and the Alaska United Methodist Conference. Discussed as well is the Rio Grande Conference, now Rio Texas, which is not an official missionary conference within the denomination but shares many of the same characteristics.

The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church designates a conference as a missionary conference “because of its particular mission opportunities, its limited membership and resources, its unique leadership requirements, its strategic regional or language considerations, and ministerial needs” (¶585). Their histories are the history of United Methodist mission theology as it moves from colonialism to mutuality, repentance and reconciliation.

The work of mutuality and reconciliation is messy and uncomfortable—something we polite church folk aren’t always willing to engage in. But it is exactly the work we are called to do. As my colleague Janis Rosheuvel says, steps 1-10 in building right relationships is Listen. Listen and believe. Then act.
There is almost three feet of snow outside my window as I write this. I am ready for the new life of spring, to step out of winter’s cocoon. I hope as you read this you feel the same and you feel the sun (and Son) call you out to put faith, hope and love into action.

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