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.