Mission u students learn, grow, give

Appearing at Mission u in conjunction with the Latin American geographical study, these dancers from Ballet Quetzall include, from left, Manuel Martinez Citlali Vazquez, Uziel Cortez and Natali Brito. Leticis Retu serves as director artistiro. PHOTOS BY FRED MARTIN

Appearing at Mission u in conjunction with the Latin American geographical study, these dancers from Ballet Quetzall include, from left, Manuel Martinez Citlali Vazquez, Uziel Cortez and Natali Brito. Leticis Retu serves as director artistiro.
PHOTOS BY FRED MARTIN

By Doni and Fred Martin
Special Contributors

“It is fantastic… such an opportunity to learn about other countries and mission work that is ongoing around the world.”

Those were words of the Rev. John Michael, pastor of First United Methodist Church Corning, during his first time to attend Mission u, held the last week of July 2015 at Hendrix College in Conway. “As a first-timer, I am surprised at the information shared and the mission work in Latin America,” he said of this year’s geographical study.

Mission u is made possible each year through the cooperative efforts of United Methodist Women, the Arkansas Conference Board of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas.

With the theme “Learning Together for the Transformation of the World,” members of the United Methodist Women and others converged on Hendrix campus for four days of study, singing and worship, all under the guidance of Diana Hendricks, dean of Mission u for the second year in a row.

“It’s a privilege to serve as dean for our time of mission education and transformation,” Hendricks said. “Nineteen capable study leaders diligently prepared to present very timely and relevant studies for all ages. Our minds were challenged and we will grow in our Christian faith as we apply what we learned from this journey.”

Registrar Beth Cobb reported 228 attendees, including 57 children and youth, 18 clergy and 34 commuters who drove to campus each day to attend classes. Forty-eight persons were there for the first time, a number similar to last year’s roster of new participants.

While adults were in their chosen classes, youth and children took time from their own classroom activities to sort 3,654 food items into 609 bags for distribution through Arkansas Rice Depot’s “Food for Kids” backpack program and the Arkansas Conference’s 200,000 Reasons childhood hunger initiative.

Smiles on the faces of these children show their pleasure in helping prepare more than 600 bags of food to be shared with others.

Smiles on the faces of these children show their pleasure in helping prepare more than 600 bags of food to be shared with others.

A 13-year old first-timer, Zaria McCants, was among 10 youth attending from St. Luke UMC Pine Bluff.

“I enjoyed every day,” she said. “We studied Latin America and the different cultures and traditions of children in several countries. It was fun to hang out with friends, prepare food bags and help people with their lunch trays or carry their books for them.”

Zaria’s mother, Regina Von Tungeln, organized scholarships that enabled members of St. Luke’s youth organization to attend Mission u.

One United Methodist Woman recalled the first time she attended Mission u, which was then called the School of Christian Mission. Back in 1963, Ann Ashcraft of Malvern was part of the study held in the facilities of the Arkansas School for the Blind.

“The next year we met at Henderson College in Arkadelphia,” Ashcraft said. “At that time we would go to the various districts in the state to conduct our mission studies. Before long, we settled on the campus of Hendrix College. I think I have missed only one study since 1963.”

A past president, Conference officer and a member of the Women’s Division for eight years (along with many other United Methodist Women offices), Ashcraft says the variety of studies, learning about mission and seeing friends keep bringing her back year after year. “It is all good… every year,” she added.

Mission u 2015 featured the following studies:

“Created for Happiness: Understanding Your Life in God” written by Cynthia A. Bond Hopson and Sarah Heaner Lancaster. Study Leaders were the Rev. Maxine Allen, the Rev. Gail Brooks, Janice Goldman, the Rev. Katie Grover, the Rev. Dr. Michael Mattox, the Rev. Natasha Murray-Norman and the Rev. Mark Norman.

The geographical study “Latin America: People of Faith” by Sonia Maria Barbosa Dias was led by the Rev. Russell Breshears, the Rev. Stephen Copley, Dr. Roderick McLean, Laura Palmer, Sandy Wilder and the Rev. Dr. Diane Wimberley.

The issue study “The Church and People with Disabilities” by Peggy A. Johnson was taught by Londie Bell.

Rosemary Kirby served as assistant dean, and Muriel Schrepfer was assistant dean for youth and children. Other leaders included Amanda Baltz, Blayne Schrepfer, Blake Hendricks, Reagan Martin, Heather Hendricks, Latoya Shepherd, Robin Williams and Rachel Sanders. Lynn R. Baker served as song leader, with Julia Frost as pianist.

This year’s Mission u offering was divided between Arkansas Rice Depot and the Conference’s 200,000 Reasons initiative.

Mission u 2016 will be directed by Dean Rosemary Kirby. Cecelia Wadsworth will serve as assistant dean. Beth Cobb will return as registrar. Dates are not yet confirmed, but the study topics are set: Mission u 2016 will feature “The Bible and Human Sexuality” as its Spiritual Growth Study; “Climate Justice” as the Issue Study; and a continued focus on Latin America for the Geographical Study.

The Martins are long-time leaders and supporters of Arkansas Conference Mission u and its predecessor events.