People of Faith: May 6, 2016

Jess Schload

Jess Schload

Schload named CEO of Mount Sequoyah

Mount Sequoyah Conference and Retreat Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on March 28 announced that the Rev. Jess L. Schload will serve as its new chief executive officer, effective May 16, 2016. He will focus on transforming the retreat center into a cutting-edge, multi-faceted organization offering secular and spiritual training seminars to church leaders, as well as overnight accommodations, meeting spaces, recreational programs and dining services to all its guests.

Schload comes to Mount Sequoyah with more than 20 years of experience in non-profit management, capital campaigns and fundraising, development of innovative programming, and outdoor retreat ministry operations. For almost 10 years, he directed the United Methodist Life Enrichment Retreat and Conference Center in Fruitland Park, Florida, leading that center to six straight years of surplus budgets. He also served as the executive director of Geneva Point Camp and Conference Center in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. He began his career as a local pastor in the Church of the Brethren, but soon was able to follow his calling into the retreat and conference center ministry.

Schload received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible from Anderson University, and a Master of Divinity degree with an emphasis in outdoor retreat ministries from Bethany Theological Seminary. He continues to attend educational programs and professional conferences sponsored by the Southeast Regional and National United Methodist Camp and Retreat Leaders Conferences, International Association of Conference Center Administrators and American Camp Association, among others. He and his wife, Connie, will move to Fayetteville, and he will begin work May 16.

Situated atop the largest mountain in Fayetteville, Mount Sequoyah Center, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church in 1922. Only a few miles from the city’s center and the University of Arkansas, Mount Sequoyah specializes in Christian hospitality and can accommodate a variety of special events, including family reunions, church retreats, corporate meetings, and wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Mary Lewis Dassinger

Mary Lewis Dassinger

Dassinger becomes part-time coordinator for 200,000 Reasons hunger initiative

Mary Lewis Dassinger, a certified candidate for ordination as a United Methodist deacon, began serving in April as part-time project coordinator for the 200K Reasons to Fight Childhood Hunger initiative. Her work will support the efforts of the Revs. J.J. Whitney and Martha Taylor, and of Deaconess Colleen Caldwell.

“I am inspired by the stories of Arkansas congregations that already have existing food ministries or are excited and eager to begin or expand food ministries,” Dassinger said. “The energy of the 200,000 Reasons team, including Conference staff and partners like the Hunger Relief Alliance, is contagious. But most of all, the vision to help end food insecurity for impoverished children in Arkansas is full of real hope for real change.”

Dassinger spent five years as director of missions at Pulaski Heights UMC Little Rock, where she and her family are members. She supported the Revs. David Freeman and Martha Taylor in their leadership of the Imagine No Malaria Campaign, and continues to serve on the Arkansas Conference Board of Global Ministries. After seven years in Tennessee, she moved to Arkansas in 2007, where she started seminary and worked with statewide grant coordinators for AmeriCorps and service-learning programs. She completed a Master of Arts in Religion from Memphis Theological Seminary in 2009. In addition, she served briefly as children’s ministry director at St. John’s UMC Midtown Memphis.

Contact Dassinger ( or any of the 200,000 Reasons team to explore how your congregation can be a part of ending childhood hunger in Arkansas.

Lynn Baker

Lynn Baker

Baker elected to United Methodist Women’s national board

Lynn R. Baker was elected as the second of four new national directors of United Methodist Women from the South Central Jurisdiction at the recent jurisdictional United Methodist Women quadrennial meeting, April 15-17 in Oklahoma City. Nearly 400 attendees from the jurisdiction’s 12 annual conferences participated in electing new national board members.

Baker resides in Conway. Her first mission experience was as a summer counselor, working with children who have disabilities at the United Methodist Women’s own Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock. Since that time and as a partner in ministry with her husband, David, she has served in many capacities within the United Methodist Church: three-time General and Jurisdictional Conference delegate, member of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women for two quadrennial terms, and numerous positions at the Conference, district and local levels. She is passionate about living out the purpose of United Methodist Women, and has served as its Conference president; dean, study leader and music leader of Mission u; and coordinator of General Conference women delegates’ orientation.

The United Methodist Women board consists of 25 members and manages the organization’s program policies, finances, property and its top executive staff person. Twenty members are elected by jurisdictions and five through a nominations process to ensure diversity of age, race, language, physical ability and working status.

“I am humbled and excited about the challenge ahead,” she said. “United Methodist Women have entrusted me to work into our future with women, children and youth, and I am committed to living out God’s invitation that welcomes all.”

Arkansas has been privileged to have at least one national director continuously since the 1980s. Previous directors include Bonnie Bumpers, Nadine Hardin Miller, Doris Fish, Nell Bruner Barling, Ann Ashcraft, Diane Vogler and Karon Mann.

Maxine Allen

Maxine Allen

Allen honored by Oklahoma/Arkansas AME Church

The Rev. Maxine Allen, a United Methodist elder currently serving as the Arkansas Conference’s assistant director of mission and ministry for mission field engagement, on April 19 was inducted into the inaugural class of the God First Legacy of Leadership Awards.

These awards are given by the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 12th Episcopal District, covering Oklahoma and Arkansas. They were created to recognize honorees’ commitment to the church and ability to make a difference in people’s lives. Allen was the only honoree outside of the AME Church to receive the award.

Hightower honored as Project Compassion’s volunteer of the year

Iris Hightower

Iris Hightower

Iris Hightower, a retired United Methodist Deaconess, received the Volunteer of the Year Award from Project Compassion of Fort Smith at a ceremony held April 21 at Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith.

To be considered for this honor, a Project Compassion volunteer must be active for a minimum of three years; consistently visit residents one-to-one and assist with group activities; enthusiastically promote the mission of Project Compassion; and project a positive attitude toward residents and facility staff.

“She has a heart and gift for this work, and she is dedicated to being a friend to each resident,” said Marian Conrad, executive director of Project Compassion. Conrad also noted Hightower’s love for animals, adding that she has served as a pet therapy volunteer alongside her dogs Rowdy and Missy.