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They go bearing gifts

They go bearing gifts

First Lakeland volunteers packing bags for GCFA meeting
Volunteers from First UMC, Lakeland, stuff bags with Florida goodies to welcome attendees to the UMC General Council of Finance and Administration training meeting in Jacksonville. Photo by Don Youngs.

LAKELAND – Florida is the land of refuge in a winter that has dumped snow and chilling rain on states to the north, and United Methodists from across the nation are seeking fellowship here.

Mickey Wilson, Florida Conference treasurer, said he knew a place in the sun was welcome mat enough.

"It's February. You want to have a meeting. Where do you want to have it?" he said. "In Florida."

Even so, he thought it would be nice to enhance the experience by packing and delivering bags stuffed with gifts that offered a flavor of the Sunshine State. He said he got the idea when he went to a conference in Louisiana and received a gift bag with beads, pralines and Tabasco sauce.

So this week his wife, Marsha, with help from Pam Carter, wife of the bishop, and members of the United Methodist Women of First UMC, Lakeland, stuffed 200 bags full of Florida goodies to be distributed at a national General Council of Finance and Administration training meeting held every four years. This year, Jacksonville was selected as a training site, along with Albuquerque, N.M.

The training will be held today through Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront, and Bishop Ken Carter is giving the opening remarks.

Attendees from across the U.S. will receive bags filled with HoneyBell oranges, strawberry jam, strawberry-themed refrigerator magnets, key lime candy and seashells, Wilson said. The Florida United Methodist Foundation and the United Methodist Connectional Federal Credit Union donated the bags, souvenir pens and lip balm, and the Chamber of Commerce offered books of coupons and maps for visitors.

United Methodists from northern climes also are at Warren Willis Camp and the Life Enrichment Center this week for the National UM Camp and Retreat Leaders Gathering. To read about that, click here.

* Susan Green is the editor of Florida Conference Connection.

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