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Make a difference, make a friend at Mission Impact

Make a difference, make a friend at Mission Impact

DAYTONA BEACH – It’s an idea that sprang from the laity session of Annual Conference 2013, when attendees agreed to reach out to someone of a different generation.

Conference Lay Leader Russ Graves followed up on it a year later, at Annual Conference 2014, encouraging members to save the dates of Jan. 16-17, 2015, for a “Make-a-Friend” event intended to foster intergenerational relationships.

Graves said his intent was to encourage others to share in the rewards he experienced by reaching out to young people he didn’t know.

“Young adults have changed my life,” he said, describing how spending time with those born many years later recharged his outlook and ministry. “It is almost as exciting as discovering Christ for the first time.

“There is a side of young adults that helps us reconnect with when we were younger and … when our dreams were bigger and our desire was stronger to make a difference, before the world got hold of us and said, ‘You can’t do that.’” 

Photo of Bethune-Cookman University sign
Bethune-Cookman University, founded on a concept of mission and community service, will host Mission Impact Florida, an intergenerational event Jan. 16-17. Photo from Bethune-Cookman University.

The initial idea has crystallized into Mission Impact Florida, a two-day gathering at Bethune-Cookman University that will combine the idea of an intergenerational get-together with an emphasis on missions. Adults of all ages from across the conference are invited.

“The aim still is an intergenerational event,” said Kylie Foley, who is organizing Mission Impact Florida for the Florida Conference. Foley also is the Florida field coordinator for Imagine No Malaria, a United Methodist campaign that aims to wipe out the mosquito-borne illness in parts of the world where it still exists. Imagine No Malaria will be a key focus of Mission Impact, along with local projects in the Daytona community, and $10 of each attendee’s $20 registration fee will go to the anti-malaria campaign.

“It’s a great segue to say, 'Make a friend, but make a difference,’” Foley said. “Mission is for all people, without exception. … Mission is not just a trip, but it’s everyday life.”

The two-day event, scheduled for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, will begin Friday, Jan. 16, with evening worship and then a “Camp Out to Stamp Out” event featuring s’mores and games, sponsored by Imagine No Malaria. Also that evening, Derrick Scott III, a Florida Conference campus ministry director for Jacksonville colleges, will combine his talents with musicians from across the conference in a concert for the event.

The following day will include short presentations by Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis, director of Justice and Multicultural Ministries for the Florida Conference; Heidi Aspinwall, the conference’s Young Adult Missional Movement director; and Rev. Erwin Lopez of the Central Florida Wesley Foundation.

Florida Bishop Ken Carter also is scheduled to speak Saturday, and a young adult panel will discuss missions as well. Musical groups from Bethune-Cookman also are scheduled to perform.

After the presentations, participants will be given the option of attending a missions-related workshop or heading out in the Daytona area for a specific mission opportunity. Halifax Urban Ministries, a homelessness prevention and assistance agency, and Derbyshire Place, a ministry aimed at helping low-income families, are among destinations for Mission Impact attendees.

Graves, a Bethune-Cookman trustee, said university leaders heard about the conference’s goal of encouraging intergenerational relationships and offered to host an event.

Rev. John Baldwin II, presidential policy adviser at Bethune-Cookman, said the idea carried a natural appeal for a school where the motto is “Enter to learn. Depart to serve.”

“When our founder started this school, she started it to empower people in the community to build a healthier community and to contribute their assets to the community around them,” Baldwin said, referring to Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Bethune’s original training school for girls, founded in 1904, blossomed into a college and later a university after affiliating with The United Methodist Church in 1924.

The university is encouraging student participation and offering civic engagement credits that some students need to graduate, Baldwin said.

Graves said local congregations will lend support by making church campuses available for people who want to save on lodging costs by bringing cots, air mattresses or sleeping bags. And at least one local hotel has agreed to provide a discounted rate to those who mention “Mission Impact” when they book a room.

The lay leader said he also wants to encourage young people to approach their elders and invite them to the event. Older adults, fearing rejection, seem less likely to make the first move, he said.

“The older adults are scared of it.”

Sharing in mission work provides the ideal icebreaker and puts both generations on an equal footing for cross-mentoring, Graves said.

“We don’t want them instructing,” he added. “We don’t want them saying, ‘Come to my church and be like us.’ This is about relationships for … Kingdom-building.”

Graves said intergenerational relationships will continue to be a concept promoted at Annual Conference 2015, scheduled to be held June 10-13 on the Bethune-Cookman campus.

For Mission Impact Florida information and registration, click here.

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.