Families, pastors and students will immerse themselves in a weekend of mission study this month, focusing on spiritual growth, social justice and covenant living.
|A scene from last year’s adult class session on Geographic Mission Study: "Missionary Conferences of The United Methodist Church in the United States."|
“I think that Mission U is a wonderful way to rekindle or deepen one’s faith,” said Sharyn Ladner, assistant dean for Mission U. “We are offering a Christian educational program grounded in social action and spirituality—Wesley’s acts of mercy and acts of piety.”
Hosted by the Florida United Methodist Women, Mission U offers pastors the opportunity to earn continuing education credits, while individuals and families come together explore this year’s topics.
It will build on the concept of the covenant relationship, which is a commitment to a daily and deep commitment to walk with God.
“Last year, they dealt a lot about what is a covenant and what the Bible says about covenants being made,” Mission U Dean and Conference Lay Leader Paulette Monroe said.
“We relate it to our time. It explores the spiritual definition of a covenant and how that applies to us in the modern church today. It explores the way God has called us to live in a covenant relationship.”
The social justice course will focus on money matters.
“When I went to the study, it asked questions about how we use our dollars that God has given us in serving others and giving. Or are we selfish with it? This is a new one,” she said.
There also will be a repeat of last year’s geographical study on the missionary conferences in the United States.
“We take in Alaska, the Red Bird Missionary and Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conferences. This makes it a two-year study,” Monroe said. “For me, and I’ve been doing this for so long, it gives me a greater perspective with how to be in missions with others.
“It teaches me to go beyond the walls of the box I’m in, out in to a larger area and do missions. We teach our kids that, as well, at Mission U. We always do a mission trip to get kids involved in the community, to go out and serve others.”
Ladner said Mission U has been life-changing.
“I was not sure how I felt about missionaries back then, and this is the reason why I chose this mission study,” she said. “I felt the need to learn more. It was remarkable that my study leader, a pastor, was herself a product of United Methodist Women education in her native country, Liberia.
“I learned so much, not only about United Methodist Women’s work in mission, but also about the history and founding of UMW and the history of mission in the Church. I ended up leading the Joy to the World study back in my district. I’ve been attending Mission U ever since.”
The Mission U studies are cutting edge. An example would be “The Bible and Human Sexuality.”
“The pastor who taught this class at Mission U in 2016 told me that the topics covered in this study should be taught in every church—and just last year he led the study at his church,” Ladner said.
When she was asked to serve as assistant dean to Mission U three years ago, it was a call to leadership she had been resisting.
|Youth planted a garden for a local church school last year. The kids are going to work in a nearby church’s community vegetable garden this year.|
“I know it may sound trite to say it was ‘A God Thing,’ but I truly believe that it was,” she said. “I look forward to following Paulette Monroe next year as Mission U Dean. Paulette is phenomenal, and I hope to be able to live up to her level of service.”
Mission U includes a children’s program from pre-K through grade 12. Children study the same topics as adults, but on their level. Monroe said she expects 65-70 youth to participate.
This year, young attendees will take a field trip to a nearby church where students have built a community garden and distribute food in the community.
“The kids are going to work in the community vegetable garden,” Monroe said.
“The children will be having what they call a marketplace where they are going to make little things and sell them or ask for donations and the money will be left in the community for some mission project,” she added.
Mission U alternates location between Bethune-Cookman and Florida Southern College in Lakeland for the yearly conference. Participants stay on campus and share meals and worship, in addition to class work.
“There is no better place to learn what mission is all about. Until you actually sit in it, be a part of it, you won’t get a true perspective of what it is really all about,” Monroe said.
To learn more, or to register, visit http://flconfumw.org/.
—Yvette Hammett is a freelance writer based in Valrico.