2016 - A Legacy of Giving

Palm Sunday

2016 -  A Legacy of Giving
J. LaVon Wilson

“I am grateful to God — whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did — when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”  —2 Timothy 1:3-7

In this season of Lent, I’ve been reflecting on the women of the “old” segregated Central Jurisdiction, their sacrifices and their contributions to United Methodist Women’s 150-year legacy of mission that we are celebrating.

I had returned home after finishing college as music major, married, and soon started looking for a teaching job in 1955. My mother called me one evening and invited me to her circle meeting. Actually, she said, “Are you free tonight?” but I knew that really meant, “Come,” so I did. As we traveled to the meeting, she began to share with me about the Woman’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS).

The Woman’s Society of Christian Service had many mission projects here in the United States and abroad, my mother explained, and then asked if I remembered when her local unit sponsored my piano recital before I left for school. I certainly did remember that afternoon, and the recital that had raised my first scholarship to college. My mother talked about how members of her WSCS unit saved and pooled their money to organize projects to help others who were not as well off as we were.

The women my mother talked about were not rich. Many worked long hours doing housekeeping in the homes of other people, affluent white families who lived on the other side of our town. These women would go to work in the early morning hours thinking they’d get off at 5, but often ended up staying until 7 or 8 p.m. because their employers required them to do so. My mother, a beautician by trade, knew this because some of these women were also her customers, and they’d sometimes have to call to cancel hairdressing appointments when this happened. 

These women worked hard for their money — and still they gave. They gave their all because of their faith in God and their commitment to the mission of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service.

“Now that you have returned home, it is your time to give back to the church and the community with your money, time, talent and service,” my mother told me that evening as we drove to the meeting. “Make your gift to mission a part of your budget.”

An Active Member

That is how I became a part of the WSCS circle and Wesleyan Service Guild, the women’s mission organization tailored for women like me who worked outside of the home as well. As the names of our organization changed over time, I have remained a committed and active member, thanks to my mother, who started me on the path of giving to mission. I gave the first Special Mission Recognition pin in my church—Grace United Methodist Church in Springfield, Illinois—to my mother. Since then, our unit has given out many Special Mission Recognition pins.

Over the years, I’ve gone on to serve on the conference and national levels of United Methodist Women, including as president of Central Illinois Conference United Methodist Women, as vice president of Illinois Great Rivers Conference and most recently as a member of the first class of the national United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group. Today, like my mother, I have been honored with Special Mission Recognition pins too.

Giving to mission is a part of my DNA. It is a legacy of mission left to me by my mother, Charlotte R. Jones Woodson, and the many faithful women of the Central Jurisdiction. I am grateful to God for those women and the sisterhood of United Methodist Women they welcomed me into that enables me to live out my Christian calling to service and discipleship. Thanks be to God!

J. LaVon Wilson, a United Methodist Women director, started out in the “old” Central West Conference of the segregated Central Jurisdiction nearly 61 years ago. Her story and the stories of women organized for mission during the years that the church was divided along racial lines are an informative part of the history of United Methodist Women being revisited as we celebrate 150 years in mission.

Posted or updated: 3/18/2016 12:00:00 AM

Our Lenten Journey

In this season of Lent, we are reflecting on the 150-year legacy of United Methodist Women. Each of our Lenten reflections is part of our ongoing legacy of putting faith, hope and love into action.

Save March 23 as the date to celbrate 150 years with a gift to the legacy fund.
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