General Conference 2016

The Display That Wasn’t, the Education That Was

United Methodist Women catches up with Cameroonian seminary scholarship recipients made “famous” at General Conference 2012.

The Display That Wasn’t, the Education That Was

Scholarship recipient Julienne Ngo Um.

It created quite a stir, the United Methodist Women booth space at General Conference in 2012, for instead of an exhibit, United Methodist Women roped off their space, filling it with just one sign that read: "In 600 square feet, it is impossible to show 143 years of women in mission, the work our members are doing in their churches every day, the lives transformed through the global ministries of the Church, and all the way United Methodist Women will move into the next 143 years. So, instead, we used the money to fully fund the seminary education of two female local pastors in Cameroon."

Recommended by local missionaries, the women, Julienne G. Ngo Um and Nina Georgette Atsina, are students at the ecumenical Protestant University of Central Africa in Younde, the capital of Cameroon, a new country for United Methodism.

Ms. Atsina is looking forward to completing her degree next year. The scholarship is enabling her to fulfill her dream of becoming a pastor or missionary. Ms. Atsina aims "to become a person who will welcome rather than one who sends people away, a person who assembles and does not scatter, one who heals and does not harm.

"Each morning as I wake up and each night as I go to bed, I see myself achieving my mission, according to Mathew 28:18-20," she said. "And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'"

Ms. Atsina has seen the ripple effect of her faith benefitting her fellow students. Two of her favorite courses are "Light of Sociology," in which she is learning "to become an instrument of worship and adoration for God's creation," and "Systematic Theology," wherein Ms. Atsina is seeking answer big questions to life's mysteries through her immersion in scripture.

"I believe my ministries are built on a solid foundation."

After receiving her bachelor's degree in theology, Ms. Atsina hopes to continue to study for her master's degree in Christian education.

The other scholarship recipient, Ms. Ngo Um, is studying for her master's degree. She has become a witness for United Methodism and ecumenism at a unique moment toward Christian unity in Cameroon. This is the first time that the Association of Women United Methodists in Cameroon have participated in an event with the women of the Council of Protestant churches of Cameroon.

With the blessing and encouragement of the lay leaders in the Protestant women's movement, the United Methodist Superintendent and the annual conference, Ms. Ngo Um has organized activities with the Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal faiths "to intercede for peace in our country, especially for our army fighting against the sect Boko Haram to the North and the rebels of the Central African Republic to the East of the country," she said. "At the end of these activities, I made the following proposals: organization of caravans for peace in the 10 regions of our country and establishment of a platform of women theologians for a permanent dialogue. These proposals have been accepted."

While building peace and learning theology, these scholars are like United Methodist Women members in the United States and elsewhere in the world, creating a backbone for their communities, spiritually supporting one another and the greater world and witnessing for peace and justice.

Four years ago, the funds from the "display that wasn't" became for the Cameroonian seminarians the opportunity that was.

Visit the 2016 United Methodist Women exhibit space, booth 152, at General Conference 2016 to find where and how United Methodist Women continue to create education opportunities for women, children and youth.

Mary Beth Coudal is a teacher and writer based in New York City and interim managing editor of United Methodist Women's response magazine.

Posted or updated: 5/12/2016 11:00:00 PM

At the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Florida, United Methodist Women, instead of building a large display like many church agencies, decided to spend the money on something else. As a result, it was the most talked-about exhibit at the quadrennial meeting. 

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