Response: September 2016 Issue

United Methodist Women Outreach Evident at General Conference

United Methodist Women leadership and support is unmistakable throughout the United Methodist Church.

United Methodist Women Outreach Evident at General Conference
The Africa University choir sings during the presentation of the Africa University report May 16 at the 2016 General Conference.

From the translation booths to the plenary floor, from the episcopal chairs to the delegates and advocates on both sides of the bar, General Conference is filled with people impacted by the 150-year mission outreach of United Methodist Women that's being celebrated today.

Leadership development is a hallmark of United Methodist Women mission with women, children and youth. United Methodist Women scholarships, programs and transformative educational experiences are designed to open new opportunities and equip women and youth to grow as needed leaders for church and society.

Junie Nkonge, 24, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a French translator for General Conference. She is also a United Methodist Women scholarship recipient who graduated from Tennessee State University with a master's degree in business information systems.

"My dream is to start an education center for women in the Congo," she said, sharing her desire to teach computer skills to women. "Coltan is a mineral found in every cell phone, and they get it from Congo mines, but still our country is so far behind in technology. Maybe I can actually help change this and create jobs."

Kayleigh Vickers, 25, of Indian Mission United Methodist Church in Millsboro, Delaware, came to General Conference as an advocate with the Native American International Caucus. In 2013 she represented United Methodist Women in a young people's environmental justice seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

"I always knew about social justice work from a Native American perspective, but at the seminar I learned more about environmental justice issues, including those in Japan and Korea," she said. "It helped me see how other people are struggling for justice in the world and how we all have a commitment to make a difference."

Ms. Vickers now also advocates for environmental justice and teaches sustainable principles to children in the Nanticoke community.

"That's my second baby," Ms. Vickers said of her environmental justice work.

She attended United Methodist Women's Mission u this past summer and is preparing to teach the organization's mission study on climate change next year.

Bishop Joaquina Nhanala of Mozambique Episcopal Area said United Methodist Women scholarships help underwrite her studies as she prepared to follow her call to ordained ministry.

"I am a product of United Methodist Women," Ms. Nhanala said and added that she's not alone. "A lot of women are now in a position to have a say because of the efforts of United Methodist Women."

Transformation after war

Bishop John Yambasu of Sierra Leone Episcopal Area was already a clergy when he first had direct contact with United Methodist Women mission outreach — but it came at a critical time in his ministry.

"I was director of youth ministries in Sierra Leone in 1990, and the rebel war had devastated life," Mr. Yambasu said. "Many young people had lost parents and had dropped out of school. The country's entire economy was shattered. Funding to develop transformative ministries for these young people was most challenging. This is when United Methodist Women came through with scholarships and funding to support skills training programs and organizing seminars and leadership development workshops for the long journey to transformation."

In 2001, Yambasu became part of the first class of United Methodist Women's regional missionaries specially charged to work with women, children and youth on peacebuilding, education, health care and gender justice. This work required networking with U.S. and international ecumenical and governmental organizations like the All Africa Conference of Churches, the United Nations, UNICEF and more.

"This was a major turning point in my life," he said. "The opportunity to be in mission with the poor to bring healing to children whose lives were battered by abuse, conflict and diseases like AIDS opened my eyes. The exposure helped shape my life and lay the foundation for me to become a bishop of the church today."

Africa University

Andra Stevens, communications director for Africa University, said United Methodist Women played an important role in how the institution serves women students today.

"From the very beginning, strong United Methodist Women representatives like Rose Catchings intentionally focused on women as they envisioned Africa University," Ms. Stevens said. "Today, women are 53 percent of Africa University's student body. That's not an accident. That's an outcome of United Methodist Women mission."

Ms. Stevens said United Methodist Women's continued support of Africa University women students through scholarships and grants are empowering them to change their communities. She shared the story of a young woman graduate from Malawi who received a United Methodist Women grant to attend a global health seminar in the United States and now travels 200 miles every weekend to serve rural women.

"The gifts and talents of women are realized because of United Methodist Women," Ms. Stevens said. "United Methodist Women members in small towns and big cities sacrificially invest in the lives of people who they may never see. We cannot thank them enough."

Yvette Moore is director of communications for United Methodist Women.

Posted or updated: 9/1/2016 11:00:00 PM

September 2016 cover of response

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