Members of the School of Christian Mission for the Women's Division of The United Methodist Church gather July 17 for a plenary session in the Norma and Glen Hodge Center for Discipleship. Leading the singing is Sue Pafford of Elkton, Ky.COLUMBIA, Ky. -- For four days last week at Lindsey Wilson College, more than 100 Kentucky United Methodists explored the marginalization of Native Americans and the crisis in the Sudan.
The topics were discussed at the annual School of Christian Mission for the Women's Division of The United Methodist Church, held last Thursday through Sunday at LWC.
The annual four-day training school, held in conjunction with the Kentucky Redbird Mission, educates women and children about spiritual, political and geographical issues through a faith-based lens.
The theme of this year's school was "Together at the Table," which focused on creating a more inclusive world community.
"The purpose of the School of Missions is to raise awareness of the need for missions," said Pat Kees of Ashland, Ky., who served as the school's dean. "We also bring spiritual growth studies into the school to help enrich us."
This year's school attracted a total of 102 adults and children from the Kentucky and Red Bird conferences, which cover all of Kentucky except the area west of Paducah.
The school focuses on a social-action issue and a geographic issue. This year's social-action issue was discrimination against Native Americans, and the geographical issue was a study of the Sudan crisis.
"We try to raise awareness about what The United Methodist Church is doing on these issues and what we as individuals can do," Kees said. "Our subjects are always geared toward something that helps bring people closer to God as well as enriching our own lives."
While adults attended educational sessions, the children participated in corresponding classes.
"In working with the children, I've tried to look at the Commandments that God has given us to love one another," Kees said. "We get into a discussion of, Who is your neighbor and how can you show that love when you are over here and they are over there? I've told the children that we can't live out God's commandments without doing something when we become aware of what is going on around us."
The adults also heard from several guest speakers, including Deng Kuer of Louisville, Ky. A native of Sudan, Kuer was one of that African nation's "Lost Boys."
Kuer told an audience Saturday afternoon in the John B. Begley Chapel how at the age of 7 his country's civil war forced him on a 14-year nomadic journey. His journey included stops in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya before arriving in Louisville.
Now a college graduate and U.S. citizen, the 29-year-old told the audience that he has high hopes for his country since the end of its 22-year civil war in 2005.
Kuer's talked inspired many of those in the audience, who said they planned to become more active in trying to assist the Sudanese in rebuilding their nation, which has been decimated by war, famine and drought.
"The more immersed you get into Methodist Women, it just makes you start looking inwardly of what God is commanding each one of us to do," said Kees, who has been involved with Methodist Women for 15 years. "I take it to heart, and it stretches to me until I have to take action. It makes me uncomfortable a lot of times, and it pushes me to live out my faith. … We leave this school physically exhausted but spiritually renewed."
Scenes from School of Missions ...