Happy Birthday, UMW!
This week I celebrate a birthday. I don’t tell you that so you shower me with cards and my favorite pie. (Ha!) I tell you that so you consider the 56 year span of the Church’s ministry upon which I am reflecting.
My parents were always active and leaders in their local congregations. In those preschool/early elementary years, I have fond memories of hearing the letters ”WSCS”. (I didn’t know then that it stood for the “Women’s Society of Christian Service”.) What it meant to me was Mom got dressed up to go to church, or a home, to be with her friends and I was home with my dad. It meant we watched Red Skeleton together and I was up a little past my 8 pm bedtime. And it meant there were some great dessert leftovers in my lunch the next day. (Life for a 5-year-old is pretty self-centered, I admit.)
It was a few years later my appreciation began to deepen for this organization of women my mom would talk of so frequently and which seemed to be at the center of anything important, celebratory and mission minded that took place in our church.
It was a scholarship from the UMW (United Methodist Women) that helped me have my first camping experience at Wesley Woods as a 5th grader. It was the United Methodist Women that helped me with a scholarship to attend seminary. It was the United Methodist Women that sent me and 25 other seminarians and spouses to the Annual UMW Assembly in Anaheim, California in1986. My continual exposure to the ministry of the UMW and increasing knowledge of their passion to serve others all around the world has only grown deeper and deeper. As a pastor serving local congregations, it was the UMW that was always serving faithfully in ways and with people that were far beyond my scope of influence.
Happy Birthday UMW!! Thank you for the generations of giving, serving, advocating and leadership in life transforming contexts. Thank you for supporting missions in countries I will never be able to visit for touching the lives of children in cities across this country.
About 50 years ago my mom served as a counselor at Wesley Woods. I have a black and white photo that had been used for a post card. She and other counselors and campers are shown sitting around a campfire with the cross in the background.
Just as that legacy of giving that has been a driving force in the UMW for over 50 years, so too have our camps been that place of life changing transformations for that many years and longer. You can continue the legacy. Fall is the greatest time to recruit for next year’s camps. Memories are fresh and interest is high.
We recently changed the name of a local church leadership position from Camp Coordinator to Camp Ministry Booster. This person encourages camper attendance and helps see that camps are promoted. They may help identify a process for raising funds to provide scholarships for campers to attend.
Think about it. For a $400 camp scholarship a congregation can change a life; for $1,200 in camp scholarships, your congregation can have a “youth group ministry”; for $12,000 or $120,000 or $1.2 million you can make a significant Capital Improvement gift that will help renovate and expand our 50 year old camp ministry facilities.
This past year more than 1,600 children and youth attended camp. This is an increase of over 250 campers from the previous year. Family camping, group camping and retreats saw an estimated number of those served to over 11,000. Thanks to all of you who helped these 13,000 lives be transformed!
So, about that birthday pie you thought you’d send my way. Don’t do it!! Three reasons:
1. I am on the Conference Walk to Health Program.
2. Send a gift instead to your local UMW favorite mission program; or
3. Put the gift in the Camp Scholarship Fund of your local church. (If you don’t have one let your gift get it started!!)
“Happy Birthday UMW, Happy birthday to you…and many more…….!”
Rev. Benton R. Heisler
Director of Connectional Ministries