An earthquake ravaged Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. By the next summer, participants in United Methodist Schools of Christian Mission all over the United States were studying this event and the history and political environment of that country.
This year, as immigration commands much of the news and political discourse in our nation, the study "Immigration in the Bible" makes its debut as a spiritual-growth course in the UM schools.
"As always, United Methodist Women and the School of Mission are on the forefront of the major issues of society," said Jane Bond, dean of the 2012 Oklahoma Cooperative School of Christian Mission.
The Haiti study will be repeated at the July school, and a special-emphasis study on poverty will be offered.
In 2011, two encounters forever changed Rileigh Sloup’s outlook on life. She participated in Oklahoma's School of Christian Mission and studied Mike Slaughter’s "Change the World" book through her church, OKC-Village UMC.
The study of Haiti at the school affected her so much that she went to the country on a mission trip. Now she is considering the mission field as a career. At the school, experienced instructors with the ability to make the topic come alive were important to her.
"Learning about Haiti broke my heart. Hearing just how much they have struggled and how hard they have worked to get back on their feet really tugged at me. Plus, the way my class instructor talked about Haiti was beautiful," said Sloup.
The instructor, Rev. Jim Jones of Enid, leads Volunteers In Mission teams to Haiti.
Although a Village UMC friend quickly had signed up to serve in Haiti, a few weeks passed before Sloup decided to go.
While driving, she heard a popular song called "I Refuse," by Josh Wilson.
"Listening to that song, I realized I had to go on this trip," Sloup said.
"I was scared my family wouldn’t be supportive because of all the things we have heard about Haiti, all of which are completely untrue, but they were all very, very supportive."
Who should attend?
United Methodist Women have a primary role in sponsoring the school, but it is not exclusively for women. Men participate as well.
One longtime Oklahoma school participant is Warren Neff of Bartlesville. He first attended with his wife; he recently was elected to the school planning team.
"I didn’t feel like an anomaly," said Neff. "My fellow male colleagues and I always felt the love of Christ." He is current Conference UMMen vice president.
The Oklahoma school also offers classes designed for youths and children. And Rev. Tino Espinoza teaches a Spanish-language class each year. Scholarships are available.
Sloup said, "Young adults should attend because it really opens people’s eyes about what is going on in the world and how we could make a difference."
2012 School of Mission details
Interested in attending this year’s school? There are two opportunities to participate in the event held at Oklahoma City University.
Weekend Session: Friday, July 27, through Sunday, July 29
One Day Plus Session: Sunday, July 29, and Monday, July 30
Register on the Oklahoma Conference UMW website: www.ok-umw.webs.com Donna Roberts of Tulsa is registrar.