|Isn’t it remarkable what is possible when we work together? — Barry Bennett, MSMT chairman
An emotional Bishop Robert Hayes Jr., left, accepts $200 sent from Methodists in Bolivia to start a new church in Oklahoma. During a 40-hour fast in late April, the Bolivians collected the offering, and it was delivered May 29 on their behalf by David Stephenson, right. He is the Office of Mission liaison for the Bolivia and Oklahoma Ministry Partnership. On June 19, a Bolivian pastor Modesto Mamani began a one-year residency in Oklahoma to support the new work. In September, Bishop Hayes will travel to Bolivia. Photo by Holly McCray
By Holly McCray
Delegates prepared to give themselves in mission during the 2013 Oklahoma Annual Conference. And while seeking to bless others, they received an extravagance of blessings.
The May 27-30 meeting in Oklahoma City opened one week after deadly tornadoes strafed the state’s center. Already the Church was deeply engaged in the disaster response, and more than $250,000 in aid donations had arrived in the Oklahoma Conference Treasurer’s Office.
But news images of devastation dared heartsick United Methodists to proclaim "Mission Possible," theme of the conference.
So God sent global witnesses to help the Oklahomans assert this truth.
During the meeting, Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. of the Oklahoma Area accepted money gifts for the tornado victims from Manos Juntas VIM Mexico, a mission with the poor at Rio Bravo, Mexico; from Lydia Patterson Institute, a border high school at El Paso, Texas; and, from Africa University, a 15-student touring choir. Oklahomans give ongoing support to these UM-related entities.
The bishop announced several U.S. annual conferences pledged funds for the relief effort, too.
As part of the meeting, more than 600 delegates volunteered at 14 mission sites during the afternoon of May 29. At three of the locations, groups helped remove tornado debris.
"We will always remember this Annual Conference as the one that took place in the aftermath" of tragedy, said Bishop Hayes.
Worship and business sessions took place at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and UM-affiliated Oklahoma City University, respectively.
Guest preacher was Bishop Peter Weaver, retired, known for his engagement in global missions. Guest teacher was Jeremy Basset, director of the Oklahoma Conference’s Office of Mission. From the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Kathy Kraiza led delegates as they assembled more than 1,000 UMCOR kits for global distribution.
"See all these entities?" asked Barry Bennett, who chairs the Conference’s Mission & Service Ministry Team. "Isn’t it remarkable what is possible when we work together?"
He continued, "I am young, but I am convinced that I am not going to spend the rest of my life doing anything but endeavoring to change the world. Mission begins here, but it goes to the ends of the earth. I dare you to follow Jesus into the world. You’ll be changed, I can promise you, and the world."
Bishop Hayes grew emotional when accepting an offering of coins, wrapped in a shawl, from Methodists in Bolivia to start a new church in Oklahoma. The median income is $1 per day for a Methodist layperson in Bolivia, according to Skip Hodges, a General Board of Global Ministries missionary serving there.
"So much can be learned from those who have little or nothing in material things but who are rich in the Spirit," the bishop declared in his Episcopal Address on May 28.
A Sending Forth concluded the annual meeting. The bishop said his message for that service was "shaped by the events of the week." He referenced Ephesians 3:20-21.
Hayes said the 2013 conference provided "a glimpse of what the Kingdom ought to look like. God asks us to go back to our places and put together glimpses of the Kingdom for the least and the lost"...for all.
Videos of reports and sermons from Annual Conference are available on YouTube to view and download. Click the link "OKVideo" at www.okumc.org