BY JANEY WILSON
As a first-timer I wasn’t quite sure what to expect May 10-20 at the denomination’s General Conference 2016. I appreciated the experiences and hints that past and current delegates shared with me over the course of the last year.
I joined with many others in our Conference in praying leading up to GC, during GC, and since GC. I read the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate (which has all the petitions, general agency reports, agenda, and more), especially studying what related to discipleship, since that was my legislative committee assignment.
I packed my bags. I was ready to fly to Portland, Ore., and meet up with the other Oklahoma delegates. Still, part of me was unsure of what I was getting myself into!
Waiting for a plane at the DFW airport, I noticed a familiar sight on the TV screens. Tornadoes had touched down in my beloved state. In the report: Elmore City, Wynnewood, Sulphur, Roff, Ada... My heart was beating fast. Do I get on this connecting flight? My phone began buzzing with text messages; some people didn’t know I already was en route to GC 2016.
As I moved closer to boarding, I said a prayer to God, asking God to protect my family, friends, and my ECU Wesley students. I admitted to God that there was nothing I could do in that moment to help physically but that praying was plenty. God had this. God didn’t need me second-guessing His ability to take care of those I love.
I boarded that plane with a plan: I would purchase the in-flight texting option to stay in contact with those in the Ada area. Best.Decision.Ever. It was comforting.
Arriving in Portland, the presence of the global Church was beautiful! So many United Methodists in one airport! Hearing the different languages gave me chills. Yes, at the airport even!
We started our days early and ended them late — up at 5:30 a.m., riding public transit by 7:15 a.m., sometimes not back to our hotel rooms before 10:30 at night.
I don’t regret it! Making memories with new and old friends made the time fun.
- Did you know Bob Long can multi-task big time? He simultaneously can be checking email on his tablet, texting, and following the action on the plenary floor even with amendment after amendment.
- Did you know Hershel Beard rocks because he made sure our table had snacks each day?
- Did you know Jessica Seay is actually "Jessica Seay Seay" according to the GC delegate information?
- Did you know Joe Harris can be on stage in front of hundreds and you won’t detect any nervousness at all from him?
I mention these delegation members by name because we sat together at Table 108 in the plenary sessions.
As an alternate delegate, Matt Judkins sometimes substituted at our table. Matt has many gifts; one is laughter. He always knew what would make me laugh, especially when there was tension on the plenary floor.
All of them made sure this first-time lay delegate knew what was happening. I am thankful for their excellent care!
GC delegates spent our first week in 12 legislative committees. I served on the Discipleship Committee. In my first small group were three Americans and four or five international delegates with their interpreters. One member was Robin Wilson of Alabama, who ultimately chaired the full committee. We instantly clicked, with our Southern accent, and I learned Rev. Wilson knows Herschel Beard. Small world!
My subcommittee focused on petitions involving children, youth, and young adults. How fitting for me! I was elected its secretary.
The first day was a rough time for that group of 24. We had many voices (and translators). Think about this: Each person there was a leader; everyone wanted to be heard. But by Friday we were on a roll.
I met a young lay woman named Pacis (pronounced like peace) from Burundi. I enjoyed listening to her share her heart about her country and the importance of the UMC presence.
On Saturday the full committee voted on the discipleship proposals. At my table that day were: Eric Park from Butler, Pa. (clergy); Rosie Rios from California (laity, UCLA college student); Emily Balllard from Virginia (laity, "Preacher’s Kid," college student at Emory); and Megan Mary Thomas from Great Britain, who teaches English in China (young adult laity).
We laughed together, shared stores, and learned from each other. Most importantly, it’s clear that we all want to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
The Discipleship Committee’s recommendations May 14 moved to the plenary body for action.
By now many of you are aware of the decisions made by GC 2016. That second week was emotionally draining.
I can’t say that I didn’t get stressed, yet I returned to Oklahoma with so much more understanding about church in a global economy. The connections I made, the friendships from across the globe are what I will never forget.
To our delegation, it was an honor and blessing to serve alongside you. You remain in my prayers as you live out our mission as Christians.
To the Oklahoma Conference, I am deeply thankful for your prayers these several months. They were felt by me and many others. It has been heartwarming to receive daily encouragement, scripture, prayers, church videos, and little gifts of love.
Our Conference and our denomination remain in my thoughts and prayers. I invite you as well to lift up our UMC denomination during this time.
(GC 2016 lay delegate Janey Wilson of Ada directs the campus ministry at East Central University and is an Oklahoma Conference associate lay leader.)
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