By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Mississippi Conference Communications Specialist
Photo right: Barbara Stauss and London McAlpine, the oldest and the youngest participants, pose for a photo at the 2016 Mission u.
At age 94, Barbara Stauss was the oldest attendee at the recent United Methodist Women (UMW) Mission u retreat in Jackson, Mississippi. Affectionately known as "Babs" throughout the Mississippi Conference, Stauss estimated she has been an active UMW member for the last 50 years.
"I just feel it is part of living. You should be serving the Father in some way, somewhere," she said. Her service has included being the church pianist and a Sunday school teacher. Over the years she has recruited dozens of women to UMW.
"I would ask them would they come do something with me. Go to the Bethlehem Center and do a birthday party or go to Friendship Connection which helps the women coming out of prison. Most people are willing to come and help you. Now, they don't want to be sent," she chuckled.
Mission u is an opportunity to study current issues impacting society based on current mission study topics as it relates to the responsibilities of women in fulfilling the mission work of the church. Participants grow in understanding the mission of the church in the current world context. The 2016 Mission u topics were the Bible and human sexuality, Latin America people of faith and climate justice.
Inspired by stories around the work of UMW, the youngest person at Mission u was 13-year-old London McAlpine. She said she jumped on the chance to attend with her grandmother when she found out her older cousin was not going.
"It's pretty awesome. The women are coming together and doing so many things. It is really interesting and I learned about new things each day and the things going on around the world. I am learning that our neighbors are everyone," explained McAlpine.
Another participant, Elizabeth Beck, credited UMW and events like Mission u for bringing her out of her "shell." Beck is a retired truck driver. She said she is a better person after working alongside of her sisters in Christ for the last 15 years.
"They give me something to live for because I thought life was over when I was disabled at 44. I was very timid. You would have never got me to talk to people. I was terrified of people. They (doctors) had predicted I would be in a wheelchair by now, but I attribute that to God," stated Beck.
The strong presence of younger women attending Mission u gave Mary Poindexter greater hope for the future of UMW. She is an 84-year-old retired educator.
"We were getting to be a senior citizens group. The organization is really catching on fire again. It now has fresh ideas with the younger people coming in. It has been revitalized. You see life for a great organization," said Poindexter. She has been committed to UMW since her college years, way back when Mission u was called the School of Christian Mission.
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