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From Previous Experience: Don Mendenhall

October 17, 2011

[Don was a member of the Iowa Conference but worked for the Wisconsin Conference.  He writes about his experiences as a GC delegate here.]

First, I want to encourage all to seriously consider offering your time and gifts to becoming a delegate at the General and Jurisdiction Conferences. Just the actions you will consider in applying bring about a  deeper level of thought about your personal faith journey within a larger faith community.

Having been to four General and Jurisdictional Conferences from two different Annual Conferences, I would have to say these gatherings offered
some of the most powerful educational and spiritual settings I have ever experienced.  They helped me to make significant and positive life changes, gave me an opportunity to make very good friends all over the world, provided a challenge to be more courageous in speaking and acting, helped me understand the richness of our denominational principles, prompted me to more fully connect with ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue, placed in me in settings that were part of major leadership decision-making, and offered ways to become more knowledgeable of how the United Methodist Church assists people all
around the world.

Of course these experiences do not happen without some level of consternation, frustration, or even upset. For me, this happened when decisions needed to be made that were controversial in nature and delegates and other leaders found it difficult to keep a sense of mutual respect with each other. How do we disagree and yet keep a prayerful and civil attitude?  This is especially true when one feels that people will be unnecessarily hurt by the actions taken or the words spoken. Yet, if you listen well to your own inward perspectives and those of others, on even the most controversial issues, you will be enriched in your understandings and ways of being in relationship with others…and with God.

Oh yes, you should prepare yourself for experiencing wonderful pageantry and depth of the worship and study experiences. Again, the global and
multi-cultural nature of the larger church is amazing. And, if it so happens, you can be invited into national and global experiences…to visit and be with
people in their home settings and worship centers. My own opportunities took me to Korea, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, China, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, and several U.S. states. The best part about these travels is remembered faces and hearts of so many good people.

The United Methodist Church is at another crossroads in its long and vital history. People now involved in the decision-making will be encouraged to bring their most authentic self, to be courageous and bold in offering their gifts and talents, and to remember their trust in God and call to the ministry of Christ. This world needs the best of all of us. May it be so.

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