Being an advocate for the oppressed and disposed especially to the needs of women and children are main purposes of United Methodist Women.

Lourdes Manning keeps this goal in mind as dean for this year's North Indiana School of Christian Mission (SCM), to be held July 9-11 (Thursday through Saturday) at North Manchester College. South Indiana Dean Kathie Clemenz will lead the SCM July 19-22 (Sunday through Wednesday) at the University of Indianapolis.

There also are shorter one-day versions of the schools. The North Indiana Drive-In School is scheduled for Wednesday, July 8 at North Manchester College. The South Indiana Super Saturday school is scheduled for Saturday, July 18 at the University of Indianapolis.

Manning recently told Together, "Our purpose is to know God, expand the concepts of SCM. It's all about education. Our purpose is to be with women, children and youth. In order to do mission effectively, you need to be trained. It's the education 'arm' of our mission."

And train they do. The SCM for both North and South Indiana seeks to educate women in a retreat-type setting, while equipping them with the power to serve.

2009 theme

The SCM courses, which are developed by the national Women's Division of the church and disseminated to each conference, center on three areas: spiritual growth study, geographical study and current issue study. This year's theme is "Together at the Table."

The studies include: "Food and Faith," "Giving Our Hearts Away" and "The Beauty and Courage of Sudan." (See sidebar.)

"The studies should really challenge you," Manning said. "Most Indiana women don't know some of these issues are going on."

Clemenz said the study emphasis will encourage a call to action.

"I am hoping we can open eyes to what's going on in Sudan," she said. "We read about it in the paper, but it's not as personal as if we can sit down and study it.

"My personal belief is that we never quit learning. I hope the women will go home with a great understanding."

This school is designed for mission committee members, lay leaders, pastors, United Methodist Women members, young women, youth and children. Activities will include: Mission studies, worship, music, UMW officer update, mission update, mission education resources, videos, mission project, fellowship and a banquet.

For kids, too

The schools also are designed with children in mind. Chi-Mi-Ca (Children's Mission Camp) runs the same dates as SCM so mothers and children can come together.

"Chi-Mi-Ca is like a summer camp bible school," Manning said. "There are some churches, especially rural ones, that don't have summer programs. They look forward to Chi-Mi-Ca, and now with Facebook and e-mail, [the children] keep in touch all year long."

Yo-Pe-Mi-Ca (Young People's Mission Camp) is a similar study program, but for middle school and high school youth.

There is childcare for children three and younger.

Clemenz said the purpose of including children's classes is "to free up the women's time and to give children an opportunity to attend. It's been my experience that children are so compassionate, and if you present to them the need of another child in another country, they see that others don't have it as well as they do."

Manning said the ability to bring children to the conference makes it ideal for busy mothers.

"When you raise kids and you know you're learning and fellowshipping with women of like mind, and kids are having fun, and you have meals together, it's the best of both worlds."

Scholarship Opportunities

School of Christian Mission Studies

Spiritual Growth Study Food and Faith (All participants will take this study)

This study is about how our faith is nurtured, strengthened, and enhanced by food and all the ways that food touches our lives. North Indiana Study Leader is the Rev. Kate L. Walker. South Indiana Study Leader is Anne Bunch.

Giving Our Hearts Away (adult study) The purposes of this study are to learn about the inter-relatedness between the indigenous peoples and their land; identify key issues affecting Native Americans in the U. S. and their causes; understand and appreciate the "give away" culture of Native Americans and lead participants to act as responsible citizens and Christians in accompaniment and solidarity with Native Americans. North Indiana Study Leaders are Sandy Ruby, Genie Bank, Rita Gaither-Gant. South Indiana Study Leaders are Josephine Deere and Susan Jennys

Geographic Study: The Beauty and Courage of Sudan

Wars: unremitting, for nearly all its history. Climate change: looming crises creating drought and famine. Yet at Sudan's core is beauty, a spirit of courage and a richness of traditions and cultures. Explore an overview of Sudanese history, its main ethnicities, religious and languages; touch points and possible causes for the wars. North Indiana Study Leader is Nancy Myers. South Indiana Study Leaders are the Rev. David Jennys and Fernado Siaba.

This year, both North Indiana and South Indiana schools will offer scholarships for first-time attendees and for their children. Districts offer scholarships for women attending as well.

Manning said the scholarships are designed to allow interested women to experience SCM and relieve potential financial burden.

"Many women don't know what to expect at SCM, and if you take kids it can be expensive, Manning explained. "If you go on a scholarship, you don't have to pay, and you get to see what it's like. Your days are full, but you come away with worship and fellowship. You want to go back."

UMW beyond SCM

SCM is one of many UMW endeavors. Through the year, women work on projects like the Lucille Raines Residence in Indianapolis, an independent living center for adults actively engaged in rebuilding their lives.

"Raines is a wonderful ministry," Clemenz said. "It's a residence for recovering alcoholics, abusers and handicapped, blind people; they do Bible study, and have counseling."

Clemenz said the residence is funded entirely through UMW, because local UMW groups have a built-in pledge that is part of the "asking" for annual donations.

Clemenz said Raines always looks for food and needs renovations, like new carpeting and appliances. "For example, if I wanted to buy a fridge for one of the apartments, I could give money."

Manning said other UMW members have created fundraisers to help support Raines. She said another member has created and sold pins that have been used to support the ministry. "They're just beautiful," Manning said. "They're handmade and have a spiritual theme."

Both deans said they are looking forward to a successful school this summer. Clemenz credits her spiritual development to her many years in UMW.

"I was very shy and fearful and really think it's through UMW that I gained confidence," Clemenz said. "UMW has trained me so well so well trained. UMW is cutting edge. I just can't say enough."

More information for the North Indiana School can be found by logging on to: www.gbgm-umc.org/nicumw/scminformation.html.

More information for the South Indiana School can be found by logging on to the Southwind at: www.gbgm-umc.org/sicumw/.

Meg Biallas serves as a spring intern to Indiana UM Communication from Butler University.