It started as the Disaster Academy, an annual training session for those in the South Central Jurisdiction on what to do in case of emergencies. But in the past two years, it’s grown become to the Mission Academy, broadening its scope on how United Methodists in the eight-state jurisdiction can help in expanded roles.
“It includes all those elements of disaster training and education that we had before, but we expanded the topics to include a broader range of mission interests, so we could incorporate folks who were interested in other types of mission, like education mission or construction or Vacation Bible School, those other things that we do around the world through Volunteers in Mission,” said Audrey Phelps, director of VIM and disaster response for the jurisdiction. This year’s Mission Academy is Sept. 10-13, hosted by the Great Plains Conference at the Leadership Center in Aurora, Nebraska.
“We try to give everybody, year to year, an opportunity to find one close to attend,” said of the Mission Academy, which was in Arkansas last year and the Central Texas Conference in 2015.
About 80 people attended two years ago, and the number grew to 100 last year, Phelps said. Five sessions, most of which have five course choices each, cover a variety of topics including the United Methodist Committee on Relief, emotional and spiritual care after disaster, connecting neighbors and churches and on-site relief management.
“UMCOR provides a grant that helps us keep our cost down for our attendees,” Phelps said. “They bring along their trainers, so they can share with us all of the important elements of disaster training that they’ve been working on for years and years and any new elements that they have as well.”
Topics also include working with and serving refugees.
“I know that’s something that’s been important for your conference,” Phelps said of the Great Plains. “We’re trying to keep it relevant with things happening in our world, and people who reach out their hearts.”
The Mission Academy is equally effective for clergy and laity, Phelps said.
“This is really meant to be for everyone, not just pastoral education or continuing education. It’s meant to be conversations about doing missions well and doing them effectively,” she said. “It’s for anybody who reaches out in any capacity for hands-on service, whether it’s in your local community or through disaster response.”
The cost ranges from $150 for no lodging to $280 for registration and lodging, and $350 for a private room. The deadline for reservations is Sept. 8.