I am a Twig, and I was raised by a Twig-bender.
My mother was a member of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service circle at Center Street United Methodist Church in Tucumcari, N.M., that called itself Twig-benders, a reference to the saying, “As the twig is bent, so shall the tree grow.” As the name suggests, members took seriously their roles as mothers. I can testify to their success, because I was thoroughly “bent” toward a life of service in Christ through the United Methodist Women.
When I was a little girl I knew I was going to be a missionary after attending a study in my local church. While the adults studied in the fellowship hall, the children went to a Sunday school room for class. I must have heard the mission story, but the only thing I really remember about the study was getting to eat rice with chopsticks. Rice and chopsticks were all it took; I was going to be a missionary!
It took me about 40 years to realize I had actually made it: I really am a missionary. I might not work in China like the missionary I heard about as a girl, but I am a missionary through my work with United Methodist Women. I share the love of God with people around the world. My Pledge to Mission — the basic channel of United Methodist Women’s Mission Giving — and enchilada dinners and potato luncheons to raise funds for mission; organizing conference trips to Sager Brown and college unit’s trips to orphanages in Mexico; joining hurricane recovery work on the Gulf; and the monthly birthday party program for children after school are all on my “missionary vitae.”
United Methodist Women members are women in mission. United Methodist Women mission studies are very important in my family. Though my mother never graduated from college, when asked about her education she would say she got her degree through United Methodist Women. And the wonderful thing is she never stopped studying and learning. By the time she died I think she had earned the equivalent of a doctorate or two!
I learned early in my life that United Methodist Women is for all women. My mother, a flamboyant, free spirit from Wisconsin, and my grandmother, a straight-laced librarian from a tiny town in the Texas Panhandle, were both in the Woman’s Society of Christian Service. Those two women couldn’t have been more different, but they were together in mission.
I vividly remember standing beside the open casket following my grandmother’s funeral watching my mother reach in and remove the Special Membership Recognition Pin from grandmother’s dress. Mother turned to me, handed me the pin and said, “We aren’t going to bury this pin!” I have always treasured that pin, but that moment was about much more than a pin. That was a life-changing moment for me because I felt God calling me to do what I could to help strengthen and grow United Methodist Women. I’ve been working on that ever since.
I love United Methodist Women because of twig-bending, chopsticks, pins and more, but especially because it helps me truly practice my faith. United Methodist Women challenges me like nothing else in my life to be more than a nominal Christian. So I’ll continue to be a United Methodist Women member because as I see it, as long as there are women, children and youth who need help; women who need a creative, supportive fellowship; and injustices in the world that need to be righted, we need United Methodist Women.
Cynthia Rives is president of Central Texas Conference United Methodist Women.