Pravenna Balasundaram is the director of program resources for our national organization of United Methodist Women. She is also the co-editor of UMW News. Pravenna has been a member of United Methodist Women since 1998. She has led programs at local, district, and conference events. As a study leader, she has taught both the adult and the children’s studies at various Mission u training events and conference Mission u events. She also equips women for leadership internationally through writers’ workshops. As a study leader, Pravenna enjoys mixing up class time with activities and discussions. “I’m looking forward to facilitating Women United for Change: 150 Years in Mission, particularly sharing my story of connections with United Methodist Women and encouraging each person to find their own link to the legacy. I hope that this will inspire us to find our place in the big story and encourage us to move forward in mission.” Pravenna is a frequent contributor to response magazine and author of two books: Border Crossing: children’s mission study on India and Pakistan and 300 Years of ISPCK: a study on Christian publishing in India. Pravenna has a M.A in English Literature and M.A in Publishing as well as a Graduate Certificate in Biblical Studies. Pravenna is a member of Conshohocken United Methodist Church where her husband serves as a minister. She and her husband have two adult children, a son and a daughter.
Jackie Bridges’ first experience with United Methodist Women was in 1969, just as the new organization was born. As a “young woman,” she attended National Seminar in Oklahoma, and the course of her life was changed forever. Within UMW, she currently serves as unit president as Christ UMC, Leesburg, where she has been a member since 1979. She has filled most of the local unit offices, including President, V.P., treasurer, and communications chair on the district level, and served as Supportive Community, communications chair (founder and editor of genesis), and V.P. for the Florida Conference, and Dean and Assistant Dean of the former School of Christian Mission. Professionally, Jackie is a licensed mental health counselor, still in private practice after 30 years. She has authored one book, working on a second, is a certified hypnotherapist, and recently became authorized to teach the Parenting with Love and Logic curriculum. For three years she has been choir director and pianist at Christ UMC. Jackie is married to Dave, who in his heart is a part of UMW. They have two daughters: Amy has served in various offices at Christ UMW, as well as on district, conference and national levels of UMW; Emily is active in her unit at First UMC, Lakeland and is an active participant in issues of social justice. Jackie has four granddaughters who have been part of UMW their entire lives, and a grandson who has marched with us for farmworker rights. Dave and Jackie live in Fruitland Park with their four greyhounds and six cats. Jackie’s teaching strength is to engage participants in discussion, to challenge our preconceived ideas by asking students to think deeply and perceptively in order to grow in our understanding of the message of love and grace, and to be more active participants in life.
A member of Miramar United Methodist Church, Dr. Judith Pierre-Okerson was consecrated to the Deaconess and Home Missioner Order of The United Methodist Church in May 2018. Judith is currently serving as the chair of the Administrative Council of her church and the Lay Leader of the South East District. Deaconess Pierre-Okerson is the co-secretary of her local Unit and the Vice President of the Florida Conference United Methodist Women. Judith served as registrar, Assistant Dean, and Dean of the Conference School of Christian Mission. She taught mission studies, led retreats and Bible studies at the district, conference and national levels. Judith is a frequent keynote Speaker at local United Methodist Women Sunday as well as districts and Conferences Annual meetings. In the Florida Conference, Judith has served on several district and Conference committees including 12 years as a lay representative on the Board of Ordained Ministries. She is currently the Vice Chair of the Conference Board of Lay Ministries. Dr. Pierre-Okerson’s involvement in The United Methodist Church at the national level includes serving as delegate to two General and five Jurisdictional Conferences; board member of The General Commission on Religion and Race, The General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), The Women’s Division, and the United Methodist Women’s National Organization. As a Director of United Methodist Women for two quadrennium, Dr. Pierre-Okerson served as chair of the Committee on Nominations of the Women’s Division and chair of the Governance Committee of the National Organization.
Rev. Dr. Latricia Scriven is the Pastor and Director of the Wesley Foundation at Florida A&M University. Pastor Scriven absolutely loves being called to ministry! Latricia is passionate about empowering women, strengthening marriages, and supporting those whose backs are against the wall. She lives into her passion by engaging in social justice advocacy; by serving on the Board of Directors of Wisdom’s Wellspring, a residential community whose mission is “to equip women with wisdom to responsibly transform their lives and community”; and by partnering with her husband to lead Safe Conversations© workshops for couples and small groups. Latricia has been a member of United Methodist Women since 2010, has served as Spiritual Growth Coordinator at both local and district levels, and enjoys being a study leader for Mission u. “As a teacher/leader, I strive always to create spaces that are energetic, interactive, thoughtful and engaging,” says Pastor Latricia. Latricia has an undergraduate degree in Mathematics, as well as Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Purdue University in Mathematics Education and Educational Administration, respectively. Dr. Scriven attended Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA, where she earned a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. She has held faculty positions at Wilberforce University in Ohio, Baton Rouge Community College, Southern University in Louisiana, Brenau University in Georgia, and is currently an Adjunct Professor of Religion at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, where she was also an Assistant Professor of Mathematics for several years. Latricia is married to her phenomenal husband, Dr. Darryl Scriven, and they have three wonderfully talented children, Destini, Faith, and Samuel Scriven. Latricia loves traveling the world, playing Uno and Sorry with her family, sharing life with her students, and laughing uncontrollably with friends.
Reverend Michelle Shrader is originally from Tampa, Florida and a member of Hyde Park United Methodist Church. She graduated from Duke Divinity School, receiving the McMurry Ritchey Outstanding Student in Mission of the Church Award. Upon graduation, Rev. Shrader was awarded a fellowship to Study Religion & Race and served in Jackson, Mississippi with Rev. Keith Tonkel, a Civil Rights leader, and one of the signers of the Born of Conviction Statement. She later served as the Co-Chair for the Commission on Religion and Race, leading cross racial Clergy groups and community dialogues to promote racial reconciliation within the MS Annual Conference. Michelle most recently served in South Africa for three years with the Bishop of Cape Town. While there, she served with ministries in the gang ridden Cape Flats area, helped to develop a four-campus wide student ministry, and organized workshops for local congregations to strengthen their presence in their communities. Rev. Shrader now serves as the Missions Initiatives Specialist for the SE District, where she leads workshops, heads the team that is developing Fresh Expressions ministries in the District, and serves a local congregation, Killian Pines United Methodist Church, a beautiful community of Jesus followers.
Sandra Barton is a member of First United Methodist Church in Bradenton, Florida where she serves as a Certified Lay Servant, a delegate to Annual Conference, a member of the choir, handbells, and the Leadership Team. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sandra is a retired high school English teacher, having taught in the Pennsylvania public school system for 20 years. After that, she discovered she could take teaching ‘on the road’ and became a Peace Corps volunteer, serving for two years in Rabat and Oujda, Morocco, as a university professor. From there, she went to St. Croix, USVI, and taught in an independent school. Next it was off to Denver to a Jewish academy. She ended her career at IMG Academy in Bradenton, having taught in Manatee County for 13 years. In retirement, apart from church and UMW, Sandra makes a couple of trips a year to Ounaminthe, Haiti, to volunteer at FONHARE (Foundation of Haitian Rehabilitation), a clinic that serves those who are disabled. Having been a member of United Methodist Women for over 40 years, Sandra is currently the Spiritual Growth Coordinator for the South West District. This will be her fourth year as a study leader at mission u. Sandra’s classes tend to be interactive, as she believes it is important that others have the opportunity to share their life experiences. It also makes for a very enriching class. “I am so looking forward to this year’s Mission u.”
Dr. Gwendolyn “Gwen” Dixon is a life-long Methodist and over the years has been involved in numerous church activities. Her many roles in the church include president of Methodist Youth Fellowship, Sunday school teacher, lay leader, lay speaker, member of Conference UMW Committee on Nomination, Northwest District’s Congregational Vitality committee member, Leadership Council, board member of Westside Mission housed at Calvary United Methodist Church, chair of her church’s Administrative Council, Pastor Parish Relations Committee, social action coordinator and vice-president of her local United Methodist Women, and mission study leader for Mission u and Northwest District’s Day Apart. She currently serves the Florida Conference as a member of the Committee on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW), secretary for Conference United Methodist Women and Tallahassee Church Women United. She has also coordinated several activities of mission outreach at New Life United Methodist Church, traveled to Costa Rica on a mission trip, and serves as a volunteer with the American Red Cross and clothes closet at Calvary UMC. Gwen is very fond of presenting interactive children’s messages at church and incorporates the interactive style in teaching. A retired associate professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Florida A&M University, Dr. Dixon has presented numerous local, state and national workshops and seminars on culture and its impact on education and development. She has an extensive background in early childhood education, early childhood special education and developmental pediatrics. Her interests and areas of research included Christian mission, diversity, child development, culture, and brain development. She received her undergraduate degree from Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, TN. and a doctorate in Early Childhood Special Education from University of Memphis. Gwen’s favorite activities include serving others, reading, and traveling.
Jetro Jeune describes his call to ministry as follows: “On April 9, 2006, on a typical Sunday evening, I answered God’s call to ministry. For 12 years, I avoided the vocational call to pastoral ministry. One day I was no longer able to resist, for I was tangibly trapped in the presence of God. The power of the Holy Spirit of God was too visible to ignore. This was an unfolding drama, the presence of Triune God. This experience surpassed my human capacity to understand. It happened at my home church, St. John UMC. The remarkable intensity of the changing atmosphere was amazing and fearful. I was shivering and perspiring at the same time. I was trembling, and tears kept pouring out of my eyes. I have come to believe this was the work of the God who is able to make extraordinary things happen to an ordinary person, like me. In the midst of all this, the only thing I said, over and over, was ‘God have mercy on me.’ I have denied His divine call to ministry for so long but God has never abandoned me. He has been constantly reminding me of His divine calling in my life.” Rev. Jeune graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2012 (MDiv) and received a BA from USF (International Studies). He has served Lapiscine Mission UMC, Braches UMC, Redland Community UMC, South Dade Haitian Mission UMC and is now serving Wabasso Haitian Mission. Rev. Jeune is married to Kerlyne Charles-Jeune and they have five beautiful children: Jah’kelsen, Nathaniel, Kayla-Mae, Eroldson and Gosly. In his words, “I am so grateful to partner with God on the mission to redeem the world. I have realized obedience and humbleness are two characteristics that God requires in order to continue to be used as an instrument to fulfill the grand commission, Matthew 28:19-20, the transformation of the world. My desire is to be obedient and to be humble. I am privileged for the call to pastoral ministry, to work for the kingdom of God. It is also an honor to serve as a Mission u Study Leader. I am excited about what I will be experiencing at Mission u this year.”
Pastor Joseph Kim is looking forward to serving the United Methodist Women as a study leader. This is his 6th time teaching at Mission u. Pastor Kim thanks God and the leadership team of the Misson u for allowing him to teach once again. He and his family enjoy attending Mission u every summer and enjoy meeting fellow Methodist believers from different churches. This year, his wife and children will not be able to attend Mission u because they are planning to visit their families in South Korea. He believes that Mission u is one of the best ways for us to be connected at the Body of Christ. Pastor Kim is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and has served several churches in Central Florida since 2004. He is currently serving Cokesbury United Methodist Church, Margate, as a senior pastor since July 1, 2018. He lives with his wife, Grace, and two precious children (Esther and Samuel). Esther is a high school freshman, while Samuel is in 6th grade in middle school. In the past, Pastor Kim has used many different teaching styles in his class, such as lively discussion through small and larger groups, media and technology, writing and drawing, singing songs, time of intercessory prayer, role playing . . . etc. He wants his classroom experience to be enjoyable while participants learn valuable lessons. Pastor Kim is committed to praying for all those who will attend the Mission u this year, and asks that we remember him in our prayers as well. “Travel safely and see you soon!”
Juana R. Lightbourne was born in Guantanamo, Cuba, and came to the United States in 1968. She worshiped at Allapattah Hispanic UMC until it was discontinued. She is now a member of Miami Lakes UMC and serves as president of her local unit of United Methodist Women. She has served as Hispanic Language Coordinator for the Conference UMW, SE District Spanish Language Coordinator, and currently serves as SE District Treasurer. Juana has also served several years as an at-Large Delegate to the Florida Annual Conference. Juana loves United Methodist Women, and has taught several years at the former School of Christian Mission, now Mission u.
Lawrence (Larry) Rankin was raised in a missionary home in Cuba and Argentina, where he completed his primary and high school education. He gained a bi-cultural and bi-lingual, global perspective by living in the “underside history,” as experienced by most of the people on the earth. He earned his B.A. and M.Div. degrees at Emory University. He has been married 48 years to Trudy Corry Rankin, a licensed mental health therapist and a certified spiritual director. They have two children, Corry Alan, who transitioned sixteen years ago, and Jana Rankin Finch. Jana and Mike have two teen-aged sons, Charlie and Luke. During the mid-80’s, the Rankins lived in Costa Rica as “mission interpretors” with Alfalit Latinoamericano, a literacy and community development ministry in 13 countries. They shared these experiences with the local churches in the Florida Conference. Larry earned a Ph.D. in education for transformation from the Union Institute and University. The Brazilian adult educator, Paulo Freire, gave him a platform to design a curriculum for U.S. middle class adults to tranform their world view, and to act globally in their local contexts. Larry is an Upper Room, Two Year Academy Fellow, and attends the annual Five Day Academy. Larry is a retired member of the Florida Conference, having pastored five churches and served as Conference Secretary of Global Ministries. Larry mentors high school students and is a member of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP. He serves on the Advisory Board of Club Success, a community of mentally challenged adults. He is active in local and global political issues. Larry travels with Trudy (especially to the grandsons) and enjoys jazz, biking, swimming, arts, and dining with friends.
David Range has been pastor of Miramar United Methodist Church in south Broward County for 14 years. Previously he has served churches in Ireland and Jamaica through the General Board of Global Ministries. He has enjoyed two other Mission u experiences where he was teaching “The Bible and Human Sexuality” and “Living as a Covenant Community” and looks forward to the challenge of preparing and facilitating the “Practicing Resurrection” study for this year. The Gospel of Mark and Radical Discipleship stirs up memories of when he was in college and inspired to pursue justice ministries throughout his different appointments. In Ireland he helped develop a new ministry among asylum seekers and refugees coming to Limerick city. He is currently a founding member and on the executive board of Broward Organized Leaders Doing Justice (BOLD Justice), part of the DART network (Direct Action Research and Training), which has many branches in Florida and in other states. A recent success is the passing of a bill in the Florida state legislature to require law enforcement officers to offer a Civil Citation to youthful offenders for minor, nonviolent crimes, and requiring an intervention program instead of a permanent and harmful arrest record. He looks forward to group work that has robust questions and where participants feel that they can share from their heart. David is married to Pastor CJ Walter. They have two sons and two grandchildren.
Rev. Denise Sawyer, MDiv, BCC, has been a diligent worker in the Methodist church for fourteen years. Rev. Sawyer spent many years in various areas of ministry. She is a former summer youth camp counselor, and camp director. She committed many years to taking Summer VBS to children in the Family Islands in The Bahamas. Rev. Sawyer spent thirteen years in the field of education. She received her Associate of Arts from St. Leo College in Liberal Arts. In 1987 she received the Bachelor of Arts in Education for the Hearing Impaired. She has taught at the Centre for the Deaf both in New Providence and in Grand Bahama in the Bahamas. Rev. Denise A. Sawyer attended seminary at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology, in Dallas Texas. She graduated from Southern Methodist University in May of 1999 with a Master in Divinity degree. Upon her return to The Bahamas in September 1999, Rev. Sawyer returned to work with the Ministry of Education and began her probationary work with the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church. Rev. Sawyer entered full time ministry in September 2000 and was ordained on January 12th, 2001. Rev. Denise Sawyer moved to the United States in July of 2001 and has served as the pastor of Mitchell Chapel UMC Hutchinson, Kansas, Calvary UMC, Wichita Kansas, and Towanda UMC, Towanda Kansas. In 2009 Rev. Sawyer accepted her call to the ministry of chaplaincy. She received permission from her Bishop to enter this ministry and after extensive study and training, Rev. Sawyer became a board-certified chaplain in 2012. She is presently serving as the Chaplain of Cape Coral Hospital. Rev. Sawyer enjoys quiet time with God, going to the beach, crocheting prayer shawls, and travelling.
A member at Hallandale Haitian Mission, Ruth Pierre-Jean Pierre is a member of the Deaconess and Home Missioner Order of The United Methodist Church, serving in the health care ministry. Deaconess Ruth currently serves as the South East District United Methodist Women Secretary and the President of her local United Methodist Women. At the conference level, she has served as the Assistant Dean and Dean of Mission u, Chair of the Committee on Nominations, Mission Coordinator for Education and Interpretation and Haitian Language Coordinator. Deaconess Ruth has previously led the Mission Studies “:Food and Faith” and “What About Our Money: A Faith Response” in Haitian Creole for the Florida Conference. She has led several studies in English for districts and local units and has spoken at numerous United Methodist Women Sunday. Deaconess Ruth Pierre-Jean Pierre is married to Berthony and they have three adult children. Deaconess Ruth enjoys a lively class and small group interaction.