Tampa, Florida, April 30, 2012—After Bill Dudleson retired, he and his wife, Diana, grew more and more involved in their church in Arkansas. On a drive home from yet another church function, Bill says he told Diana, “I could do this all the time.” Now he does, as a United Methodist home missioner.
The Dudlesons had already made several trips to Honduras, where their son and daughter-in-law, both doctors, served as medical missionaries. No strangers to overseas living—Bill’s work had taken the family to Libya, Dubai, England, Scotland, and Russia—they wondered whether they ought to look into longer-term overseas mission service.
But their pastor suggested they consider volunteering at the UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana. So, they spent a weekend there in spring 2005, then returned again in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita that summer. To this day, they continue to serve the depot in the volunteer services unit, of which Bill is the director.
Reflecting on his decision to become a home missioner, Bill said, “In my situation, I put the cart before the horse,” referring to the life of service he assumed at Sager Brown long before he really knew anything about the lay vocations of home missioners and deaconesses.
On Sunday, he was one of two home missioners, 15 deaconesses, and 23 overseas missionaries who were commissioned at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church in Tampa, host city to the United Methodist General Conference 2012, which runs from April 24 to May 4.
“This is another giant step on my faith walk,” Dudleson said in an interview the afternoon before his commissioning. “Something like this, it stretches you.”
The Office of Home Missioner provides lay men with an opportunity to serve in a life-time relationship in The United Methodist Church. It was established at General Conference 2004 and is the male counterpart to the all-female Office of Deaconess founded in 1888.
After intense training, both deaconesses and home missioners identify positions for their service in a helping profession or church-related vocation that may or may not be compensated. Dudleson found his place at UMCOR Sager Brown.
“What I do now is really what I love to do,” said Bill.
The training and formation he received in the home missioner program will reinforce his work with Sager Brown volunteers, Bill said, helping them to perceive and embrace the deeper spiritual reality and relationships involved in their own acts of service assembling relief kits for people in need.
“A lot of people come down there and they’re ready to roll up their sleeves and make kits and work on houses, and they don’t always realize that this is also spiritual time,” Bill said. That’s where, he said, he and UMCOR Material Resources Executive Director Kathy Kraiza, a deaconess, “can make a difference.”