November Mission Corner

Matthew 25:40      “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell youwhatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

Think back to how you felt on Christmas morning, when you finally got to open up those beautifully-wrapped gifts under the tree. The anticipation, excitement, and joy carried you through the previous weeks as well as the days that followed. You may also have had special foods, holiday treats and parties, and visits from friends and family.

Now imagine you’re in a small, empty apartment in O’Fallon, with no tree and no gifts, and no prospects for either. Or in a remote village in Albania, Algeria, or Appalachia, with no money for gifts or decorations or special Christmas meals. Before you say, “I can’t really do much about any of those things,” let me assure you, you can. One Giving Tree gift or one Operation Christmas Child shoebox at a time, you can make this Christmas special, joyful, and memorable for a child in need.

The Giving Tree program is our LOCAL Christmas mission to children in the O’Fallon school district. Each year the number of local families in need grows and Christmas is a particularly hard time for them when they cannot afford gifts for their children. These families give us clothing and toy suggestions to buy for their children. This anonymous information is given to individual members of our church who volunteer to shop for and wrap gifts.

 

You can sign up at church to provide two gifts for a child (or children), totaling not more than $45 per child. In late November, we provide you the clothing size, age, and needs of the children. You then purchase and wrap the gifts, and bring them to church by December 11.  Volunteers deliver the gifts to the families prior to Christmas. In 2015, gifts were given to 225 local children!

 

Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide mission project of the Samaritan’s Purse organization. Simply pick up one or more of the red and green shoeboxes from church, fill them with a variety of kid-friendly gifts (toys, puzzles, crafts, and personal care items), and return them with a check or cash for postage. The pamphlets available with the boxes at church contain packing suggestions, shipping costs, and labels for each of your boxes. You may also pack the goodies in shoebox-sized plastic, re-sealable tubs. Filled boxes are due to the church by November 14.

 

The shoeboxes are sent to over 160 countries around the world, and delivered directly to the children. For most of these kids, this is the only Christmas they will have. We have been blessed at FUMC to participate in this project for years, typically filling between 200-300 boxes. It’s a great mission to do with your children, Scout troop, or Bible study group, as well as with families. We learned first-hand what a huge difference these shoeboxes can make for an individual child when one of our Rotary foreign exchange students from the Baltic region shared her story of having received one as a child, and how much it meant to her.

 

Please prayerfully consider participating in either or both of these ministries this holiday season. Your gift can mean the world to a child.

In The Meantime What Are We Waiting For

 

By Ron Fontenot November 4, 2016
 

Ron Fontenot writes that O’Fallon First United Methodist Church is at a crossroads in the life of the church and it may be time for O’Fallon First to reinvent itself and engage the community and build covenantal relationships that will lead people to Jesus Christ.

 

“We are not here by accident. God put us here for a purpose.”  You may have heard this phrase before but let’s think about what it means to O’Fallon First UMC.   I use this phrase often to encourage those around me doing the messy work of helping others.  “God put you right here in this situation for a purpose.”  We read in Ephesians 1:4 “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world…”  We are not here by accident, wherever here is.  God has a plan for us.

 

Just as God has a plan for each of us He has a plan for O’Fallon First.  We have many opportunities to interact and build relationships and make disciples with the people living just outside our church doors.  Just as John Wesley, we must view the community as our congregation.  “I look upon all the world as my parish” John Wesley (Journal, June 11, 1739).  Pastor Don Long in a recent sermon reminded us of our membership covenant with the church to faithfully participate in its ministries by (1) prayers (2) presence (3) gifts (4) service and (5) witness.  We must certainly pray and discern where God is calling O’Fallon First but we must also consider The Great Commission which is found in Matthew 28.  Basically, Jesus tells us “go and make disciples” which is the witness part of our membership covenant.  Charles T. Studd, a British missionary, is attributed to have said “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”

 

I believe we are at a crossroads in the life of our church and God is calling O’Fallon First to reinvent itself and engage the community and build covenantal relationships that will lead people to Jesus Christ.  The answer is right outside the church’s front doors but how do we make our church vital to the community is the question.  Maybe the answer is more community activities that serve the community’s needs.  Jesus didn’t invite people to attend a worship service but He met people in their environment and offered warmth and compassion.   Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 tell us what we should be doing: “Therefore, go and make disciples….”  We don’t need to spend a lot of time and energy crafting words and coming up with a pithy mission or vision statement for our church.  The UMC Book of Discipline makes it clear:  “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”    We need to spend more time trying to align our “caring” ministries to meet the needs of the O’Fallon community while at the same time follow Nehemiah’s example in 2:13.  We need to spend time on prayer walks, listening, analyzing, discovering, how best we can assist those in need.   Here are some ideas and I look forward to your feedback.

 

Perhaps we can look to the Chevy Chase Apartments to follow Jesus’ footsteps.  Chevy Chase Apartments, located behind Dean Foods – Pet Dairy along State Street, which has 52 units, all of which are Section 8 assisted living units. Wouldn’t it be great if our church had a building located in the neighborhood to offer a meal, a small food pantry, and maybe a thrift shop?  It is about building relationships.

 

Perhaps we should look within the walls of O’Fallon Township High School.  We hear how successful the sports programs are and we read about all the wonderful accomplishments the band enjoys but we seldom hear about the child that comes from a broken home and is struggling in many ways.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could start an after school program that includes tutoring and mentorship?

 

Perhaps we should look inside the O’Fallon Senior Apartments, the low income senior living facility across the street from our church, to the elderly which are often times alone.  Offer a potluck once a month, start a pie ministry, or adopt a senior to spend time with are just a few suggestions that will allow time to build a relationship.

 

God didn’t put O’Fallon First on Highway 50, across from O’Fallon Township High School, across from the Chevy Chase Apartments, across from the O’Fallon Senior Apartments by accident.  Perhaps it is time to rethink our purpose and refocus our prayer time, our Bible Studies, small groups, and conversations to look outward to the community.   O’Fallon First is richly blessed with many “caring” ministries, but are we doing “transformational” ministry?  Are we learning the names and situations of those we serve?  Are we building relationships?  How do we put our beliefs into action?  Church doesn’t just happen from inside the building on Sunday mornings. Church happens when we reach out to those who are hungry, sick or forgotten. Church happens when we open our hearts to those who are struggling.  Are you with me?  I welcome your feedback.

 

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

 

Whether you like it or not, now that Halloween is over, Christmas merchandise is beginning to appear in stores.  The official start to the holiday shopping is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.  In 2005, retailers began a new way to attract customers through Cyber Monday, with offers of many on-line sales and discounts.  In the midst of this spending frenzy, I would encourage you to explore one more special day… Giving Tuesday.

 

Giving Tuesday was first announced in October 2012, and has become a way for people to kick off a season of charitable giving.  It is also a nice counter to the temptation to buy things that we do not need.  Many charities and non-profit organizations are doing special campaigns for Giving Tuesday and some offer matching grants for giving on this day.

 

The United Methodist church also participates in Giving Tuesday.  This year their focus is Give Light, Give Love, Give Life.  If you’d like to know more about Giving Tuesday and how to participate go to:  http://www.umcmission.org/giving-tuesday/resources.

 

 

 

Thank-You!

I wanted to say thanks to all of you for all of the amazing cards that you gave to me during Clergy Appreciation Month.  I felt blessed to receive so many nice thoughts and prayers from all of you.

 

I want you to know that I appreciate you too.  There are so many talented and gifted people within this congregation.  We are able to do so much for the community and for God.  Thank-you for being a living example to me and to others of what it looks like to live out your faith every day.

 

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I want to encourage you to continue to show your appreciation to the people around you.  A thank-you card means so much, especially when it comes at an unexpected time.  So, now that you’ve made your pastors feel so appreciated, think about who else you might encourage and appreciate.

 

Thank-you for all you do!

Pastor Becky

October Mission Corner

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This month we are highlighting two missions that primarily help women and children in need. Those missions are the Violence Prevention Center and the Holy Angels Shelter. The Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois is located in Belleville. It was formerly known as the Women’s Crisis Center. The Violence Prevention Center works with women, children and men who are victims of domestic violence to find a way to live a violence free life. The program has been expanded to include prevention work with children in order to deter domestic violence in future generations. The local center has operated more than 35 years. They are available 24 hours 7 days per week, for 365 days per year to provide support, information, and resources to those affected by domestic violence. They offer a 24 hour hotline and emergency shelter for women and children. Additionally, they have individual and group counseling for children and adults. Furthermore, the Violence Prevention Center provides advocacy to their clients for court, schools, welfare and social service agencies. All services are free of charge.

 

Domestic violence affects individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, gender, race or religion. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, even death. Emotional abuse can be just as devastating and harmful to individuals as physical abuse.  The physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime. Frequently, unfair blame is put upon the victim of abuse because of assumptions that victims choose to stay in abusive relationships. The truth is, bringing an end to abuse is not always a matter of the victim choosing to leave; often, it is a matter of the victim being able to safely escape their abuser, the abuser choosing to stop the abuse, or others (e.g., law enforcement, courts) holding the abuser accountable for the abuse they inflict.

 

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and needs help, the hot line is 618-235-0892. For information about how you can volunteer or help, call Darlene Jones at 618-236-2531 Ext. 106. A donation container for the Violence Prevention Center is located in the Helping Hallway of our church. Some items they need are as follows: Baby clothing and children’s clothing sizes 0-3T. Used clothing for older children is welcome, too. Paper towels, and grocery gift cards. A more extensive list will be posted above the Helping Hallway donation box.

 

The Holy Angels Shelter, located in East St. Louis, is the other mission of our focus this month. Many of you have met Paulyn Snyder, who is the director there and has spoken at our church in the past. Paulyn has given her life to stay in East St. Louis and help women and children in need. Holy Angels provides shelter, support services and transitional case management for women of the Metro East. It is the only women’s shelter in St. Clair County. The staff strives to identify the needs and concerns of women and children who are caught in the temporary web of poverty and homelessness. Sometimes, the women are recovering from a catastrophic experience that rendered them without a stable home. Holy Angels takes a three prong approach to the problem of homelessness:

  • They offer assessment of the family’s housing/finances and then temporary rent or mortgage assistance before eviction to prevent homelessness.
  • Temporary housing up to nine weeks is offered to women and children if needed. During this time, case management is utilized to find employment, housing, and referrals for short term counseling.
  • Follow up care is provided by the Holy Angels staff for women and children up to six months after they begin living independently. These services include, housing, education, health, childcare and employment to assure the family is able to continue their independence.

 

The shelter aims to empower women and children to succeed in life as self-sufficient, competent people. The women of Holy Angels are thrilled to get donations for themselves or their children. Often the women and children arrive with only the clothes on their backs. A donation container is labeled as being for Holy Angels this month in our Helping Hallway. Some items they could use are as follows: washcloths, hairbrushes, dish detergent, small gift cards of $5-10 for rewards for the children and for the moms. plastic grocery bags. Again a list will be posted above a designated container in Helping Hallway.

 

The mission committee wants to thank everyone who participated in or worked at the mission fair. You made it a success! We had approximately 160 people attend the fair and many positive comments about it being informative and worthwhile.

 

God Bless,

 

Linda Gruchala,

Mission/Outreach Chairperson

Intergenerational Ministry

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I love this picture.  Its not the most clear photo, and if you take a second look at it you might be confused as to who the subjects are, but the sentiments behind this pic are what make it so sweet.  You see, this is SnapChat face swap of my 13 year old daughter and her confirmation mentor, Joan Bowman.  The duo took a selfie together during one of their many meetings  this spring during which Joan taught Sophie the history of the seven churches in Revelation and Sophie taught Joan about the latest social media.  Sharing a love of Taylor Swift and a passion for Christ, these two built a beautiful friendship that transcends age.

Sophie and Joan exemplify an intergenerational relationship.  They have shown me how enriching it is to have friends outside your own age group and have caused me to think about the role of  here at OFFUMC.  It is my prayer that the young and old of this church can learn to respect, appreciate, and enjoy one another.

This past Friday, September 30, generational lines were again crossed, as 28 PreK students joined 50+ Prime Timers at a Lunch & Learn event.  Together the new friends talked, laughed, and created apple mosaics.  Long-time church member and employee of the Colonnade Senior Living Center, Kerry Turk, spoke of the benefits of cross-generational contact.

Young and old alike enjoyed time with new friends, and we look forward to future endeavors together.

Blessings,
Stacy Robinson, Children and Family Coordinator

See pictures from the Primetimers Lunch with the preschool kids here.

Spirit of God is Like the Wind

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Sometimes I like routines.  They help me remember what I need to do, when I need to do it, especially in the morning when I’m barely awake enough to do anything.  The familiar patterns of routine bring comfort, and predictability makes life easier.  And let’s be honest, the easier, the better. Right?  Maybe not.
Maybe that’s why people were always getting mad at Jesus; he was really good at disturbing patterns, upsetting routines, and calling people to the path less traveled—working on the Sabbath, breaking bread with the wrong people, questioning authority, contradicting strongly held teachings, forgiving those who deserved punished, and all but guaranteeing suffering and hardships.  Jesus was unpredictable.  Maybe that’s why he described the Spirit of God like the wind—you don’t know where it comes from, or where it’s going—as it blows through your life.

But Jesus wasn’t trying to cause problems for the sake of being a troublemaker.  Sure he stirred things up, but he did so because things had become some common, comfortable and routine; spiritual vitality was stagnant; routine had bred comfort, and comfort produced complacency. It can be said Jesus’ ministry was one of “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable.”

Today, (September 30th) marks the tenth anniversary of that horrible day when Charles Roberts barricaded himself inside a one room school house in Lancaster, PA, and shot and killed five Amish girls before taking his own life.  Talk about how unpredictable life can be.  Who could have ever imagined such tragedy?  In the wake of such pain our prayers were for Christ to comfort those who were so heavily afflicted.

Then I listened to an interview with Terri Roberts, the mother of Charles Roberts. She described how, in the wake of such tragedy, the Amish community’s response was that of forgiveness for Charles, and how they embraced his family.  In the aftermath of the pain perpetrated by her son, she said, “we had a very private funeral for our son… as we went to the gravesite, we saw thirty to forty Amish start coming out from around the sight of the graveyard, and they surrounded us like a crescent, and love just emanated from them.”  She described how she would never forget the devastation caused by her son, and how it is forever embodied in the life of Rosanna, now 15; a young lady who suffered head injuries the day of the attack, and is now tube-fed, in a wheel chair, suffering seizures, and forever changed. For ten years now, Terri has visited Rosanna once a week and helps care for her—feeding her, bathing her, reading to her, and more.  One of the Amish fathers recently noted, “none of us would have ever chosen this, but the relationships that we have built through it… you can’t put a price on that.”  Terri said, “Their choice to allow life to move forward, is quite a healing bond for us, and it’s quite a message the world needs.”

They chose to allow life to move forward through love and forgiveness.  I don’t know about you, but this afflicts my natural tendencies.  It would be easier to let anger, fear, and uncertainty drive the patterns of life.  But the Amish Community and the Roberts family didn’t do that.  And neither did Jesus.  Troublemaker!

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Don Long

Praying In the Moment

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“I’ll pray for you…”  This is an often-used phrase, but how often do you actually fulfill this promise?  I know that some of you are very good at actually doing this, but I want to acknowledge how hard it is.  It can be so easy to make this promise, with great intentions, but then lose momentum in the busyness of life.  We get distracted and forget our original promise.

So, here is a challenge for you.  Try praying on the spot.  Make it short and quick, no more than a sentence or two.  Lift up a prayer for the concern that someone has lifted.

This lets others know, not only that you care, but that you really mean what you say.  Most people (even those who are not connected to any church) really appreciate being prayed for in the moment.  I know that this is a challenge.  It isn’t easy to pray out loud, but I also believe that it makes a meaningful difference to others who receive the prayer.  So, let us challenge ourselves to pray for people in their moment of need.

Looking for Prayer Volunteers
If you are interested in helping to build the prayer ministry of our church by praying during the worship service, please contact Pastor Becky.  I would love to have a team that would pray for our church and worship during this time.  You can email me at rwilliams@offumc.org.

Blessings,
Pastor Becky Williams