Finding God in Unexpected Places

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Our family recently visited a place called Dinosaur Ridge near Denver, CO. We saw fossilized dinosaur bones embedded in a rocky cliff. As impressive as it was to see the fossils, I thought about how easy it would have been to miss them. The bones didn’t look that much different than the rock around it. On the tour they also pointed out footprints, and even ripple marks left from a long ago pond. Each feature was impressive, but again without a sign marking the way, I would have easily missed these ancient landmarks.

Reflecting on this experience, I realized our spiritual lives are like that too. God is there, but sometimes we need bigger signposts to see God at work. In Psalm 118:24 we read, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
We believe that God made this day, but we don’t always look for signs of God’s grace in the midst of the day. And we also don’t always take the time to rejoice in God’s creation and glory.

We can be signposts to one another. As we reach out in Christian love and pray for those around us, we enable others to see God at work in us. We can also sometimes see with more clarity God at work in someone else’s life. Share these moments with others, and hopefully they will share with you. Let us be on the lookout for God in unexpected moments and unexpected places.

Blessings,

Pastor Becky Williams

September Mission Corner

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“We’re on a mission! Got a Dream, boy, Got a Song! Paint Your Wagon, Come Along! “
Do you remember Pastor Long’s first sermon when he broke out in the Paint Your Wagon Song? Well, the mission committee is building on that theme with the OFFUMC 2016 Mission Fair. The Mission Fair will be on Sunday, September 25th 9:30-11:00 in Fellowship Hall. We have reached out to the missions/charities to which our church contributes either financially, or, with volunteers, and asked them to come, bring a display and literature. They have responded enthusiastically! A representative will be at each of the 27 mission booths to answer any questions you might have have regarding how their agency helps others in need and how donations are used. As each person enters Fellowship Hall they will receive a bag to collect information and a wagon strip. The wagon strip is a drawing of a wagon divided into parts. One part of the wagon will be “painted” each time the person visits a mission table to get information. Once the individual gets their whole wagon (eight parts) painted then he or she can enter a drawing for a prize. This will be a wonderful opportunity for all the congregation to learn about many of our missions and how they work.

This year, our church is on course to earn the Five Star mission status in our Illinois Great River Conference. The Five Star Challenge encourages churches to reach out beyond their walls. Donation suggestions are given by the IGRC for mission projects within our own conference, within the United States and around the world. Specifically, the mission committee disburses donations to Connie Wieck, a missionary in China to assist with her salary support. Another criiteria for the Five Start Status is to give to three UMC Special Sunday offerings, which we have done with Human Relations Day, Peace with Justice and World Wide Communion. Our donations to the Henderson Settlement this year and Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House are two other missions that will help us meet the Five Star Challenge. We give above and beyond what is required for the Five Star Status but it would be nice to have that recognition for our church at conference. As we look at how to disburse mission dollars we want to look at how we are helping others locally (CASA, Violence Prevention, Holy Angels Feed My Lambs), within the midwest (Midwest Mission Distribution Center, Bridge Bread), nationally (Henderson Settlement) and globally (Connie Wieck, UMCOR, Blanket Sunday, Poland).

Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

Blessings,
Linda Gruchala
OFFUMC Mission Chairperson

The Meaning of Discipleship- Do You Know?

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A few months ago Pastor Joel asked me to help coordinate a discipleship program at FUMC. After wondering, “Why would anyone ask me to do something that sounds important?” I went home and prayed about the proposal. Well, evidently the Lord answered my prayers quickly because the next thing I remember is Pastor Joel calling and congratulating me on getting the job!

With great excitement I rushed to tell everyone about my new position as “Adult Discipleship Coordinator” (ADC for you military acronym types). My enthusiasm quickly diminished however. Common reactions consisted of a polite, “That’s nice,” and a quick change of subject. (Similar to when I recite the praises of the lunar calendar to my Sunday school class.) The blank stares prompted a deep and intensive soul search. Specifically, “What exactly is discipleship and how do I coordinate it?” Despite attending church my entire life and completing several discipleship classes, I didn’t have a satisfactory answer. Jesus commands his believers “To go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 18-20). So then, what does being a disciple of our Lord entail?

Unable to contact the original twelve, I consulted the omnipresent source of all wisdom- Google!!! (Just kidding of course…) I found a comprehensive synopsis of discipleship from the Methodist Church of Britain, which should apply to us Yanks too. (www.methodist.org.uk) Here are the main points:

1. Discipleship is a response to a call, the call to follow Jesus. Like Matthew at the tax booth, or Peter at his fishing nets.
2. The response is enabled by God’s own Spirit, who whispers the call into the hearts of all and gives those who respond the power to do so.
3. Discipleship rests on grace, on the gift of God who “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
4. Since it is God who calls us, discipleship embraces all our lives. There is nothing that we do, and no part of who we are, that is beyond the call of Jesus. God stakes a claim over every part of our lives.
5. Discipleship is also a life-long process. We are never ‘done’ with discipleship, as it involves the ongoing formation of our lives into being like Jesus.
6. Discipleship is a journey with others. Although discipleship is a personal call, “For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Wow! Far greater than an abstract religious concept, discipleship defines our entire spiritual walk with Jesus.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I certainly have a long way to go. Borrowing a quote from Pastor Don as he cited two great purveyors of wisdom, the Blues Brothers, “We are all on a mission from God”. So I invite everyone to participate in Bible study focused upon becoming disciples of Jesus. Studies are open to all adult seekers, no cost or experience necessary. The first four week series starts on September 13, at 6:30 – 8:00 PM at our church, titled “Matriarchs and Patriarchs of Genesis: How God reveals his promise through His ‘imperfect’ family.” Hope to see you there! Sign up online

By Dave Roberts (Adult Discipleship Coordinator)

 

More than a 5k Run

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I was inspired by Matthew West’s top hit song “Do Something” and a trip to Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House (LBDNH) one beautiful afternoon in April. The day I went with the FUMC Mission committee, I quickly learned about all the different services LBDNH does to create a better quality of life for so many people of all ages in the East St. Louis area. They also explained to us the need for both volunteers and financial help. I was so impressed and amazed by the number of people from our congregation already involved with this organization on daily, weekly and monthly basis. I too wanted to help a neighboring community and organization that truly needs help and can make an immediate impact on people’s day to day lives. I left there with the urgent and overwhelming desire to “do something”.
I started thinking how could we as a church help this wonderful organization? With being in outside sales, I listen to the 99.1 Joy FM on the radio all the time in my car going from one doctors office to the next. The next day the radio station mentioned a 5k run coming up called Run to God and I thought, that could be it. We could have a 5k at our church but call it Running 4 God and all the proceeds would benefit LBDNH. I have ran a few 5k’s and thought I surely can organize one? God took over from that point on and everything starting falling into place and there was no turning back. God inspires us everyday to make a difference, it is if we want to listen and take action. He also gives us strengths and talents to use to help his kingdom.

As Matthew West’s song says,
Well, I couldn’t bear the thought of people living in poverty. So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God , why don’t you do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
Those words are so powerful to me!

Running 4 God 5k, four months after my first visit to LBDNH, turned into an awesome celebration of God’s amazing work. Over 200 people came together from our church and community in different ways to raise over $5000 to donate to LBDNH. I am just so thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to be a part of such a special and glorious day at our church.

Blessings,
Stephanie Michael

August Mission Corner 2016

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This month the mission committee is highlighting three ways in which our church supports children in need.  One of those is through an organization called C.A.S.A., or Court Appointed Special Advocate.  CASA is a national organization whose mission is, together with state and local member programs, of supporting and promoting court appointed volunteer advocacy to every abused or neglected child in the United States so that ultimately every child can have a safe, permanent home and opportunity to thrive.  CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children to make sure that they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or linger in an inappropriate group or foster homes.  Often, if a child is fortunate enough to be assigned a CASA,  that volunteer becomes the one constant adult presence in their lives.   Last year, more than 76,000 CASA volunteers helped more than 251,000 children nationwide, find safe, permanent homes.

Take for example the story of one child who was helped by a CASA volunteer.  Told in her own words, Laura, and mother  were horribly abused by her father. Once her father left, her mentally ill mother locked her in a back bedroom for a week without food or water.  Once the police found her and she was released from the hospital, Laura entered foster care. For five years in foster care she had more than a dozed social workers and a new lawyer every court date, but only one CASA volunteer through it all. Laura had to experience many changes, different people and uncertainty throughout her life but knowing her CASA volunteer would always be there, advocating for her and supporting her, gave her something to hold onto.  It kept her in school and moving forward.  When she turned 18, Laura joined the Marine Corps and was able to get job training.  Today, after serving two missions in Iraq, she is 27 and a successful adult, gainfully employed and taking college classes. She attributes much of her success to her CASA volunteer and says it meant the world to her.

If you would like to volunteer to be a CASA, please contact Mechiko White at mechiko@gmail.com or 681-234-4278.  It takes $1,000 a year to provide a CASA to each child and donations can be made through our church by specifying CASA on your check or you  may donate directly by contacting Mechiko White.

 

Another way that our church is supporting children in need is through the Central of O’Fallon School mentoring program. Central School, District #104, tries to provide mentors for children in Kindergarten through eighth grade when they are referred by the school social workers. The children might be going through a difficult time in their lives, might be from a single parent home, or experiencing emotional or academic difficulties. Research has shown that when a positive adult connects with a child who is at risk, he or she becomes a role model that often results in better outcomes for the child’s success in life.

When children raised in dire circumstances were interviewed as successful adults and asked how they were able to overcome their difficult childhoods they most often cited one adult whose kindness towards them made all the difference in their lives. The influential person could have been a relative,  a teacher, a neighbor, or someone at their church.  Sometimes, the adult had very limited interaction with the child and might not have even known they were a positive influence.  Central School mentors are asked to spend time with the child one hour one day per week, often just playing games, talking and establishing  a positive, good relationship. The mentors meet with the assigned child during their school day.  Benefits to the child include increased school motivation and improved self-esteem. Background checks are conducted by the school social workers. There are always children in need of this service. If you are interested in volunteering to be a mentor, please contact Phil Goodwin at 618-567-8454 or pagood1@wisperhome.com.

 

Finally, OFFUMC supports the YMCA Operation Backpack program. Church members donate school supplies and backpacks to be distributed to needy children in O’Fallon. School supplies have gotten more and more expensive and much more is asked to be provided by parents today than was 30 years ago. The additional burden of buying a large amount of school supplies for their children can be impossible for a family who is barely making ends meet. Sometimes, children have to come to school without the proper supplies if they are not donated. The O’Fallon YMCA provides backpacks for children who are receiving free lunches during our church’s summer Feed My Lambs program (which was highlighted in May).

 

Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

 

Linda Gruchala

OFFUMC Mission Coordinator

rgruchala@att.net

Youth Mission Trip

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This summer 12 kids and 4 adults from our youth group went to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to help the people in their community. When we first arrived, we were introduced to the youth group that we would be working with all week. While we were there, we helped at an animal shelter, walking the dogs and playing with all the animals. The boys went to Dare Challenge, which is a rehab center for men, and helped stain their deck. While the boys were there, the girls helped at the food pantry, collecting and sorting food. We also helped at a local thrift shop and safe home. Since their pastor is retiring too, we helped them pack and clean the parsonage. Lastly, we handed out water bottles at the beach with bible verses on them. We ended each day with dinner and a devotional.

We also had fun walking, swimming, and playing at the beach. We made great friendships with the youth from Kitty Hawk and strengthened our youth group as well. Over all, I think it was a great mission trip, we did a lot of work and had a lot of fun. I hope we can go back next summer!

God Bless,

Gracie Hitchcock

Kitty Hawk Youth Mission Trip 2016

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A weeks ago, the youth went on a mission trip to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

We did so many things that helped other people and the whole time, we were serving God.  We left on June 17th at 10:00 pm.  We arrived in Kitty Hawk on June 18th in the afternoon.

The next day, we went to church.  We got to meet the Kitty Hawk Youth and have breakfast with them.  Then we had a wonderful service that made us ready to do work the next day.  That afternoon, we had a fun time at the beach.

On Monday, we split into groups and did different jobs.  The jobs were painting, book organizing, helping in the office, gardening, and helping out at the parsonage.  That night we went to a contemporary service and Brad gave a great sermon.

On Tuesday, we went around Kitty Hawk to do mission work.  In the morning we went to an animal shelter and in the afternoon we went to a thrift store with a safe house in the back.  At the animal shelter, we made pet toys, helped with cat litter boxes, and helped get dog kennels cleaned.  At the thrift store, we helped at the safe house which is where people go if they are in need of help and aren’t in a safe situation.  They can stay there until things get better for them.  We painted, cleaned, and did yard work.

On Wednesday, the boys and the girls split up.  The boys went to Dare Challenge and the girls went to the food pantry.  Dare challenge is a place for men to stay if they are addicted to alcohol or drugs.  There were a lot of decks there that needed to be stained.  We stained all of them.  I wasn’t with the girls but I know that they did a lot of hard work at the pantry.  We went to a David Crowder concert in the evening.  He is a christian singer.  The concert was outstanding!

On Thursday, half of us went to a thrift store and the other half stayed at the church and helped out there.  At the thrift store, we vacuumed, rearranged clothes, and organized things for customers to buy.  At the church, they made water bottles with labels on them with bible verses.  We had a few hours of free time at the church, then we went to the beach and handed out the water bottles to anyone we ran into.  We walked around on the sand dunes after that.  On Thursday night, we went out to eat at a fun seafood place that had corn hole toss games and we got to relax and enjoy the end of our trip.

On Friday, we had our fun day.  we started off the day by sleeping in, then we met the Kitty Hawk Youth at the beach.  We stayed at the beach for a few hours then we went to Kitty Hawk Water Sports where there was bumper boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, and banana boating.  We then went back to our house for a pool party.  After the pool party, we said our goodbyes to the Kitty Hawk Youth.

On Saturday June 25th, we drove back all day.  What I will always remember about the mission trip is how much we helped out in Kitty Hawk, not just at the church, but all over the community.  They want us to come back because of how much we helped out.  I saw God in almost every moment on the trip.  We should continue to go on mission trips in the future because it is amazing to help out and do work for God

God Bless,

Hayden Glover.