Blanket Sunday

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Blanket Sunday

Kerry Turk, Missions Committee

 

This time of year, it’s not unusual to see folks take an extra blanket to pile on their bed on a particularly cold night. Or maybe grab a blanket from the back of the couch to wrap up in while they watch TV, or to cover up in while napping … um, I mean while watching the game on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps you keep one in your car as part of your emergency kit. You likely also have one for your pet(s), either in their bed or crate. And there are probably a few more in the linen closet or guest room.

And blankets aren’t just a source of warmth; they can serve other purposes. Keeping warm is essential to our survival. But a blanket might also serve as someone’s only barrier between them and the cold ground. Or the only cover overhead to protect them from the wind and rain. It’s a lovey for your baby or toddler, who may drag a ragged piece of “bwankee” around well into their school years. A blanket might be a source of special memories, like the quilt made by your great-grandmother and handed down through the generations, or the hand-crocheted blanket you received from a godmother on your wedding day. For kids, a blanket can be that “safe” space when turned into a “fort” or tent to hide inside of with their flashlights, or entertainment and strength when the blanket becomes a super-hero cape. And, as I experienced myself last week, that special pet’s blanket can provide a lot of comfort and memories when you’ve had to say good-bye to your beloved pet before you were ready.

The point is, we typically have more blankets than we can use at any one time, and likely seldom worry about having access to a blanket when we want or need one, for whatever purpose. The same cannot be said for many around the world.

Please consider these things as we approach Blanket Sunday. On February 19, we will take a special offering for Church World Services and their annual blanket drive. Monies collected will be used by CWS to provide blankets throughout the United States and worldwide to those in need. Some go to needy families, others to those in disaster-stricken areas. Your gift is providing so much more than “just a blanket” – you are providing warmth, comfort, and shelter – and the knowledge and encouragement for the recipient that someone cared enough to give.

The Stress and Opposition of New

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The Stress and Opposition of New

By: Pastor Don

 

A New Year is upon us, and with it comes so many NEW opportunities.  We like to focus on new beginnings—because who doesn’t like something new.  But “new” can also breed uncertainty and unpredictability.   Remember what Forrest Gump’s mother said, “Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get.”  Not knowing can be stress inducing, and we’re prone to play defense against the unknowns.

I’ve been reading The Book of Joy by Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama with Douglas Abrams, and in it Bishop Tutu said, “that nothing beautiful, in the end comes without a measure of some pain, some frustration, some suffering.”  He went on to talk about a lesson he learned from prenatal researcher Pathik Wadhwa, who noted that the stress and opposition of our prenatal development are exactly what initiate our development in utero.  Our stem cells do not differentiate to become us without stress to encourage them to do so.  The Bishop said: “without stress and opposition, complex life like ours would never have developed.  We would never have come into being.” (pg. 45).

I remember reading something like this while helping Zachary study biology last semester.  Cell division (growth) is stimulated when injury occurs.  When there is a cut in the skin, or a break in a bone, cells at the edges of the injury are stimulated to divide rapidly.  Growth occurs through stress and opposition.

I like to remember God’s word through the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (43: 9) And Jesus’ words in Revelation, “Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5).

The new think God is doing, and the way Jesus is making all things new sounds so good!  It’s like the “newness” of all those new Christmas presents.  But what about those times when “new” brings stress and opposition?  When the uncertainty and unpredictability of “new” squeezes the comfort out of our existence?

Maybe those are exactly the ways God go is using to grow us.  It’s at the edge of injury that growth occurs; it’s by stress growth is initiated; it’s in the face of opposition that growth is strengthened.  And it’s in those places of injury, stress, opposition, uncertainty and unpredictability that Jesus says, “fear not! for I am with you.”  Remember God is doing a new thing; Jesus is making all things new, and growth is happening, even amidst some measure of pain, frustration, and suffering.

Thank you for sharing the Joy of Jesus

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On behalf of the mission committee I want to say “Thanks” to this congregation for their generosity. In 2016, you have given over $140,000 to 30 different agencies/missions to assist people in need and to witness to Jesus Christ. Praise be to God! Some of those funds were given directly to designated charities through the church while others were given to the general mission fund and then disbursed to the agencies through the committee.  Additionally, over twenty-two thousand dollars was given to O’Fallon residents who come into our church office asking for help with their utility bills, water bills or rent.  Your financial donations have helped support scholarships for students in Africa wishing to attend the Methodist seminary there, and to support Connie Wieck,our missionary in China.

Because of your generosity, 229 local children will be smiling on Christmas morning when they open gifts that they wouldn’t have, if not for your generosity. Another, 161 children in other countries will get to experience the thrill of receiving Christmas gifts because of the shoeboxes you filled. Many of you attended the Ugandan Thunder Children’s Choir and gave to help support the orphans living in Uganda. Some agreed to sponsor a Ugandan orphan through monthly donations.

Countless pairs of shoes have been donated throughout the year (just ask John Grissom) to provide shoes and clean water for people overseas. You left food for the food pantry,  brought supplies to assist flood victims, and donated many needed items to the Violence Prevention Center and Holy Angels Shelter. During the summer months when needy children are not being fed school lunches, you made lunches and distributed them. You bought cinnamon rolls and breads so that that formerly homeless people could now have a paying job at Bridge Bread. This gives them a purpose in life and a roof over their head.

In August, over 100 members of our church turned out to volunteer and participate in Running 4 God so that funds could be raised for the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, and therefore, help people striving to get out of poverty. Additionally, there are individual Sunday School classes and small groups of our members doing Christ’s work such as providing Thanksgiving meals for the homeless in East St. Louis, holding bake sales for the food pantry, or making prayer shawls and turbans for women with cancer. Many attended the Trivia Night and bought baskets there to help support the youth mission trip.

Some of us might be hurting from the loss of a loved one, financial problems, serious health concerns, divorce, emotional turmoil or for other reasons. One thing we can take comfort in is that we belong to a caring church that wraps it’s arms around us at a time when we are in need. There are Stephen Ministers and individual members who are always willing to give comfort.

This congregation is a generous one who believes in sharing their wealth and talents. As Paulyn Snyder, Director of Holy Angels Shelter, expressed to me in an email after the mission fair, “It was very inspiring to see the interest and deep concern your whole Church family has for God’s People, wherever they are and whoever they are. That is indeed an awesome testimony to the very Life of the Church itself,”

This is what Christmas is all about- sharing the joy of Christ in our lives and his love with others. So, from the mission committee- THANK YOU from the very bottom of our Hearts!

Submitted by Linda Gruchala,

Mission/Outreach Coordinator

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