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.

“Whyyyyy do I haaaave to go to school?”

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This is a popular question at the Robinson house especially as the end of summer is fast approaching. I usually answer, “because I said so,” but every once in a while, my husband will chime in with the extended response. “You have a lot to learn! There are facts, skills and experiences that are necessary for success later in life. You need to be able to follow directions, cooperate, work in a group, problem solve, etc., etc. etc., so you can grow-up to be a well-adjusted, productive member of society.” Then, I change the subject because secretly I wish summer was longer, too.

Regardless, we all know why our kids are in school, but, have you ever thought about why your family is (or isn’t) involved in a church community? What is the end goal?

Personally speaking, in a few years when my kids leave home, I pray they will have a relationship with God to carry them through hard times; that they will have an every day faith guiding their decisions; that they will experience the peace and joy only God can bring; and that one day, they will be called home to an eternal life with their Creator.

If you’ve landed at OFFUMC (or maybe just in this newsletter) with similar desires for your kids, know that God’s gift of salvation is given to all who will accept. But just as kids get more benefit from school when they give their best effort, so God multiplies our blessings when we intentionally pursue a relationship with Him. Growing with God takes time and repetition; There are truths to learn and skills to practice. It might involve some hard work and some home work. The process can be challenging, especially when we, as parents feel unprepared or ill-equipped, so the support and encouragement of a Christian community can make a huge difference. If OFFUMC can be that community for you, please contact one of our staff. We would love to walk alongside your family in their journey of faith.

Blessings,

Stacy Robinson

Children & Family Coordinator

 

An Invitation to Abundant Life

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“Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”  — Isaiah 55:1-2

As we prepare to begin a new school year, life often becomes busier.  Extra things get added to the schedule.  New routines begin.  Even if you are no longer connected to the school calendar, as the summer wanes schedules can get hectic.

Wherever you are in life, the invitation from Isaiah is one that is refreshing.  We are invited to come to the waters, to come and eat what is good and delight ourselves in rich food.  As the stress of life becomes overwhelming, this is an invitation that becomes very appealing.

For me the question that really resonates is “why do you labor for that which does not satisfy?”  So often we are busy, but not centered.  We have too much to do, but feel like we accomplish nothing.

As your schedules change and things get added, I would encourage you to meditate and pray over this passage from Isaiah.  Where do you need God to feed you?  What would you like from God if you could eat without money and without price?  What are you spending money or energy on things that do not satisfy?

Sometimes we need to let go of things that we love in order to find God.  And at other times, adding a few minutes of quiet prayer can transform a hectic day into a purposeful one.

If you find yourself longing for purpose and meaning in the midst of your busy life, I would encourage you to find a small group, a prayer group, or a Sunday School class.  We are working to keep our list of classes on the church website up to date.  Please contact me by calling the church or sending me an email rwilliams@offumc.org if you would like to get connected.

I pray that no matter what life brings you this new school season that you would be fed and filled with God’s good and satisfying grace.

Blessings,

Pastor Becky

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“To Go or Not to Go”

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“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10: 23-25

In a recent article, “How Skipping Church Affects Our Children,” Carl Truemann was quoted as saying,

“The church is losing its young people because the parents never taught their children that it was important. I think that applies across the board. It applies to family worship, and it also applies to whether you are in church every Sunday and what priority you demonstrate to your children church has on a Sunday. If the sun shines out and their friends are going to the beach, do you decide to skip church and go to the beach? In which case, you send signals to your children that it is not important.”

Now before you stop reading because you figure this is just one of those articles that’s gonna make you feel guilty about not going to church, don’t!  I encourage you to read on.

The “How Skipping Church…” article goes on to remind us that simply being in church doesn’t guarantee a quality relationship with Jesus Christ or a vital faith, much the same way just showing up at the gym won’t help me get into shape and live a healthy life—there’s much more to it—but that’s a conversation for another time.  Instead I’ve been thinking about church attendance in the summer time, especially when you’re on vacation.

So, let me ask you a question: “When you’re on vacation, do you attend worship?”  Many summers my family and I vacation in Minong, Wisconsin, a small, quiet place in the northwest of the state.  We spend a week in a cabin on “Nancy Lake,” where we’ve been going for about 12 years, and where my family has been going for more than 50 years.  While there we visit “The River Church,” pastored by Ben Kidder.  It’s a great little church, and I’ve learned a lot.

First, as a pastor, it’s always nice to worship with my family.  I can go and be a “parishioner,” and that’s great, especially because it helps me see the life of church from your perspective.  Sometimes we forget to do that—to experience life through the eyes of someone else; consider what it’s like from a perspective different from our own.  When my family and I visit the church, we’re just that—visitors!  This helps me remember what it’s like to be a visitor.  I’ll never forget the FIRST time we visited “The River.”  We were nervous about what to do, where we should go, where we should sit (we didn’t want to sit in someone’s pew), what we could expect, what would there be for the boys, was it expected of them to go to “children’s church,” or could they stay with us?  There were so many questions, and the experience helped me remember that as a church, we only get once chance to make a first impression.

There’s a lot we assume guests know when they visit our church.  There’s a lot we don’t think about because “we know the routine,” and there’s a lot we overlook because we’ve lived with “it” (whatever it is) for so long.

I used to have a little Suzuki Swift that I loved to drive.  It didn’t have a radio, the turn signal switch was backwards, you had to jiggle the ignition to get it to start, and you had to hold the driver’s side window with one hand and crank it up with the other… it had a lot of idiosyncrasies that to me were endearing qualities, and made it MY car.  Becky hated to drive it, and so did everyone else.  Maybe that’s why I liked the cars “issues,” because then it was all mine.  So what about our church?

There are a LOT of great reasons why we should go to church, and one them, especially when we’re traveling and on vacation, is so we can remember what’s it’s like to be a visitor; to experience first-hand why “radical hospitality” is so important in the life of a growing congregation.

I love visiting other churches when I’m on vacation and when traveling to new places, because I get to hear great sermons, meet new people, collect good ideas for new ministries, gather resources, and most of all, remember what it’s like to be a visitor.  I come home with a new perspective: “it’s not about me.”

So, let us meet with one another, and as we do, let us never forget that when we gather we’re to encourage one another—especially the visitor among us—and remember that Jesus taught us: when we come, we come to serve, not seeking to be served.

In Surrender and Service to Christ,

Pastor Don

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Christian Resolve in Sports

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“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8

First off let’s start with a very important detail from our men’s softball league this year, every man who started the season, finished the season with all muscles still attached in the right places.  That is something in itself to be proud of this season.  On a more serious note, our O’Fallon First United Methodist men’s softball season wrapped up this past week at the O’Fallon Sports Park.  While the season didn’t produce the outcome conducive to those of us with that winning desire, all was not lost.  Each week we fielded a team of men that bring something to the table athletically, but more importantly, they bring their strong Christian values, and it was never more apparent than it was on Tuesday nights this summer.

When faced with adversity in sports, you can tell quite a bit about the resolve of a man.  In that environment it is easy to get carried away and say or do things un-Christian like.  The competitive juices still flow through our team members, and the members of the opposing teams, sometimes that produces opportunities to succumb to levels unbecoming of good Christian men.  If you watch any professional sport on TV or in person, you know what I am talking about, situations present themselves in the heat of the battle that can lead people to do things, and say things, that require reflection and even times repentance.  Men’s church league softball is no exception.  Those same opportunities presented themselves weekly to both our team and other teams, and I am here to say, our team handled those situations in a manner that should make our congregation, and our Savior, proud.

While we can’t control the actions of our opponents, we can focus on what quality men we put out on that field each week.  Men who represented our church with dignity and grace.  Men who handled themselves in a manner that young children can look up to and be proud to call them dad or uncle or brother.  The men who represented OFFUMC this year on the softball field formed a bond not only amongst themselves, but with Christ.  They proved time and again how great it is to be a member of our church community.  Be proud of the work that is done within the walls of our house of worship, because the work being done here, is being lived outside in many ways.  Thank you for letting us represent you in our community each week on the softball field, and praise Him for being with us throughout the season.

 

In His name,

Daniel Cox