The Pastor Joel Catlin I Know

The Pastor Joel Catlin I Know  By Ron Fontenot


“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”  Hebrews 13:17

In this scripture from Hebrews we are told to have confidence in our pastors because they are accountable to keep watch over us and help us mature in our walk with Jesus. By any measure that is a heavy burden a pastor carries and the road is not always paved.   If you have not seen Pastor Joel’s presentation of Peter Cartwright then you may not know the Joel Catlin I know.  As you know Peter Cartwright was known as the “Backwoods Preacher” and in my mind Pastor Joel personifies that rough outdoor minister touching people for Jesus Christ in their environment.  Pastor Joel had printed on t-shirts “Take It to the Streets” and I’m pretty sure a modern day Peter Cartwright would agree.

Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States early in the morning on August 29, 2005.    When the storm made landfall it was a Category 3 hurricane which brought sustained winds of 100–140 miles per hour–and stretched some 400 miles across.  The images of the damage on the television were horrific.  In our church we began to take up offerings to send to the Midwest Mission Distribution Center to help with relief efforts.  About a month after the storm we got a call from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference asking for volunteers to go to the damaged areas to help with clean-up.  Pastor Joel, Ken Emery, and I answered the call.

 “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

That was the Pastor Joel I know.  Always ready to help people in need.  We joined other Conference members and traveled to Gulfport, Mississippi where we stayed in a church that was only mildly damaged.   We were assigned to help clean up a flooded church in Pearlington, Mississippi about a 45 minute drive away.

On the trip to Mississippi I learned a lot about Pastor Joel. We pulled into a rest stop to wait for our other team members and there I learned Pastor Joel lived the spirit of “Take It to the Streets.”  At the rest area, he was perfectly comfortable ministering to complete strangers in a very gentile way.   I remember Pastor Joel saying to me “if I don’t tell them about Jesus Christ who will? That left an impression I will never forget.

The first day as we traveled from Gulfport to our assigned church in Pearlington we found the devastation much worse than what we saw on television even a month after the storm.  When we arrived at our work site we found the church structure was a simple design made of cinder block.  Mud stains could be found as high as nine feet on the inside walls from the flood. But most prominent was the stench of the mud all around us. When we first arrived we walked around the area surveying how we should approach our task.  We walked cautiously not knowing what to expect and there in the mud mostly covered was a blue Methodist hymnal.  After all the water and mud this hymnal survived.  I am reminded of this scripture:


“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”   Isaiah 41:10

I am encouraged to know God will always be there.  It is people like Pastor Joel that can walk in the midst of the destruction, smell, and hurt and point where God is and that God is all powerful.  Even in this destruction we could still see God at work.  Pastor Joel would seek out those that have just lost everything and are hurting and pray with them.  Many admitted that they had not prayed in years.

Pastor Joel not only ministered to those in need but also demonstrated Christian love in action.  Many of the task we were assigned included covering damaged roofs with blue tarpaulins to help protect the homes from more damage.  We would cut up tree limbs to haul off or remove items that floated onto the property during the flood.  We gutted the inside of the church we were assigned to clean.  The carpet had to be removed as well as the cabinets and kitchen appliances.  Pastor Joel enjoyed getting dirty and being first upon a roof. He demonstrated his skill with a chainsaw.


For a week in 2005 Pastor Joel was the “Backwoods Preacher.”  He was the rough outdoor minister touching people for Jesus Christ in their environment.  The Pastor Joel I know is always available to do whatever is needed to be done.

Please pray with me: Father God we give You thanks for Your constant presence and love.  We know of Pastor Joel’s faith in the Lord Jesus and his love for all of us, may we never stop giving thanks for him, always remembering him in our prayers.   During this time of pastoral transition we will keep asking that You, the glorious Father, will give Pastor Joel the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that he may find strength in You.  In Your precious Son’s name we pray.  Amen.

Farewell to Catlins

Saying goodbye to those who have been such a wonderful part of our church family and our community is so very hard to do. How many of us have held Joel’s hand as he has prayed over us in our sick bed or helped us face a crisis in our family. Someone who has spent his energies in serving those in need while always trying to make disciples for Christ.

A couple who’s love for God/Christ is evidenced in their daily lives. Obviously saying good bye will be difficult. What makes it a little easier is knowing that this move gives Joel the opportunity so retire as a “Senior Pastor”, something that is very important for his career. Also, I have witnessed the enthusiasm of his new congregation as they eagerly anticipate the arrival of their new pastor. Joel is going to a wonderful new church family who will welcome him with open arms.

We would like to extend to the congregation an opportunity to say good-bye to Joel and Donna at a reception held for them on Sunday May 22nd in the Fellowship Hall from 9:30 – 11:00am.  This will be an opportunity to personally say “Good-Bye” and “Thank You”. There will be a basket provided to collect cards or personal gifts you may want to extend to Joel and Donna.

This will be Joel’s official last day as he will be taking some vacation and sabbatical time. However their official moving date will be near the end of June so I am sure they will be happy to hear from any of you in the interim.

Joel and Donna, we wish you the “VERY BEST” as you move on to where God is sending you next and we will keep you in our prayers as you have held us in your prayers so often.

God be with you till we meet again,

Your Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committee

Susan Rogers, Chairperson

Goodbye from Pastor Joel

I was humbled last night as I spoke to my friend who nearly died in a house fire a little over a week ago.  He almost lost his wife and son in the fire.  Most of their earthly possessions were destroyed.  We cried, prayed and laughed.  His joy was unmistakable as he spoke of how God was already using this tragedy.  Sometimes I think I have something to complain about!

I certainly have nothing to complain about when it comes to this church.  As we look towards an exciting new opportunity we cannot help but thank God and you for your prayers, witness, skills, talents, leadership and support.  You have loved Donna and I even when I did not deserve it.  You have been there for us through thick and thin.  O’Fallon First UMC is an amazing church with a fantastic staff.  It has been a joy to work with such a talented, loving, capable and committed servants of God.  I know that your new pastors will only serve to augment the strong group of leaders you have.

I hope you will understand because we do love you and want this church to continue to be a strong, growing and vital community of faith, I will not be available to perform pastoral functions in this community once I am gone.  Your new pastors deserve and need those opportunities to build the special relationships that are forged through marriages, baptisms, confirmation and the like.   This does not mean we do not care.  We do but, our role after May 22 will be that of friend.

There are lots of things that make OFFUMC wonderful.  You work hard, you are smart and you have tremendous resources.  Three things stand out to me.  The first is the number  and quality of leaders in this church.  This is a gift.  I know of no church anywhere that has such a high percentage of able and committed leaders.  I hope you will see leadership as something you can build on and share with other churches.  Perhaps you will someday host an annual “Leadership Conference.”  Second is you are a church of committed and fruitful “Prayer Warriors.”  We have seen miracle after miracle because of your prayers.  Prayer will largely determine the future of this church.  I pray you will help me surround Pastor Ron and Phyllis’ last weeks and your new Pastor’s first few months with prayer.  We need people to commit to pray for the church and its leadership through out this time of transition and especially during worship.  Please sign up and follow through on your commitment to pray.  More than anything this congregation understands how to love.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is 95% love.  You get that.  Keep loving like you love and keep growing in Christ’s love and the best years of this church are yet to come.

Thank you so much for all the many ways you have loved us.  We are not only blessed but better because we have been here.  It has been a privilege and honor to have served God with you these last 11 years.   Even though we have a wonderful opportunity before us it is hard to say good by to such great friends and such a great church and community.  May God’s Blessings abound in your life and the life of this congregation.


Good bye and Love Always,

Pastor Joel


Ordinary Treasures


In the Robinson house, Mother’s Day means cinnamon rolls and snuggles, homemade cards and a morning in church together. Though not typically not an elaborate event, one Mother’s Day a few years ago, I received a very special gift.

That day, my then five year old proudly produced a present she had wrapped and hidden in her room. Her face was beaming with pride as I unwrapped it. Inside the gift box, laid of a bed of tissue paper, I was shocked to find a diamond cross pendant. My diamond cross pendant. Strung on a pipe cleaner.

The love in her eyes made it easy not to ask questions like, “How did you find my necklace!!??” and to instead twist the pipe cleaner on around my neck. She was so delighted to give me such a treasure.

What my daughter didn’t realize is that motherhood is accompanied by daily treasures…everyday things like pipe cleaners…or chicken nugget lunches, or playdates at the park, or bedtime stories…that are made significant, not by diamond pendants, but by the love that accompanies them. I believe the ordinary things make life extra-ordinary!

Luke 2:19 is my favorite Bible verse. It’s a short simple statement in the midst of the Christmas story that tells Mary’s sentiment about the birth of her son.

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

What great advice the mother of our Lord has for us. She cherished her time with her family, and she kept her memories close to her heart. This Mother’s Day, whether you’re a mother or not, I wish you the same. Ordinary times with family and friends, made glorious with love.


Stacy Robinson

Children’s and Family Coordinator

Missions for May

helpinghandsMatthew 25:37-40 “Then the righteous will answer him saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you: And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” 


Feeding the Hungry through involvement with the O’Fallon Food Pantry:

This month’s bulletin board theme is Feeding the Hungry. We are highlighting three ways in which our church is helping to feed others in need. One way is through our involvement with the O’Fallon Food Pantry.  Our church members have been very supportive of the food pantry by volunteering as well as making donations of food and money. Last year, our mission committee and individual church members donated a total of $9,830.00. Additionally, each Sunday, members of the congregation drop off food in our donation box (located in the Helping Hallway).


The pantry is blessed with dedicated volunteers from the church.  Many church members work at the pantry by serving clients, picking up bread from the local Schnucks, doing the weekly shopping for perishables (milk, eggs, meat), and by stocking the shelves of food. The average monthly food purchase by the Food Pantry for 2015 was $10,420.31. During the summer months some church members grow vegetables they donate to the pantry. Additionally, our volunteers help by sorting the food collected at the Scouting for Food and Postal food drives.  The food pantry could not operate without all of these amazing, dedicated volunteers.  At last count, we had 18 members from the church volunteering at the pantry. Our own Patty Strube is the vice president and coordinator of the Food Pantry and Larry Strube is the treasurer. The Food Pantry is a supplemental food source and clients are allowed to use the services once every 30 days.The pantry is located at the O’Fallon Township Building at 801 State Street and is open Monday from 9am-12pm, Tuesday/Friday 9am-3pm. They welcome new volunteers to work one (or more) 3 hour shifts a month or to assist with the weekly shopping for perishable food. You may contact the Food Pantry directly at 618-624-7040 to volunteer.

Helping the Children through involvement with Feed My Lambs:

Another fantastic FUMC mission is that of the Feed My Lambs program which is coordinated by Linda Kahley. This will be the third summer of “taking it to the streets ” of O’Fallon/ Shiloh. Our church partners with a group of seven other churches to deliver sack lunches to needy/hungry children in the summer. Linda Kahley coordinates with the local school administrators to identify the highest need areas. A group of approximately 25 dedicated FUMC volunteers make and deliver an average of 110 lunches each Thursday during the summer. The program is advertised through the local elementary and Jr High schools and at the Food Pantry. Volunteers assemble the lunches at the church and then deliver them to stops on two routes. Throughout the summer, we also share hygiene bags with donated travel size toiletries. The Skyline Church, one of our partners, uses our kitchen to prepare lunches each Monday. Thanks to funds from the Mission Committee and other generous donations, and our outstanding volunteers we are able to provide this local mission outreach. Volunteers are always welcomed in this mission and may contact Linda Kahley at


Promoting Peace through involvement with Peace with Justice Sunday:

Finally, in May, we are recognizing Peace with Justice Sunday (May 22) which is celebrated by United Methodists world wide. Arizona border communities are facing social challenges causing them to be dramatically divided. In Liberian villages, citizens’ human rights are being violated. In local U.S. communities, women and girls are being bought and sold against their will. Moved by Christ’s love of every individual, and his mandate for us to love one another, the United Methodist Church is unwilling to turn a blind eye to injustice. Although we may lack the resources alone to effect change in a broken world, our giving to Peace with Justice is vital for the UMC to continue its global ministries of reconciliation. Because of the Peace with Justice Sunday offering, the people of The United Methodist Church are able to make a difference together by sowing seeds—and yielding fruit!—of peace.


When we give on Peace with Justice Sunday, our gift makes possible UMC’s critical kingdom work in the world. Because we give:

  • Methodists spearhead a peace ministry uniting Arizona border communities
  • United Methodists in Liberia are being equipped to implement the denomination’s Social Principles to address social-justice issue
  • Pennsylvania students are educating their community about sex-trafficking at home and abroad

These initiatives, and hundreds of other ones, are possible because of our donations.

Our Giving Makes Possible the Proclamation of Christ’s Peace.

The mission committee will be disbursing a donation to Peace with Justice. If you would like to make an additional personal donation on Peace with Justice Sunday, May 22, you may do so by writing “Peace with Justice” on your envelope, along with the amount and then dropping it in the collection basket.


I feel so blessed to be a part of this church with the kind hearted people so willing to give of themselves and their resources to help others. This love is what Christ wanted us to share.



Linda Gruchala

FUM Coordinator

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