God’s Cairns – Leading us at Critical Junctions

A few years ago, while my buddy Kelly and I were backpacking in the Needles District of the Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah, we happened upon a pile of rocks obviously put there by human hands. The small pillar of ascending stones from large to small was intentionally left by a previous sojourner.  I had never seen such a “sign” on anystones of my hikes.  I later learned that the official term for deliberately stacked rocks like what I experienced is “cairns,” from middle Scottish Gaelic meaning “mound of stones built as a memorial or landmark.”  There are plenty of examples of cairns, especially in historically Celtic territories, as well as in other cultures; indigenous peoples in the United States often used cairns to cover, bury and mark the location of their dead.  Hikers use them as a demarcation indicating the right way to go at critical junctions in the back country, and for that, as a hiker, I’m thankful.  There’s been more than one occasion recently when I could have used demarcations indicating the right direction.

As you know the last few weeks have brought many changes for both the people of O’Fallon First and Godfrey First UM Churches, and their pastors.  You’ve said farewell to two pastoral families and Michele Jarrett, your office manager, and her family, all the while preparing for new pastoral families.  Becky, Deven, Zachary and I are finishing a 12 year journey with the people of Godfrey First; when we first arrived Deven was five, and now he’s getting ready for his senior year at Alton High School, and Zachary was two, and now he’ll be a freshman at OTHS.  This has been the longest we’ve ever spend in any one place. It’s not been easy saying goodbye, as you know well.  But where the Lord leads, we will follow.

On my last Sunday I preached from 1 Kings 17: “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.’  So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a cup that I may drink.’

God told Elijah, “go from here… and dwell there,” and trust that god will provide.  It’s times like this that teach us how to trust God, and remind us how to be patient with God’s plan, not to mention the lady on the phone who’s trying to process my order to move my internet service from one house to the new house….

We’re about to embark on a new adventure, a journey together that will take us in directions we may never have imagined or chosen for ourselves.  Right now we may not see the “cairns” demarking the way we should go, and there will probably be times of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and even disappointment… but wherever God leads us, one thing is for sure: God’s provision will be faithful and sure!

Thank you to all the good people of O’Fallon First for all you have already done to welcome us and prepare the way for the journey ahead.  You have been a “little water in a cup” for thirsty spirits.

In Surrender to Christ,

Pastor Don E. Long, Jr.

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Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House

This month the mission committee is highlighting charities in East St. Louis. Recently, Bill Kreeb, the current director of Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House took the mission committee on a guided, narrated tour of Neighborhood House, Trinity Outreach, the Griffin Center, and the Christian Activity Center. He provided a bus and driver to shuttle us from site to site as he rode along and gave us information about the history of each charity and it’s current functions and needs. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the tour and learned a lot. All were impressed with the dedication of the staff and how much is being given to lift people out of poverty in the East St. Louis area. It made all of us want to help more by volunteering in one of these charities. Although all the charities and programs viewed were impressive, the Lessie Bates Davis program has a special place in our hearts as it is a Methodist supported mission. The committee hopes to soon have a list of volunteer opportunities or “jobs” to share with FUMC congregation that are needed at Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House.

 

According to the Lessie Bates Davis website, the mission of LBDNH is to empower individuals and families to move out of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency. There are thousands of children and families in East St. Louis who are suffering tremendous hardships, who often have no one to turn to, and have given up hope. As a United Methodist Center, the Neighborhood House believes that “in God’s Name all things are possible.” This mission addresses the immediate and long term physical and spiritual needs of youth and families.

 

The LBDNH programs are located in five buildings in East St. Louis. The main office is at 1200 North 13th Street. The Neighborhood House addresses basic human needs by providing food; clothing and emergency help with medical, utility and rent expenses and school supplies. They often need volunteers for their food pantry, especially in the summer months when Americorp volunteers are not available.

 

Additionally, Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House provides training and support for new and young parents with high risk predictors for abuse and neglect, operate quality pre-school programs and run after-school enrichment programs for teens. They help troubled youth, ages 11 to 17, by working with individual families utilizing the case management approach. They assist individuals with job searches, access to job training and employment coaching. Until recently, the homemakers program provided the elderly with in-home household care, transportation to help them remain in their homes, a day care program offering healthy activities for seniors with disabilities and respite for caregivers. Unfortunately, due to the state not paying what it owes Neighborhood House, the programs for the elderly had to be discontinued. Recently 117 employees of LBDNH were laid off due to lack of funding.

 

In each program, LBDNH uses the wraparound approach when dealing with the client. They provide multiple services to individuals and their families to ensure quality of life and improved outcomes. Finally, the LBDNH works with other regional agencies when applying for grants, in order to use funds effectively and efficiently. They attempt to address needs region-wide and to foster cooperation among organizations. Neighborhood House employees have many stories of transforming lives with their services and efforts. Let’s help support this amazing charity that is doing God’s work.

 

We will be collecting donations for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House during the month of June. You can place your donation in the container located in the Helping Hallway. If you would like to make a monetary donation please make the check to FUMC and then mark Lessie Bates Davis on the envelope and in the “For” line of the check. If you would like to volunteer at one of the programs at LBDNH, or have questions, please contact Linda Gruchala at missions@offumc.org. The following donations are needed:

  • Disposable diapers, pull ups, wipes, lotion, shampoo, baby wash.
  • Sheets/Quilts for cribs
  • Infant layettes, baby swing and/or bouncer, baby bottles, bibs, socks
  • Educational toys, books, puzzles
  • Canned goods & non-perishable food items
  • Blankets, fans, bed linens, towels

 

Blessings,

The Mission Committee