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