Convoy of Hope 2017

Hot in the Park

CONVOY OF HOPE 2017

Convoy of Hope is once again coming to our area. As you may remember, in 2015 this event took place in O’Fallon Park, and O’Fallon First United Methodist Church was very involved. This year’s event will take place on July 22, 2017 in East St. Louis at the Jackie Joyner Kersee Center. Again, O’Fallon First United Methodist Church will be very involved spiritually, financially and in physical ways. Pastor Don has committed our church to support Convoy of Hope financially, and our Mission Committee has pledged $1000 toward this commitment. Pastor Becky is working on the Children’s Backpack Team that will distribute a backpack to each child who attends the event. Gordon and Margaret Finley are the leaders of The Children’s Shoes Team. They and their team will be responsible for sizing, fitting and distributing shoes to about 3,000 children to enable each child to receive one new pair of shoes for the new school year. The shoes are donated by THOM’S Shoes’ but volunteers will be needed to service the booth—greeting families, measuring the children, and issuing the shoes.

What is Convoy of Hope? Convoy of Hope is a faith-based, nonprofit international outreach program founded in 1994, in Springfield, Missouri, to interact with financially challenged people in many ways to try and help them become empowered to live independent lives, free from poverty, disease and hunger. Communities all over the United States participate to support Convoy of Hope. This year’s East St. Louis event is headed by the O’Fallon IL Assembly of God Church and will involve people, businesses and especially churches from throughout the Metro East. The vision and goal is to reach over 6,000 people who need help. The vision is to have 100 Metro East churches working together on July 22d with 1500 volunteers serving side by side helping others. We hope to have 40 businesses helping sponsor this event. The estimated budget for this gigantic outreach program is $55,000. For more information, please visit https://www.convoyofhope.org/ .

This event on 22 July 2017 is free and open to the public for our surrounding communities. Many services will be provided at this event in addition to distributing backpacks and children’s shoes. Some of the other services include: groceries, health services; veteran services, job and career services, haircuts, family portraits, nutrition education, and many other activities.

Over the next several months you can expect to see more information about Convoy of Hope. The month of April has been designated as a special emphasis to provide Convoy of Hope information in local churches. At this time, please keep Convoy of Hope East St. Louis in your prayers. if you have suggestions for additional activities or services, there may still be time to incorporate those, so feel free to make them. And please consider other ways you can help by volunteering to serve on the day of the event in the Children’s Backpack booth, the Children’s Shoe booth or myriad other areas of the event. Whether or not you can attend and work on 22 July, please consider making an individual financial donation. For more information or to volunteer to work in many areas you may visit the Convoy of hope web site. You may also contact Margaret and Gordon Finley at 314-640-7040.

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.

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

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

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

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

July Mission Corner

So many great things are happening in our church regarding missions and outreach. We recently had a team of four people go to Poland to help with the Indian Village enrichment Vacation Bible school. Between contributions from the mission budget and several fund raisers, over $10,000 was contributed by our church to the Indian Village mission.

 

Furthermore, the youth just returned from their mission trip to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In addition to having time to bond as a group while having some fun by playing in the ocean, going to a concert, and going to a water park, they also worked a number of full days helping others in the community. Some jobs included working at a Thrift Shop, labeling water bottles with Bible verses, passing out the bottles on the beach, working at an animal shelter, painting and pulling weeds at a safe house. What an awesome trip for our youth!

 

An exciting event that most of our church family will be able to participate is the Running 4 God 5K run/walk on August 20th.  The run/walk will start at 8:30 a.m. at the church parking lot and the route is in the Southview Garden neighborhood behind the church. Preregistration is $25 or $30 the morning of the event. All proceeds will go to Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House.  As reviewed last month, Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist community center in East St. Louis whose mission is to empower individuals and families to move out of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency. This is an event in which all ages can participate and we hope all will come to participate and support this event. Registration forms are available outside the sanctuary, in the church office and will be offered on-line on the church website July 1st.

 

Are you interested in taking a mission trip to help people living in poverty in the Appalachia Mountains? If so, Save This Date, July 9th 2017! The mission committee is planning to take a team of mission minded people to the Henderson Settlement in Kentucky July 9-15, 2017. The cost will be approximately $300 per person and open to adults or families with children ages 11 years old and up. The Henderson Settlement is a Methodist Mission site in the Appalachia Mountains and serves people living in poverty in that area. There are volunteer opportunities for all ability and fitness levels so even seniors (like me) will have meaningful work to do at Henderson. More information will be provided about this exciting mission as plans are finalized.

 

Currently, there is a need for volunteers at the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood Food Pantry, located in East St. Louis. The Americorp students who work there during the school year are not available during July so there is no one to hand out food at the pantry. The food pantry is open M/W/F 10am-12pm but we have the Wednesday mornings filled. If you are available any Monday or Friday mornings to help in July, please contact Linda Gruchala at 618-558-8190. If enough people offer to help then we will pair up individuals to ride and work together. Volunteers will need to arrive at the food pantry by 9 am to help prepare.

 

God is good and is working through many people in our church to help others in need!

 

Blessings,

Linda Gruchala and the Mission/Outreach Committee