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.

The Stress and Opposition of New

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The Stress and Opposition of New

By: Pastor Don

 

A New Year is upon us, and with it comes so many NEW opportunities.  We like to focus on new beginnings—because who doesn’t like something new.  But “new” can also breed uncertainty and unpredictability.   Remember what Forrest Gump’s mother said, “Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get.”  Not knowing can be stress inducing, and we’re prone to play defense against the unknowns.

I’ve been reading The Book of Joy by Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama with Douglas Abrams, and in it Bishop Tutu said, “that nothing beautiful, in the end comes without a measure of some pain, some frustration, some suffering.”  He went on to talk about a lesson he learned from prenatal researcher Pathik Wadhwa, who noted that the stress and opposition of our prenatal development are exactly what initiate our development in utero.  Our stem cells do not differentiate to become us without stress to encourage them to do so.  The Bishop said: “without stress and opposition, complex life like ours would never have developed.  We would never have come into being.” (pg. 45).

I remember reading something like this while helping Zachary study biology last semester.  Cell division (growth) is stimulated when injury occurs.  When there is a cut in the skin, or a break in a bone, cells at the edges of the injury are stimulated to divide rapidly.  Growth occurs through stress and opposition.

I like to remember God’s word through the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (43: 9) And Jesus’ words in Revelation, “Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5).

The new think God is doing, and the way Jesus is making all things new sounds so good!  It’s like the “newness” of all those new Christmas presents.  But what about those times when “new” brings stress and opposition?  When the uncertainty and unpredictability of “new” squeezes the comfort out of our existence?

Maybe those are exactly the ways God go is using to grow us.  It’s at the edge of injury that growth occurs; it’s by stress growth is initiated; it’s in the face of opposition that growth is strengthened.  And it’s in those places of injury, stress, opposition, uncertainty and unpredictability that Jesus says, “fear not! for I am with you.”  Remember God is doing a new thing; Jesus is making all things new, and growth is happening, even amidst some measure of pain, frustration, and suffering.

November Mission Corner

Matthew 25:40      “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell youwhatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

Think back to how you felt on Christmas morning, when you finally got to open up those beautifully-wrapped gifts under the tree. The anticipation, excitement, and joy carried you through the previous weeks as well as the days that followed. You may also have had special foods, holiday treats and parties, and visits from friends and family.

Now imagine you’re in a small, empty apartment in O’Fallon, with no tree and no gifts, and no prospects for either. Or in a remote village in Albania, Algeria, or Appalachia, with no money for gifts or decorations or special Christmas meals. Before you say, “I can’t really do much about any of those things,” let me assure you, you can. One Giving Tree gift or one Operation Christmas Child shoebox at a time, you can make this Christmas special, joyful, and memorable for a child in need.

The Giving Tree program is our LOCAL Christmas mission to children in the O’Fallon school district. Each year the number of local families in need grows and Christmas is a particularly hard time for them when they cannot afford gifts for their children. These families give us clothing and toy suggestions to buy for their children. This anonymous information is given to individual members of our church who volunteer to shop for and wrap gifts.

 

You can sign up at church to provide two gifts for a child (or children), totaling not more than $45 per child. In late November, we provide you the clothing size, age, and needs of the children. You then purchase and wrap the gifts, and bring them to church by December 11.  Volunteers deliver the gifts to the families prior to Christmas. In 2015, gifts were given to 225 local children!

 

Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide mission project of the Samaritan’s Purse organization. Simply pick up one or more of the red and green shoeboxes from church, fill them with a variety of kid-friendly gifts (toys, puzzles, crafts, and personal care items), and return them with a check or cash for postage. The pamphlets available with the boxes at church contain packing suggestions, shipping costs, and labels for each of your boxes. You may also pack the goodies in shoebox-sized plastic, re-sealable tubs. Filled boxes are due to the church by November 14.

 

The shoeboxes are sent to over 160 countries around the world, and delivered directly to the children. For most of these kids, this is the only Christmas they will have. We have been blessed at FUMC to participate in this project for years, typically filling between 200-300 boxes. It’s a great mission to do with your children, Scout troop, or Bible study group, as well as with families. We learned first-hand what a huge difference these shoeboxes can make for an individual child when one of our Rotary foreign exchange students from the Baltic region shared her story of having received one as a child, and how much it meant to her.

 

Please prayerfully consider participating in either or both of these ministries this holiday season. Your gift can mean the world to a child.

In The Meantime What Are We Waiting For

 

By Ron Fontenot November 4, 2016
 

Ron Fontenot writes that O’Fallon First United Methodist Church is at a crossroads in the life of the church and it may be time for O’Fallon First to reinvent itself and engage the community and build covenantal relationships that will lead people to Jesus Christ.

 

“We are not here by accident. God put us here for a purpose.”  You may have heard this phrase before but let’s think about what it means to O’Fallon First UMC.   I use this phrase often to encourage those around me doing the messy work of helping others.  “God put you right here in this situation for a purpose.”  We read in Ephesians 1:4 “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world…”  We are not here by accident, wherever here is.  God has a plan for us.

 

Just as God has a plan for each of us He has a plan for O’Fallon First.  We have many opportunities to interact and build relationships and make disciples with the people living just outside our church doors.  Just as John Wesley, we must view the community as our congregation.  “I look upon all the world as my parish” John Wesley (Journal, June 11, 1739).  Pastor Don Long in a recent sermon reminded us of our membership covenant with the church to faithfully participate in its ministries by (1) prayers (2) presence (3) gifts (4) service and (5) witness.  We must certainly pray and discern where God is calling O’Fallon First but we must also consider The Great Commission which is found in Matthew 28.  Basically, Jesus tells us “go and make disciples” which is the witness part of our membership covenant.  Charles T. Studd, a British missionary, is attributed to have said “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”

 

I believe we are at a crossroads in the life of our church and God is calling O’Fallon First to reinvent itself and engage the community and build covenantal relationships that will lead people to Jesus Christ.  The answer is right outside the church’s front doors but how do we make our church vital to the community is the question.  Maybe the answer is more community activities that serve the community’s needs.  Jesus didn’t invite people to attend a worship service but He met people in their environment and offered warmth and compassion.   Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 tell us what we should be doing: “Therefore, go and make disciples….”  We don’t need to spend a lot of time and energy crafting words and coming up with a pithy mission or vision statement for our church.  The UMC Book of Discipline makes it clear:  “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”    We need to spend more time trying to align our “caring” ministries to meet the needs of the O’Fallon community while at the same time follow Nehemiah’s example in 2:13.  We need to spend time on prayer walks, listening, analyzing, discovering, how best we can assist those in need.   Here are some ideas and I look forward to your feedback.

 

Perhaps we can look to the Chevy Chase Apartments to follow Jesus’ footsteps.  Chevy Chase Apartments, located behind Dean Foods – Pet Dairy along State Street, which has 52 units, all of which are Section 8 assisted living units. Wouldn’t it be great if our church had a building located in the neighborhood to offer a meal, a small food pantry, and maybe a thrift shop?  It is about building relationships.

 

Perhaps we should look within the walls of O’Fallon Township High School.  We hear how successful the sports programs are and we read about all the wonderful accomplishments the band enjoys but we seldom hear about the child that comes from a broken home and is struggling in many ways.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could start an after school program that includes tutoring and mentorship?

 

Perhaps we should look inside the O’Fallon Senior Apartments, the low income senior living facility across the street from our church, to the elderly which are often times alone.  Offer a potluck once a month, start a pie ministry, or adopt a senior to spend time with are just a few suggestions that will allow time to build a relationship.

 

God didn’t put O’Fallon First on Highway 50, across from O’Fallon Township High School, across from the Chevy Chase Apartments, across from the O’Fallon Senior Apartments by accident.  Perhaps it is time to rethink our purpose and refocus our prayer time, our Bible Studies, small groups, and conversations to look outward to the community.   O’Fallon First is richly blessed with many “caring” ministries, but are we doing “transformational” ministry?  Are we learning the names and situations of those we serve?  Are we building relationships?  How do we put our beliefs into action?  Church doesn’t just happen from inside the building on Sunday mornings. Church happens when we reach out to those who are hungry, sick or forgotten. Church happens when we open our hearts to those who are struggling.  Are you with me?  I welcome your feedback.

 

“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

Praying In the Moment

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“I’ll pray for you…”  This is an often-used phrase, but how often do you actually fulfill this promise?  I know that some of you are very good at actually doing this, but I want to acknowledge how hard it is.  It can be so easy to make this promise, with great intentions, but then lose momentum in the busyness of life.  We get distracted and forget our original promise.

So, here is a challenge for you.  Try praying on the spot.  Make it short and quick, no more than a sentence or two.  Lift up a prayer for the concern that someone has lifted.

This lets others know, not only that you care, but that you really mean what you say.  Most people (even those who are not connected to any church) really appreciate being prayed for in the moment.  I know that this is a challenge.  It isn’t easy to pray out loud, but I also believe that it makes a meaningful difference to others who receive the prayer.  So, let us challenge ourselves to pray for people in their moment of need.

Looking for Prayer Volunteers
If you are interested in helping to build the prayer ministry of our church by praying during the worship service, please contact Pastor Becky.  I would love to have a team that would pray for our church and worship during this time.  You can email me at rwilliams@offumc.org.

Blessings,
Pastor Becky Williams

“Building a Team for Christ”

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“Building a Team for Christ” was the theme for Friday night’s church tailgate. This event took place in our East parking lot prior to the OTHS homecoming varsity football game.

This was the second annual tailgate hosted by the Wednesday night Methodist Men’s Group, which is 11 members strong. Our group provided hamburgers, hotdogs, cheeseburgers, chips, cookies, and water for all that attended. Many members of our youth group used social media to advertise the event, as a result we had dozens of Jr high students from multiple schools in attendance. Many O’Fallon Little Panther football players, coaches, and cheerleaders enjoyed the tailgate, as did many O’Fallon community members.

As mentioned, the theme of the event was “Building a Team for Christ” and the scripture of Matthew 18 verse 20 which says “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Thankfully, we had several hundred people gather to see Jesus working!

Many members of the church family pitched in and helped, whether it was prepping/wrapping sandwiches, face painting, helping gather trash, or with set up and teardown of table and chairs. The event was a huge success, we served about 400 sandwiches in total and even made restocking runs to the grocery store during the event to meet the demand.

As a result of this event, our church was able to build an even bigger team for Christ!!! GREAT JOB First United Methodist Church Family.

Blessings,
Matt Cornell

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