Learning to Walk His Way

If you weren’t around OFFUMC during “Walk this Way” Vacation Bible School, you missed a fun-filled, faith-filled week where kids followed the footsteps of the Apostle Paul to walk with Jesus.  If you’d like to know more about the hearts that were changed and the relationships that were built, find a VBS volunteer and ask about their experience.  Here’s what to look for:

How to Spot an OFFUMC VBS Volunteer

vbs register

The Green T-shirt:  During the week of June 6-10, 70+ youth and adult volunteers donned a “Walk this Way” T and answered Jesus’ call to minister to the children of O’Fallon.  You won’t have to search long to find someone that was involved.

painting vbs

The Residual Paint:  Volunteers shared Jesus’ story in a variety of creative ways.  Whether it was painting feet or stamping hands, volunteers weren’t afraid to get a little messy to illustrate Bible truths.

vbs relay

The Sore Muscles:  Playing duck-duck-goose, running relays, and dancing all day can be tough on the body but good for the spirit.  VBS Volunteers brought new meaning to “actively” sharing their faith.

vbs singing

The Singing:  If you hear some humming in the halls of OFFUMC, it might be one of our VBS volunteers remembering the great music that accompanied the curriculum.  The church’s Contemporary Worship Praise Team led worship for the elementary school students each morning and had everyone singing praises to the Lord.

vbs shoes

The Bare Feet:  The Shoeman Water Project was the mission focus of this year’s Bible School.  Each day kids put themselves in the shoes of a child in an impoverished country to learn what hardships they face in acquiring clean water.  With hearts of compassion, VBS goers collected shoes that will be sold to raise money to build wells in underdeveloped areas.  On Friday, kids and volunteers “walked out of their shoes,” left them at the altar as an offering to the Lord, and exited the church barefoot.

vbs volunteers

The Smile:  Volunteering time and energy to show Christ’s love to 160 community children can be tiring.  When trying to spot a volunteer, however, don’t look for tired eyes.  The huge smiles on their faces outshine any exhaustion!


Stacy Robinson
Children & Family Coordinator

stacy bubbles2


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.


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

Hey Brother…Hey Sister


I was listening to Avicii song “Hey Brother” and I started thinking about how we are all brothers and sisters. That we are all connected, that when a great tragedy happens, we are all impacted. As I travel in this existence I attempt to help my brothers and sisters out. What if you saw everyone in the world as someone you loved and cared about. That we realized everyone wants to connect in some way and sometimes its the lack of connection that creates misery.

The other day my wife and I ate at a restaurant and an older couple came in. The lady was attempting to get out of her wheel chair, but the step on her wheelchair was in the way. I got up and simply moved the step and assisted her. I started to help her off with her coat but someone else said they had it. That simple gesture got me thanked a few times. Even when we were leaving they said thank you and etc. Never neglect those simple actions.

Which had me thinking how sometimes we have allowed life to teach us the wrong lessons. Which is why I love children for the way they teach us to love. They teach us so much about love and trust. I’ve had children come up and hug my leg. They offer smiles, waves, and giggles for no other reason than to return a kindness. They speak to the heart of our nature. Yes sometimes selfish, but capable of kindness, love, and sharing. Children are always learning and exploring with a sense of wonderment. I still love to learn, explore, and approach things with a sense of wonderment. I guess a part of me never really grew up.

Another lesson from children, toddlers will play with any other child and I’ve even watched them attempt to help another stop crying and show great concern when they see another crying or in pain. When did we start to lose some of that trait? When did we start turning a blind eye to things like poverty and various other suffering? Why is it that the crying has to be loud enough for us to hear like a big tragedy to open our eyes to our brothers and sisters?

Studies show we close them again weeks after. Organizations that help others have a short window after a tragedy to attempt to get resources from volunteers and donations before our eyes turn else where. Thanksgiving and Christmas season we are great at giving to food pantries and helping those in need, but the new year rolls around and by summer those hands are still outstretched yet the shelves are bare. Why?

Matthew 25:31-46 talks about helping the least of us. It speaks of helping our brothers and sisters. In verse 40 he even lets us know that we are all connected through him “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Though he goes further to tell us what our neglect leads to in verses 45 and 46. “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

The righteous weren’t those that led perfect lives, showed how much better they were than others, drove fancy cars, or etc. They were the ones that helped the least of our brothers and sisters. They were the ones that offered a hand to the one outstretched. They helped lift up their brothers and sisters instead of turning a blind eye. I don’t think that those verses meant only in great tragedy or special times of year but to always help the least of our brothers and sisters when we can.

I’ve found many things in the Bible, especially from Christ, have an interesting twist. They are designed to not only help others, but to help us. Science demonstrates that helping others helps us deal with our own stress, mourning, and hurts. In one case there were 50 studies headed by Stephen G. Post, PhD that studied the effects of altruism, benevolence, compassion, generosity, and kindness. Post says “There are ample studies showing that when people receive generosity and compassion, there is a positive effect on their health and well-being,”

Helping others helps us. It helps reduce disease, helps improve mood, and elevates stress for all those involved. The twist that lies in many of Christ’s lessons are not only for the benefit of others but our own soul and well being. Christ died and rose again to save us from sin, he also left a legacy before that moment, lessons on how to follow him and accept him. The core of those lessons is helping the least of our brothers and sisters without judgement or grand standing, but to truly heal another soul.

This Easter while we celebrate the sacrifice Christ made for us, go out and share his great love with others in your actions. Share love, kindness, a smile, and help those with an outstretched hand.

Happy Easter.

With kindness,
Tyrone Castle


No longer wander in the darkness.


We have all looked out windows in the predawn or post sunset times and seen darkness – well, at least we have not seen light.  Darkness.  Can you imagine stumbling around to find one’s way in utter darkness?  We need lights to see. Yard lights, flashlights, headlights, or other illumination devices all help us to find our way when we cannot see our way otherwise.


God cares about our being able to overcome darkness.  He gave us light.  “I form the light and make the dark.”  (Isaiah 45:7)  “When God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was a shapeless, chaotic mass, with the Spirit of God brooding over the dark vapors.  Then God said, “Let there be light.”  And light appeared.  And God was pleased with it, and divided the light from the darkness.  He called the light “daytime,” and the darkness “nighttime.”  (Genesis 1)


Do you live in a chaotic emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, and/or relational mess?  Please remember this at this Lenten Season:  “I have come as a Light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer wander in the darkness.”  John 12:46


Jesus was resurrected.  He arose to victory so that we might have victory over sin, and death and hell.  Things that are the darkest.  He brought us resurrection LIGHT and LIFE.  Maybe it is your moment to recognize that His Light can overcome any darkness you may be in.


Happy Easter,

Ron and Phyllis

God’s Beautiful Masterpiece

kids mural

Working with kids can be unpredictable.  It never fails that an unexpected question arises during a children’s sermon, that a heartfelt prayer request surfaces during circle time, or that an unplanned activity becomes the highlight of an event.  This variety is one of my favorite parts of my job and is often the place where the most teachable moments are found.

Last Sunday, as I was preparing for 4th/5th grade youth group, I knew there was the possibility for the perfect storm of unpredictability…a group of preteens and an afternoon of painting.  The end goal was to collaboratively produce a mural for use as the back drop for the Resurrection during the upcoming “Experience Easter.”  Some very gifted artists, our church’s own Kenzie Park and OTHS art teacher Nikki Witty, volunteered their expertise, mixed some paints, and formulated a plan for what our sunrise would look like.  Outfitted in old clothes and filled with enthusiasm, the kids arrived eager to dig in.

Each beginning with their own cup of paint and in their own section of canvas, the most unpredictable thing happened.  It worked!  Chunks of green melted together forming patches of shade and sunlight.  A hodgepodge of colors blended into a sunrise that would make Monet proud.  Maybe Kenzie and Nikki saw this coming, but I was completely taken aback that 10 kids and a pack of sponges from Dollar Tree produced such a beautiful creation.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  After all, the church’s theme this month was “Cooperation.”  The Bible tells “two are better than one because they have a good return on their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9), and the example set by the early church in Acts shows how Christians can work together.

I am so thankful that I was witness to a little microcosm of Christian cooperation last week.  I pray the world can know the beauty of individuals, with their own colorful palates, blending together to create God’s perfect masterpiece.




P.S.  Come to “Experience Easter,” Palm Sunday, March 20 from 9:30 – 11 in the Family Life Center to see the kids’ mural.  With various groups from within the church hosting stations to trace Jesus’ steps through Holy Week, it’s sure to be another example of what good can come when we work together to tell God’s story.

2016 experience easter

Bearing with one another in love

Love one another…Love must be sincere…Love is patient… love is kind…Love does no harm to a neighbor…love covers over a multitude of sins…Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity…Do everything in love… speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

I was speaking with someone the other day when favourite verses entered the conversation briefly. Their favourite verse is Phillipians 4:13. I said I don’t really have one. I find different verses for different times, but then I paused and thought about it. Actually I do have one or at least one that ranks highest and comes to mind the most. ” And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.

So as I was thinking about how much emphasis is put on using material things to show your love during February. My wife will tell you that love for me doesn’t lie in material objects but in moments, experiences, and sharing love. I give kindness to as many people as I can throughout my day. I follow a website called Kind Spring that promotes random acts of kindness and they have smile cards you can order to leave for people when you do a random act of kindness. The smile card tags them to do one themselves.

Love is the greatest of these comes to mind quite often. I think about the love I’ve received from a stranger, love shown from co-workers, family, and more. I believe one of the reasons we were told not to judge others, is because judgement hinders love and it blocks understanding, and even worse it can hurt others. So I try very hard not to judge, to place stereotypes, and not to say things that would hurt others.

This world is filled with plenty of things that hurt and move us away from love. Love is the greatest of these. So with a dash of Faith, a smidge of Hope, and a hefty amount of Love and mix that together for a better world. I would challenge you for the month of February to do random acts of kindness, take a moment to listen to a stranger, to share love and kindness even when you think you don’t have time. Every day do one act of love for someone else.

Remember… Love one another…Love must be sincere…Love is patient… love is kind…Love does no harm to a neighbor…love covers over a multitude of sins…Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity…Do everything in love… speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
With Kindness & Love,

ty blog church