Hey Brother…Hey Sister

wood-wool-1186917_1280

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

 

Stephen Ministry

Stephen-Ministry-Page-2
Are you hurting or do you have a friend who is hurting from one of life’s challenges, such as, divorce, death of a loved one, poor health, unemployment or family problems? Some times we just need someone to talk to about our problems and concerns. If so, please consider a fabulous resource we have at OFFUMC called Stephen Ministry. You can request a Stephen Minister or suggest it to a friend at any time.

 

Stephen Ministry a one-on-one lay caring ministry that takes place within congregations that use the STEPHEN SERIES system. Stephen Ministry congregations equip and empower lay caregivers- called Stephen Ministers- to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ- centered care to people who are hurting and going through tough times for a variety of reasons.

 

We at O’Fallon First United Methodist Church have been blessed to have a group of caring men and women who have received specialized training to meet with their special care receiver confidentially, usually in the care-receivers home or other mutually agreed upon quiet location, once a week for an hour.

 

Care receivers are people (congregation members and others in the community) who receive care from a Stephen Minster. These are people struggling through a difficult time in life, experiencing grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or some other life crisis.

 

It is very important to note that the relationship between a care-receiver and the Stephen Minister is confidential. Men are matched with men; women with women.

 

A person can request a Stephen Minister by contacting our church office, one of the pastors or asking a friend to make the connection. Or, you can call Mike Mobley at (618) 418-2325, email him at mobley4@gmail.com, or reach Margaret Finley at (314) 640-7040, email her at finofc1706@sbcglobal.net.

 

Jesus said: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. (Galatians 6:2)

A Stephen Ministry journey can have unexpected results.

StephenMinistry3

About eleven years ago I was looking for a new church home. On my very first visit to O’Fallon First United Methodist Church, Linda Isbell got up and asked for volunteers to train for Stephen Ministry. I had been interested in becoming a Stephen Minister, after learning of the program from a friend. I thought it would be an excellent substitute as I had first majored in psychology. I had found my new church home and a new journey.

During training we shared personal information while pairing off in a semblance of Stephen Ministry encounters. The bonds formed with my fellow trainees during role playing remains in effect to this day. This was a particularly great outcome for me as a newcomer.

The first time I met with a new care receiver, I was nervous. How could I expect a stranger to confide in me? But we are trained to pray before each encounter and that got me through every time. It really taught me to focus on the other person’s needs. I would like to think that has carried over into my private life as well.

Over the years I have had several care receivers and they have all been remarkably resilient women. I have been privileged to witness their personal faith journey during some very difficult times. Whether it was dealing with the grief of multiple deaths or divorce or an abusive husband or medical problems, I was there to offer support as a confidential friend. Training teaches us that we are the care givers, but Jesus is the cure giver!

These women have trusted me with painful confidences and with their friendship. Any age differences were never a factor. Even after the organized caring relationship has ended most relationships continue as friendships.

Sharing with someone during this process can be difficult, particularly if the care receiver is having a really bad time or they can’t envision an end to their problems. A friend of mine talks about walking around the park for two hours while the care receiver said the same thing over and over and over again. Most of us have friends who will come to our aid in a minute. However, those same friends might not be willing to listen to you rehash your woes. It can be difficult to be an active, caring listener, so Stephen Ministry has built in Peer Supervision once or twice a month that provides the Stephen Ministers an outlet. We gather to de-stress and support each other. These people have become my friends and my “small group”.

Nine years ago I attended the leadership training course, which among other things was supposed to give me the tools to make referrals; match a new care receiver with a care giver. Well it doesn’t. Prayer is the only tool that works. I believe all the care receivers I have matched with care givers, received the best bonding because of answered prayers. Those prayers provided the care receiver with someone of the right temperament, acceptance and faith to be the right care giver for them, especially when you consider they begin as strangers and the bonding can span years.

Several years ago the Stephen Ministers, at the request of the pastors, visited hospitalized church members. We even read a very practical book, Bedside Manners by Katie Maxwell. Most of the visits I made were not too difficult; however one elderly patient who was extremely hard of hearing and had a roommate wanted me to pray out loud. Praying out loud is not one of my gifts, but as has happened in every situation Stephen Ministry has placed me in, God provided what was needed.

When I started writing this piece, I did not know what direction it would take. All of the Stephen Ministers have their own reason for being a Stephen Minister and they each have learned and/or gained something from it. For me it has been a prayer journey.

Blessings,

Lois Ridenour

Me 2013

What Does a Healthy City Look Like?

convoy

Recently I was in a mission related meeting and we were asked to describe what a healthy city looks like.  Some say employment opportunities, others said good schools but one person summed it up pretty well.  “A healthy city is where people can spend family time, go to work, go to school, visit parks, and enjoy working around their own homes.  In other words people are busy doing things.” Now you can answer that question in many different ways but it is also important to remember that a healthy city takes care of those that might need a little extra help.

Over the years I have learned that O’Fallon 1st UMC is a very caring and generous congregation.  I hear Pastor Ron Dickinson challenge us many times from the pulpit that we are all missionaries which leads me to think about the scripture from Matthew 9:37 – Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”  Of course this is Jesus talking to his disciples so in turn I believe Jesus is talking to us and He is telling us that there is still much to be accomplished for His Kingdom.  O’Fallon and the surrounding communities have a huge opportunity coming up in August to be missionaries and maybe for some an occasion to step out of their comfort zone. Convoy of Hope is a collaborative effort with Metro-East churches and businesses partnering to bring hope to those in need.  This one day event will be Saturday August 15 in the O’Fallon City Park and will be a daylong event.  Officials expect to host between four and six thousand Metro East residents offering those in need free groceries, haircuts, family portraits, job training advice, plus there will be a “Kid’s Zone” play area.  There will also health screening, a free lunch, plus the Veterans Administration will be on hand to assist our Veteran population.

We look at Matthew 22:36-40 and we find this passage:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Convoy of Hope will be a day of neighbors helping neighbors.   O’Fallon 1st UMC signed up to organize and staff the Jobs and Career Services area.  We will be working out of a 40 x 60 tent plus there will be workshops in a 20 x 20 tent.  An example of the agencies committed to the Job and Career Services area include staffing agencies, colleges, GED learning centers, age 55+ job training and Veterans services. This is not a job fair nor will employers be on hand to offer jobs. The focus of this area is to provide job readiness and employ-ability advice to help people prepare to obtain employment.  There will be one-on-one assistance plus various workshops available to those that are interested.   The target population is anyone looking for ways to prepare for a job or a better job.

Convoy of Hope will need as many as 750 volunteers doing various task around the event.  In the Jobs and Career Services area alone we will need approximately 60 volunteers.   We will offer child care in our tent so we will need people that can work with children while parents visit employment experts.  We will need Roaming Ambassadors that will walk the event grounds greeting guests with a smile and introduce them to the Job & Career Services Area.  They will hand out flyers and talk to people.  We will also need a clean-up crew.  If you are interested in working in the many other event areas we can point you to the appropriate team leader.

August 15th will be a big day for O’Fallon and the Metro-East.  Churches and businesses will come together to serve one God.  Neighbors will come together to walk alone side those that need a little help right now.  If you want to be part of the great event please let one of us know – Ron Fontenot email ronbo3@prodigy.net, Jane Jung email jschoeck@ccstl.org or call Denney Cowden at 618-616-1881.

I’m reminded of this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. –

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve….You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you,

Ron Fontenot

ron