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

His Word is a lamp

fireworks-227383_1280.jpgThe best Fourth of July fireworks show I ever saw was on a mountaintop in Colorado.  The summer after my first year in seminary, I worked with a program called A Christian Ministry in National Parks.  The program trains college and seminary students to provide worship for people camping in the National Parks.  I was blessed with the opportunity to live for the summer in Estes Park and work in Rocky Mountain National Park.  On July 4th, I went with a group of friends on a hike up a mountain to watch the fireworks.  It was an impressive display.  We could see 4 different shows at once.

 

On the way back down the mountain, we encountered some trouble.  It turned out that between myself and two other friends we only had two flashlights, and one of those flashlights barely worked.  We had a five-mile hike ahead of us, down a dark and twisting rocky path, and we were without adequate light.

 

However, I learned something very important that night.  When you are going on a five-mile hike, you don’t need to see the whole path at once.  You only need to see one step in front of you.  As I thought about this lesson, I remembered a conversation I’d had with my seminary professor right before I left for the summer.  I confessed to him that I was scared about going into ministry and unsure what the future would hold.  He responded by explaining to me Psalm 119:105.  (“Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light for my path.”)  He told me that the lamps they used in this time were small little oil lamps that shone only a few feet in the darkness.  Often God doesn’t show us the whole path all at once.  Usually we get a just a few feet at a time.

 

As I hiked down the mountain with my friends, I learned that you really can hike a mountain only seeing a few feet at a time.  I should also mention that when we were maybe 2/3 of the way to the bottom, another group came behind us with headlamps.  They taught me two things.  One: if you are night-hiking, wear a headlamp!  Two, the journey is always easier when you have someone else’s light to brighten your path.

 

I tell you that story in order to say, that as we begin a new ministry journey together I feel like I’m holding a dim flashlight and peering into the darkness.  I trust that it will be a fun and exciting journey together, but I can’t see what will happen.  In the midst of my joy in coming to O’Fallon, I also have fears and doubts.  There will be some challenges in this new chapter of ministry.  I am peering into the darkness.

 

However, in spite of the darkness, I have two strong promises.  One, God has given us a light for our path.  God’s Word, the Bible, and Jesus, the Word of God, provide light for our path.  Second, I do not journey alone.  None of us know the future, but we do know that God has called us to journey together and share the light that we have seen.  And so, O’Fallon First United Methodist Church, let’s start hiking together!

Blessings,
Pastor Becky Williams
Associate Pastor

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Blessings,

Stacy Robinson
Children & Family Coordinator

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Missions for May

helpinghandsMatthew 25:37-40 “Then the righteous will answer him saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you: And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” 


 

Feeding the Hungry through involvement with the O’Fallon Food Pantry:

This month’s bulletin board theme is Feeding the Hungry. We are highlighting three ways in which our church is helping to feed others in need. One way is through our involvement with the O’Fallon Food Pantry.  Our church members have been very supportive of the food pantry by volunteering as well as making donations of food and money. Last year, our mission committee and individual church members donated a total of $9,830.00. Additionally, each Sunday, members of the congregation drop off food in our donation box (located in the Helping Hallway).

 

The pantry is blessed with dedicated volunteers from the church.  Many church members work at the pantry by serving clients, picking up bread from the local Schnucks, doing the weekly shopping for perishables (milk, eggs, meat), and by stocking the shelves of food. The average monthly food purchase by the Food Pantry for 2015 was $10,420.31. During the summer months some church members grow vegetables they donate to the pantry. Additionally, our volunteers help by sorting the food collected at the Scouting for Food and Postal food drives.  The food pantry could not operate without all of these amazing, dedicated volunteers.  At last count, we had 18 members from the church volunteering at the pantry. Our own Patty Strube is the vice president and coordinator of the Food Pantry and Larry Strube is the treasurer. The Food Pantry is a supplemental food source and clients are allowed to use the services once every 30 days.The pantry is located at the O’Fallon Township Building at 801 State Street and is open Monday from 9am-12pm, Tuesday/Friday 9am-3pm. They welcome new volunteers to work one (or more) 3 hour shifts a month or to assist with the weekly shopping for perishable food. You may contact the Food Pantry directly at 618-624-7040 to volunteer.

Helping the Children through involvement with Feed My Lambs:

Another fantastic FUMC mission is that of the Feed My Lambs program which is coordinated by Linda Kahley. This will be the third summer of “taking it to the streets ” of O’Fallon/ Shiloh. Our church partners with a group of seven other churches to deliver sack lunches to needy/hungry children in the summer. Linda Kahley coordinates with the local school administrators to identify the highest need areas. A group of approximately 25 dedicated FUMC volunteers make and deliver an average of 110 lunches each Thursday during the summer. The program is advertised through the local elementary and Jr High schools and at the Food Pantry. Volunteers assemble the lunches at the church and then deliver them to stops on two routes. Throughout the summer, we also share hygiene bags with donated travel size toiletries. The Skyline Church, one of our partners, uses our kitchen to prepare lunches each Monday. Thanks to funds from the Mission Committee and other generous donations, and our outstanding volunteers we are able to provide this local mission outreach. Volunteers are always welcomed in this mission and may contact Linda Kahley at lkahley@gmail.com.

 

Promoting Peace through involvement with Peace with Justice Sunday:

Finally, in May, we are recognizing Peace with Justice Sunday (May 22) which is celebrated by United Methodists world wide. Arizona border communities are facing social challenges causing them to be dramatically divided. In Liberian villages, citizens’ human rights are being violated. In local U.S. communities, women and girls are being bought and sold against their will. Moved by Christ’s love of every individual, and his mandate for us to love one another, the United Methodist Church is unwilling to turn a blind eye to injustice. Although we may lack the resources alone to effect change in a broken world, our giving to Peace with Justice is vital for the UMC to continue its global ministries of reconciliation. Because of the Peace with Justice Sunday offering, the people of The United Methodist Church are able to make a difference together by sowing seeds—and yielding fruit!—of peace.

 

When we give on Peace with Justice Sunday, our gift makes possible UMC’s critical kingdom work in the world. Because we give:

  • Methodists spearhead a peace ministry uniting Arizona border communities
  • United Methodists in Liberia are being equipped to implement the denomination’s Social Principles to address social-justice issue
  • Pennsylvania students are educating their community about sex-trafficking at home and abroad

These initiatives, and hundreds of other ones, are possible because of our donations.

Our Giving Makes Possible the Proclamation of Christ’s Peace.

The mission committee will be disbursing a donation to Peace with Justice. If you would like to make an additional personal donation on Peace with Justice Sunday, May 22, you may do so by writing “Peace with Justice” on your envelope, along with the amount and then dropping it in the collection basket.

 

I feel so blessed to be a part of this church with the kind hearted people so willing to give of themselves and their resources to help others. This love is what Christ wanted us to share.

 

Blessings,

Linda Gruchala

FUM Coordinator

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Limping for the Lord…

limping for the lord

 

So many volunteers working at the mission rummage sale Saturday and one of them came to me and said, “I know that there are many here who are limping for the Lord, but I just have to quit because of my back.”  I so understood what he meant and what he was going through…and he is young enough to be my son!!!  I was having my own issues with hip bursitis and others were aching in their knees, hips, shoulders and backs.  We had worked hours and hours all week long in preparation for this final sale day.  The spirits and work-joy was high even though the bodies were wearing down with tiredness and achiness.

 

There are many people who are more strong, able, capable, influential and the list goes on… but I have often found that God uses whoever is willing and making themselves available for His use.  He uses these precious ones mightily who come forth to volunteer.  We have no idea of the capabilities for victory and eternal worth of those who are willing to be servants in the Kingdom of God.  And the joy and blessing He gives back is waaaaay more than overbalanced compared to what we donate in the way of service efforts.

 

“So we do not give up.  Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day.  We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles.  We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see.  What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.”  (II Corinthians 4:16-18)

 

The sale netted the most profit ever.  But our largest profit will not be revealed until we stand before Our Father in Heaven.  If you feel that you are just ‘limping for the Lord’ be encouraged.  You have no idea of the eternal glory that will be yours!!!!!!!!!!

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

Missions

 

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1 John 3:16-24 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brothers in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

 

When I was asked to be missions coordinator I was excited and scared at the same time. Excited, because Christ comissioned us to love and help one another, so this was an opportunity for me to feel a larger part of that ministry. Additionally, our church’s example of reaching out to people in need draws others to Christ. O’Fallon First United Methodist Church’s missions have a positive influence in our community and the world at large. Yet, at the same time, I was scared about this leadership role because I had never served on a missions committee. I was worried that I might not be capable of doing a good job as missions coordinator and it is so important for our mission efforts to be successful.

 

I have much to learn. One thing that I have already learned is that, although I knew our congregation was a generous one, I had no idea how many missions we support. There are 27 missions which recieved $1,000.00 or more from our church. Our congregation gave $147, 475.00 to missions in 2015! Our committee’s hope is to inform our congregation in various ways about some of the important missions as this year progresses. We hope to continue many of the current missions and have a few exciting ideas about new ones. I feel confident that with the amazing team of people on the missions committee we will be able to accomplish great things. I know that God will be beside us during this journey and, with God, we know all things are possible.

Blessings,

Linda Gruchala

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A Time of Transition

 

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With the beginning of 2016 comes transition to the FUMC Administrative Board.  During the final 2015 board meeting we bid farewell to Board Chair Linda Cowden and praised her leadership and warm demeanor even while working with the most complex church issues.  In 2016 we find several new board members plus a new Administrative Board Chair.  After much prayerful consideration I agreed to take on the position.

 

I am honored and humbled to serve as your new Administrative Board Chair and I welcome your comments, suggestions, and ideas as I learn the ropes of this challenging position.  I believe the Board Chair is more about leadership and less about management.  Leadership is the visionary work that assesses where the congregation is, where God is calling it to be in the future, and what resources will be required to move from current reality and then propel our church deep into the future.  Management is the detail work that occurs in the committees and must be accomplished daily to make our ministries effective.

 
The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline is the recipe book or guide book that tells all Methodist churches how they should function. This book spells out very clearly the mission of our church: ¶ 120. The Mission-The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  (UMC Book of Discipline 2012)  Many churches develop their own mission statements based on how they can best meet the overall directive.  I prefer to keep it simple and believe everything we do and every decision we make is pointed to making disciples for Jesus Christ.

I have learned over the years that there is much more to serving God than just talking about it. God wants to use each one of us, but He also wants to develop us into people who are more usable to Him. I have studied the book of Nehemiah where we learn many qualities of service and leadership.  Nehemiah received a vision from God to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall that was destroyed following the Babylonian exile.  Nehemiah never forgot the importance of prayer and took time to humble himself before God to ask for guidance.

 

“Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”  Nehemiah 1:11

 

There is a lot we can learn from the Book of Nehemiah about how we should conduct the business of the church. Most importantly Nehemiah teaches us we should listen for God and pray in everything we do.  Nehemiah was equipped with the leadership skill of discernment. It may sound strange to see discernment listed as a leadership skill but it is important we understand and know how to apply discernment.  We are often deceived by outward appearances or trying to make decisions on our own. We find this in 1 Samuel:

 

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

 

Discernment is the ability to judge matters according to God’s view and not according to outward appearance or our own set of standards.  Without discernment we might think our own noble desires are God’s promises but in fact our inner voice is speaking louder than God’s.  Perhaps before we make a major church decision we should follow Nehemiah’s lead.   Here is what Nehemiah did when he learned he needed to go to Jerusalem to repair the wall.

 

“The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”  Nehemiah 1:3-4

 

Nehemiah humbled himself before God and asked for God’s help and mercy.  In 2016 I want to hear more from God and less from my inner voice.  I want to sharpen my discernment skills.

Please join me in February as we explore together the Book of Nehemiah.  Nehemiah: Learning Leadership Bible Study. The first session is Thursday, February 4, 2016 @ 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM.

 

You can click here to go to the Administrative Board page on the church website. To find it again later, please go to our church website at http://www.offumc.org and go to Welcome and then About and then to Administrative Board to see a list of the 2016 Administrative Board members.

 

Blessings,

Ron Fontenot

Administrative Board Chair

Ron