Convoy of Hope 2017

Hot in the Park


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 .

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.

Mission Work is Messy


The crowd at the 2007 New Orleans Mardi Gras Festival was large and growing larger.  The city was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina which devastated the city a few years earlier but now the crowds have returned.  In 2007 I found myself in New Orleans in a very different role, a life changing role. The French Quarter is known for its Burlesque Clubs, DJs, bars and endless celebration opportunities.  I found myself on a corner on Bourbon Street with my Bible in hand proclaiming loudly John 8:12:

 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Your thoughts about what happens at Mardi Gras in New Orleans are probably true so you can visualize the reaction I received from the crowd.  I was with a group of men called No Greater Love and that year Pastor Joel Catlin, Lyle Cubberly, and I went to Mardi Gras “ground-zero” to proclaim the word of Jesus Christ. Matthew 4:19 tells us:

“And He said unto them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

On that corner in New Orleans I felt more like the bait instead of the fisher until I realized the word of Jesus Christ had power.  People would shout and make threats but when I raised my Bible it was like a shield, people would back away.  But isn’t that the way it is in our daily routines? If we carry Jesus in our hearts we have everything and the power to overcome the difficulties of life.

Over the years Pastor Ron Dickinson and Pastor Joel have preached that we are all missionaries. Sometimes when we hear the word missionary we have this image of someone in a faraway country helping poor people in a remote location.  While this may be true but we all can to be missionaries in our own neighbors. I spent the last several years studying mission work and how our church can make an impact in our community and around the world.  Merriam-Webster defines Missiology “as the area of practical theology that investigates the mandate, message, and mission of the Christian church, especially the nature of missionary work.”

I learned early that mission work benefits those called to mission as well as those we are out to help. The last ten years our church has had a connectional relationship with a church in Poland – Kielce United Methodist Church in Kielce, Poland.   More than 50 people have joined us to travel to Poland to share God’s love and learn about the Polish culture.  Both our Pastors have traveled to Poland plus several staff members to proclaim God’s power and to connect with one another. There is an axiom in mission work – “It is not about the project but about the people.” Mission work is really about building relationships with people. We have many Polish friends that we can now say – “we are in mission together.”

Does mission work have to be far away from home?  Of course not.  There is an old hymn called Brighten the Corner Where You Are that tells us all we need to know.  We can share God’s love with our neighbors, across town, or anywhere we happen to be. Sometimes we can lift the spirits of the cashier at the grocery store or a waitress in a restaurant.  Mission work is a lot about listening and sharing God’s love.  During the summer months a group of FUMC members prepare and deliver sack lunches to the children in the poorer parts of O’Fallon.  Spending a few minutes with these children demonstrates that they are important and someone cares about them.

 “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.”   Matthew 25:40

The 2015 Convoy of Hope brought churches, business, and communities together to offer hope to those in need.  On August 15th in the O’Fallon Community Park the Convoy offered free haircuts, groceries, family portraits, and a free lunch.  FUMC had over 100 volunteers helping to bring hope to those in need.  In 1 Peter 4:10 we read Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)  Peter tells us that we each have a special gift and we should us it to glorify God.  By any measure Convoy of Hope Metro-East was a huge success.  The number of guest served was very impressive but more importantly the relationships forged together will leave lastly impressions.

And the result of my time studying mission work comes down to relationships.  Our mission teams can build churches and our members can deliver sack lunches to the poor but if we do not take time to listen and learn and build understanding we have failed to show God’s love.  It is less about the project and more about building relationships.

Respectfully yours in Christ,

Ron Fontenot


A Convoy Rolled into Town

Hot in the Park
On Saturday August 15th the work began well before the first glimmer of the morning sun.  When we arrived we found heavy dew on the ground in the O’Fallon Community Park and the warm summer air was static and sticky.  In just a few short hours there would be over 3,000 guest taking advantage of a day of neighbor helping neighbor. That is the Convoy of Hope philosophy. There would be over 1,000 volunteers most wearing their blue Convoy of Hope t-shirt with the word Momentum printed in large letters on the front.   Momentum can be defined as “mass in motion” and that is what we were, a group of volunteers all in motion preparing to receive our “Guests of Honor.”

Over 50 Metro-East churches came together to offer a day of love, care, and generosity to those that may need a little assistance. Before the sun came up volunteers were unloading a 53 foot 18 wheeler full of groceries. Written on side of the 18 wheeler in huge letters over a red, white, and blue background are the words “Convoy of Hope.”  The groceries were sorted and bagged and ready to hand out. Not far away the smell of hot dogs cooking filled the air. By now the sun is up as well as the summer temperature and the call for everyone to stay hydrated rang out.  Final preparations were made in the “Kids Zone” and the haircut area.  At the far end of the field the Veterans Administration and the National Breast Cancer Foundation area were ready to receive visitors.

The O’Fallon FUMC responsibility was Jobs & Career Services which involved organizing employment counselors to be available to assist our guest. Jane Jung assembled an “all-star” group of counselors that offered a high level of care and expertise to job seekers to get them to the next level of their employment search. The employment counselors also offered workshops which in one such workshop visitors learned how to network with employers and how to use on-line “job boards.”  At the end of the day over 275 customers came through our 40 by 60 foot tent seeking advice.  To aid our job seeking guest we offered childcare which proved to be a great help to those that needed to speak to a counselor.


Overall the day of neighbor helping neighbor included free groceries, haircuts, family portraits, backpacks, shoes, and a free lunch.   The Veterans Administration sent a Mobile Vet unit which was equipped as “offices on wheels,” with the capacity to provide individual and group counseling for Veterans and their families.  Veterans also learned how to access their benefits and were able to make follow-on appointments.  The National Breast Cancer Foundation Mobile Van contained state of the art equipment to offer screening, counseling, and education.  In the medical area people could get flu shots, blood pressure screening, and much more. The Kids Zone was a huge play area with bounce houses and games.

By mid-morning the O’Fallon Community Park was a village where radical hospitality ruled the day.  In 1 Peter 4:10 we read “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)  Peter tells us that we each have a special gift and we should us it to glorify God.  By any measure Convoy of Hope Metro-East was a huge success.  The number of guest served was very impressive but more importantly the relationships forged together will leave lastly impressions.


I heard stories of how people discovered anew how important it is to stand in the gap and pray for others.   Volunteers that were paired to work together boldly stepped out of their comfort zone to serve others.  Here is a story from the Veterans Administration tent: “I had quite a few Women Veterans who approached the table and were informed of our services, who expressed a desire to enroll.   One in particular, a blind Woman Veteran who is at imminent risk of homelessness, came by and was given resources to assist her.  She has a 6 year old child and a husband who is being treated for lymphoma.  She is planning to enroll so that we can assist.” 

It is not about the project but about building relationships. The project was to hand out groceries, lunch, haircuts and more but the true measure of success is about the relationships. We can transfer that philosophy to our daily lives. Take time to say hi to the cashier at your local store or to offer a smile to someone you meet.  Maybe that is all it takes to get that person through another day.  You are showing God’s grace to others.   May God’s strength be with you as you boldly step out of your comfort zone to serve others.

Convoy of Hope Metro-East Statistics:

  • Volunteers – 1,128
  • Guests in Attendance – 3,040
  • Guests Prayed with – 2,736 (90%)
  • Looking for a church – 50
  • Gideon Bibles handed out – 2,136
  • Haircuts given – 652
  • NBCF guests – 606
  • Women’s shoes – 960
  • Children’s shoes – 1,790
  • Plum Organics guests – 1,270
  • Job & Career service guests – 275
  • Portraits provided – 413
  • Meals prepared – 4,430


Ron Fontenot


What Does a Healthy City Look Like?


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, Jane Jung email 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