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

Hey Brother…Hey Sister

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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