Convoy of Hope 2017

Hot in the Park

CONVOY OF HOPE 2017

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 https://www.convoyofhope.org/ .

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.

Fun Christianity

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The news and media always shows the more serious side of Christianity, and not always in a positive light. They also have a tendency to show a more extreme Christianity and every now and then an uplifting story makes it in.  If your exposure to Christianity was from a strictly media view, you would think that Christians are sticks in the mud and ready to force you to their view.

So often the Love is left out of the media’s representation of Christianity, but even more so you miss the fun. Sometimes the best way to minister is through laughter and smiles. I’ve seen this in recent months in our church.  The response to the tailgate party for the first high school home game was amazing, and there was no brow beating or agendas, just sharing God’s love with the community.  Hamburgers, music, a bouncy house, and Christians with love in their heart is what the community met that day.

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Then you had the fall festival where the church came together to once again have fun and share their faith. The response was amazing and families that don’t attend our church arrived and left with smiles and love in their hearts.  God’s love was shared with a smile and cheerful heart leaving an impression on those that attended.

Then the youth had an event for their groups and encouraged the youth to bring friends. It was a grand messy event leaving the family life center in layers of goop, but I heard the young adults talking as I arrived about the event, laughing, joking, and having fun. In fact when I arrived, the young adults were out being hosed down from the antics. I joking made the comment to a few people that instead of a car wash they were having a kid wash.  The hearts they touched with that fun ministry and the love that was left with them will stay with them well beyond the mess.

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How you reach people is through understanding, caring, love, and most definitely laughter. When people leave with a smile in their heart they are sure to remember that feeling for a long time. That is God’s message working within these beautiful walls. When people are able to leave with a smile or with a feeling a hope in their hearts, we have done our job of representing Christ in my opinion.  That is what I see in our church – the ability to accept, love, adapt, and care.
When you think of the beautiful messages coming from the people within the church from its leaders and staff to the beautiful members, you realize what an amazing place this really is. People helping the homeless, caring for children, praying for others, and sharing the beautiful laughter, love, and hope of Christ with others is what it is about. To give of ourselves to make others better, that is our truest calling. That seed of hope, laughter, or love grows from the moment it is planted and you never know where it will go from there.

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Christ said the greatest commandment was Love. I truly believe that and I see it within the walls of our church.  Thank you for being such beautiful people and representing Christ in such an amazing way.

A great president once said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.  I think if we asked not what Christ can do for us, but what we can do for Him that might change things. When we remember to have Faith in his way, Hope that things will be better, and Love for ALL our brothers and sisters, we can change the world.

With kindness,

Tyrone Castle

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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.

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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.

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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

Blessings,

Ron Fontenot

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