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

Spirit of God is Like the Wind

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Sometimes I like routines.  They help me remember what I need to do, when I need to do it, especially in the morning when I’m barely awake enough to do anything.  The familiar patterns of routine bring comfort, and predictability makes life easier.  And let’s be honest, the easier, the better. Right?  Maybe not.
Maybe that’s why people were always getting mad at Jesus; he was really good at disturbing patterns, upsetting routines, and calling people to the path less traveled—working on the Sabbath, breaking bread with the wrong people, questioning authority, contradicting strongly held teachings, forgiving those who deserved punished, and all but guaranteeing suffering and hardships.  Jesus was unpredictable.  Maybe that’s why he described the Spirit of God like the wind—you don’t know where it comes from, or where it’s going—as it blows through your life.

But Jesus wasn’t trying to cause problems for the sake of being a troublemaker.  Sure he stirred things up, but he did so because things had become some common, comfortable and routine; spiritual vitality was stagnant; routine had bred comfort, and comfort produced complacency. It can be said Jesus’ ministry was one of “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable.”

Today, (September 30th) marks the tenth anniversary of that horrible day when Charles Roberts barricaded himself inside a one room school house in Lancaster, PA, and shot and killed five Amish girls before taking his own life.  Talk about how unpredictable life can be.  Who could have ever imagined such tragedy?  In the wake of such pain our prayers were for Christ to comfort those who were so heavily afflicted.

Then I listened to an interview with Terri Roberts, the mother of Charles Roberts. She described how, in the wake of such tragedy, the Amish community’s response was that of forgiveness for Charles, and how they embraced his family.  In the aftermath of the pain perpetrated by her son, she said, “we had a very private funeral for our son… as we went to the gravesite, we saw thirty to forty Amish start coming out from around the sight of the graveyard, and they surrounded us like a crescent, and love just emanated from them.”  She described how she would never forget the devastation caused by her son, and how it is forever embodied in the life of Rosanna, now 15; a young lady who suffered head injuries the day of the attack, and is now tube-fed, in a wheel chair, suffering seizures, and forever changed. For ten years now, Terri has visited Rosanna once a week and helps care for her—feeding her, bathing her, reading to her, and more.  One of the Amish fathers recently noted, “none of us would have ever chosen this, but the relationships that we have built through it… you can’t put a price on that.”  Terri said, “Their choice to allow life to move forward, is quite a healing bond for us, and it’s quite a message the world needs.”

They chose to allow life to move forward through love and forgiveness.  I don’t know about you, but this afflicts my natural tendencies.  It would be easier to let anger, fear, and uncertainty drive the patterns of life.  But the Amish Community and the Roberts family didn’t do that.  And neither did Jesus.  Troublemaker!

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Don Long

Ordinary Treasures

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In the Robinson house, Mother’s Day means cinnamon rolls and snuggles, homemade cards and a morning in church together. Though not typically not an elaborate event, one Mother’s Day a few years ago, I received a very special gift.

That day, my then five year old proudly produced a present she had wrapped and hidden in her room. Her face was beaming with pride as I unwrapped it. Inside the gift box, laid of a bed of tissue paper, I was shocked to find a diamond cross pendant. My diamond cross pendant. Strung on a pipe cleaner.

The love in her eyes made it easy not to ask questions like, “How did you find my necklace!!??” and to instead twist the pipe cleaner on around my neck. She was so delighted to give me such a treasure.

What my daughter didn’t realize is that motherhood is accompanied by daily treasures…everyday things like pipe cleaners…or chicken nugget lunches, or playdates at the park, or bedtime stories…that are made significant, not by diamond pendants, but by the love that accompanies them. I believe the ordinary things make life extra-ordinary!

Luke 2:19 is my favorite Bible verse. It’s a short simple statement in the midst of the Christmas story that tells Mary’s sentiment about the birth of her son.

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

What great advice the mother of our Lord has for us. She cherished her time with her family, and she kept her memories close to her heart. This Mother’s Day, whether you’re a mother or not, I wish you the same. Ordinary times with family and friends, made glorious with love.

Blessings,

Stacy Robinson

Children’s and Family Coordinator
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A Robber…

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tried to break in today where I was.  You cannot really see this thief but he is very real and very there…if I allow him to be.  Satan is a steal er.  He only wants to destroy.  “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy…” – Jesus (John 10:10a)

 

My right hip was having issues from working too many hours and walking too many stairs and moving too many heavy objects.  The news broke about the terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium where our son and his wife and their son lived for five years.  My friend who is moving to Texas is spending one of his last night’s here in O’Fallon with Ron and I tonight.  Another friend is having big issues with her spouse’s too-early Alzheimer’s heartache.  Another friend found out today and called – she has breast cancer.

 

Today I was cleaning and purging and packing yet another day.  I received all this news as in the background I was playing a Fernando Ortega CD.  I heard one song that touched my heart.  I sat down with cleaning rag in hand and bowed my head for another listen to “Jesus, King of Angels”.  I needed Jesus in that very moment so my intruder-robber-enemy would not get what he had come for.  My peace.

“Jesus King of angels heaven’s light

shine Your face upon this house tonight

Let no evil come into my dreams

Light of heaven keep me in Your peace

Remind me how You made dark spirits flee

And spoke Your power to the raging sea

And spoke Your mercy to a sinful man

Remind me Jesus this is what I am

 

The universe is vast beyond the stars

But You are mindful when the sparrow falls

And mindful of the anxious thoughts

That find me, surround me and bind me

 

Jesus King of angels heaven’s light

Hold my hand and keep me through this night”

 

“…My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” – Jesus  (John 10:10b)

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

 

 

No longer wander in the darkness.

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We have all looked out windows in the predawn or post sunset times and seen darkness – well, at least we have not seen light.  Darkness.  Can you imagine stumbling around to find one’s way in utter darkness?  We need lights to see. Yard lights, flashlights, headlights, or other illumination devices all help us to find our way when we cannot see our way otherwise.

 

God cares about our being able to overcome darkness.  He gave us light.  “I form the light and make the dark.”  (Isaiah 45:7)  “When God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was a shapeless, chaotic mass, with the Spirit of God brooding over the dark vapors.  Then God said, “Let there be light.”  And light appeared.  And God was pleased with it, and divided the light from the darkness.  He called the light “daytime,” and the darkness “nighttime.”  (Genesis 1)

 

Do you live in a chaotic emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, and/or relational mess?  Please remember this at this Lenten Season:  “I have come as a Light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer wander in the darkness.”  John 12:46

 

Jesus was resurrected.  He arose to victory so that we might have victory over sin, and death and hell.  Things that are the darkest.  He brought us resurrection LIGHT and LIFE.  Maybe it is your moment to recognize that His Light can overcome any darkness you may be in.

 

Happy Easter,

Ron and Phyllis

God’s Beautiful Masterpiece

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Working with kids can be unpredictable.  It never fails that an unexpected question arises during a children’s sermon, that a heartfelt prayer request surfaces during circle time, or that an unplanned activity becomes the highlight of an event.  This variety is one of my favorite parts of my job and is often the place where the most teachable moments are found.

Last Sunday, as I was preparing for 4th/5th grade youth group, I knew there was the possibility for the perfect storm of unpredictability…a group of preteens and an afternoon of painting.  The end goal was to collaboratively produce a mural for use as the back drop for the Resurrection during the upcoming “Experience Easter.”  Some very gifted artists, our church’s own Kenzie Park and OTHS art teacher Nikki Witty, volunteered their expertise, mixed some paints, and formulated a plan for what our sunrise would look like.  Outfitted in old clothes and filled with enthusiasm, the kids arrived eager to dig in.

Each beginning with their own cup of paint and in their own section of canvas, the most unpredictable thing happened.  It worked!  Chunks of green melted together forming patches of shade and sunlight.  A hodgepodge of colors blended into a sunrise that would make Monet proud.  Maybe Kenzie and Nikki saw this coming, but I was completely taken aback that 10 kids and a pack of sponges from Dollar Tree produced such a beautiful creation.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  After all, the church’s theme this month was “Cooperation.”  The Bible tells “two are better than one because they have a good return on their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9), and the example set by the early church in Acts shows how Christians can work together.

I am so thankful that I was witness to a little microcosm of Christian cooperation last week.  I pray the world can know the beauty of individuals, with their own colorful palates, blending together to create God’s perfect masterpiece.

Blessings,

Stacy

 

P.S.  Come to “Experience Easter,” Palm Sunday, March 20 from 9:30 – 11 in the Family Life Center to see the kids’ mural.  With various groups from within the church hosting stations to trace Jesus’ steps through Holy Week, it’s sure to be another example of what good can come when we work together to tell God’s story.

2016 experience easter

Carry Me

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I heard those words when my children were young.  You do not have to be a mom or dad to have had a young child either ask or need to be carried.  How wonderful to have someone else “support and move” a body from one place to another.  It looks enviable when one is tired…no work, just leaning on someone else while they do all the carrying of the load.

 

I just finished reading the book To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary C. Neal, an orthopedic surgeon.  In her dramatic, true-life story of dying in a kayaking accident she shares about this very thing of being carried.

 

After being pinned in her boat and trying to escape her boat and circumstances, which she could not do, this is what she says:  “I did not demand rescue.  I knew that He loved me and had a plan for me.  I asked only that His will be done.  At the very moment I turned to Him, I was overcome with an absolute feeling of calm, peace, and of the very physical sensation of being held in someone’s arms while being stroked and comforted.  I felt like I imagine a baby must feel when being lovingly caressed and rocked in his mother’s bosom.  I also experienced an absolute certainty that everything would be okay, regardless of the outcome.”

 

Maybe you are an adult and recognize that no one can actually carry you…unless, of course, you, like the Psalmist, go to Father and ask Him!  Because here is the absolute truth:  “…For each day He (God) carries us in His arms.”  (Psalms 68:19 NLT)

 

There are days when all I can say is:  “Daddy, carry me.”  And at that ‘very moment I turn to Him,” He does!

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

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