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

Praying In the Moment

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“I’ll pray for you…”  This is an often-used phrase, but how often do you actually fulfill this promise?  I know that some of you are very good at actually doing this, but I want to acknowledge how hard it is.  It can be so easy to make this promise, with great intentions, but then lose momentum in the busyness of life.  We get distracted and forget our original promise.

So, here is a challenge for you.  Try praying on the spot.  Make it short and quick, no more than a sentence or two.  Lift up a prayer for the concern that someone has lifted.

This lets others know, not only that you care, but that you really mean what you say.  Most people (even those who are not connected to any church) really appreciate being prayed for in the moment.  I know that this is a challenge.  It isn’t easy to pray out loud, but I also believe that it makes a meaningful difference to others who receive the prayer.  So, let us challenge ourselves to pray for people in their moment of need.

Looking for Prayer Volunteers
If you are interested in helping to build the prayer ministry of our church by praying during the worship service, please contact Pastor Becky.  I would love to have a team that would pray for our church and worship during this time.  You can email me at rwilliams@offumc.org.

Blessings,
Pastor Becky Williams

An Invitation to Abundant Life

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“Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”  — Isaiah 55:1-2

As we prepare to begin a new school year, life often becomes busier.  Extra things get added to the schedule.  New routines begin.  Even if you are no longer connected to the school calendar, as the summer wanes schedules can get hectic.

Wherever you are in life, the invitation from Isaiah is one that is refreshing.  We are invited to come to the waters, to come and eat what is good and delight ourselves in rich food.  As the stress of life becomes overwhelming, this is an invitation that becomes very appealing.

For me the question that really resonates is “why do you labor for that which does not satisfy?”  So often we are busy, but not centered.  We have too much to do, but feel like we accomplish nothing.

As your schedules change and things get added, I would encourage you to meditate and pray over this passage from Isaiah.  Where do you need God to feed you?  What would you like from God if you could eat without money and without price?  What are you spending money or energy on things that do not satisfy?

Sometimes we need to let go of things that we love in order to find God.  And at other times, adding a few minutes of quiet prayer can transform a hectic day into a purposeful one.

If you find yourself longing for purpose and meaning in the midst of your busy life, I would encourage you to find a small group, a prayer group, or a Sunday School class.  We are working to keep our list of classes on the church website up to date.  Please contact me by calling the church or sending me an email rwilliams@offumc.org if you would like to get connected.

I pray that no matter what life brings you this new school season that you would be fed and filled with God’s good and satisfying grace.

Blessings,

Pastor Becky

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Goodbye from Pastor Joel

I was humbled last night as I spoke to my friend who nearly died in a house fire a little over a week ago.  He almost lost his wife and son in the fire.  Most of their earthly possessions were destroyed.  We cried, prayed and laughed.  His joy was unmistakable as he spoke of how God was already using this tragedy.  Sometimes I think I have something to complain about!

I certainly have nothing to complain about when it comes to this church.  As we look towards an exciting new opportunity we cannot help but thank God and you for your prayers, witness, skills, talents, leadership and support.  You have loved Donna and I even when I did not deserve it.  You have been there for us through thick and thin.  O’Fallon First UMC is an amazing church with a fantastic staff.  It has been a joy to work with such a talented, loving, capable and committed servants of God.  I know that your new pastors will only serve to augment the strong group of leaders you have.

I hope you will understand because we do love you and want this church to continue to be a strong, growing and vital community of faith, I will not be available to perform pastoral functions in this community once I am gone.  Your new pastors deserve and need those opportunities to build the special relationships that are forged through marriages, baptisms, confirmation and the like.   This does not mean we do not care.  We do but, our role after May 22 will be that of friend.

There are lots of things that make OFFUMC wonderful.  You work hard, you are smart and you have tremendous resources.  Three things stand out to me.  The first is the number  and quality of leaders in this church.  This is a gift.  I know of no church anywhere that has such a high percentage of able and committed leaders.  I hope you will see leadership as something you can build on and share with other churches.  Perhaps you will someday host an annual “Leadership Conference.”  Second is you are a church of committed and fruitful “Prayer Warriors.”  We have seen miracle after miracle because of your prayers.  Prayer will largely determine the future of this church.  I pray you will help me surround Pastor Ron and Phyllis’ last weeks and your new Pastor’s first few months with prayer.  We need people to commit to pray for the church and its leadership through out this time of transition and especially during worship.  Please sign up and follow through on your commitment to pray.  More than anything this congregation understands how to love.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is 95% love.  You get that.  Keep loving like you love and keep growing in Christ’s love and the best years of this church are yet to come.

Thank you so much for all the many ways you have loved us.  We are not only blessed but better because we have been here.  It has been a privilege and honor to have served God with you these last 11 years.   Even though we have a wonderful opportunity before us it is hard to say good by to such great friends and such a great church and community.  May God’s Blessings abound in your life and the life of this congregation.

 

Good bye and Love Always,

Pastor Joel

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“Will You Marry Me?”

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You expect that those in love would come to this very question.  Once.  Love is sung and touted as a ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of thing.  However, there are a lot of broken promises and broken marriages out there.  I think deep down we yearn for a love that is promise-secure and know that the best kind of love is for keeps.

 

The guy in a couple who attend our church asks his wife, so she told me, every week, “Will you marry me?”  And I said, “Oh, my, how romantic is that?!”  She loves hearing it.  They are happy in love after many, many years-despite many on-going challenges.

 

I played love songs on the piano as background music today for a couple who chose to renew their marriage vows after a decade.  They initially wed in a hospital room of the groom’s dying father.  It was so crucial to their lives that they include his dad for their wedding ceremony that within two hours on a Sunday afternoon they pulled everything together ten years ago so that it could happen.  My husband resting at home after a long Sunday, was the surprised officiant!

 

Today.  Ten years and two children later they radiate love and joy and respect for each other.  They work at the marriage.  They work at the mundane as a team as well as the spectacular.  They intend to stay in love even though they confess that the marriage ‘dream’ and reality have not matched.  But because of their loving determination and commitment to the Lover of their souls, they are more deeply in love … a love they say they could not have predicted…after going through all the highs and lows that a ten-year-old marriage offers.

 

God is love.  He is the source of true, lasting love.  “Our love for Him comes as a result of His loving us first.”  John 4:19  So Jesus, as the bridegroom, asks “Will you marry me?  Forever?”

 

What do you answer to His romantic heart?

Blessings,

Phyllis Dickinson

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

 

Stephen Ministry

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Are you hurting or do you have a friend who is hurting from one of life’s challenges, such as, divorce, death of a loved one, poor health, unemployment or family problems? Some times we just need someone to talk to about our problems and concerns. If so, please consider a fabulous resource we have at OFFUMC called Stephen Ministry. You can request a Stephen Minister or suggest it to a friend at any time.

 

Stephen Ministry a one-on-one lay caring ministry that takes place within congregations that use the STEPHEN SERIES system. Stephen Ministry congregations equip and empower lay caregivers- called Stephen Ministers- to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ- centered care to people who are hurting and going through tough times for a variety of reasons.

 

We at O’Fallon First United Methodist Church have been blessed to have a group of caring men and women who have received specialized training to meet with their special care receiver confidentially, usually in the care-receivers home or other mutually agreed upon quiet location, once a week for an hour.

 

Care receivers are people (congregation members and others in the community) who receive care from a Stephen Minster. These are people struggling through a difficult time in life, experiencing grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or some other life crisis.

 

It is very important to note that the relationship between a care-receiver and the Stephen Minister is confidential. Men are matched with men; women with women.

 

A person can request a Stephen Minister by contacting our church office, one of the pastors or asking a friend to make the connection. Or, you can call Mike Mobley at (618) 418-2325, email him at mobley4@gmail.com, or reach Margaret Finley at (314) 640-7040, email her at finofc1706@sbcglobal.net.

 

Jesus said: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. (Galatians 6:2)