Friday, November 28, 2014

Water for Tanzania

The Tanzania United Methodist Church in Dar es Salaam, now a provisional annual conference under the North Katanga Episcopal Area, recently purchased property in the suburban Mviti area, but there is one problem—there is no water.

A grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to the Tanzania United Methodist Church will provide the means to drill the ground and identify a safe water source that will meet the daily needs of 1,215 individuals. 

The grant also will support hygiene education and water safety to help raise awareness and reduce the occurrences of cholera, worms, typhoid and diarrhea, which are all associated with poor drinking water. 

The new mission compound sought funding for the installation of wells to support the various ministry projects that will occur on the grounds, including a church, guest house for volunteers and missionaries, school, conference offices and a hospital. This water project will also benefit surrounding communities.

Meet the need for water and sanitation in more areas around the world with your gifts to Water and Sanitation, Advance #3020600

From the 15 Oct 2014 UMCOR Hotline.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Baptism! (Nov 9)

Shepherd and Judge

2014/11/23 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Christ the King
Prayer, Psalm 100
Children, Matthew 25.31-46
Message (additional reading), Ezekiel 34.11-24

Compare/contrast Matthew – Ezekiel
Familiar – unfamiliar
Future event (stylized telling, Bruner) – Parable
Sheep/shepherd – Sheep/shepherd
Judge – Judge … based on how we treat the poor
Apocalyptic – Apocalyptic
      For Matthew, the climax of the “end of the world” sermon (5th of 5)
      Advent – next week – always starts with apocalyptic discourse
      Both conclude and begin the Christian year with “the End”
      Ezekiel – apocalyptic language throughout
            Perfectly placed prior to our weekend of consumption
            Giving Tuesday

Focus today on Matthew, but before that … on Ezekiel:
      Judgment (earlier in chapter) on shepherds who “pasture themselves on the sheep” – leadership that is self-centered
      Judgment on sheep that take advantage of other sheep – will destroy the fat and strong because they have gained their strength by dominating the “runts”

Christmas couple with child
If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard (Prov 21.13)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dr. Martin Salia, Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leone United Methodist Conference is in shock over the death of Dr. Martin Salia from Ebola. Salia, who was the chief medical officer and only surgeon at United Methodist Kissy Hospital, died after he was airlifted to the United States for treatment.
“We are trying to come to terms with the reality of his death,” said Bishop John K. Yambasu. “We never thought we would be losing one of our head doctors to Ebola.”
“He was everything to us,” Yambasu said, adding Salia was one of only a very few surgeons in the country.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Generosity: Our Act of Love

Our Consecration Sunday speaker, Rev. Dr. Dennis Otto, shares the message on 16 Nov. Please note: We had some technical difficulties in recording this message. The opening is missing, and the rest of it is presented in 5 minute segments. Use this playlist to see the whole thing.

All Saints

Our Golden Anniversary saints, recognized on Sunday 2 November.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Church Conference

A video message from our District Superintendent was shared at our 9 November church conference.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ebola Update - Full Church, Closed Hospital

June 8 was a bright and happy Sunday at the dedication and opening of Valunia United Methodist Church in the village of Monghere. Sierra Leone Bishop John K. Yambasu was among the distinguished guests, who also included the Paramount Chief James B.N. Vonjo III, the Queen of the Rosary School marching band and most of the village. A mini-mob scene ensued when the doors opened and excited worshipers rushed to fill every plastic chair inside the new sanctuary.
That was one of the first Sundays Yambasu warned the community about Ebola.
Now, months later, the Monghere community knows the grief of losing families and friends to Ebola. But church members still rush through the church doors anytime they open. “In situations of distress and calamity, Africans draw closer to God for divine intervention,” Yambasu said. “This is especially so when every attempt to contain Ebola seems not to work.”
On the first Sunday in November, members of Charles Davies United Methodist Church had a dedication service for 40 new chairs purchased by the men of the church. The chairs help with overcrowding. “People believe the house of worship is a place of solace,” the Rev. Sahr Fallah said. “So when they feel hopelessness; when they feel all is lost, the only place they can find hope is in the church.”
Kissy United Methodist Hospital was closed Nov. 11 after Dr. Martin Salia, chief medical officer and surgeon, tested positive for Ebola. Salia, the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone to be infected with the deadly virus, was taken to the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center near Freetown.
Sierra Leone United Methodist Bishop John K. Yambasu and Beatrice Gbanga, the United Methodist Sierra Leone Conference’s medical coordinator, held an emergency meeting at the hospital to talk about steps to protect the staff and make sure the hospital is disinfected immediately. “I was emotionally disturbed when I got news this morning that Dr. Salia had tested positive of Ebola. I prayed that the news might turn out to be false,” Yambasu said at the meeting.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Spiritual Pilgrimage in Korea (4): Generosity of Time

From our District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver:
One of the similarities of the South Korean culture and the American culture is how busy people are.  Talking with pastors we heard similar stories like we here in the US about how over-extended people are.  Education is so highly valued in South Korea that there is great competition for tutors for the best classes.  The graduation rate for High School in South Korea is about 90%.
In addition to the demand for study, most children and youth take music lessons of some kind, sports, physical fitness, martial arts.  Over and over we heard and saw examples of how busy people are.  We were told that often students with the amount of time they put into studying,  extra-curricular activities, and church they often get only 6 hours sleep.
I am not lifting this up as healthy—but setting the stage for what we in the US churches hear all the time—“my kids and I are so busy we don’t have time to do anything at church.”
Not so in the churches we visited.  Bupyeong Church where we stayed told us about how they train lay people as small group leaders and volunteers.  The church does most of its ministry with volunteers.   
In our culture where it becomes very difficult to find a volunteer to sit in the nursery, or serve on a committee, or spend 3 hours a week caring for the outside of the church, we saw a completely different understanding of church involvement.
In Bupyeong Church EVERY Saturday 40-50 come to clean the church.  All during the week we marveled at how clean this large building was.  It is these 50 people’s commitment to clean so that church money can go for mission and ministry.
Every week 8 people buy the flowers and come together to arrange them and put them throughout the church.  The arrangements while we were there were unique and lovingly done not by a florist someone paid—but by church members.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stuff and Nonsense (2): Impossible

2014/11/09 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Children, Mark 12.41-44 (widow’s mite)
Message, Matthew 19.16-30

How many of you, as Carol shared the step chart, found yourselves really curious? Anyone feel awkward?

When we share these numbers, it is far too easy for us to reduce this conversation to one thing – money. “Churches are always asking for money.” Actually, because of your generosity and our careful management, we have had a great year financially as a congregation. So, we’re not doing this because as a church our hat is in our hand.
      And, we don’t share these numbers for us to compare ourselves with each other. We’re human and we do that; it’s totally natural. We share these numbers to help us imagine a journey and plan and pray – intentionally – over the next steps in our story.

You see, each of these numbers is a story. I’ve heard many wonderful generosity stories over the years, and am grateful for the stories we’ve been hearing this season: Gordy’s story of a stressful weekend turned into family connections by the gift of time; Sue’s story of one blessed person passing along the blessing, lavishly, to her and her sister during a difficult time; and, later today, a story from Joel and Chris Shuman.

I’ve heard stories of people responding to the invitation to join Jesus in a generous life:
·         a single mother on a tight budget who chooses to give up a coffee run each week so that she can give back more to God;
·         a young family struggling with debt who decide to expand their giving and become debt free;
·         an older adult on Social Security who nevertheless finds a way to give significantly;
·         a young adult who gets her box of envelopes upon joining the church and exclaims, “I always wanted to be one of those envelope people”.

Turkey Dinner (2)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Trunk or Treat (2)

A wonderful opportunity to offer the hospitality of Jesus to our friends and neighbors!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank You

The World War II Memorial in D.C. Thanks to all our veterans.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Conversations on Human Sexuality

The Connectional Table and the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church have begun a series of public conversations on human sexuality, particularly on same-sex sex and relationships. It remains a divisive issues in the church.

Two of the conversations have been live stream videos, embedded below. One more is yet to come.

Bishop's Call to Prayer regarding human sexuality

November 7, 2014

Oklahoma City, Okla.: The Council of Bishops issued a statement concerning human sexuality, addressing their diverse perspectives and calling the people of The United Methodist Church to be in prayer, both for their leaders and for one another.

The statement reads:
As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow "to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church." We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people. We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate-to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.

The bishops worked together on the statement during several executive sessions during their weeklong meeting in Oklahoma City. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

In Mission Together

Karen Weiss, our In Mission Together director for Thailand and Mongolia, presents the philosophy and the practicality of mission with the youth and confirmation classes (Oct 26).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Turkey Dinner

Thanks to Donna and her team for the fun and food ... and 635 tickets sold! Wow!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Trunk or Treat (1)

Thanks to the organizers and to all who came out to support the event. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet many neighbors!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spiritual Pilgrimage to Korea (3): A Generous Church

By our district superintendent, Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver

            Over and over as we listened and learned about the Korean Methodist Churches and people, we learned that they are a generous people.  This is exhibited in their stewardship of time and financial resources.  (Next week I’ll talk a bit about their generosity in giving time.)
            We heard several times that the understanding of Korean Methodists is that they are to be giving generously of their financial resources for the work of Christ.  The Bupyeong Church is in a rather poor neighborhood.  The pastor told us that most of the church members are not rich—but they have a generous spirit and a generous heart.
            One of the expectations of being a Korean Methodist Christian is that you will tithe as a minimum example of your commitment to God and Jesus Christ.  They unashamedly talk about giving.  Their reason for giving, they said, was that they have freely received God’s grace and the gift of eternal life—so they must give freely of their possessions.
            When the people were building the first part of the church building, the cost was $10,000,000. Here are three examples of how they gave:
1.    When the Bupyeong Church was building their first church, one man had pledged to give $20,000.  He had a dream that Jesus told him , “I gave my blood for you—how much will you give back to me.”  In the dream Jesus told the man to give $20,000.  The man woke up and when the bank opened, he withdrew $20,000 and gave it to the church.
2.    Over and over to build the church, people would sell their homes, move into a smaller home and give the money to the church.
3.    People who were getting married were so committed to the building of the church and Christ’s kingdom they gave the money they had saved for their wedding to the church and had a very simple wedding.
The church was paid off in 1 year!
To celebrate the 74th Anniversary of the Bupyeong Church, the congregation felt a call to start a new church.  They prayed and prayed until they were certain it was God’s will.  Once they believed it was God’s will, this church went out and purchased land in another community where it is projected to have 30,000 new people move into that community.
Once the land was bought, the church paid to build the church and to purchase all the equipment and furnishing for the church.   The cost of the church was $3.4 million with furnishings costing $130,000.  The new church start began September 22, 2014 and is debt free.
The church had a vision that God wanted them to start new churches and ministries in Indonesia. The pastor gave a call that it would cost $30,000 to start one church and they had a vision to start 10.  In 2 months the church had given enough extra money that they started 10 new churches in Indonesia.
Some of their parishioners were so concerned about getting children to Sunday school that families bought vans so they could transport their neighborhood children to Sunday school.
This church also wanted to contribute more to the life of their community.  They request a list of people from the town who cannot pay their electric and water bill.  They send $5,000-$10,000 each week to help persons pay their bills.
The pastor listed several other missions they do in the community and in the city.  But I think the examples I have given you, are enough that you can see that the churches we visited are filled with generous Christians.
During one of the sermons in the early Morning Prayer service, the pastor reminded people that they do not have bazaars or fund raisers in the church.  He said while they are fun and there is a spirit of community, the church is to be generous in their offerings and their financial resources.  Thus their entire budget and mission outreach is done through the generosity of the members giving sacrificially—not fundraisers. 
Why do they give so much and so generously.  They take seriously the fact that Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for their salvation and the salvation of the world.  They can do no less than sacrifice for His mission and ministry.  The pastor said, “we have freely received God’s grace—we must give as generously as God has given to us.

God is blessing these churches and doing great things in the lives of the unchurched.  Could it be that the blessings come as the people in the church give more of themselves to make sure that mission and ministry happen?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Stuff and Nonsense (1): We Got Nothing

2014/11/02 Christ Church, Mountain Top, All Saints, Communion
Message, Matthew 14.13-21

I really identify with the disciples in this story. “You give them something to eat.” What?! “We’ve got nothing but five loaves and two fish.” “Bring them here.” And the first verb that is used to describe what Jesus does with the bread is TAKE. But that’s MY lunch! Notice that Matthew doesn’t tell us anything about a little boy offering his meal. In this version of the story, the only children are the childish disciples who seem shocked by the entire experience.

Hoarders: “We’ve got nothing”
I’ve never seen the show Hoarders. I think, though, that all of us have a hoarder in us. All of us have stuff that we believe we can’t live without. Money is the thing we hoard (or spend) the most, the thing we most struggle to give away. We also hoard some odd things. For me, it’s paperclips and pens, specifically the Uniball pens I prefer. Robin came to me yesterday at the turkey dinner asking for a pen for someone to write a check. And, I hesitated. She knows me, “Well, I’ll get one from Suzanne’s office.”

Have you ever hesitated when Jesus asks, “Bring it to me”? That hesitation reveals our poverty of soul. That hesitation exposes us as hoarders, as slaves to stuff. After all, they might forget to give me my pen back. On the other hand, when we give up our five loaves, when we give up our 10%, when we give up our stuff … we expose ourselves, we become vulnerable. Henri Nouwen expresses the vulnerability this way – “the fear that we cannot be vulnerable without being used” (37). Exposed as a hoarder, or exposed as vulnerable – the choice is ours.
      We’ve got nothing. We hoard so carefully that all we can see is what we don’t have. OR – We’ve got nothing. We give so recklessly that we have nothing left. The choice is ours.
      “We’ve got nothing but five loaves and two fish.” “Bring them here.”

Community: “Bring them here”
That hesitation to give, that hoarding impulse, isolates us from other people, and even isolates us from God. We may connect, but only in a limited way. We are suspicious of motives. We calculate trustworthiness. All to protect ourselves and our hoard from other people or from Jesus himself.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Generosity Story - Gordy

Generosity transforms . . . a stressful weekend into a time of connection.