Monday, August 31, 2015

Celebrating Shirley

The Sunshine Circle celebrated Shirley at their most recent gathering.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ebola ... and Feeding the People of Liberia

By Kathy L. Gilbert
July 6, 2015 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
Nyamah Dunbar’s calling to feed the people in her native land of Liberia collided with the worst outbreak of Ebola in history.
“Ebola, for me, has been the gift that came wrapped as a plague,” she said.
Since the first case was reported in Guinea in March 2014, more than 11,000 people have died of the disease and 27,000 cases were reported. Liberia had the most deaths at 4,806 but was declared Ebola-free in May 2015. However, a 17-year-old boy died of Ebola in June and two other cases were reported in the same village.
But the country that was shut-down for almost a year is struggling to find a way to come back to life. Dunbar wants to be one of the seeds that will grow Liberia back stronger than before.
Dunbar worked for the United Methodist Committee on Relief for six years doing health and relief work. Two weeks after she resigned from a job she really loved and flew to Liberia, suddenly she was living with quarantines and panic. Airports were closed. Hospitals were shutting down.
“My mother said, ‘We’re only here in the hands of God.’”

Friday, August 28, 2015

You Keep Using that Word (Denim Faith #3)

23 Aug 2015
Message by Joel
Selections from Leviticus 19


In that most eminently quotable of movies, The Princess Bride, there is a scene near the story’s beginning that (believe it or not) offers us a starting place for considering these verses from Leviticus. In the film, a rather bombastic character named Vizzini the Sicilian has the bothersome habit of repeatedly – and usually inappropriately – using a particular word. Whenever he is confronted by an opinion with which he disagrees, or by a possibility he thinks too improbable to entertain, or by the very suggestion that another person might be his intellectual equal, he declares – emphatically and always annoyingly – “inconceivable!” In the scene in question, after yet another of Vizzini’s outbursts, one of his traveling companions, a laconic mercenary named Inigo Montoya, looks at him and says, in a low voice tinged ever so slightly with sarcasm, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Well, “that word,” in today’s text – and for that matter in all of Leviticus (it appears there more than in any other book of the bible) – is “holy.” It is a word we think we understand, and are pretty sure we don’t much care for. Perhaps because we are burdened by our common inheritance from those wacky Puritans, or because of our exposure to a certain brand of fundamentalism, or perhaps just because we have all been acculturated to a world that is anything but holy, many of us would just as soon stay as far from holiness as we possibly can.

It’s not that holiness frightens us so much as it depresses and annoys us. Holy people have withdrawn from the world into little cocoons of religiousness and abandoned the quest for the good life. They seem, or so we think, to have no joy, and what’s worse, they are killjoys. They hate their bodies and think sex is dirty and avoid it except maybe as an occasional evil necessary for the propagation of presumably holy children. They don’t care for good food and drink – neither wine nor beer nor bourbon ever passes their lips – and seem to live on bread and water if they eat at all. And don’t even get me started on the religiosity – all the inane “God bless yous,” the pious dismissals of the realities of pain and suffering, and the endless string of Bible verses they seem to have prepared for every occasion. Who in his or her right mind would want to be like that? Who, given the choice, wants to be holy? Or so we imagine…

But, as Inigo Montoya might remind us,  “that word” does not mean what we think it means. Holiness, properly understood, has only the most tangential of connections to the attitudes and behaviors I just named.  Holiness is gospel – not just good news, but really good news – and it is indispensable both to our flourishing and to the healing of God’s good Creation.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Christians in Iraq and Syria

Iraqi children bounce on a bed in the basement of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Amman, Jordan, where 60 Iraqi Christian refugees are living. Lutheran World Relief has helped the church feed the refugees and remodel the basement to provide some privacy for the 10 families. Photo by Paul Jeffrey for ACT Alliance

Photo by Paul Jeffrey for ACT Alliance
Iraqi children bounce on a bed in the basement of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Amman, Jordan, where 60 Iraqi Christian refugees are living. Lutheran World Relief has helped the church feed the refugees and remodel the basement to provide some privacy for the 10 families.
By Linda Bloom
Aug. 14, 2015 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
The Syrian refugee crisis continues to be an international concern and active threats remain against Christians and other minority religious groups in Syria and Iraq.
Tarek A. Sater, office director and program coordinator, Middle East Council of Churches, told United Methodist News Service the council and Secretary General Father Michel Jalakh are “in constant communication” with churches in both countries.
“Christians in Syria, unlike their brothers in Iraq who have suffered from internal threats for over a decade, are used to living comfortably in Syrian society,” Sater said in an email message.
“The war in Syria has shaken the foundations of the Christians in Syria and caused many to flee, while others refused to leave their homes and have remained stalwart only to suffer from abductions and violence.”
Many faith-based and nongovernmental organizations are aiding Syrian and Iraqi refugees of all religions. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has committed more than $2 million in response to the crisis in Syria and Iraq since late 2013.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New School in Sierra Leone

(Top) Early arrivals at the new building sit and wait for the dedication ceremony. (Bottom) The old school building contrasts sharply with the improved building.
By Phileas Jusu
July 2, 2015 | MILE 91, Sierra Leone (UMNS)

A new building is always cause for celebration, but the celebration is louder and more emotional when the new building revives the dignity and pride of a school.
The new $98,000, six-classroom building for United Methodist Primary School at Mile 91, in northern Sierra Leone, replaces an unsafe building that had collapsing bricks on one side. Parts of the roof had been blown off in a storm.
“This building is a manifestation that when we and our partners work together, a quality result is achieved,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Kamara, United Methodist Yonibana district superintendent.
She said she still hopes the school can get a library, since the children’s reading standards are still low.
Enrollment at the school, once more than 300, had dropped to less than 30 by 2014, as parents withdrew children in droves, said Joseph Pormai, Sierra Leone Conference’s education secretary for secondary schools.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Welcome New Member!

Steve and Sandi presented Ashlee as she made her vows on Sunday during the 8:30 service. Welcome!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

World Methodist Peace Award - Algeria

Dr. Hugh and Shirliann Johnson are given the World Methodist Peace Award Medals by World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams and Vice-President Gillian Kingston. Photo Credit: Sigmar Friedrich
Dr. Hugh and Shirliann Johnson are given the World Methodist Peace Award Medals by World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams and Vice-President Gillian Kingston. Photo Credit: Sigmar Friedrich
From the Life and service of Hugh and “Fritzi” Johnson(remarks by Bishop Heinrich Bolleter – retired Bishop and former WMC Geneva Secretary)

Aiming to characterize the life and service of Hugh and “Fritzi” Johnson, I use a quote of Hugh, which for me is crucial and unforgettable: “The church needs to be where the needs are the greatest!”
When I accompanied them in their service, there were many alarming situations in regard to the Christians in Algeria and also in regard to the safety of Hugh and Fritzi Johnson. From time to time friends from the USA and from Europe put pressure on me and told me that it would be time to get Hugh and Fritzi out of the danger zone. But when I once visited them worrying about their safety and trying to evaluate the situation, Hugh responded to my concerns with the following words: “The church needs to be present where the needs are the greatest!” To temporarily leave the area of political and social conflicts was beyond question for them. But the price was high: One day Hugh was attached with a knife and only hardly escaped death. And when visiting the local churches spread over the country, he always had to take roadblocks into account – and it was never clear whether they had been prepared by military or by revolutionary forces. Therefore he always had to be worried about his and his fellow travelers’ lives.
Hugh and Fritzi always showed a deep solidarity with the people in Algeria and Tunis – with Christians and Muslims, with the poor and with migrants. Whoever knocked on the doors of the church center was welcomed. This solidarity was echoed in an impressing way one day. During the time of the war in Iraq, a furious crowd of Muslims attacked the house where Hugh and Fritzi lived. The situation was very dangerous – and then the neighbors surrounded the house with a protecting human chain.
The solidarity of the two missionaries was also directed to the Sahraoui people (West Sahara), which then and still today live without a right to their own state in a refugee camp close to Tindouf in the Algerian desert. Together with Fritzi I visited these camps and was able to see the ministry particularly with women and children. Fritzi was involved in the education of the kindergarten teachers, and she took care that fresh herbs were brought into the camp so that the families could discuss their problems while preparing and drinking their traditional tea. The young people were often sent from the camps to the former socialist countries in Europe. After the political changes in 1990, these students lost their study place and their financial support. Fritzi was symbol for the narrow bridge between the camps of the Sahraoui and the world.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Global Mission Fellows

The current "crop" of Global Mission Fellows of The United Methodist Church ... from everywhere to everywhere, ages 20-30, our present and our future! Check out their blog.

Below are some reflections from Fellow Maria Niechwiadowcz, teaching in China with the Amity Foundation:

1. No matter how much I learn about China, I will never know enough. 1.4 billion people. 5,000 years of history. Various news sources from multiple cultural perspectives. Enough said.

2. Mandarin is the hardest language EVER (dialects make things difficult). I am a little ashamed to say that after spending 11 months in China, I still can’t carry on a full conversation in Mandarin. Survive? Yes. But conditions vary. The guyuanhua dialect here is still incredibly hard for me to understand and even with standard putonghua, my vocabulary is limited.
3. Every day is an adventure. Living abroad turns normal activities like grocery shopping and walking to the bus stop an adventure where anything can happen. I am challenged on a daily basis to adapt and take everything with a dose of grace. Here are just some of the thoughts that run through my head on a daily basis:
  • At the grocery store: Pear-flavored sausage? Ok…
  • Walking down the street: Pig heads on side of the road, no big deal. 
  • Upon hearing fireworks going off: Either my apartment is being attacked, or it is a holiday, or….neither, I live in China. 
  • After being invited to an official banquet: How lovely! When is the banquet next week? I mean, of course the banquet is tonight. I’ll cancel my plans. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Blood and Water (Denim Faith #2)

2015/08/16 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Series: Denim Faith: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Lunch Pail Crowd, and Leviticus
Call to Worship, Psalm 133
Children, Mark 4.21-23 (kids, parable of the light on a stand)
Message, Leviticus 8.1-36
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”

      Great detail around ordination to priesthood
      Song: specifics of the one we have lost – Mother Maybelle’s songs
      Part for the whole
      Song: one person the entire “circle”, experienced at
            New members

      Book of Hebrews – analogy by contrast, Aaron vs. Jesus
      Other Scripture, both OT and NT, analogy by part/whole
Romans 11:16   If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

Exodus 19:6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation (NIV)

Well is the church named ecclesia [“assembly”], because it calls forth and assembles all men, as the Lord says in Leviticus: “Then assemble the whole community at the entrance of the meeting tent.” It is worthy of note that this word assemble is used in the Scriptures for the first time [in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the “Septuagint”] in the passage when the Lord established Aaron in the high priesthood.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Morning Prayers - 4:00 am!

Eggester Jokomo sits inside St. Mark United Methodist Church in Harare, Zimbabwe following morning prayer.

Photo by Eveline Chikwanah, UMNS
Eggester Jokomo sits inside St. Mark United Methodist Church in Harare, Zimbabwe following morning prayer.
By Eveline Chikwanah
Aug. 5, 2015 | HARARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
Eggester Jokomo sits huddled near the church pulpit, eyes closed and her lips muttering an inaudible prayer. Around the 80-year-old, people of varying ages pray. A few women kneel at the altar, while others pace the sanctuary, praying loudly.
It is 4 o’clock in the morning, and the church is half filled with people focusing their energy on crying out to the Lord. One woman kneels beside Jokomo and presents her prayer requests. The two hold hands as Jokomo prays for her and assures her all will be well. They embrace when the prayer is over.
Welcome to early morning prayer at St. Mark United Methodist Church.
Known as rumuko in the local chiShona language, the St. Mark United Methodist Church prayer gathering now attracts members of other denominations, at times drawing more than 500 people of different ages to the church. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Korea: War and Peace

From our bishop, Jeremiah Park:

"Out of depths I cry to you Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy....
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption."
(Psalm 130:1, 5-7)
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier,
the dividing wall of hostility.... He came and preached peace ...."
Ephesians 2:14, 17a
Please Remember Korea in Your Prayers
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Prince of Peace, Healer of our brokenness, and hope of the world.

August 15, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Korean people from the Japanese occupation and oppression for 36 years. The independence from the harsh colonial rule came to the Korean people as a gift as World War II ended. When I was growing up in Korea, the day was observed as the most celebrated national holiday. I can hardly imagine the jubilation and excitement that the Korean people had that day. 

However, the national euphoria didn't last long. Soon the Korean peninsula was divided into South and North and each side was occupied by foreign powers: Russia in the North and America in the South. After 70 years, the division still exists and millions of lives and families have been separated. I can hardly imagine the heartaches, pains and sufferings of those who died separated from their loved ones. 

Husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings, relatives, and friends, separated in their twenties, are now in their nineties, if they are alive today, wondering what happened to their loved ones. They assumed that the separation would last for a few weeks or months.... Then the Korean War broke out started by the Communist regime of the North in 1950. It was one of the most brutal wars, which produced indescribable human tragedies: millions died, were injured, or became refugees. 

The Armistice Agreement in 1953 created the DMZ (demilitarized zone) of 2.5 miles wide and 160 miles long that separates South and North. The DMZ is one of the places where the most military power is concentrated in the world today. It is only 35 miles from Seoul. Some of our people of Susquehanna Conference and I had an opportunity to visit there last year. It was an intense experience realizing that it is potentially the most volatile space in the world and that the peace in the Korean Peninsula is so fragile. Technically, the Korean War has not ended. The war left South Korea to be one of the poorest countries in the world. However, South Korea witnessed "the miracle of the Han River (a river that runs through Seoul, capitol of South Korea)" and is now a prosperous and democratic country. North Korea is quite a different story. People have been living in oppression, persecution, fear, hunger, and darkness. Yet North Korea continues its pursuit to be a nuclear power. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Little Mountain Church House

Tied in with the first message in the Denim Faith series, "The Butcher and Baker".

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Denim Faith #1: The Butcher and Baker

2015/08/09 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Series: Denim Faith: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Lunch Pail Crowd, and Leviticus
Call to Worship, Psalm 9.11-20
Children, Mark 4.1-9 (parable of the sower)
Message, Leviticus 7.1-17
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song, “Little Mountain Church House”

      The death trap for thru-reading the Bible

Strange practices
      7 chapters on butchering (and baking) for sacrifice
      Who you can and cannot have sex with
      Rules for fair fights
      Bodily discharges and ritual uncleanness
Follows immediately on Exodus’ – tabernacle specs and construction
      Leading into tabernacle worship (sacrifice & priesthood)
Eugene Peterson: Suspicious that the preacher who focused on tabernacle worship actually knew nothing of butchering (The Pastor)
My favorite butchering story – the deer brains

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Procession of Hopefulness

Photo Courtesy of Abbey Jackson
Abbey Jackson (left) and Ena Boldern flank recent Teen Center graduate Karen Bravo of Omaha, Nebraska.
By Vince Isner
July-August 2015

Church-school partnerships

The view from the pastor's study at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, might be the envy of many clergy. There is no stunning cityscape, pastoral farmland or tree-lined street. It is a neighborhood locked in a pocket of poverty created by the effect of a major freeway slicing through the city.
Yet, every afternoon at 3:15, the Rev. Chad Anglemyer looks from his vantage point upon what he calls "a procession of hopefulness." He sees 50 or more students making their way across a busy street from nearby Burke High School straight to the doors of St. Luke's Teen Center. The ministry provides a safe, nourishing space for teens who might otherwise have no place to go during the late afternoon hours.
(From Pastor JP: Chad is one of my classmates in the Doctor of Ministry in Church Leadership Excellence at Wesley Theological Seminary.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Food and Fellowship

The choir hosted Food and Fellowship last Sunday. Thanks everyone! And we had the opportunity to welcome back Sally, our former choir director, and her family - visiting from Ohio.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Man's (and Kids') Best Friend

Coal, the Christ Church mascot, greets children from the Ark and drinks from the sprinkler.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Why? And other unanswered questions ... (4): Dust & Ashes

2015/08/02 Christ Church, Mountain Top; Holy Communion
Call to Worship, Psalm 8
Children, Genesis 2 (creation from the dust)
Message, Job 38-42, excerpts for the reading

            Job, “fears God and shuns evil”
            Loses everything
            Debate with friends: Why do bad things happen to good people?
                        They just don’t!
                        Opposing conclusions
            Last week, Job’s closing statement – yes, the legal language
                        Rejects arbitration
                        Asserts innocence (a little obsessed with his goodness)
                        Indicts God (31.35)
Here is my signature!
Let the Almighty answer me!
O that I had the indictment written by my adversary!

Today, God shows up!
            Not to crush
            Not to ignore or gloat
            To take Job seriously
The speeches of Elihu the Buzite
            About to burst
            The coming storm (37.9f) – whirlwind, ice, clouds, lightening

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind (38.1)
Who is this that darkens counsel
by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you,
and you shall declare to me (38.2-3).

Job’s had his turn at question-asking. Now, it’s God’s turn. And, if you thought Job’s questions were tough, try answering these ones!
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain?
Can you hunt the prey for the lion?
Do you observe the calving of the deer?
Do you give the horse its might?
Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Thanks to Tammy for organizing the group outing to see the Rail Riders last Friday. Lots of fun, great fireworks, and princesses and pirates.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Church Planting in Panama

Global Ministries missionaries David and Cynthia Ceballos, who serve in Panama, offered this “P.R.A.Y.” acronym in a recent article of the May-June issue of New World Outlook magazine. P.R.A.Y. has served the Ceballos as a guide to purpose their church development ministry in Panama. Consider how P.R.A.Y. can guide your church ministry or strategies. 

The acronym P.R.A.Y. serves three purposes for an initial stage of church development here in Panama: It sets our values, guides our priorities, and determines our strategy.

“P” stands for establishing a presence where there has not been a Methodist presence before. We are engaged in incarnational ministry. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1:14 NRSV)

“R” represents relationship. We have a vocation of building relationships both with God and with our neighbors. That is what the greatest commandment and the second, which is like it, are all about.

“A” stands for adaptability. The context in which we work determines the strategy and ministries we need. We have to remain adaptable to our circumstances rather than rely on preconceived programming.

Use this P.R.A.Y. acronym as a guide to set purpose for your church ministry.“Y” represents our Yes. “Yes, Lord, here am I, use me if you can.” We are guests on planet Earth, and God has asked us to participate in telling the redemption story. So, we pray with humility and respond with “Yes.” Nothing in the acronym P.R.A.Y. says anything about building something, doing something, or organizing something. Those things are secondary at this stage of development.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

David Davis Award

Heather is this year's recipient of the David Davis Award, in recognition of her hospitality and service. Congratulations and blessings!

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Imaginary Jesus, church and state

Michael Slaughter and Adam Hamilton, two leading pastors of The United Methodist Church in the USA, talk about our views of Jesus and church and state.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Liberia honors the church for service during Ebola crisis

Richard Wiah, president of the College of West Africa, a United Methodist school, checks the temperature of student before he enters the classroom.
By Julu Swen
July 31, 2015 | MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS)

Prayers and action undertaken by the Liberian Council of Churches during the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 have been honored by the Liberian government with the distinction “Commander, Order of the Star of Africa.”
The World Health Organization on May 9, 2015,declared Liberia free of Ebola transmissionbecause no new cases had been reported for 42 days. The country continues to monitor illnesses and to test for Ebola.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a United Methodist, described the LCC as “champions of peace” for the effort toward containing and eradicating Ebola. “This award is meritorious and distinguished for your commendable acts of patriotism, which immensely strengthened the mutual cooperation between the Church and the State,” Sirleaf said.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Suitcase Man

From Mission Central, one of our partners, in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The Bishop's Partners in Mission is raising $1 million to pay off the Mission Central Mortgage.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8 NIV)

Early in Mission Central’s ministry, a man came in one Friday carrying several suitcases he was donating in response to our advertisement.
We explained that we had not placed an ad and that he must have the wrong place. He assured us that he had seen an ad asking for donations of suitcases.
Finally, it became apparent that the man had purposely purchased suitcases at yard sales and it meant a great deal to him to donate them.  Somewhat reluctantly, we accepted them, having no idea what we would ever do with them!
The next Friday and every Friday that followed, the “suitcase man” dropped off suitcases!  He never shared his name – just wanted us to know he was responding to the ad!  Eventually we had about 30 or 40 suitcases piling up on a pallet.
One day as a missionary was touring the warehouse, he said, “I don’t know if you can help, but what I really need is about 25 suitcases, so that volunteers traveling to my country can bring clothing, medication, and other items in on a plane.”  We were able to give him all he needed and this started a suitcase ministry that has provided necessity-filled suitcases to missions all over the world!
The man who started all this never shared his name and after others started donating suitcases, he simply no longer came!
PRAYER: O Caring God, we pray that this servant of yours, whose heart was so committed to serving in this way, has been blessed. Make us always mindful that you use each and everyone of us to accomplish Your plans. Thank you for bringing people like the “suitcase man” into our lives! AMEN
(Harry Overholtzer—Executive Direction of Mission Central 2002-2008)