Monday, January 30, 2017

New Church in Muslim district of Sierra Leone

Wesley United Methodist Church opened Dec. 11. The church is the first United Methodist building to be constructed in the Pujehun District of Sierra Leone. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS
Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS
Wesley United Methodist Church opened Dec. 11. The church is the first United Methodist building to be constructed in the Pujehun District of Sierra Leone.
By Phileas Jusu
Jan. 11, 2017 | PUJEHUN, Sierra Leone (UMNS)
“We have also been engaged in sharing the concerns of the people in the community so that their problems become our problems,” Kainboy said. “More young people are coming to the church. The young people want to be seen; they want to be heard; they want people to appreciate their talents. So, when once I see a young person with a potential, I interact with them and invite them to my church. I don’t ask them whether they are Muslims or Christians.”
Young Muslims have been coming to the church and about four have stayed permanently.
“Once they come, the next stage is involving them in the activities of the church. And some of them have appreciated us for recognizing them. We involve them in music, games. The young people are interested in these things. I give them opportunity to play instruments. They sing and we clap for them and they feel good. I do not pose to be their pastor, but I see them as my brothers and sisters,” Kainboy said. 
Kainboy also is a chaplain in the government hospital in Pujehun.
“Because of my role as chaplain and the way I’m encouraging the things young people are interested in, all the nurses in the hospital — mainly young folks — are now members of my church,” he said.
There is a very strong interfaith collaboration in Pujehun. Jointly, Muslims and Christians support the health ministry to disseminate health messages.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Factions for Fractions (2017-0122)

21-22 Jan 2017, Christ Mountain Top
Nicene Creed (call to worship)
John 1.43-51 (kids)
1 Corinthians 1.10-18 (message)

Asian fusion restaurant in DC last week:
      Korean, Japanese, Thai menu items
      Jewish Mezzuzah on the doorpost, with the Shema prayer

Last week, in a conflicted situation, Paul focused on
      Jesus as Lord – no matter what side of the conflict
      God as faithful – not dependent on me or my authority
Therefore, he was able to genuinely give thanks for his brothers and sisters in Corinth.

This week, in the next few verses, Paul begins to address the conflict. Notice, however, that he still does not bring up – at least not directly – the conflict between him and the church as a whole. No, instead he points out the conflict they are having with each other. There is nothing Paul says with which they could disagree. There are quarrels over lots of nonsense, including their favorite preachers and who baptized them. Paul trots out his baptism record in Corinth, then remembers he left a couple folks out of the original list. I say all the time, “I always forget something in a list.”
      There’s genius to Paul’s approach:
1.     Indirect approach to the conflict between Paul & Corinth
2.     Multiple conflicts prevent complete polarization (if they were all on the same side, they could team up against Paul)
      Paul is also deadly serious, immediately theological, and desirous of what only God can do – change hearts. If Corinth continues to focus on their factions – Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter), and Christ (!) – they will only divide into fractions. And the fractions and factions will just gobble each other up.

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Philippino bishop honored for sheltering the poor

Thousands of farmers sought shelter at Spottswood Methodist Mission Center after government forces fired on their peaceful demonstration. Three were killed, 18 severely injured, close to a 100 wounded and scores missing. The center sheltered thousands of women, men and children for three days.
Photo courtesy of United Methodist Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco
Thousands of farmers sought shelter at Spottswood Methodist Mission Center after government forces fired on their peaceful demonstration. Three were killed, 18 severely injured, close to a 100 wounded and scores missing. The center sheltered thousands of women, men and children for three days.
By Kathy L. Gilbert
Dec. 15, 2016 │ UMNS

On April 1, 2016, a desperate situation turned deadly when the Philippines government security forces fired on a peaceful demonstration of 5,000 farmers who were asking for rice.
The hungry people got bullets from the government, but were offered compassion and shelter by Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco and other United Methodists of Spottswood Methodist Mission Center.
The bishop’s decision to offer sanctuary to the starving families put him in danger and he was threatened with arrest.
He was defiant in the face of criticism and danger.
“It is never a sin when poor farmers demand food, but it is a sin to deny them food,” he said in April.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

To the Church

14-15 Jan 2017, Christ Mountain Top
Psalm 40.1-11 (call to worship)
John 1.29-42 (kids)
1 Corinthians 1.1-9 (message)

The Greek word for church, ekklesia, 2 main uses that inform
1.     LXX, for Israel gathered as people of God
2.     Greece, for gathering of the city-state to conduct their affairs, the “body politic”
Three implications:
1.     We are God’s, therefore to live “godly” (like God) in character and behavior
2.     We are One, that is, we have a common destiny and identity, despite whatever differences exist
3.     We are a political body, in the sense that the “kingdom of God” is a political term, which calls for loyalty and for action in a world that is not necessarily aligned with the purpose of God’s kingdom or realm

1 Corinthians 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be [God’s holy people].
      Often enough, however, we fail to live up to who God has called us to be. Listen in to the situation in Corinth:
1.     Godly: 1 Corinthians 5:1  It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans
2.     One: 1 Corinthians 3:3  For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?
3.     Political … in a positive sense? No, instead it is in all the negative senses. Instead of alignment around the purpose of God’s kingdom on earth, they are promoting factions, promoting themselves. 1 Corinthians 12:21-22  The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."  On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. ~ However, this is exactly what they are doing to each other.

Friday, January 20, 2017

United Methodist women bring Christmas gifts and live among the poor (Sierra Leone)

During the United Methodist Women’s convention in Kabala, northern Sierra Leone, women break up into groups and go into the rural communities to live and work with the community. In addition to their prayer ministry, they also take gifts of clothing, shoes or toiletries.
By Phileas Jusu
Dec. 16, 2016 | KABALA, Sierra Leone (UMNS)
Carrying large plastic bags filled with Christmas gifts, the United Methodist Women of Sierra Leone went on an Ubuntu journey Dec. 7-11 that led them through rural communities to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
“Ubuntu” is a Zulu word meaning, “I am because you are,” explained Beatrice Fofanah, outgoing coordinator of the group.
The women meet annually and this year were in Kabala, northern Sierra Leone.
“About seven years ago, when I was Women’s Coordinator, I attended an Ubuntu program in America. I was so moved by the impact of the Ubuntu journey that I decided to replicate it into the women’s program in Sierra Leone,” Fofanah said.
Ubuntu has continued to be a significant program of the women’s annual convention for the past seven years with many success stories, she said.
“The women go into the communities and, for a few hours, live and work with the community,” said Ethel Sandy, the new Women’s Coordinator. “In addition to their prayer ministry, social interaction, they also take gifts with them — clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc. And they take along a lot of love and warmth to the community they visit.”

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr.

He who works against community is working against the whole of creation. Therefore, if I respond to hate with a reciprocal hate I do nothing but intensify the cleavage in broken community. I can only close the gap in broken community by meeting hate with love. If I meet hate with hate, I become depersonalized, because creation is so designed that my personality can only be fulfilled in the context of community. Booker T. Washington was right: "Let no man pull you so low as to make you hate him." When he pulls you that low he brings you to the point of working against community; he drags you to the point of defying creation, and thereby becoming depersonalized.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958, 1986, 2010. Boston: Beacon Press, p 94

Caroling After-Party (2 of 2)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Dogs making Christmas visits

<p>Bo and Ty are familiar faces at Smyth County Community Hospital.</p>
MARION, Va. (Dec. 18, 2016) -- On Christmas morning, Andy Overbay will get up early and put Santa hats on his furry friends, whose names are Bo and Ty. Then the three of them will drive over to Smyth County Community Hospital to visit the patients who didn’t make it home for the holidays.
For the last four years, Overbay and his dogs have visited the hospital every week, including Christmas day. This Sunday will be their fifth Christmas hospital visit in a row.
“Would you like to see the dogs today?” a hospital staff member asks on a recent Wednesday, accompanying the visiting trio to every patient’s door. Nine times out of 10, patients are thrilled to make small talk with Overbay and cozy up to his 80-pound pets.
“Mrs. Claus has been fattening us up,” Overbay responds to a patient who says she likes big dogs, before asking Bo if he can hear Santa coming outside? Bo obligingly leaps over to the window, standing on his hind legs to peer out over the frosty hospital grounds.
Overbay is a member of Chilhowie United Methodist Church. The ministry he has created -- PAWS for Christ – grew out of his faith and a lot of years working as a dairy farmer, he says.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Refugees welcomed in Scranton

Over the past month St. Paul’s UMC in Scranton has had the privilege of welcoming refugees from the Congo. One Sunday we were visited by a couple who spoke very little English. We did our very best to welcome them in, greeting them and offering them snacks and the bread that we give away. To our surprise, they returned the next week with their children. Halfway through the service, the church phone rang and we found out that there was another group of refugees waiting outside to come in. They were let in, and after the service we found out that they had walked 1.8 miles from the other side of Scranton to be with us for worship. We have since begun offering rides to and from church, and the number of refugees attending has continued to grow to the point that we are making five trips to bring them to church.

After a plea on Facebook we were fortunate to make a connection with Amy Kuiken, a member of Trucksville UMC, who is a French professor from Wilkes University. She and her husband, Jonathan, who is a history professor at Wilkes, and their children were able to join us on a Sunday to help us communicate to a few of the adults who spoke French. Amy and Jonathan were able to go back to Wilkes and share our story with a professor in the anthropology department, who has since visited with our families and helped us gain a Swahili translator for a few weeks.

Read the full story on page 3 of the November Susquehanna LINK.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Let's Go and See: A Shepherd Speaks (2016-1224)

Luke 2.1-20
In character as a shepherd

Praise the LORD! We saw angels! And the baby! It’s a miracle!

Earlier tonight, we corralled the sheep in a ravine in the eastern pastures. We spread out to watch, take turns sleeping. It’s hard work, you know, being a shepherd, not for everyone. Reuben woke me for the second watch. And just then, someone else was with us, standing right there, from me to you away. An angel, a messenger of God, right there in front of us. And, glory! We could see the angel, but the brightness of the glory was almost overwhelming. I cried out in alarm; I’ve never seen anything like it. And everyone woke up.

“Do not be afraid,” he said. And you should have seen what happened next! Not just one angel of the LORD, but a whole battle host, a great army. And they were not there for war, but for celebration! “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Do not be afraid? If it is possible to be terrified and overjoyed at the same time, that was me.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The first angel had a message. “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Suffering Violence (2016-0101 message)

01/01/2017 Christ Mountain Top
Psalm 148 (call to worship)
Matthew 2.1-12 (kids)
Matthew 2.13-23, with Hebrews 2.10-18 (message)
Song, “My Deliverer” (Rich Mullins)

FB responses to the end of 2016, the unexpected losses, human atrocities, divisive politics, natural disasters, and personal struggles. . . . It can’t end soon enough. And, here we are at the turn of the year, surprised by a Christmas story that we prefer to forget. But, before we get into the story of the slaughter of the holy innocents and the holy family seeking asylum as refugees in a foreign land, a neat story from one of our sister churches:
      St Paul’s UMC, Scranton, welcoming Congolese refugees

Today’s Scripture passage moves us from the glowing lights, cute animals, and beautiful baby of Christmas to raw violence, grief without comfort or reason, and the danger and evil at the heart of the world. We realize, somewhere, that Jesus is born into poverty, born into illegitimacy, born into oppression, but the Christmas card covers and nativity sets do not highlight those realities. Jesus comes as Prince of Peace, but no sitting king is interested in an upstart prince, even a peaceful one. Jesus comes, and his arrival is – from the very beginning – a profound political challenge to the status quo, to those in power.
      So, maybe as readers we should have expected a turn of events like this, an early attempt to snuff out the one who came for the sole purpose of dying. By the end of the story, we’ve read the account of a genocide and watched “God with us” become a refugee seeking asylum in a strange land.

Christmas Eve Reflections Service

Video covering much of the 11 pm Christmas Eve reflections service.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Angel Tree Gifts

Thanks to everyone who provided gifts for 65 children through Head Start!