Monday, April 29, 2019

Relationships key as churches reach out in the opioid crisis

The Rev. Harold George (left) prays with community members during a food distribution at Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Fisher, W.Va. George also serves as an emergency first responder, which puts him in the front lines of the opioid crisis. “You pray on the way to calls, you pray your way through calls, you pray for the people after the calls,” he said. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.
The Rev. Harold George (left) prays with community members during a food distribution at Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Fisher, W.Va. George also serves as an emergency first responder, which puts him in the front lines of the opioid crisis. “You pray on the way to calls, you pray your way through calls, you pray for the people after the calls,” he said.

Story by Joey Butler, photos by Mike DuBose
April 4, 2019 | MORGANTOWN, W.Va.
...Thornton said he tries to get folks off the street and into recovery, but also offers to pray with them and just remind them they are loved. Not everyone is receptive — he’s been ignored and even threatened with violence. He also has a number of people show up at Fourth Avenue “because they know our church is a place they will be welcomed.”
Donnie Smitley met Thornton through his street ministry and now comes to his church. A former crack addict, he said, “It’s only by the grace of God I’m here.”
Welcoming is important to the Rev. Mike Smith as well. Smith pastors Nighbert United Methodist in Logan, another area hit hard by opioid addiction. The church is next door to a clinic that administers suboxone, a medication used to treat dependence.
Smith routinely hits the streets and gets to know the community, which helps build trust with those who are often suspicious of the church.
“There’s a sacrificial aspect to it, committing your life to changing other people’s lives,” he said. “If you’re willing to really get involved, it’s intense.”
The Revs. Harold and Cheryl George and Deb Dague take that intense way of changing lives to another level. In addition to ministering to congregations, they are also EMTs.
Harold George said he focuses on the job at hand but never really takes off his clerical collar.
“You pray on the way to calls, you pray your way through calls, you pray for the people after the calls.”
He also has to pray for other first responders. The rise of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid many times more potent than morphine, has put emergency personnel at risk, as even physical contact with the drug could prove fatal. Crews carry extra Narcan, a drug that can “revive” overdoses, in case they succumb to fentanyl exposure.
Dague works with Brooke County EMS in Wellsburg. “People say you can’t be an EMT and serve a clergy role, but this is someone’s worst day and you’re with them to give care and hope,” she said. “That’s how they’ll remember you. To me, it absolutely is a ministry.” ...

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Opening Day

The parade (in which Zoe and I walked), most of the 51 teams this spring, Jane's cousin throwing out the first pitch, and last season's championship teams with their banners.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Founder of Methodism in Japan

By S.E. Hager, an obituary in 1938
The Rev. Teikichi Sunamoto was born September 30, 1857, at Koi, Hiroshima. When sixteen years old he applied for enlistment in the navy, and served on gunboats until 1880. In October of that year, he sailed as second mate in a merchant vessel to San Francisco. His purpose was to get an education and support his mother. In San Francisco he became a faithful attendant at the preaching services of the Gospel Society. On May 7, 1881, he was baptized by Dr. Otis Gibson.
Mr. Sunamoto worked for the Gospel Society until August 1886 when he returned to Japan with the one purpose of leading his mother to Christ. He went to Kobe and presented a letter of introduction from Dr. McClay, of Tokyo to Dr. J.W. Lambuth [a missionary]. Then he went on to his home in Hiroshima and was warmly welcomed by his family.
Shortly after this Dr. Lambuth went to Hiroshima and held quiet meetings in his hotel. In February 1887, Mr. Sunamoto’s mother and eleven others were baptized; among these were M. Matsumoto, G. Ota, and K. Mito, all three of whom became prominent preachers. The first chapel, located on Daiku Machi, was used also for a girls’ school with forty students enrolled in 1887 and conducted by Mr. Sunamoto. Miss N. B. Gaines became the principal of this school, and under her leadership the present Hiroshima Girls’ School was developed. Mr. Sunamoto was married to Miss Watanabe, August 8, 1887.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Cyclone survivors in Zimbabwe

If you wish to contribute to this and other recovery efforts, mark your donation for "International Disasters" and we will send it on to UMCOR.

Boulders now sit where houses and a police camp used to be before Cyclone Idai hit Kopa Township, Zimbabwe. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UMNS.
Boulders now sit where houses and a police camp used to be before Cyclone Idai hit Kopa Township, Zimbabwe. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UMNS.
By Eveline Chikwanah and Kudzai ChingweApril 2, 2019 | CHIMANIMANI, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

Geshem Makufa, 55, who remains at the Mutambara hospital (a United Methodist hospital), was swept away by floodwaters when the storm hit.
“I do not know how I came here, but all I remember is that it all started around 9 p.m. when I heard the cries of help from people and sounds like a roaring lion from the water bodies, which I later assumed was wind, water and rolling stones.
“I then decided to check what was happening and on stepping on the road, I was swept by the heavy current of water, which was accompanied by heavy stones and a lot of mud. For miles, the water forces rolled me, removing all my clothes until I was naked,” he said. 
“During the process, something like a string twisted onto my wrist, which I grabbed to safety. With a faint voice, I cried for help until two people came to my rescue. The good Samaritans carried me to a room where victims were accommodated. I was bruised all over my body and was shivering because of cold,” Makufa said.
He thanked God for the good Samaritans who saved him and provided a fire to keep him warm.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Bishop Park on terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka

April 25, 2019

“… he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace…’” (Luke 19:41-42)

Dear Fellow Pilgrims on the Way,

Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our Brokenness, and Hope of the World!

A few days ago, on the island of Sri Lanka, we witnessed the horrendous devastation from the most recent terrorist attacks in the three cities of Colombo, Ngombo, and Batticaloa. Over three hundred and fifty people were killed and several hundreds more were injured from these attacks. These evil acts of terror must be condemned in the name of humanity. The unspeakable horror that happened to our sisters and brothers in Sri Lanka breaks our hearts and troubles our souls. Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of the innocent victims.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Beard to Beardless ... a progression

We already know the church prefers me beardless. And, after experiencing a beard for three months, I was ready to let it all go. Here are the looks ... with full beard in matching suit and tie (got to bring out the charcoal and white); goatee only; Fu Manchu (which got a lot of negative reaction in the shaving party); beardless in the same tie and different suit (but actually the picture from the church directory back in November). Thanks for making this adventure fun - and for your generosity to UMCOR!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Grub and Grace

Dining room
When Pastor Silvia Wang and others at First UMC Archer City realized their church did not have many young adults, they pondered what to do. The idea of having dinners for young adults came up, thus their New Faces New Spaces opportunity, named "Grub and Grace," was born.
Rev. Wang recently spent some time with us to explain how Grub and Grace came to be and how her congregation and the city have been pivotal in its growth.
How did the concept for Grub and Grace come about?
In September 2018, two church members, my children, the youth ministry director and I attended the “New Faces, New Spaces” Vision Day at First United Methodist Church in Decatur. We talked about ideas for New Faces and New Spaces. We realized our church did not have many young adults, but that there are young adults we know who are living in Archer City and Wichita Falls (which is close to Archer City).
The idea of having dinners for young adults came up. We realized that we could ask Chef Juston Liles (who recently moved to Archer City and was attending our church) to see if he would be interested in cooking the first few monthly dinners for this new young adults ministry. After Vision Day, I invited other church leaders including the chairpersons of Missions and Evangelism and the 2018 and 2019 chairpersons of Administrative Council to be part of this Vision Team. This became the Team that prayed about and decided on how to make this new ministry a reality.
My children and youth ministry director, Megan Densmore, came up with the name “Grub and Grace” for our new ministry for and with young adults. Other church members know the owners of the Spur Hotel in Archer City and helped to secure the Spur Hotel’s dining room as the New Space for Grub and Grace. My Vision Team and I put together the New Faces New Spaces Micro-Grant application, which was submitted to the North Texas Conference. We were thrilled to receive a micro-grant of $1,000 from the North Texas Conference to start Grub and Grace. Another church member submitted an article about Grub and Grace and about our church receiving the Conference micro-grant; this article was published in Archer County News.

Monday, April 22, 2019

A close shave

Thanks to everyone who supported the Save the Beard - Shave the Beard campaign for The United Methodist Committee on Relief! Personally, I am glad the "Shave" won! The final totals:

  • Shave the Beard, $821.18
  • Save the Beard, $526.05
  • Total for UMCOR, $1347.23

And I shaved it off on Sunday 31 Mar after the 10:45 service.

EarthKeeper pastor saves turtles

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sow in Tears, Reap with Joy, Psalm 126

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy   
      Praying the Psalms, 6       
6-7 Apr 2019, Christ Mountain Top, The Lord’s Table
Opening Scripture, Isaiah 43.16-21
Children, John 12.1-8
Message, Psalm 126

Mom, after diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and consult with Fox Chace, and the good news: I had to pinch myself
      “We were like those who dream”

Historical context: Return from exile
When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion (Ps 126.1, NIV)
      From living in refugee camps to living in their own land
Yet, disappointment too …
      Lacked the resources and will to get it all done immediately
      Resistance to their return and recovery
      Continued to live in distress
            – wall not repaired, temple not built
      Temple they dreamed of wasn’t the temple they could build
Those whose mouths were filled with laughter now sow in tears.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

I acknowledged my sin (message 31 Mar 2019)

I acknowledged my sin   
      Praying the Psalms, 5   
30-31 Mar 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Responsive reading, 2 Corinthians 5.16-21
Children, Luke 15.11-32
Message, Psalm 32
Mission Moment, UMCOR Sunday video 4

“As you speak, a hundred billion failures disappear”
      Song, “So Will I”

Robin making the chicken rice soup when we were courting
      Me absorbed in my work
      Unintentional sin (Numbers 15.25, Leviticus 5.15)
      Robin forgave me … though the soup was cold

Psalm 32:1-2  Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Ways we experience sin, metaphorical language from Scripture:
      Stain we cannot quite remove
      Weight we cannot carry and cannot release
      Missing the mark
      Debt we cannot afford to pay

Jesus and all the wrong friends

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Praying the Psalms: My Soul Thirsts for You

My soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you 
      Praying the Psalms, 4   
23-24 Mar 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Responsive reading, Isaiah 55
Children, Luke 13.1-9
Message, Psalm 63
Mission Moment, UMCOR Sunday video 3

Thirst, then hunger
Desert, then sanctuary, then bedroom
An all-nighter with God, waiting for answered prayer at sunrise
Prayed in the morning, prayed at night
What form/genre?
      Lament over personal troubles and God’s absence?
      Thanksgiving for sacrifice/meal?
Unexpected conclusion – “those who seek to destroy my life” (v9)
·       Paired with title line, “Of David. When he was in the Wilderness of Judah.”
·       That does not mean that it was in fact written by David. It could refer to a David tradition psalm, or a psalm written to fit within David’s legendary story. We don’t know, and the title line does not require any particular conclusion.
·       David fleeing from Saul? From Absalom? Yet did not desire that either die.
·       However we understand the title section, it is clear by the conclusion that this psalm is a prayer offered when our very life may be threatened.

It is that very threat that makes the praise of this psalm so audacious. It is not that everything is going great. Even though things are bad, even though folks are out to kill me, I have not forgotten the reality, the foundation, that I celebrate and experience in worship with the people of God in the sanctuary. My soul is satisfied. And, “your steadfast love is better than life” (v3).

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Toby Mac Concert

A group of our folks enjoyed the Toby Mac concert at the arena.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

More new members!

Harry & Jackee, presented by Michele, and Dave and Kathy, presented by Tim. And Maddie and Mazie, in training with Seeing Eye. Welcome!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Baptism coming up!

This little guy loved my beard and is soon to be joining us in baptism!