This is the third of a series of monthly messages in which I will be sharing with the clergy of the Indiana Conference the best ministry stories I have heard in the past month.
I invite any clergy of the Indiana Conference to send me your best ministry stories, so that I may share those stories with the rest of us. We all need to be encouraged by the stories of how ministry is working and being effective. So send me your stories, and I will pass them along. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org and mark them “Ministry Story.” Thanks.
LOAVES OF LOVE
Is a ministry of Fletchers Lake UMC in the Northwest District. They are an Advance Special. This is from their Facebook page:
“You can contribute to Loaves of Love through our Advance Special. Send you donations to the Indiana United Methodist Church, Northwest District Advance Special - Loaves of Love. 100% of what you donated comes directly to us and is 100% tax deductible. You can also contribute through the Fletchers Lake United Methodist Church, Carolyn Price, Treasurer, 9170 S 1100 W Kewanna, IN 46939.” They bake loaves of bread for churches to send to troops overseas, for churches to sell as fund-raisers, etc. This ministry was started by Dave Summers, and I can testify that the loaves are delicious – because I received one at Annual Conference.
MORE STORIES FROM LENT
This from Pastor Amy Covington: “I wanted to share a brief story about Fairmount UMC. We followed your lead for Lent and focused on being called by God. A few weeks before Lent began I was asked by a new worshipper why we didn't have any Men's Bible studies. I didn't have an answer, so I began praying about this. The next week a long time and active member asked the same question. I realized that there was a hunger from the men in our congregation to study together, so on the first Sunday in Lent I raised the question that had been asked of me. I challenged the men in our church to pray about their desire for a Bible study and told them that I knew God was calling someone in the pews that morning to be the leader. By the next Sunday we had over ten men tell me they were interested and two who felt called to lead. Today we have two Men's Bible studies that meet during the week with 12 or more men participating. Several of the men have never been in a Bible study before and one is a young man who has just recently started attending worship with his family. God is moving in the hearts of the people of Fairmount UMC and lives are being transformed!”
AN IMPACT EVENT FOR OUTREACH
The Blue Jay Cluster in Portland, IN hosted an Impact Event on Saturday May 14th by adopting four rooms at a local homeless shelter to redecorate and paint. Then on Sunday May 15th they hosted a Block Party with drive-up donations for local food pantry and cash donations benefiting United Way of Jay County Flood Relief Fund. Benefit concert, community carry-in dinner, and Celebration of Faith worship service. They report: “We accomplished our goals and created sustainable connections with the community. We will continue to assist at the homeless shelter. The only downside was the bad weather that kept many people away. Asbury UMC organized and hosted the event with members from other community churches participating on an individual level. On Saturday there were 15 church volunteers and two community volunteers. On Sunday there were 39 church volunteers and 5 community volunteers.” They go on to express appreciation for the guideline provided by the Indiana Conference after our outreach events during Annual Conference Session in Muncie: “The Impact Community event guideline was very helpful and we would use it again. We need to have more training of church members for the next event. The residents of the homeless shelter were grateful for their cleaner, more cheerful environment. We've created relationships with the residents and are continuing to assist the shelter board. We collected approximately 150 pounds of food donations and $290.61 for the Flood Relief Fund. Those who had a passion to serve were thrilled to have the opportunity to do hands on missional outreach. The leadership were encouraged by the participation of members of all ages. Many of those who weren't able to attend expressed their desire to participate next year. We have been back to the homeless shelter to help clean, paint, sort and organize a storage room. We have assisted residents with medical needs, job search information, and have shared personal stories. We continue to support the local food pantries with donations, and volunteers to help at the pantry.”
AND THE MOST INSPIRING MINISTRY STORY OF THE PAST MONTH – Stan Buck
Stan Buck, our senior pastor at Sonrise UMC in Fort Wayne, continues to inspire all of us with his testimonies during his recover from brain surgery. Here is one of his recent messages:
On May 20th, 2011 I had BRAIN SURGERY to remove a malignant form of brain cancer from the frontal lobe of my brain! The day before my beloved wife Kathy who is a nurse took me to the Emergency Room because I was having symptoms that concerned her (headache, disorientation, etc.) - and a few hours later they opened up my head like a can-opener!
The crazy thing is ... I felt better the day after surgery than I had in a month - and my physical recovery has been very good. I'm walking, talking, and enjoying time with my family. The reality is ... while the doctor thinks he got most of the tumor - there were areas of the tumor he could not completely remove - and the pathology report was sobering when it confirmed that my tumor was a Gioblastoma - Grade 4. We are following up with a focused treatment plan of radiation and chemotherapy to attempt to put any remnants of this cancer into remission.
As I have reflected on my experience with brain surgery and this cancer diagnosis - one of the the things that has become clear to me is:
EVERY DAY IS A GIFT!
I've officiated at funerals where a loved one unexpectedly died with no time to communicate things they really wanted to with their family. In my case, my diagnosis is sobering - but I've already had five weeks of time to tell stories, sing songs, take pictures, and say things to my family and others that a deeply important! (The picture at the beginning of this post was taken on June 25th at Lake Wawasee - five weeks after my surgery! The staples in my incision have given way to a little scar - but other than that and the short haircut the surgeon gave me - I look and act pretty "normal" for now!)
I feel like I've experienced my first healing already - surviving brain surgery - and I'm grateful! I'm planning to live a bit longer in this body - but someday it will fail me. I'm OK with that. I am not defined by my body. I am a child of God, made in His image - a spirit - and my journey is ultimately going to end up in His presence - where ultimate healing occurs! I'm in no hurry to get there - but I have a hope that will last forever! So either way, I win!
My commitment now, is to live every day for His glory - to honor my calling as a bond-servant of Jesus - and to honor my covenant marriage with my wife Kathy. By his grace, I plan to do that every day I have the breath of life in me!
Every Day is a Gift ... and I'm thankful! – Stan Buck