Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mission Training Event January 27-31

Hi friends. I've been gone some time now busy with other endeavors. Here's your official invitation for us to catch up, swap some mission stories, learn some new skills, and be about good work!

Outreach Celebration
Trinity on the Hill UMC, 1330 Monte Sano Ave., Augusta, Georgia, January 27-31, 2010

Wednesday, January 27
Mission Celebration Worship 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Sanctuary—with children’s choirs and Dr. Esaho Kipuke, missionary to Togo west Africa, preaching.

Thursday, January 28- reservations required by Monday, January 25
Supper– 5:00-6:00 p.m. – Wesley Hall
Christian Community Development Training—6:00-8:00 p.m. Nate Ledbetter, associate director of Family Consultation Service (FCS) Urban Ministries in South Atlanta, will lead training which shows how to increase the effectiveness of a church in the local community through Christian Community Development. See www.fcsministries.org to learn more of the transformational community ministry established in 1976 and focused in the urban Atlanta neighborhoods of Summerhill, Grant Park, East Lake and South Atlanta.

Friday, January 29- reservations required by Monday, January 25
Supper– 5:00-6:00 p.m.– Wesley Hall
Agricultural Missions Training- 6:00-8:00 p.m. Doug Neel, Associate Director of AgriMissions, will lead us in “AgriMissions 101.” Doug has extensive experience in agricultural missions, community development, evangelism and church planting. This session will involve laity and clergy and show how a church can be effective in agricultural missions.

Saturday, January 30- reservations required by Monday, January 25
Day of Service features 17 local mission projects for elementary children, youth, and adults. Projects include yard & neighborhood cleanup, painting, building wheelchair ramps, roofing a house, sewing pillowcases for children with cancer, a Hispanic medical clinic in Grovetown, working at Golden Harvest Food Bank, serving breakfast at BonAir, work teams in Harrisburg, at New Bethlehem, at Augusta Urban Ministries, and more!

Breakfast- 8:00-8:30 a.m.- pastries, coffee and drinks
Departure- 8:30-8:45a.m. – Break into groups for project sites
Serve- 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Servants work throughout the community!

Sunday, January 31
Sunday School- 9:45-10:45 a.m.- Mission Speakers include:
*Mike Cooper– Missionary preparing to serve in a 10/40 window Muslim country- Open Door Class/ A004
*Jim Dickens –President/CEO, Action Ministries- Adult Couples and Singles/ A267
*Michael Schaffer -Harrisburg Family Medical Clinic- Chapel/ A151
*Nick Elliott– Retired director of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction- Choir Room/ B242

Mission Challenge Worship- 8:30 and 11:00 a.m.

Sanctuary- Featuring New Creation and Love Unlimited Youth Choirs and Rev. Nick Elliott preaching.

Reservations may be made by Monday January 25 online at www.trinityonthehill.net or by calling the church office at 706-738-8822.

Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church is located next to Augusta State University and has served the Augusta/CSRA since 1926 in worship, education, and service. In the past year the church has supported 21 local, 9 state and national, and 6 international mission partners through prayer, funding, and participation. Twice a year the church offers a Children’s Consignment Sale with 40% of the proceeds supporting these mission partnerships. For more information contact Rev. Scott Parrish, Pastor of Outreach & Missions and Director of the Augusta State University Wesley Foundation.

For more information:

Rev. Scott Parrish
Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church
1330 Monte Sano Avenue, Augusta, GA 30904
Phone Number: 706-738-8822, ext. 18
Email Address: sparrish@trinityonthehill.net
Website: www.trinityonthehill.net

Rev. Scott Parrish
Minister of Outreach and Missions
Trinity on the Hill UMC
Augusta, Georgia
Director, Wesley Foundation
Augusta State University

Friday, October 9, 2009

Of Busy Days & Inconsistency

Isn't it interesting how many bloggers start out consistently, but then over the course of time as life gets busier they...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Immediate Need for Water in a Kenyan Village

A friend of a friend shares a great story and an immediate need. Perhaps you or your church might be able to help some children in Kenya who are in desperate need of help. This is a long, but moving story.

Here's an e-mail I received late this afternoon from a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in KY. For more information or to assist in this please contact Bill Goold @ bill.goold@asburyseminary.edu

Hello Scott Parrish,
This is Bill Goold at ATS in Wilmore. Moments ago I returned to my office and saw the red light blinking on the phone. I returned a call from my wife, Thelma, who had spoken with our dear friend, Kris Key. It certainly appears to me today is one of those days when God's voice is being heard by a number of His servants and we are all keyed in on the same need. Kris asked me to e-mail you with some information related to the on-going well project in Northern Kenya. I'm going to give you a pretty long story here, perhaps more than you asked for, but it may help you in your role in responding to the Spirit's leading as you sense it. Here goes!

As an ATS professor, I have many contacts with various international students. About three years ago I met and somehow truly bonded with a very mature, very Godly (not just superficially "spiritual", but truly Godly) man here who is a member of the Samburu (Sahm-boo-roo) tribe from Northern Kenya. His name is Michael Lolwerikoi (Loool wear ree koh eee).

Michael is about 43 years old, married to a wonderful wife named Christina. They are the parents of four children and have also adopted twins whose parents died. Christina and the children are in Kenya. Michael is currently in Kenya. I'm to pick him up at the Lexington airport on October 1. He has been home doing research on his Ph. D. (ATS) and will return to finish up his writing and expects to graduate in May.

Through Michael I became acquainted with his tribe, the Samburu people of Northern Kenya. Last fall I was given a sabbatical leave to go and live with these people and help produce the first Christian hymnal in their entire history. That hymnal is about to be published. But...what I did not know what that the hymnal project was God's way of opening the door to another great and critical need there, pure water!

Samburu people are pastoral people. Their entire lives depend upon cows and goats. They constantly move with where the grass currently is. There are about 250,000 Samburu. Theirs is one of 42 different tribes in Kenya. Each tribe has and speaks its own language. These folks are gentle, kind, hospitable folks who took me in, cared for me and captured my heart.

God just plopped me down right smack in the midst of the campus of a private school that is now in its sixth year. Because Samburu kids rarely have opportunity for formal, quality education, a very dedicated Christian couple, ANDREW AND PRISCILLA LANYASUNYA, felt a great burden from the Lord to begin a school for Samburu kids. That is where I stayed. They gave me a tiny room and I lived in the town of Maralal (Marr rah lal) for twelve weeks. Little did I know that God was beginning to do a miracle and I had no clue that it would begin through me.

While I was there, I found out that in five years, the school enrollment had grown to 850 kids, grades one through twelve. But I ALSO LEARNED THEY HAD NO WATER AT THE SCHOOL. ZIP! NONE! THERE WAS NO WELL. The local town "water works" was so feeble and broken down that AT BEST, WHEN IT EVEN WORKED, it could supple only 20% of the water needs of the entire town of 50,000.

I discovered that the kids at MARALAL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY did not have adequate water to drink (and when they did, it is not pure water), received one pail per week with which to do laundry, could not do a small sponge bath a couple of times a week and...80% OF THEM HAD NEVER, EVER ONCE, TAKEN A SHOWER. Many, many of the adults are able to bathe but once every two months or so. I would not believe this if I read it. The truth is, this is what I have seen.

Here is the real kicker for me. That was last fall! In the ten months since then, things have gone from bad to worse, to desperate. Northern Kenya has now missed the last four "rain periods," the windows of opportunity for rain. Their cattle are now dying, the kids are getting sick and very, very soon, death will come to many in this tribe.

Well, when I returned to the US and back my teaching at ATS, I had such a deep and heavy burden over their need for water at this school that I just could hardly bear it. I have never, ever found myself carrying such a burden and I have walked with the Lord for many years. Finally, I just prayed, "Lord...what should I do?" It was as though God said, "Bill, I want you ask Me and believe Me for the well that I want to drill at that school. If you will ask me, I will do it!"

Scott, I began to pray. To fast forward here, God miraculously...in ways I could not imagine, provided $24,000 for the well. In July (09), I returned to the school in Maralal. Through Living Water International (a truly great, Christian organization), we were able to drill a well on that campus and we now have water there. That is the good news. But the project is not completed. The well is drilled (280 feet deep). The water has been tested by the Kenyan government. The well will pump 4,000 liters per hour (about 1,000 gallons per hour). Unbelievably...the water is also 100% pure and can be drunk right out of the well...unheard of there. That is all good news.

Here is the problem. We need additional funds to now get a pump (submersible) down in the well, electricity to the pump, and storage tanks for the water after it is pumped up, out of the well.

Last Wednesday I spoke with Michael (the Samburu ATS student, still in Kenya). He has gotten three estimates for the amount it will take to complete the project and actually get the pure water out of the well and into the lives of the students at the school. Michael told me that as best as he can estimate it, the needed amount is around $12,000 US dollars. I said, "Michael, I don't have the money, but I'm praying daily that God will supply it. WHEN HE DOES, HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO INSTALL THE ELECTRICAL LINE, INSTALL THE PUMP AND GET THE WATER OUT OF THE WELL AND TO THE STUDENTS?" Michael said, "Bill, I believe we could do it within three days. All we need are the funds!"

Scott, here is the nitty gritty:
1) I have been working through a wonderful organization, based right here in Wilmore, called New Hope International Ministries "N-HIM." They are a not-for-profit organization, founded by a retired Asbury College professor.
2) Their address is: Box 49, Macklem Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390.
3) We have established a way in which NHIM can electronically transfer funds from their bank (here in Wilmore) to Kenya, then to a particular branch located in Maralal town, and then to a particular account in that bank which we have titled "Shalom Water Ministries of Kenya."
4) Michael Lolwerikoi can then access that account, write checks from it to any persons or companies doing work on the well. I have found Michael to be totally, completely trustworthy and fully accountable. He documents every transaction. Of all the Africans I have known and do know, He is the one most able to accomplish projects with total competency and integrity. I trust Michael fully.

If God does lead you folks to get involved, it will be for His glory. Water is life in Samburu land. It is not a luxury. It is life or death.

I give thanks to God for your interest and for anything you may be able to do for these good, needy, Samburu people, to His glory.

God bless you all and may He bless your work and ministry there at Trinity on the Hill.

In Him,

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lost Blogger

Where has the time gone?!

Sorry for my absence. Too much to do & too little time to reflect, much less write anything about those reflections.

School started in our area August 10, so my children have kept us busy as we now have a high school senior, an 8th grader in middle school, and a kindergartner at the elementary school. A month into the year & we are back into the routine.

Of course, this has also seen the beginning of another college semester, which keeps life moving as I work part time in campus ministry at Augusta State University.

The "regular" day job of ministry in the church offers plenty of opportunity with all the back to fall routines. In a large church ministry this means all sorts of opportunities to be busy. Add a little bit of a head cold (or is it allergies flaring up?) and the days move right on by. Thankfully there is a "little bit" of college football to offer a distraction for one who needs to play the couch potato and heal up!

Funny thing about getting sick-- I often seem to catch my breath and think about things other than my "to do" list. I know I ought to be aware and reflect on such things in prayer and devotion time, but I confess that often when I'm ill & at home a couple of days that I become I aware of things I've been missing. I'm curious if anyone else has that experience?

Monday, August 31, 2009

UMC Clergy Education

Have you caught Sky McCracken's blog asking "Do We Need to Reconsider Seminary Trained Clergy?" She opens a number of good questions to discussion including whether we are pricing ourselves out of the market with the high cost of graduate education and the low salary that most clergy find themselves at. Read it, think about the Church we need to become and the clergy we need, and weigh in with your thoughts.

Clergy Education

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Indigo Girl helps prison choir make CD"

Check out a fascinating story of prisoners, redemption, music, and ministry as Emily Saliers and a Georgia prison choir team up for Voices of Hope.

Full Story

CD Info Here

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Augusta State University Wesley Foundation

Welcome to the ASU Wesley Foundation. We're sponsored by The United Methodist Church and open to ALL ASU students. I hope that beyond classes and work you'll take time and create some college experiences which will grow your relationships with God and with those around you. We offer a variety of opportunities to be a blessing to you during your college days in hopes you'll be a blessing to others!

See Rev. Scott Parrish for more information—in person, on Facebook, or sparrish@trinityonthehill.net, or @ Trinity on the Hill UMC, 1330 Monte Sano Ave.

Find below a variety of options for you. If you have a particular interest we are always glad to create new events and opportunities! Experience one event or all...

Tuesday Lunch- $3 every Tuesday during a semester & usually at Trinity on the Hill dining room 12:15-1:30. Open to all ASU students- Great food at a reduced price.

After Lunch Discussion Group- 11-12 minute video and then discussion on a topic related to real life and faith. Tuesday 1:30- 2:15 or so. Topics include:
• What does it mean to live how God created you to live?
• Does God love people with different beliefs than you?
• Do you think it’s possible to keep something secret and never get busted for it?
• What’s up with the word LOVE? (NOTE: This will be a dangerous conversation dealing with EVERY aspect of love!)
• How can God stand by and watch us suffer?

Wednesday Night Supper- $6 @ Trinity on the Hill dining room—5:00-6:00 PM. Make reservations by Tuesday 1 PM at www.trinityonthehill.net or by calling the church office at 706-738-8822.

Wednesday Night College and Career Group, 6:00-7:00 PM, “Your Spiritual Gifts” or “Living Beyond Yourself” discussion. Find Scott & group in dining room.

Serious Volleyball League- Wednesday Night 7 PM Trinity gym. Augusta/CSRA teams formed with some of best talent in the region.

Sunday Morning- If you don’t have a church or group and are looking for a place come experience our Young Adult class & then stay and enjoy worship!

Service & Mission Projects- we always have a number of options for weekday or weekend to serve local people in need. Options range from student mentoring, to construction, to neighborhood clean-up, to feeding hungry people. We also offer national (FL, MS, LA) and international (Togo, Honduras, Jamaica, Bahamas, etc.) missions! See Scott for current details.

Upcoming BIG Events
Children’s Consignment Sale—Friday, September 18, 9AM-7PM, & Saturday 8AM-2PM @ Trinity gym. 70,000 items!! Consignors register until Sept. 7 @ www.trinityonthehill.net

What are you doing winter break?? Need some adventure??! Dream up a plan with Scott!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

An International Strategy of Fighting Poverty Through Helping Women

New York Times offers a disturbing story about the plight of women and female children. I guess it's most troublesome to me because it rings true with what I have seen in my limited travels. Find below a few excerpts of the lengthy article which is well worth your time and attention.

The powerful opening to the story says:

"IN THE 19TH CENTURY, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape."

"Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution."

Later in the story you will find this sobering thought:
"The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century. The number of victims of this routine “gendercide” far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century."

And later...
"WHY DO MICROFINANCE organizations usually focus their assistance on women? And why does everyone benefit when women enter the work force and bring home regular pay checks? One reason involves the dirty little secret of global poverty: some of the most wretched suffering is caused not just by low incomes but also by unwise spending by the poor — especially by men. Surprisingly frequently, we’ve come across a mother mourning a child who has just died of malaria for want of a $5 mosquito bed net; the mother says that the family couldn’t afford a bed net and she means it, but then we find the father at a nearby bar. He goes three evenings a week to the bar, spending $5 each week."

"Our interviews and perusal of the data available suggest that the poorest families in the world spend approximately 10 times as much (20 percent of their incomes on average) on a combination of alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks and lavish feasts as they do on educating their children (2 percent). If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries. Girls, since they are the ones kept home from school now, would be the biggest beneficiaries. Moreover, one way to reallocate family expenditures in this way is to put more money in the hands of women. A series of studies has found that when women hold assets or gain incomes, family money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine and housing, and consequently children are healthier."

On page 5:
"In general, aid appears to work best when it is focused on health, education and microfinance (although microfinance has been somewhat less successful in Africa than in Asia). And in each case, crucially, aid has often been most effective when aimed at women and girls; when policy wonks do the math, they often find that these investments have a net economic return. Only a small proportion of aid specifically targets women or girls, but increasingly donors are recognizing that that is where they often get the most bang for the buck."

"SO WHAT WOULD an agenda for fighting poverty through helping women look like? You might begin with the education of girls — which doesn’t just mean building schools. There are other innovative means at our disposal. A study in Kenya by Michael Kremer, a Harvard economist, examined six different approaches to improving educational performance, from providing free textbooks to child-sponsorship programs. The approach that raised student test scores the most was to offer girls who had scored in the top 15 percent of their class on sixth-grade tests a $19 scholarship for seventh and eighth grade (and the glory of recognition at an assembly). Boys also performed better, apparently because they were pushed by the girls or didn’t want to endure the embarrassment of being left behind."

The full article is at Women's Crusade

"Nicholas D. Kristof is a New York Times Op-Ed columnist and Sheryl WuDunn is a former Times correspondent who works in finance and philanthropy. This essay is adapted from their book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” which will be published next month by Alfred A. Knopf. You can learn more about “Half the Sky” at nytimes.com/ontheground."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Another Clergy Call Story-- But Now a Female Perspective!

What does a female do when you experience God's work in your life and feel called to professional church service? Yesterday I shared the story of an Atlanta colleague called to ministry which expresses a male perspective. Today, enjoy a female perspective of call to ministry and service in the church. I understand this isn't view shared by every church or denomination, but it is part of who we are as United Methodists.

The United Methodist Church is very affirming of women who are called to ministry. Women have had full clergy rights in the UMC since 1956. Galatians 3:28 expresses a foundational rationale which is consistent with Scripture, experience of the working of God, and "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. While we are still growing as a church in this understanding and application, the fact is that we have many female pastors, church leaders, district superintendents, and bishops.

Enjoy the call story of a campus minister

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Pastor Called to Ministry

I've always enjoyed hearing people's stories. Sometimes we have an idea God will speak to us in some big way that will change everything. It's been my experience, and I'm often reminded, that there is a consistent work of God in our lives and a certain divine flow. So, we often see God best when we look back and reflect. Enjoy Dave's story of his call and think about your own call from God.

A Pastor's Call Story

Monday, August 17, 2009

Though You Are Weak and Weary

If you like a little inspiration in your music, and like a guitar and solo voice, try out some Cameron Jones. This reminder of God's love got my attention.

Carry You

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to School, Camp Meeting Fervor, and a Prayer

These busy days of "back to the routine" with the start of school and the return of the regular church schedule offer more opportunity to work than time allows! There is a LOT going on for almost everyone this time of the year. Overlap some of the anxiety, tension, anger, and uncertainty in the world and the emotion on top of the busyness creates a strange dynamic.

With all this I am finding even more reason to enjoy time in a community of faith, and in particular in worship which inspires, renews, and challenges.

August is our time for summer camp meeting during our Sunday morning services at the church. That usually means we dress more casually, & enjoy the old standard hymns and very upbeat music. Today the congregation sang "I Stand Amazed in the Presence," "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and "I Need Thee Every Hour." An African American soloist got our attention with "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and then with the sanctuary choir joining her reminded us that "He Never Failed Me Yet." The preacher then tackled James 1:22-25 with an emphasis on "Doing Faith." All in all, a memorable day!

I offered the morning prayer in both worship services. I generally look over the worship service the night before, think about the direction of sermon and music, consider the needs of people on the prayer list, and jot down a few thoughts. And that scrap of paper gets scribbled on a good bit Sunday morning before and even during worship. Of course, in the moment I ad lib rather freely so I can seldom duplicate verbatim what I say in either service! With the preacher's sermon in James today I was praying about active, everyday faith. Here 's part of the prayer that I offer as we all launch into new endeavors here in late summer/early fall:

Holy God We seek You on this day. We need You God- we need Your grace, Your mercy, Your forgiveness. We need Your presence in our world today more desperately than ever before.

God we need You! We can not do what we most need. We try to create but it looks and sounds like Babylon all over again, like Sodom and Gomorrah.

We confess we are a guilty people- guilty of seeking our own self pleasure, guilty of disobedience, guilty of putting ourselves before You and Your will and way, guilty of idolatry as we center our lives around so many things & relationships other than You. Guilty of trying to hold onto everything in the world even as we try to hold on to You!

But deep in our heart we know there is more. Deep in our soul we know we have need of something more. The heart sickness, the faint whisper, the unfulfilled dreams, the holy yearning is still there. We have run to the pigsty, and now bankrupt, and with little hope, a distant memory of You awakens us again to the truth.

We recall that You know us in the deepest ways. We remember that You know every detail of who we are… and who we are called to be. And we remember that You are waiting for us, anticipating our return, eager to run and meet us and welcome us back into your embrace.

In these moments we are reminded of our need for You, our yearning for You. We are empty—please fill us! We offer ourselves to You once again at Your altar. We are inspired to live a life beyond the ordinary and routine. We are not content with what has been and eager for what You will do. We hear the call again to follow the Living Christ- we hear the message of loving our neighbor as ourselves, and to care for widows, and orphans, and strangers. We remember the sick and the grieving, the prisoner, and those without hope.

Unleash Your Holy Spirit in our lives, in our families, in our church, in our community and world. Move us forward in perfection so we reveal a real holiness, a true redemption, a deep and abiding faith that changes everything. We ask this so the Living Christ would be honored, and we would be conformed to His image. Amen.

Friday, August 7, 2009

70,000 Item Children's Consignment Sale

The Trinity on the Hill Children’s Consignment Sale (TOTH CCS) is held twice a year in the spring and fall on the church property located at 1330 Monte Sano Avenue in Augusta, Georgia. Proceeds from the sale are divided between the seller (60%) and the TOTH CCS (40%). The net proceeds retained by the church are used to support the local, national and international missions of Trinity Outreach Ministries. In addition, at the discretion of the consignor, any unsold items may be donated to TOTH CCS to be used in various missions projects.

The Fall 2009 sale dates are September 18-19.

Consignor Registration is NOW through August 3 - September 7

Barcode Ordering August 3 - September 13

Scheduled Drop-Off September 14 - 16

Go to Children's Consignment Sale to register and for more information.

Mission Partners
Strategic mission partnerships are developed locally, nationally and internationally between Trinity and these friends in ministry. These partnerships are evaluated annually in light of helping to advance the mission of Trinity on the Hill UMC.

Local Missions
Augusta Jail-Bibles
Augusta Rescue Mission
Augusta Urban Ministries
Bon Air Breakfast
Compassion Fund
Discretionary Fund/New Missions
Garden City Rescue Mission
Golden Harvest Food Bank
Harrisburg Ministries
HANDS and Day of Service
Heart to Hope (Asbury UMC Food Pantry)
Hispanic Ministries
Interfaith Hospitality Network of Augusta - Trinity hosting weeks
Interfaith Hospitality Network of Augusta- Operating budget
JOY Club
Lydia Project
New Bethlehem Community Center
Super Saturday
Wesley Foundation ASU

Conference/National Partners
Action Ministries
Anchor House
Camp Glisson
Discretionary Fund
Homeless Offering
Red Bird Mission
SOS Memphis Youth Mission Trip
Trinity on the Hill Disaster Relief Teams
United Methodist Children's Home
Wesley Woods

International Missions
The Dickerson Family- Kenya, Africa
The Kipuke Family - Togo, Africa
The Sims Family - Ghana, Africa
The Singh Family - India
Youth International Mission Trip - Jamaica

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A New Chicken House

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Our chicks, which were purchased in the spring just after they were hatched, had grown to a size that means they needed to upgrade their apartment. My small dog house converted to chick house, and attached to a small chicken run, no longer offers enough room for the quickly maturing chickens.

The other part of the equation consists of numerous pallets left at the church after Vacation Bible School. I’m not sure what our children’s ministry director did with all those things, though they always decorate the rooms and hallways in 3 buildings and always have many props left over post VBS. It seemed everywhere I looked there were pallets which needed to discarded. The thought crossed my mind that the pallets could be dismantled and provide lots of interesting hardwood to create a rustic suburban henhouse.

Inspired lightbulb moment… or not?!

Have you ever taken a pallet apart?

If you’ve moved one by hand you might know they are solid, and made of unfinished, rough cut hardwood. If you’ve ever taken one apart you might have had the same experience I did. The thin cross pieces are typically twisted, gnarled things that take a nail well, but don’t want to release any nail in its grip! I found the skeleton of the pallet- 3 long boards about an inch thick and 3 inches wide- were the most useful, but again tended to be made of wonderfully twisted oak. Perfect material for a pallet because it is hard as rock and it doesn’t matter if the wood is straight or not. Most often the pieces had as many curves as a river, and were as crooked as a dog’s leg! FYI- I learned that a pallet could be deconstructed most easily using other lumber to pry it apart, or for small pieces need for my creation to merely cut out what I required with my circular saw.

Along the way, as I dismantled 7 pallets & imagined what it would take to piece together a decent chicken coop, I realized I couldn’t use only pallet lumber. To make anything square out of this mess would require time and tools I didn’t have! How do you refit something made for one use into a presentable, useful item for an entirely different application? As I mulled this over, sweat pouring out of me during these “dog days” of summer, I easily decided to broaden the plan to include everything from old lumber and wire from previous projects to the wood and hardware I would need to purchase from a store. The “piecemeal” chicken coop was beginning to come together during this “learn as you go” outdoor carpentry!

My mind jumped to other creations I find myself part of:
-the ongoing transformation & work of God in my own life
- campus ministry
-the work of the local church
-the work of the larger Church, and in particular I thought of the challenges of adding younger clergy with older clergy.

Consider how often you are working with the available tools and materials wishing you had more options! Piecemeal ministry is a common experience to all of us.

Consider how often you aren’t working with a full plan, and even if you are the changes that are thrown into it by the developing situation and the numbers of other people involved, so that “learn as you go” is a critical skill to develop.

Somewhere an oak tree gave itself up to be fashioned into a few strips of twisted lumber which became a pallet. But was that all it was destined to be? In this day of creation, often using old wineskins and adding new wine (careful here if you think of that Jesus story), we all have a need to be refit and refashioned into something useful to the Creator.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Interfaith Weddings

U.S. pluralism of cultures and religions offers intriguing opportunities to learn and grow.

Imagine coordinating a wedding between an American born Indian Hindu girl and Sikh groom! After realizing the differences you'd likely find some challenges. Add the emotion and family into such an event and let the complications begin!

In some places interfaith wedding planners are popular as various traditions, rituals, and celebrations are being incorporated into practices which respect both traditions without significant compromise.

If you enjoy learning about different religions and how they are learning to speak to each other and interact you will enjoy this story which is about interfaith weddings, but also offers good insight into interfaith relationships in general.

One of my favorite lines comes from the father of the groom when he says, "But reality is not always simple."

Interfaith Wedding

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day Off Thoughts on Churches & Religious Publishers

It's a day off with the wife and older kids shopping for school clothes, and the youngest one here at home with a fever. And now an afternoon thundershower is rolling in. I did some quick Google searches but haven't found some info that I'm curious to know. Of course, in the back of my mind I've got some fall planning and resource loose ends I'm firming up. Related to these fall plans I tend to always use Cokesbury, UMPH, Abingdon, GBGM, Upper Room, Discipleship Resources, etc. though I'll also occasionally use other resources or create my own. Actually the last note is more typical for me as I use the discussion and interests of the group and springboard from there.

I notice that some publishers will show there top authors, top books in a year, etc. I wanted to compare Cokesbury to other religious publishers in this, but hit a wall quickly. Here are my questions related specifically to Cokesbury/UMPH though I'd likely apply it to all the others if I could:

-What are the top 25 books or curriculum for the last year?
-Who are the top 25 authors in the last year?

Does anyone have a source for this information? Is this listed online somewhere that I can access? I'd really like to know these things, and then know why some UMC's may have gone to other publishers/authors/books. If there has been a document on this that would satisfy my rainy day curiousity as well.

Oh well, back to the fever and thunder. Let me know if you have any answers to these mysteries which ought to be online somewhere.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Medical Care, Health Clinics, & Volunteers

I admit I don't have any easy answers regarding the current health care debate. Like many, I'd be able to point to lots of problems, could complain about the costs, would brag about medical advances of the last 25 years, and while concerned about the scores who don't have adequate adequate health care I still wouldn't have many answers. Complicated stuff for sure!

While traveling yesterday afternoon I heard a radio report about which reminded me of the crowds we served with our mobile medical clinic in west Africa. The report started:

"It was a Third World scene with an American setting. Hundreds of tired and desperate people crowded around an aid worker with a bullhorn, straining to hear the instructions and worried they might be left out. Some had arrived at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Wise, Va., two days before. They slept in cars, tents and the beds of pickup trucks, hoping to be among the first in line when the gate opened Friday before dawn. They drove in from 16 states, anxious to relieve pain, diagnose aches and see and hear better."

Find more of the report at Rural Medical Clinic

"The 2009 Remote Area Medical (RAM) Expedition comes to the Virginia Appalachian mountains as Congress and President Obama wrestle with a health care overhaul. The event graphically illustrates gaps in the existing health care system." One woman told of her visit last year that saved her life as the medical team found her gall bladder was enlarged and ready to burst.

It makes me wonder if there are parts of our GA/SC region which might be under served and need a medical mission team.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Adults Need to Go on "Away" Mission Trips

I don't usually speak of Mission Trips as much as I do "Away" Mission experiences. I guess I have some issues with the idea these are vacations (which is what a "trip" sounds like). Or that they are for a select few people in a church with certain skills ("Oh I can't do that, I don't have any skills"). Or perhaps that mission teams aren't for everyone but a certain percentage of the percentage that are already busy in the church (like you've got to be supergood, or proven, or something?).

Honestly, I can't easily separate out the various activities in my Christian life. Rather it seems to me the various elements are part of the whole. So, worship, prayer, study and discussion groups, fellowship, and service all constitute the way I follow Christ, and are therefore worthy of daily practice. And for me the fact has been that this all comes together nicely in a mission experience as all the elements are there!

First, some caveats: This challenge is intended for the person of average health, who can spend a week or more away from home, and who doesn't have any restrictive medical, health, or dietary issues. It's also for folk who, as I often say, "can claim a mission and who haven't been claimed by one." By that, I mean that many of us, at certain stages in life, have life challenges which demand all our extra time and attention, e.g. caring for a parent in failing health, caring for a special needs child, fighting a personal cancer, etc. But don't hear this as an easy way to let you off the hook because I'm certain God's expectations are of higher priority than any simple recipe you or I might cook up. I find there are many people who tell me "they wish they had," and "If I'd only made the time." So, I hope this does let some off the hook who honestly have too much on their plate, and challenges others who have never seriously thought about their place on a mission team.

With that in mind, here are my top reasons that every adult should participate in an "Away" Mission adventure:

1) You'll almost certainly do more in the name of Christ and the Church in one week away than you ever would at home. Even with your good intentions, how often do you spend such concentrated time in service, worship, study, prayer, and with others working toward a common goal? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

2) No, you aren't skilled enough or good enough, but go anyway and be surprised at how blessed you'll be and how you might bless others. I've found that the more diverse the team is in skills and personalities the more likely we are to be effective! How often do you minister to others? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

3) There are always LOTS of excuses- I'm too young, too old, too wealthy, too poor, too busy, too weak, too.... too... too.... You get the idea! There are always excuses not to do something that might change the world or change your world; drop the excuses, make it a priority, and go for an adventure for yourself and for God. How often do you experience the heart of the gospel and faith, and seek to share that with others? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

4) You will get to know members of the church and team in much deeper ways. It is impossible to "play church" when you are with a team for a week or longer, when you are thrown into work and the daily experiences, and when you and the group have all the "ups and downs" that go with a day. This is deep, enriching, challenging, and will connect you with people in such special ways that you will never look at them the same! How often do you experience such depth of relationships in adult life? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

5) You will experience God in much deeper ways (especially on international missions) which will change your life and faith at home. Such an experience will deepen your prayers, your worship, your time in Scripture, and your everyday faith and life. This will be the heart of the faith in everyday, honest ways, your belief brought to life, and the fellowship of Good News which can best be experienced and lived rather than merely spoken about! How often does church really come alive like that for you? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

6) At home, in your own routine, you will experience your life and faith and church, even mission, one particular way. Do an away mission experience and you are in control of very little. You are subject to others, and you must give in to the team. You are not in control of the agenda, and are intimately interconnected and interrelated to a group who you must rely upon. For many adults this is a challenge, but in it you will also likely find new spiritual and life freedom. How often are you part of such a special team which you add to and benefit from? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

7) You will pick up new skills, learn new things about yourself and others, and experience all the drama of life and faith which will change everything! This is a learning, growing experience which finds you in the intersection of goals a team must accomplish, in the middle of a culture or subculture that you don't get and must learn about, and in the midst of a God at work and a people of faith trying to express God's love the best they can. How often are you in such a learning context as an adult? This alone is a reason to be part of a mission team!

This isn't a comprehensive list, though this should give you a few ideas about the importance an "away" mission can be in the life of an individual Christian and in the life of a church. Anyone of these reasons could stand alone quite powerfully, and when you add them up the vitality and difference a mission team can make are significant. I've seen this played out with teenagers, to adults up to 80 years! But don't just take my word for it. Read Scripture and see that you are to go! Talk to others who have been and see that you must go! Look at the needs in the world and look at your skills and see that someone must go!

Why shouldn't you go on an away mission trip? Only if you have nothing to give, think God can't use you, have nothing to learn, have no blessings to give or receive, and see no needs in the world! :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Local Medical Clinic in Harrisburg

Numbers of members from Trinity on the Hill UMC have been active during the last year in helping a new ministry spring to life in the Harrisburg section of Augusta. A medical clinic based in the declining mill village area of town has had the strong involvement and encouragement of Gloria Norwood, TOTH member, & widow of the late U.S. Representative Charlie Norwood. The FROGS, Keith Howard, and others have been part of the construction of the clinic. Ben McElreath helped with legal issues in establishing the clinic and receiving funding from a similar non-profit which had gone dormant. Shirley Darracott has been a consistent leader in local mission and part of the dream and formation of the clinic from the earliest days. Scores of others have been part of these initial phases, and ongoing opportunities will exist for volunteers and donations as the ministry grows.

A key ally and sister who involved Gloria is our good friend Marsha Jones. I think of Marsha as our local missionary, & she continues her work through St. Luke UMC directing music and mission, & she has offered an outlet of ministry for Gloria and many of our TOTH members & serves as a bridge into the community. Of course, Gloria has brought her heart and soul to the community efforts and that has included her finances, her network of friends in the community and beyond, and a persistence which makes a difference. Michael Shaffer and the board of directors have come to this work through the efforts of Marsha and Gloria. Commissioner Jerry Brigham & the Augusta commission add another element to the clinic with assistance for start up funds for this worthy project in a challenging neighborhood.

It is dangerous to start naming names, especially at a late hour of day, but as I read the newspaper article it was easy to read MANY, MANY names and partnerships which have brought us to these exciting days! Forgive me if I've left someone out (add a response to help my list) & know Gloria, Marsha, and others will offer thanks to many volunteers in the days leading up to the grand opening.

See the full story at Harrisburg Family Healthcare Clinic

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Mission Reminder re. Church Ministry

Mission Thought #3:

You want a diverse team with various skills, personalities, ages, and abilities who are willing to give themselves completely to the work and to the team.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Mission Reminders re Church Ministry

Mission Thought #2:

You want God sized goals which can't be easily accomplished, which are demanding, and which may change everything!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Mission Reminders re Church Ministry

The various missions adventures I've been into this summer remind me of some mission and ministry basics which are true to Scripture and faith. Of course, you forget these things over time, and ministry easily takes on more routine, settled forms.

Mission Thought #1:

Take the life and activity of the Church outside the walls of the established group.

Being out in the community, sharing our life together, meeting practical needs, and looking for ways to honestly connect and relate to the community creates dynamic opportunities and relationships.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mission Training in ATL October 24

Be sure to get this on your calendar, do your publicity, and bring a group from your church to
Mission Training in ATL

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer Mission & Ministry Exhaustion

I'll have more pictures and stories and thoughts on mission and ministry in coming days. The last few weeks have offered the whirlwind of annual conference, west Africa medical mission, and local mission camp. The next couple of weeks I'll find more routine and give better updates on what has happened and what it means. This past week we hosted a great bunch from FUMC Fayetteville TN. They worked at 3 construction sites (one big roof project, framing walls on the 2nd floor of Heritage Academy, and cleaning and painting an Interfaith Hospitality Network transitional house) plus they worked at the Trinity on the Hill VBS and in our 2 basketball camps (1 at the church and another offsite at Tubman Middle School). I believe it was a significant week for both churches and for numbers of people in the community. More stories of life and faith later...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mission Camp Week in Augusta

An incredible team from Fayetteville TN FUMC has been in town since Saturday. I'll post some pictures later. Right now I mostly need a shower and need to go to sleep! Re. our great friends from TN they've been working 3 construction sites including re-roofing one house, framing walls in the 2nd floor of Heritage Academy, and cleaning and painting an Interfaith Hospitality Network of Augusta transitional home, plus some of the group has been working at Trinity on the Hill's VBS and 2 basketball camps.

From today's activities let me say I AM AMAZED by:
* 1 guy who worked all night at Savannah River Site and roofed all day,
* 1 guy who roofed & then led two 3 hour basketball clinics AND led an evening presentation for the group,
* 1 group of work horses that worked a 12 hour day to truss and deck a house,
* a host of volunteers of all ages who give their time to help others,
* and the spirit of the Fayetteville TN FUMC bunch who are game for serving Christ in Augusta.

And today was just Day 2 of our week long mission!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Crowd Eager For What You Can Offer

While we are in Togo we receive national news coverage for what we do. It turns out that some mission and church groups sell their services or don't follow through with their promises. We work hard to do what Christ would have us do, and this has allowed us opportunity to touch many people and continues to open doors for the work. We go where invited. We see as many people as possible in a day. We give away medical care, medicine, and glasses. The reporter follows us Monday through Wednesday for the 3 clinics near Kara, and then they share the report on the national news Thursday night. This opens up more opportunities for the Kipukes as they serve in Togo and for us on our return trips. We find opportunity in word and deed to share a witness for Jesus Christ and glad to be of service. There are many needs in Togo, and the timing is right, no matter the gifts and skills you and your team might bring to the work.

Yet the crowd, the need, and the opportunities are always greater than our ability.

If you desire an unparalleled open door for ministry, desire an African bush experience in a safe setting, & enjoy working with a team of missionaries and translators who are accustomed to Americans, then I'd strongly recommend your consideration of Togo and Esaho and Beatrice Kipuke. Kipuke

The crowd is waiting and eager to respond to some Good News!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Of Shea Butter, a Women's Cooperative, and Us

Do you know about Shea Butter?

I admit I never heard of the stuff until I was in Togo and saw where a Fair Trade group called Alaffia manufactures the product. It was an amazing element of our latest medical mission that was well worth the time.

One of our team members knew about a women's cooperative in Sokode, Togo that ships items to the U.S. in efforts to promote fair trade. Of the importance of this approach the Alaffia group says:

"Fair trade means paying a fair price or wage in the local context, providing equal employment opportunities, engaging in environmental sustainable practices, providing healthy and safe working conditions, being open to public accountability, and reducing the number of middlemen between producers and consumers. Fair trade is environmentally, economically and culturally sustainable and gives local communities the opportunity to self empower."

"Unrefined shea butter is a valuable natural resource for West Africa and could be an important tool in empowering local communities. However, most shea butter on the market in the United States and Europe is not fairly traded. The women who gather shea nuts and hand craft this remarkable oil receive only a tiny fraction of the final price."

"It is estimated to take 20 to 30 hours of labor to produce one kilogram of handcrafted shea butter, which is traded at $1 or less in today’s market. A woman making shea butter in West Africa will receive only a fraction of this price. Therefore, a person working for 30 hours, almost a week’s worth of work, will not receive even a dollar for her efforts. Even if she received the whole dollar, this does not even begin to reach living wage standards."

"Through our direct involvement in the entire process — from gathering the wild shea nuts and crafting the butter, to distribution locally and abroad — our members receive fair and steady incomes. In addition, 10% of sales will go directly back to our community in the form of community enhancement projects, AIDS and malaria outreach, and educational scholarships. We believe in 'building African self-empowerment the moral way' and truly appreciate your involvement in reaching our goals."

Learn more about Alaffia and support them if you use Shea Butter. Tell them that United Methodist medical team that visited Sokode (So Ko Day) sent you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Favorite Pictures from Togo

Here are some of my favorite pictures of children taken during our recent medical mission in west Africa. We were in the northern Kara region for 3 clinics & then in the western area near Kpalime for 1 clinic. Once again were warmly welcomed and had many opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Look deeply into these faces and see what you might see...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Togo 2009 Pictures

I'm back from Togo and trying to transition back to this time zone and my "normal" life. I'll share a few pictures and stories the next few days as I process where I've been, what we've done, and attempt to slip back into U.S. life and work. Our support of a missionary family in Togo, Esaho and Beatrice Kipuke, is vital to their efforts and to the ongoing work of sharing the Gospel in northern Togo and to many unreached areas and people groups.

This photo is from a village about 40 minutes outside of Kara in the northeastern section of Togo. The people of Hodo were very receptive and eagerly showed their appreciation throughout the day. VERY often in the Kara region the people don't speak French which necessitates using 2 translators including one who speaks the Kabiye dialect. Learn more about this people group of over 1 million at Kabiye

Monday, July 6, 2009

News Catch Up After Mission Team Return

I'm just back late yesterday after our medical mission team served in Togo west Africa. Sharing those stories, catching up on with rest and regular food, and finding out the news I've missed are always part or my re-entry routines. I'll share somem of the Togo pictures and stories in upcoming days. We'll see how all this plays out as I'm the clergy on call the rest of the week as everyone else is on vacation and I have a 30 member mission team arriving in town Saturday for a week of work. AH, the quiet days of summer !!

Catching up on news I was pleased to find many news services carrying info on Codex Sinaiticus. Now that's not something you normally see in mass media! They've placed information and many pages of this historic Bible online. If you've never seen a 1600 year old Bible you ought to take a moment and check it out.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Rise Up, O Men of God"

It's amazing to me how sometimes a song in worship will get my attention in all the right ways. I'm fortunate to be involved in a very active church. This transfers into our worship. Or is it that our activity level stems from the vibrancy of our worship?! Our senior high youth choir had just returned from a 9 day tour including singing and missions through AL, MS, LA, & TX so we were celebrating that. We commissioned an international medical team departing for Togo west Africa on Friday. And, of course, today is Father's Day and we enjoyed that remembrance of those who've touched our lives, as well as challenge for all of us to be who God calls us to be. While that second element wasn't stated in worship it certainly carries weight in the old hymn we sang today. Do you know this song?

Rise Up, O Men of God
Text: William P. Merrill, 1867-1954
Music: William H. Walter, 1825-1893
Tune: FESTAL SONG, Meter: SM

1. Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
to serve the King of kings.

2. Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
and end the night of wrong.

3. Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
her strength unequal to her task;
rise up, and make her great!

4. Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where his feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
rise up, O men of God!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cost Cutters AND Mission Enhancers?

While the economy pervades the news I still don't see as many GREAT IDEAS on cost cutting and organizational reorientation as I would have expected. As we settle into what appears to be a more long term "new economy" I'm starting to see more reports of lifestyle and organizational changes which will make economic and cultural differences. Some actions, such as dropping phone land lines for cell phones, seem to be the new norm.

An article from the NY Times shares some intriguing actions on college campuses which save money without compromising the mission. In fact, some of these moves appear to enhance student education. Ever heard of the WooCorps?! Check out some of my favorite university cost cutters:

- "Virtual Swim Meets"- where competing universities swim in their own pool, against the clock, and then compare times, without traveling to a swim meet.

- Some schools have cut out their "free" laundry service! I had no idea any universities offered such things. :) This is a worthy education and cost cutter if ever there was one.

- This is one of my favorites. "Cafeterias, too, are saving money, cutting food waste and reducing hot-water and detergent costs by eliminating trays. When Whittier began “Trayless Tuesdays” last fall, lunchtime food waste dropped to 4.6 ounces per student from 7.4 ounces — and the college saved almost $30,000 a semester after going fully trayless in the spring."

- In similar fashion many schools have returned to tap water and dropped bottled water.

- Another favorite move saves money and gives students work experience. "Rhodes College in Memphis economizes — and gives students work experience — by hiring students in 25 professional staff positions, saving $725,000 a year. And the College of Wooster in Ohio is trying to hold on to financially struggling students, and their tuition dollars, by offering minimum-wage summer jobs in its “WooCorps,” which has almost 200 students painting rooms, landscaping and growing vegetables this summer. WooCorps students will get an extra $1,000 in their financial aid packages — and help the college complete more maintenance projects than usual."

Now I'm curious how Christianity might benefit from such thinking and actions. Do you know of any actions taken by a church, denomination, or the Church which is a cost cutter while maintaining or enhancing the mission? I'm not looking for mere budget slashing, but for ways of saving money AND creatively fulfilling or even growing ministries. Let me know what you think.

Find the full article at Higher Ed Cost Cutters

Friday, June 19, 2009

Annual Conference Reflections

We did all the usual things at the North GA Annual Conference this week including breaking in a new bishop to our conference! I find conference to be a strange mix of institutional routine and reports, some times of intense boredom and "chair exhaustion" (I don't sit well!), and other times in worship, singing, and in visiting that are profound and inspiring. With a nod to the Methodist circuit riders of old, who endured much with joy yet were surprised to survive from one conference to the next, we started out by singing "And Are We Yet Alive?" It's a good historic question, and more relevant than ever as we assess our lives and ministry.

On Wednesday I tried a little bit of an experiment. My quest was to look for Jesus even in all the business and pace of conference. I admit I often forget this part of the adventure of life and faith. I had some fun that day as I caught glimpses of Jesus in Athens GA:

-in the beautiful variety of a gathered people- I REALLY like the diversity of people and opinions and expressions- most of the time! I'm still learning about "conferencing" and the idea we might best be a people of faith and the Church as we work this out together.

-in an old preacher who woke me to the moment with a one line introduction to a Scripture reading- "Listen behind the sound you hear for the voice Isaiah heard."

-in an old preacher who preached in a way that engaged my head, heart, and life. I've known Al from a distance the last few years, though he's retired now and doesn't know this mid career clergy. It's a powerful thing when a preacher can break through to people, especially to some of us who are jaded, cynical, and think we've seen it all and heard it all!

-with a group of young campus ministers who do tough work with little recognition but love what God is doing on campuses. This interesting group willing to risk sharing their faith and encouraging young adults in faith is an exciting arena for ministry. These folk don't tend to be the "ladder climbing" type of clergy, but have a calling which is comfortable in expressing faith in a challenging climate often with little support.

-in an old preacher carrying a baby around a local restaurant. It turns out he was walking his granddaughter as practice for her baptism this Sunday!

-in a meal with a good friend as we shared thoughts & dreamed dreams-- think I sensed the Wesley brothers too as we ate dinner and shared our lives and ministries!

-in a storm in the middle of the night as the thunder cracked, the wind rattled the windows, and the rain came down in torrents. Sometimes middle of the night thoughts, reflections, and prayers are the best! Sometimes even in the storm their can be a sense of peace and joy which is beyond words.

So, it's not the half million for mission given, or the amendment rhetoric or votes, or the pain of de-funding some social ministries due to the economy and lack of funding that I'll remember of this conference. Here's the official wrap up if you want those details.

What I'll best remember is meeting the Living God in some unexpected people and places, and being inspired and renewed because of those encounters. I hope your Holy Conferencing worked as well for you!

And are we yet alive,
And see each other's face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give
For His almighty grace!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Complete North GA Amendment Results

Bishop Watson announced results from voting on the Constitutional Amendments:

North Georgia's Constitutional Amendments Voting Results:

Amendment 1
yes 544
no 958

Amendment 2
yes 1409
no 91

Amendment 3
yes 224
no 1264

Amendment 4
yes 88
no 1262

Amendment 5
yes 223
no 1262

Amendment 6
yes 1391
no 111

Amendment 7
yes 221
no 1264

Amendment 8
yes 1407
no 95

Amendment 9
yes 153
no 1345

Amendment 10
yes 84
no 1402

Amendment 11
yes 218
no 1265

Amendment 12
yes 223
no 1261

Amendment 13
yes 83
no 1403

Amendment 14
yes 224
no 1260

Amendment 15
yes 1386
no 115

Amendment 16
yes 220
no 1264

Amendment 17
yes 1291
no 216

Amendment 18
yes 225
no 1259

Amendment 19
yes 1334
no 174

Amendment 20
yes 218
no 1263

Amendment 21
yes 219
no 1264

Amendment 22
yes 1461
no 43

Amendment 23
yes 86
no 1400

Amendment 24
yes 219
no 1264

Amendment 25
yes 220
no 1264

Amendment 26
yes 85
no 1399

Amendment 27
yes 217
no 1268

Amendment 28
yes 221
no 1264

Amendment 29
yes 221
no 1264

Amendment 30
yes 222
no 1262

Amendment 31
yes 223
no 1262

Amendment 32
yes 226
no 1261

Note that these votes will be added to the aggregate vote of all United Methodist Annual Conference member's votes world-wide. To be adopted, two-thirds of the aggregate vote must be yes.

North GA UMC Amendment Results

Here are the more official results confirmed by North GA for the full report on the amendment votes

North GA Amendment Results

North Ga Amendment Results

The amendment vote results were reported this morning and will be reported at the conference website at www.ngumc.org

#2- yes 1409 no 91
#6- yes 1391 no 111
#8 yes 1407 no 95
#15 yes 1386 no 115
#17 yes 1291 no 216
#19 yes 1334 no 174
#22 yes 1461 no 43

The other amendments had similar results against.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

North GA Annual Conference 2009

We've been in Annual Conference in Athens since Tuesday morning. Of course, many UM's showed up Monday night to claim a room, check out one of the many great restaurants in Athens, and for some of us to enjoy pre-conference meetings. The North GA deacons always gather on Monday and that's always a good way to start the week for me.

The Hope for Africa Children's choir sang and danced and were a highlight of the week. See what the local press reported on Hope for Africa

I also took a number of pictures to show some "behind the scenes" about conference. I know food and fellowship are a key component of this having experienced it firsthand so often throughout the years! But my camera is acting up and many pics in my electronic camera have mysteriously disappeared.

Of course, we do a lot of worship and business as well. But I figured the "official" news will report some of that very soon. Since so many conferences have shared info on the amendment votes I will post unofficial numbers for North GA once those are released from today's vote. We have a large conference and also include many visitors and others who can't vote but are welcomed to attend. Here's a pic of the "bar of the conference" at the back of the room:

I don't know what your UM annual conference is like but this is the routine for us. The business is held in this room of the Classic Center, and worship is held in another room. And of course there are service options and meals and displays and more meals in plenty of nearby breakout rooms. Traveling the hallways and seeing people is half the fun!

Conference wraps up tomorrow by 5, and I'll give a follow up at some point in the day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Staycation- June 2009

Staycation June 2009 comes to an end today. It's a good way to end things with worship, and an excellent way to start this next chapter. In the week ahead I'll be involved at the North Georgia United Methodist Church Annual Conference. Think annual meeting of clergy and lay delegates from all the churches who gather for worship, business, mission, ministry group meetings, ordination, and lots of singing and eating. Annual highlights always include renewing contacts with old friends who haven't been seen in a year and meeting new friends. Then back home and at work for just a few days before our team leaves for Togo west Africa for our medical mission.

One of the fun parts of this Staycation was introducing 2 new chicks to our family. Flapjack and Jaycee are doing well so far as they are warm enough (a critical issue with chicks!), are eating and active, and have not gotten into any problems yet.

Our suburban farm is coming right along now as they join the rabbit Callie (name still under family review!).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Staycation- June 2009

Nothing like an exciting climax to "planned" opportunities! In the last couple of days of yard work we realized that recent water department work had brought our supposedly disabled yard sprinkler system to life. We bought the house 2 years ago, and understood from the previous owners that everything was turned off. We are at the top of a hill, and the first house on the line. Said another way, when the water department works on anything down the line they must turn off the water right in front of our house. This means we get a lot of air in the line when they work for a half day or so, which they did early in the week. In addition to the explosive pressure that comes into the house once the water line is fired up again, we found water leaking out the front of the lawn. I suspect the air blew open a zone valve enough to allow about a gallon a minute of water to seep out the front sprinkler line. Strangely enough the main valve for the whole sprinkler system was NOWHERE to be found. I spent my exciting Friday of Staycation June 2009 guessing, digging holes, and looking for a mystery.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Staycation- June 2009

Other adventures in recent days of Staycation 2009 allowed me the privilege of "painting the town." Turns out my daughter needed a silver bed for her purple room. And my son needed a black bed for his room. And...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Staycation- June 2009

The excitement continues as in recent days I've hung plates, pictures, etc. ad infinitum.

Plates on a wall?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Staycation- June 2009

I've been so busy in recent days I haven't kept up with blogging.

Here's what I did a couple of days ago:

Planed a door

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Economy Hits the General Church Agencies

"Two of The United Methodist Church’s largest agencies are trimming more than 90 jobs in response to the economic crisis. The Board of Discipleship announced nine layoffs June 2, bringing the total positions eliminated since January to 30. The Board of Global Ministries will eliminate 41 positions, and 20 open positions will not be filled. In early June, the Board of Global Ministries sent individual letters offering a retirement package to eligible staff and a general letter offering the option of "voluntary separation" to the remaining staff. All employees have until June 30 to decide whether they will accept a retirement or severance package. In general, the separations will take effect July 31."

See the full story at Church Agency Layoffs

Monday, June 8, 2009

Higher Education Challenges

In March I attended a UMC General Board of Higher Education event with focus on how to bridge the gap between church and academy. Of course, when we got down to it much of the interest seemed to be in how to funnel more UM students into UM schools. Some colleges/universities seem more successful than others in gaining students, keeping strong relationships, producing strong graduates, and maintaining that circle of relationship which is necessary for continued vitality. Of course, when the question was posed about UM schools costing too much for many in UM churches we all seemed to be at an impasse with little hope of resolution.

The following viewpoint is intriguing for it's insight into higher education, some possible answers for UM related colleges, and for possible innovations which higher education institutions may need to consider to weather the current economic storm. I reprint it in it's entirety due to its line of thought and the intriguing options the authors propose which are "outside the box" in terms of my experiences in college and graduate school.

Do you know of any UM or other private schools or state schools which are going to some of these new approaches?? If so, please do tell the school and what innovations you see.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
From the issue dated May 22, 2009
Will Higher Education Be the Next Bubble to Burst?


The public has become all too aware of the term "bubble" to describe an asset that is irrationally and artificially overvalued and cannot be sustained. The dot-com bubble burst by 2000. More recently the overextended housing market collapsed, helping to trigger a credit meltdown. The stock market has declined more than 30 percent in the past year, as companies once considered flagship investments have withered in value.

Is it possible that higher education might be the next bubble to burst? Some early warnings suggest that it could be.

With tuitions, fees, and room and board at dozens of colleges now reaching $50,000 a year, the ability to sustain private higher education for all but the very well-heeled is questionable. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, over the past 25 years, average college tuition and fees have risen by 440 percent — more than four times the rate of inflation and almost twice the rate of medical care. Patrick M. Callan, the center's president, has warned that low-income students will find college unaffordable.

Meanwhile, the middle class, which has paid for higher education in the past mainly by taking out loans, may now be precluded from doing so as the private student-loan market has all but dried up. In addition, endowment cushions that allowed colleges to engage in steep tuition discounting are gone. Declines in housing valuations are making it difficult for families to rely on home-equity loans for college financing. Even when the equity is there, parents are reluctant to further leverage themselves into a future where job security is uncertain.

Consumers who have questioned whether it is worth spending $1,000 a square foot for a home are now asking whether it is worth spending $1,000 a week to send their kids to college. There is a growing sense among the public that higher education might be overpriced and under-delivering.

In such a climate, it is not surprising that applications to some community colleges and other public institutions have risen by as much as 40 percent. Those institutions, particularly community colleges, will become a more-attractive option for a larger swath of the collegebound. Taking the first two years of college while living at home has been an attractive option since the 1920s, but it is now poised to grow significantly.

With a drift toward higher enrollments in public institutions, all but the most competitive highly endowed private colleges are beginning to wonder if their enrollments may start to evaporate. In an effort to secure students, some institutions, like Merrimack College near Boston, are freezing their tuition for the first time in decades.

Could it get worse for colleges in the coming years? The numbers of college-aged students in the "baby-boom echo," which crested with this year's high-school senior class, will decline over the next decade. Certain Great Plains and Northeastern states may lose 10 percent of the 12th-graders eligible for college. Vermont is expected to lose 20 percent by 2020.

In the meantime, online, nontraditional institutions are becoming increasingly successful at challenging high-priced private colleges and those public universities that charge $25,000 or more per year. The best known is the for-profit University of Phoenix, which now teaches courses to more than 300,000 students a year — including traditional-age college students — half of them online. But other competitors are emerging. In collaboration with an organization called Higher Ed Holdings--which is affiliated with Whitney International University, owner of New England College of Business and Finance, where one of us is president and the other a trustee--some state universities have begun taking back market share by attracting thousands of students to online programs at reduced tuition rates. One such institution is Lamar University, in Texas, which has seen its enrollment mushroom since working with Higher Ed Holdings to increase access to some of its programs.

Moreover, increases in federal financial aid and state scholarships have been unable to keep up with the incessant annual increases in tuition at traditional four-year colleges. For example, Congress has raised the Pell Grant limits from $4,731 to $5,350 a year by scrubbing the federal loan programs of bank subsidies thought to be excessive. But $5,350 pays for only about four to six weeks at a high-priced private college.

A few prominent universities, including Harvard and Princeton, have made commitments to reduce or eliminate loans for those students from families earning less than $75,000 or even $100,000 a year. But the hundreds of less-endowed colleges cannot reduce the price of education in that fashion. It is those colleges that are most at risk.

What can they do to keep the bubble from bursting? They can look for more efficiency and other sources of tuition.

Two former college presidents, Charles Karelis of Colgate University and Stephen J. Trachtenberg of George Washington University, recently argued for the year-round university, noting that the two-semester format now in vogue places students in classrooms barely 60 percent of the year, or 30 weeks out of 52. They propose a 15-percent increase in productivity without adding buildings if students agree to study one summer and spend one semester abroad or in another site, like Washington or New York. Such a model may command attention if more education is offered without more tuition.

Brigham Young University-Idaho charges only $3,000 in tuition a year, and $6,000 for room and board. Classes are held for three semesters, each 14 weeks, for 42 weeks a year. Faculty members teach three full semesters, which has helped to increase capacity from 25,000 students over two semesters to close to 38,000 over three, with everyone taking one month (August) off. The president, Kim B. Clark, is a former dean of the Harvard Business School and an authority on using technology to achieve efficiencies. By 2012 the university also plans to increase its online offerings to 20 percent of all courses, with 120 online courses that students can take to enrich or accelerate degree completion.

Colleges can also make productivity gains by using technology and re-engineering courses. For the past 10 years, the National Center for Academic Transformation, supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts, has helped major universities use technology to cut instructional costs by an average of 40 percent while reducing the number of large course sections, graduate teaching assistants, and faculty time on correcting quizzes. Grades have increased, and fewer students have dropped out. Meanwhile, students have a choice of learning styles and ways to get help online from either fellow students or faculty members. That "transformation" requires a commitment to break away from the medieval guild tradition of one faculty member controlling all forms of communication, and to give serious attention to helping students think and solve problems in new formats.

The economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University, a member of the federal Spellings Commission, offers more radical solutions. He urges that university presidents' salaries include incentives to contain and reduce costs, to make "affordability" a goal. In addition, he proposes that state policy makers conduct cost-benefit studies to see what the universities that receive state support are actually accomplishing.

Fortunately, some other forces are at work that might help save higher education. The federal government recently raised significantly the amount of money that returning veterans might claim to pursue higher-education degrees, so it reaches at least the level of tuition and fees at many public universities.

In addition, the rest of the world respects American higher education, and whether studying at a college here or an American-based one abroad, the families of international students usually pay in full. The number of international students could rise from 600,000 to a million a year if visa reviews are expedited; the crisis of September 11, 2001, temporarily reduced the upward trajectory of overseas enrollments in American colleges. Accrediting agencies could also develop standards to expedite the exporting of American education into the international market.

But colleges cannot, and should not, rely on those trends. Although questions about the mounting prices of colleges have been raised for more than 30 years and just a few private colleges have closed, the stakes and volume of the warnings are mounting. Only during a critical moment in economic history can one warn of bubbles and suggest that the day of reckoning for higher education is, in fact, drawing near.

Joseph Marr Cronin is the former Massachusetts secretary of educational affairs, and Howard E. Horton is the president of New England College of Business and Finance.

Section: Commentary
Volume 55, Issue 37, Page A56

Will Higher Education Be the Next Bubble to Burst?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Vacation Ends

It's time to go back to work today. Two worship services, catch up on e-mail, load everything in my car for lake camp this week, go to Thomson FUMC (the near center of the Augusta District which stretches to Greensboro, Milledgeville, and Tignall!)for preAnnual Conference briefing, and I'll launch back into "normal" summer work.

First a vacation recap:
In addition to doing some yard work, and knocking out some home projects, I've almost completed the long awaited "door table." I got an antique door a year ago at the church White Elephant sale. I cleaned it up last summer, but never did find legs or a base that would accommodate what we wanted to do. I stripped the door of 75 years of paint, and since then it's been sitting in one corner of the garage. Then this year at the White Elephant I picked up a long free standing cabinet (OK you might call it a chest of drawers or bureau) that had 3 holes in the top appearing to have been used in a shop with a vise attached. I painted the cabinet black, and then my wife suggested taking at the drawers all together. I stained and sanded, and stained, and sanded, and eventually polyurethaned the top door/table top. I don't have a woodshop, so all my work was done with hand tools. I've set the tile, and will grout one evening next week.

Despite the fact the Lowe's cashier suggested I go into furniture design I believe I'll keep my day job! Still, this has been fun and will be a good conversation piece, plus useful for a crowd. I just hope I don't EVER need to move it!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Vacation Days

I've been away with some vacation time. That means staying at home and catching up on projects. Check out the rabbit hutch I built.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Who Is a Real Catholic?

Who Is a Real Catholic?

David Gibson got me with the title. Then he made me nod in the affirmative and think about similar applications and questions of other religious groups as well.

Find below an excellent editorial which serves up religion, politics, sex, value clashes and all in very few words. The quandary of Catholicism in the U.S. is likely relevant to most religious groups though some of the particulars of their system of authority may be somewhat different.

"All you need to know to diagnose the state of the Catholic Church in America today is that Pope Benedict XVI -- who has a knack for ticking off Muslims and Jews -- spent the past week wandering the Middle East, yet Catholics here barely noticed. They were too busy fighting over Barack Obama's appearance as commencement speaker at Notre Dame or arguing about the fate of a popular Miami priest known as 'Father Oprah,' who was caught on camera sharing a seaside embrace with his girlfriend."

If you've been near any electronic media you've likely picked up on the above stories. If you are totally out of the loop it would be worth your time to Google the Notre Dame commencement brouhaha or the story of Father Cutié.

"A tabloid published shots of popular Cuban American priest Alberto Cutié -- a multimedia star among U.S. Hispanics -- in risqué poses on the beach with a woman who turns out to be his girlfriend of two years. Nothing draws media flies like a sex scandal, especially one involving a man of the cloth, but a funny thing happened on the way to Father Cutié's disgrace: He did not slink away in shame but instead proclaimed, with Luther-like dignity, that he wasn't worried what the hierarchy thought. 'What worries me most is how God views me. The institution, the church, is something else.'"

As I read the opinion article I couldn't help but wonder who defines Methodism today-- bishop, agency, clergy, or in fact laity? What are the most important things for religious people to be doing? to be saying? And how does the younger generation of clergy see itself in religious vocation?

Enjoy the article and let me know if you have any answers to my questions, or come up with some questions of your own.

Who Is a Real Catholic?