Tuesday, December 31, 2013

TOC Devotion: Changed By Grace

“Changed by Grace”

Read Ephesians 2: 8-10

One highlight for me in ministry this year was in having a chance to preach a sermon series on one of my favorite words out of scripture--grace!  Then, I had the double opportunity to live and pour into this same community of people and in seeing lives changed.  For example, one day while meeting with a small group and studying the Word of God together, we began reflecting on our own, personal application.  Those in the group began to share how they had recently grown in their understanding and experience of grace.  One migrant shared about being rekindled and strengthened through focusing on God’s grace.  She talked some about her struggle in moving to secular Germany where it was easy to make choices that needed God’s forgiveness and grace.  Meanwhile, another person shared about experiencing an awakening to Christ through grace within this past year, describing it as if “moving into a different country” spiritually speaking.  Praise God for her birth into the grace of God!

Conversations like these make all the sweat and yes, sometimes tears worthwhile because of the reminder it brings that God is still in the life changing business!  I am so blessed to have such opportunities to teach about God's amazing grace and to get to watch as people grow under the move of God in their lives.

So thank you for your partnership with the Sims family that enables us to share about the grace found in Jesus Christ!

And how about you?  Have you had a life-changing encounter with the free gift of grace offered through Jesus Christ?  Or do you need some fresh fire in your bones?  Go to God, and be changed by grace.  Don't forget that your standing cannot be earned; it is a continuous grace gift!  

Nicole Sims
The Mission Society
Currently serving as pastor of Hamburg International United Methodist Church in Germany.

Monday, December 30, 2013

TOC Devotion: "Kingdom of God Needs You to Work"

During the next few weeks we'll share some devotions provided by church members and outreach partners.  This is an excellent way to get better informed, prepare yourself for the upcoming Trinity Outreach Celebration (TOC), and consider the ways God has gifted our church to be a witness by word and deed in the world.  You can find a complete listing of our mission partners for May 2013- April 2014 here.  These are evaluated annually by Trinity Outreach committees related to local, national, or international teams in accordance with our established policies and procedures.    

Our theme for the upcoming TOC 2014 is "The Kingdom is Near" with Luke 10:1-9 as our theme to consider as we think of our personal and church role in the mission of God.  "Partnering" with each other, as well as with missionaries and mission groups, is a powerful way to extend our usefulness for the Kingdom of God.  This also has significant implications locally as there is a "day in, day out" effort through each of us that creates a bridge between our life together as church and our individual life pursuits each day. 

Here's an example of what happens as we work together to share our witness in the community:

Read Matthew 5:16.
 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”.

Walking through the door of a homeless shelter was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Knowing that as the husband, father, and leader of my family, that I could not provide for them. I thought I would walk into a cold, dark place with depressed people like me in this situation. Instead, I walked into a place that was filled with life, joy, peace, and comfort. My family and I were loved in ways I have never felt before. Complete strangers giving of their time, energy, money, patience, and love. It was because of the love and encouragement we received that we were able to complete the program and are now doing well on our own.
I appreciated all of these things while I was in the program but I never understood it until now, 2 years after leaving. I truly realize that my homelessness was a blessing from God. It taught me how to humble myself and continue to give and to serve even when I felt I was in my lowest place. I realized that the love of Christ is not something that has to be shouted or thrown into people’s faces, but rather acted out. The actions of the volunteers and staff of Family Promise simply shined the love of Jesus Christ. It does not take much to change someone’s life. I am thankful for the countless people I met through my stay in the program that have changed mine…simply by loving me and my family. May God bless all of them!

By a previous guest of Family Promise of Augusta/Interfaith Hospitality Network.

Trinity on the Hill UMC is a long time supporter of the local effort with homeless families.  Our church is hosting in January and currently doing "sign ups" every Sunday in the Gathering Area.  Keep this important ministry, the staff and volunteers, and the families served in your prayers.  And, as always, you can add your participation and funding to your prayers to multiply your impact. 

Pray for Family Promise and the homeless population of Augusta/CSRA. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Personal Invitation to Trinity Outreach Celebration

As one year ends and another begins it usually offers a good time to reflect on what "has been" and what "could be."  Whether you like the resolutions and retrospectives or not, it is a good and healthy thing to occasionally do a personal examination and self assessment.   

When I think about myself there are a number of ways to tackle this.  First, let me confess that I'm still, very much, a work in progress with a long way to go.  A personality profile would tag me as an INTP, or a "mad scientist," or a solitary creative sort of personality.  So, no matter how you understand me, and as "my people" would often say of folk, I know I'm a "piece of work."

My life revolves around church and family.  I won't get into all the family goodness in this post.  Nor will I talk about hobby and great interest in heirloom gardening.  I'm thinking about my job, and my calling, as it "played out" last year and as I look forward to another year. 

For me, church provides a rhythm of life, a foundation and a challenge, a vehicle for loving God and loving neighbor.  The worship, pray, study, and service that I experience in the congregation and in the Church forms the basis for so much of my life.  Whether I'm in the church or community this is the core of who I am.  At this stage in the journey I know I can't solve all the big issues of the day; I've got my hands full with the few things I am entrusted with related to myself, my job, and my family. 

This past year we kept up so many of the good missions that are hallmarks for Trinity on the Hill.  We also added some new opportunities.  We had a phenomenal Trinity Outreach Celebration in early 2013 as we hosted leaders from the UMC's Global Ministries and mission leaders from The Mission Society in a historic meeting and training event.  Our church entered into some new missions as we got involved at Maxwell House Apartments and started tutoring once a week at Olmstead Homes.  I had new experiences with time in the Dominican Republic and in Moscow, Russia with outreach partners.  I also slipped on the conference coordinator hat for North Georgia annual conference with  United Methodist Volunteers In Mission and have met other mission leaders from our conference and the Southeastern Jurisdiction.  This has also gotten me more involved with the NGUMC Bridges as we seek to connect every North GA UM congregation with our Methodist brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.  All in all, day in and day out, it's been an exciting year.   

I'm reminded once again that the call of mission and outreach is NOT for a select few in a church or in a few churches that are large enough or have the passion or calling.  Rather, it is the call of any who would follow Christ.  There is great joy and challenge in meeting and getting to know Methodist Christians from other parts of the world.  There is tremendous opportunity and challenge in meeting our neighbors in our community who live in a different part of town and seem to live in a very different world than we call home. 

One of my greatest regrets, as I look back on the last year, is that I can't be satisfied with where we are in mission or with who we've currently got involved in mission.  I can celebrate what we have done and who we do have involved, but I want more.  I think the task is too great, there are too many relationships to build, and we don't have nearly enough of the gifts of our church involved yet to do what needs to be done.

I need more people than ever from Trinity on the Hill involved in mission.  I need more recruiters than ever helping more people into participation and into leadership.  I imagine a 2014 where we take some more meaningful steps, or is it leaps and bounds?, into the mission of God here, there, and everywhere. 

The Trinity Outreach Celebration will soon be upon us.  Please be in prayer for our annual emphasis on mission that is local, national, and international in flavor.  In particular, I'm looking for a bigger than normal turnout for our mission education component that will focus on community ministry.  This is a national level training event and I just can't stand the thought of any teenagers or adults who are active at Trinity on the Hill missing out on this historic event.   Find all the details and registration at the link for 2014 Mission Training.

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23

This Scripture is most appropriate for Advent soon drawing to a close and this rainy Monday in Georgia before Christmas Eve:

"You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down.  Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it."

Isaiah 45:8

Friday, December 13, 2013

GA High School Football Finals, Community Reality, & Christmas Music

So much of our culture these days seems to individual and fragmented in ways that are so pervasive and the norm that it's often hard to imagine there could be another way.  For me this is heightened in an odd way at the end of high school football season.  We sure do put a lot of time, attention, energy, and funding behind our football in Georgia!  If you have a winning season, and make it to the final championship game at the GA Dome (being played today and tomorrow by the way) you can have an entire city/county/region rooting for you with great community pride.  Am I wrong thinking that in the past we often had this sort of community pride, involvement, and support as more of a daily and weekly lifestyle?  Maybe this is just the nostalgia of someone half a century old.

How do you get beyond yourself and inspire others to rally and sacrifice for the cause?  How do you move beyond your own plans and become part of a larger team?  And the tougher question is how do you turn around a struggling or failing program and set yourself on a championship course?  These are good football questions, and even better community question. 

Wednesday afternoon our church team was back at Olmstead Homes.  That link says, "Olmsted Homes was the first public housing development constructed in Georgia under the Housing Act of 1937. Today, the Augusta Housing Authority is the second largest Public Housing Authority in the State of Georgia and helps to provide housing for about 15,309 individuals." 

Our tutoring crew enjoys the time with the children from Garrett Elementary School that live at Olmstead Homes.  Typically the kids arrive on the bus close to 4:15PM.  Later in the afternoon we also have a few middle school kids arrive.  Our main cluster of kids are kindergarten and 1st grade and then a cluster of 3rd graders.  So, the time is spent reviewing homework which is usually reading and writing for the young crowd, and vocabulary and math for the older group.  Imagine 25-30 students and tutors in a large community center room, of all ages, many who have been in school all day, and you get the idea. 

But special things are happening week by week as a bunch of middle class and affluent white Methodists are venturing into the center of the block of Olmstead Homes to serve children in the projects.  The children are beginning to know us and we are beginning to know them.  We are not only learning their names and personalities, but their strengths and weaknesses, as well as some aspects of the world and culture they know as "home." 

Last Wednesday I was talking with Kelvin after he finished his homework.  At this point, he and the group of boys at his table, were working on a Christmas coloring sheet with tree, ornaments, and presents or the view of a nativity scene with Jesus and the cast of characters.  The youngest of the crowd of 4 at the table was a kindergartner and the oldest in 3rd grade.  As we talked I learned Kelvin's birthday was Tuesday and he'd gotten a balloon and some cookies to celebrate at home.  We continued chatting and I learned he likes to sing, mostly making up his own songs, but when I asked if he went to church and was part of a choir, he explained that his family doesn't go except they "did go to a church at Halloween and enjoyed the candy." 

As Kelvin colored he started singing "hallelujah" over and over again when we weren't talking.  He was in a chatty mood though as coloring the brightly colored page seemed to intensify the focus on Christmas.  "What will Christmas would be like at your home? I asked, and he named all the great presents he was hoping to get.  I was thinking if he only got cookies for birthday he might not get the bike and all the electronics and things he mentioned.  I was caught in the moment of coloring and singing, with all the background noise and excitement, wondering about these things and what his home life must be like.   

At this point a Christmas song came to him and Kelvin start singing.  He knew the chorus and kept singing it over and over.  With a childlike joy, in the community center of Olmstead Homes, Kelvin continued to color his Christmas sheet singing the chorus of "Go Tell It On the Mountain."   

Go, Tell It On The Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How About Mission Through Action Ministries?

Meet two of our local missioners who are active with Maxwell House Apartments:
Shari Fulmer has a masters degree in Professional Counseling from Richmont Graduate University (Atlanta) and holds an Associate License for Professional Counseling in the state of Georgia.  She is also a proud alumnus of LaGrange College.  Before Shari entered the field of counseling, she spent many years in youth ministry and coaching youth ministers within the United Methodist Church.   Shari now devotes her time at the Maxwell House (Augusta) to helping homeless individuals with disabilities enter and maintain stable housing.  Shari also coordinates and provides Supportive Services to the residents at the Maxwell House.  When not working, Shari enjoys spending time with her husband and her family and friends. 
Danielle Meyer is a graduate of Western Kentucky University and obtained her bachelor’s degree in sociology.  Danielle was a transitional housing case manager for three and half years with Action Ministries until accepting the position of Director of Augusta Housing Partnerships.  Before joining Action Ministries she worked with children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional disorders.   She married her high school sweetheart and loves creating family memories with their two small children.  In her downtime Danielle enjoys reading, couponing, and training for an upcoming 5K with her husband. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Is a Church and Community Worker?

Shirley Townsend-Jones is a native of Maxton, North Carolina and serving as a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.   She began her service as a Church and Community Worker in 1981 in the North Carolina Conference and continues her service as a worker in the South Carolina Conference with the Bennettsville-Cheraw Area Cooperative Ministry, Bennettsville, South Carolina. Mrs. Townsend-Jones coordinates, implements, and supervises programs as a part of the Cooperative’s ministry to strengthen the nine member churches and communities in the areas of outreach, witness, service, Christian education and leadership development. Her many areas of responsibility include:  quarterly leadership trainings, Tea Time with Teens ( focusing on abstinence with 10-18 girls), Sacred Saturday (focusing on children & youth ages 5-11), VBS picnic and Back to School, health screenings, food distribution, summer enrichment camp, transportation and partnerships with various agencies.

Mrs. Townsend –Jones has served as a missionary for 32 years. She has served and continues to serve on various boards and agencies in the United Methodist Church in the South and North Carolina Conferences. Also, she supports her community by serving on various committees, coalitions and boards.

She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, North Carolina.

Mrs. Townsend- Jones is married to Vincent C. Jones and they have an adult son and daughter.

A servant from the heart, Shirley says, “God has called me to serve and I trust and believe I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” Phillippians 4:13

Monday, December 9, 2013

What Is a Cooperative Ministry?

The Reverend Jeffrey Salley is the pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, and the director of the Bennettsville-Cheraw Area Cooperative Ministries. Salley is actively involved as a clergy member of the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  He has served as the District Registrar for the Walterboro Committee on Ordained Ministry. Currently, Reverend Salley serves as the chair of the Marion District Committee on Ordained Ministry as well as a member of  the Academy of Pastoral & Theological Enrichment Planning Committee, Marion District; chairperson, Scholarship Committee for the South Carolina Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, a member of the Bible Study Committee, and a member of the Committee on Conference Relations. Reverend Salley also serves as a mentor to several clergy members and candidates for ministry.
Reverend Salley is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church who patterns his life based on John Wesley’s philosophy of life, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Community Outreach to the Aging Population?

In addition to many clergy and missionaries joining us for the training we're honored to have a number of local experts.  Some of these folk are well known in Augusta and to our congregation including Lauren Spivey, Thurman Norville, Jason Moore, Sarah McDonald, and Natalie Paine.  This isn't the whole list as most sessions will feature a panel of experts who I've given the challenge of telling us the reality they encounter every day.  They'll cover a range of topics including poverty, housing, education, crime and law, families, and the aging population.     
Joining Lauren Spivey for the discussion on the tsunami of silver, or is that gray, haired folk will be Kathy Tuckey.  Kathy serves as the Program & Services Director for the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter, Augusta Region.  As Program Director she is responsible for all advocacy, helpline and education programs for both professional and family caregivers in a seventeen county region.  She is a speaker on a variety of Alzheimer’s and related dementia topics.  She earned her BA and MA from Montclair State University (formerly College) in New Jersey.  Previous positions have included Executive Director of an assisted living community in Evans, Georgia and Director of Resident Relations of an assisted living community in Newport News, Virginia.  Kathy was recognized as the 2013 Columbia County Chamber Business Woman of the Year.  Her volunteer and civic activities include: Assistant Governor Rotary District 6920, 2012-15; Rotary District 6920 Chair, Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust, Leadership Augusta Executive Forum Alumni Class of 2002.  Kathy and her husband Thom reside in Martinez. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What About Addiction & Substance Abuse Ministries as Outreach?

Do you know of SPSARV?  I didn't think so!

That would be the acronym for the United Methodist Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence.  We are delighted to be able to bring in their expertise to help us begin the conversation on a challenging topic that confronts every family, every community, and every church.  Our hope is that a more extensive training on this topic would be offered at a later date in the Augusta area.
Art Mellor is the Executive Director for SPSARV.  Art has nearly two decades of experience designing, implementing and supervising substance abuse treatment programs as well as family treatment programs for clients who were affected by the substance abuse of loved ones. Art has also designed substance abuse training programs for social services, probation departments and health care providers. Art’s credentials include: Ms. Ed., MSW and 18 years as a credentialed alcoholism counselor.

Friday, December 6, 2013

What is a Shalom Zone?

Rev. Julia Nielsen is an ordained deacon serving in West Ohio Annual Conference as the Executive Director of the Greater HilltopArea Shalom Zone.  The Zone is a collaborative collective of residents and faith-based organization operating in partnership with other non-profit entities, educational institutions, and government to revitalize and transform the lives of the residents of the Hilltop through asset-based community development. 

Julia simultaneously serves as lead minister of New Horizons, an urban United Methodist congregation in the same neighborhood. She has previously served in the non-profit sector as a community organizer, advocate, and direct-service provider in the areas of comprehensive health care reform and family and sexual violence prevention.  Rev. Nielsen believes deeply in God’s power to embrace, equip, and employ all of God’s children for the work of the Kingdom in whatever context they find themselves.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How Can a Small, Rural Church be in Mission? Meet a NC Laity with Answers!

Gary has  been married to Panthia Locklear for 40 years. They have three children, Nakesha 37; Garrick 34; Autumn, 24 a daughter-in-law, Kimberly, son-in law, Chad, three grand sons and a grand daughter.

Gary was educated in Robeson County North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 1970 with a bachelor of science degree. Gary taught in the Public School of Robeson County for three years. Gary spent the next twenty seven years in private industry in manufacturing management, Hunan Resources and Training and development. Gary retired from that post in 2000. Six months later Gary accepted a three year assignment as a 10-10-10 Missionary working with Native American Ministries in the North Carolina Conference. Since then Gary was commissioned a Church and Community Worker and a Home Missioner. Gary’s work remains in the Native American Congregations of the North Carolina Conference with the Rockingham District Native American Cooperative Ministry.

Gary  has been a member of the same United Methodist Church all his life where he has served in almost every leadership role: Sunday Teacher 40 years, Bible Study Leader, Conference Committee on Native American Ministries. Gary was the conference Lay recipient of the Harry Denman Award in 2006. Gary was elected to his first term as North Carolina Conference Lay Leader in 2012.
Gary was elected to General Conference in 2004, 2008 and 2012. Gary’s passion for the small membership church and its preservation, particularly in the Native American Community. Gary says ,” I would like to use my experience and skills to work with others on issues and concerns that affect the life of the church today and in the future. My background is in the small rural church. I have given much of my life the understanding and working with many rural churches across our conference and the General Church”.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How Can Family Ministry Be Outreach?

Rev. Shannon Karafanda is an Ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church with a focus on family ministries. She grew up in Morrow, Georgia, went to school at Georgia Tech, and worked as a computer programmer before pursuing her call to ministry in 1999. Oddly enough, she’s discovered that programming and ministry are very similar. They both deal with people looking for answers, for new users the design is often just as important at the content, and change is difficult in either situation.

She went to Candler School of Theology and has worked in Family Ministries at Brooks UMC, Turin UMC, Lighthouse UMC, Sacred Tapestry, The Church at the Well, and Hopewell UMC. She is currently serving at Cornerstone UMC in Newnan, Georgia and is the author of "The Synergy Shift" available on amazon.com.

Shannon lives with he-who-shall-not-be-named-in-sermons (her husband), her three children and overly affectionate black lab in Peachtree City, GA. When she's not working, she spends most of her days ignoring the mess her kids have made, deciding if she should put on actual clothes vs her pjs, and checking facebook constantly just to prove to herself that most people aren’t that exciting either.

When she’s not on Facebook, you can find her on Linked In, blogging, reading books that no one would expect a minister to read, and running (usually not all at the same time).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Meet a Community Builder!

Stacey Harwell is the Minister of Community Building at Centenary United Methodist Church and a deacon in the South Georgia Annual Conference.  She graduated from Mercer University with degrees in journalism, Christianity, and photography; then went on to do her Masters of Divinity work at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.  Her concentration while at Candler was on Church and Community Leadership which includes an emphasis on Asset Based Community Development. 

 As a college freshmen, she found Centenary and started to plant her roots there because the community was so warm and welcoming. When the position became available, Stacey jumped at the opportunity to be part of this community again. 

Stacey came to Georgia as a senior in high school as the daughter of an Air Force pilot and never left.  She's lived many places around the world, including England, Arizona, Texas, Virginia, and South Carolina. Besides traveling, Stacey enjoys a good book as well as playing guitar, piano and singing.  She also loves playing gardener in her amateur patio garden and drinking coffee or hot tea.
Meet Rev. Stacey Harwell:



Monday, December 2, 2013

2013 CNN Hero Sharing the Story at Trinity on the Hill UMC

Rev. Lisa Fitzpatrick is a United Methodist pastor, and she leads a youth center in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

She is also a 2013 CNN Hero

Oh, and Lisa will be leading a couple of sessions at our Saturday, February 1 mission training day as she shares about the best practices and principles of a youth community center.

Learn more at Trinity on the Hill Mission Training as we encourage one another to take another step following Christ in outreach and mission!

Upcoming Mission Event

Each year Trinity on the Hill UMC hosts a mission celebration.  We share the stories of the last year in mission and give thanks to God for the good that has occurred through our prayers, funding, and participation.  We get involved in a variety of mission projects on our work day.  We also hear the challenge of the coming year of mission as we continue to be involved locally, nationally, and internationally as we follow the way of Christ and seek to love God and our neighbor. 

We've found it best to get word out just after Thanksgiving so folk won't lose us in all the holiday excitement of Christmas and New Years.  During the next few weeks I'll share some of the incredible cast of facilitators that will guide us in the Saturday training event which will focus on community ministry.  We'll enjoy local expertise who know Augusta & the CSRA well.  We'll also have missionaries and clergy from Georgia, the southeast and beyond who will share best practices and models of ministry that every church and community might consider.

Our theme for the Trinity Outreach Celebration is "The Kingdom is Near!" with focus on Luke 10:1-9 as our general theme.  We'll offer a variety of opportunities throughout the 10 days, but the primary events include:

Saturday, January 25, 8:30AM-12Noon- Servant Day- where we serve in a variety of settings ranging from visiting people, assembling food packs, doing clean-up or construction, and opportunities ranging from the church to places throughout our community.  Registration is necessary and will be enabled after Christmas.   

Saturday, February 1, 8:30AM-2:00PM- Training Day- offers an equipping element so that anyone form a missions novice to an outreach veteran can benefit with skill building, ideas of mission models and best practices, and networking with mission leaders and participants from throughout Georgia and South Carolina.  This event features outstanding trainers who I'll introduce you to each day in the following weeks.  This event is free though lunch/snacks cost $10 & registration is necessary in order for us to manage the class sizes.  Find out more about the Church & Community Ministry Summit and be sure to bring a group of 4-6 from your class or church as you will find great benefit in covering as many sessions as possible.     

Sunday, February 2, 8:30AM-12Noon- Challenge Day - includes Sunday School with special sessions featuring missionaries and updates on outreach, and worship services with focus on how each of us will take our next step of faith in Christ in the next year in mission as we pray, participate, and fund the vital work of the Kingdom of God.

I hope Trinity on the Hill members will continue to support the "work day" in late January, but make a double effort to participate in and recruit for the mission training element on February 1.  We'll have a wonderful variety of other UM's from Augusta and throughout the region and you'll find MUCH in the conversation and relationships which will nurture your life in Christ. 

Look for more information in the coming days as I introduce our mission teachers as we consider "The Kingdom is Near!"