Tom Berlin is the senior pastor of Floris UMC in Herndon, Virginia. He is also a close friend who is one of the most mission-minded church leaders I know. This is a recent article on a new United Methodist Church iniative here in Virginia.
When life gives you lemons …
By the Rev. Tom Berlin
I never thought when I entered ministry that the Virginia Annual Conference would encourage us to start lemonade stands. Start new churches, yes. Start new ministries, okay. But lemonade stands?
But I think this plan from the folks who are leading the Imagine No Malaria initiative in Virginia is a great idea for many reasons. Let me share a few:
- It involves kids and those who care for them. Kids like helping people, and they like the opportunity to run things that make a real difference in ways you can count. When their efforts give them an opportunity to be generous with the funds they have earned, they are truly empowered to bless others. At Floris UMC we have challenged the kids by telling them that the church will double every dollar that they raise. Their leadership will have twice the impact!
- I like buying lemonade from kids. I think if you drive past a kid in at a lemonade stand and don’t stop, you are just a bad American. When you give a kid a dime or a quarter for a cup of lemonade, they get very excited and all official business on you. I just get a kick out of it.
- It gives people who don’t go to our churches an opportunity to be generous, and generosity is good for the soul. Picture the smiling adult plunking down their quarter for the lemonade – the kid is smiling, the adult is smiling, the adult helping the kid is smiling. Now imagine that kid saying, thanks, all the proceeds from our lemonade stand go to fight malaria. You can read about it right here.The customer reads about Imagine No Malaria and realizes what a great thing this kid is doing selling lemonade for a good cause. That spurs generosity. It is not coerced or guilt-ridden. It is the kind of joyful generosity that helps people sleep better at night knowing they have been about good in the world. So often people want to do the right thing, and just need a good opportunity.
- Kids at Floris are going to hand out invitations to attend our church along with information about malaria. I can’t think of a better advertisement for the UMC than children who know about the world beyond their community, serve those who suffer from a terrible disease and are a part of a church excited about their efforts. I hope we have kids in every neighborhood in our area offering lemonade and telling those who stop about what we are doing to relieve the suffering of malaria. Think of how that will change the way many people think about the church.
Finally, I am excited because I travel to Sierra Leone, Africa, on a fairly regular basis and know people who routinely suffer from malaria, which is debilitating and can lead to tragic deaths. The money raised in Virginia and shared with our church in Africa matters. These lemonade stands aren’t just some new gimmick. They are a means of grace to pay for bed nets, medications and training that will save lives. And that, friends, is one sweet deal.
Today is World Aids Day. HIV/AIDS is always linked to hunger and malnutrition.
In many countries in Africa the death toll from HIV/AIDS has left millions of orphans that struggle daily to find sufficient food. At the same time food production suffers from lack of productive workers.
Those suffering from HIV/Aids cannot take antiretroviral medicine with sufficient food,even if it is available. The medicine must be taken with food. Ending hunger will help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
I learned another fact about HIV/AIDS and hunger this morning:
Malnourished people living with HIV are two to six times more likely to die when starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) compared to people with optimal nutritional status.” – Ertharin Cousin, Director of WFP
- Despite declines, child mortality and hunger persist in developing nations, U.N. reports, By Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta, September 16, 2014, New York Times: “The United Nations on Tuesday reported significant declines in the rates of child mortality and hunger, but said those two scourges of the developing world stubbornly persist in parts of Africa and South Asia despite major health care advances and sharply higher global food production. The trends, detailed in two annual reports by United Nations agencies, were presented before the General Assembly meetings of world leaders, where the Millennium Development Goals, a United Nations list of aspirations to meet the needs of the world’s poorest, are an important discussion theme. While one of those goals — halving the number of hungry people by 2015 — seems within reach, the goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds is years behind, the reports showed…”
- World making progress against hunger, report finds, but large pockets of undernourished persist, By Daniel Stone, September 16, 2014, National Geographic: “No one on the planet should go hungry. That’s because the world’s farmers grow 700 more calories per person than the World Food Programme’s daily recommended 2,100 calories—an abundance of plants and animals that surpasses the daily needs of the world’s 7.2 billion people. In most places, the challenge is access. Global access to food is improving overall, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released Tuesday, yet challenges in the developing world—from poor infrastructure and political instability to erratic weather and long-term changes in climate—are keeping 805 million people from having enough to eat…”
Just as I have a hundred and one times before I am in the middle of preparing for a trip to Africa. Every trip is an adventure and every trip is different. Even so, there’s a checklist I follow to ensure I have everything I need once I get halfway around the world.
Some wag once said showing up is ninety percent of the battle. I like the sentiment, but showing up takes more effort than a lot of folks might realize. Getting ready for my international trips is a good case in point.
Coordinating schedules and arranging international air travel has become too painful to even discuss. It now takes weeks. But once the trip is set the fun truly begins.
Clothes have to be picked up from the cleaners and laundry done before packing can begin. Then there’s a trip to the bank to get cash. Most of the areas where I travel don’t use credit cards. Oh, and the cash has to be crisp, new $100 bills. Most of the other denominations will not be accepted for fear of them being counterfeit.
After that it is time to check out all the electronics and camera gear. cords? batteries? discs? flash drives? earphones? sim cards? proper lenses? chargers?
Then there’s the paperwork. airline tickets? passport? visas? certificate of immunization? letters of invitation? contact list with phone numbers? travel itinerary, hotel reservations, business materials: business cards, proposals, partnership documents, etc. (and for this trip sermon notes)
After all of that, it’s time to actually pack, once I’ve guessed at the proper clothing necessary for the geography, climate and types of events to be attended. (This trip even requires my doctoral robes for a formal processional.) Then, all that’s left is to throw in necessary toiletries and medicines…oh, I left out immunizations. I won’t even go there.
Hopefully, by the time I head to the airport I have also put a vacation stop on the newspaper and put a hold on the mail. After that I can “relax and enjoy” the 12-30 hours of air travel.
What makes it all worth the effort, and it truly is, is that once I am at my destination I get to be with family I may have never met before. They will be as excited to see me as I am to see them. We will be working together to change the world. And it doesn’t get any better than that.