Tag Archives: United Methodist Church

faithfulness in action

Love this guy...but this philosophy shouldn't be attributed to any "religion"...it needs to be practiced by everyone, religious or not. How about just common sense?:

John Wesley would be proud to call President Jimmy Carter a friend and a true disciple of Christ. The President’s lifestyle matches his words. His caring for others and his compassion can be seen daily in his actions.

President Carter is a lifelong member of the Baptist Church The quote,however, is from John Wesley, the founder of the United Methodist Church.

The source of the quote is not as important as its message. Faithfulness demands a lifestyle of caring and compassion that helps create a world of justice where love trumps hatred and mercy is more important than money.

a celebration of caring

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On Dec. 10, 2005, 50 volunteers formed an assembly line at a Raleigh warehouse for Stop Hunger Now’s inaugural meal packaging event. Those volunteers packaged 20,000 meals to feed people suffering from hunger.

In the 10 years since, we have enlisted hundreds of thousands of volunteers who have packaged over 225 million meals at 19 locations in the U.S. and six more abroad. The Raleigh warehouse alone has packaged over 33 million meals, including nearly 4.6 million meals packaged last year by over 29,000 people at 278 meal packaging events.

To mark the 10th anniversary of our meal packaging program, Stop Hunger Now will host an event at its Raleigh warehouse on December 12, 2015,  that is expected to attract several hundred volunteers who will package over 100,000 meals. To register to attend, click here.

Initially developed to help provide rapid relief for disasters, meal packaging now is part of a larger strategy to help boost education and sustainable development in impoverished regions of the world. Stop Hunger Now distributes meals through schools, orphanages, health clinics, vocational training programs and, increasingly, through programs that focus on women’s health, women’s education and maternal & fetal health.

CyEYgVngsaV6pD8fAr-wSIlgdfHNmdCr0jU-h39ISQs,Xa7kHgcFxIDTeht9YjfwnPIPpgeowTE9ypQwZ1Oacew“We leverage the meals so we’re not just killing hunger pains but transforming lives and society,” says Darron Stover, Raleigh program manager for Stop Hunger Now. As a member of Fairmont United Methodist Church in Raleigh, which housed Stop Hunger Now for over 11 years starting shortly after it was formed in 1998, Stover participated in the inaugural meal packaging event. He then quickly volunteered to help organize and coordinate other meal packaging events. A year ago, he joined Stop Hunger Now as a full-time employee.

The Rev. Steve Hickle was pastor at Fairmont United Methodist Church and a member of the Stop Hunger Now board of directors at the time of the first meal packaging event. “We’re building a movement to end hunger,” says Hickle, who now is Faith Outreach Director for Stop Hunger Now. He has developed partnerships with over 30 Christian faith  groups and eight other faith groups in the movement to end world hunger.

Meal packaging provides a highly visible point of entry for people to get involved in eradicating hunger, which affects nearly 800 million people, down from one billion 20 years ago, Hickle says. “By offering this experience, we’re having an impact on education and development in many places,” he says. “We’re one piece of a growing movement, and we invite others to join with us in any place they can help end world hunger.”

Grab your family and friends (all ages welcome!) and join us for the 10th-anniversary commemoration in Raleigh.  Click below to save your spot!

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– See more at: http://www.stophungernow.org/10-years-225-million-meals-and-counting/#sthash.aMgLtrQa.dpuf

microfinance = major impact

Joice Jana is the head of the microfinance project for the Yei District of the United Methodist Church in South Sudan. I had the opportunity to talk with her on Monday. She is passionate about her work and the success of the program and rightfully so.

She manages 10 separate microfinance groups in 7 different communities, each group comprised of 35 members. Three-fourths of the members are women. And although the program has not been existence for long the success stories are already beginning to pile up.

The microfinance program provides education to the groups and helps with record keeping. All the funds come from the individual members of each group. Once a member has been in the program for a full year they are allowed to apply for loans. When a member needs a loan they are allowed to borrow up to 3 times the amount they have already saved.

All loans are repaid with 10% interest. And the repayment rate is over 98%.

The maximum loan given to date is 1500 South Sudanese Pounds and the smallest has been 200 pounds. (The largest loan was about $100 and the smallest about $13).

These loans have helped pay school fees to keep children in school. They have helped begin small businesses that have increased food security. They have provided an important bridge to a better life. They have provided hope.

Helping support such programs is a powerful way to help transform the lives of those trying to have a better life. I am proud of the United Methodist Church’s leadership in making this happen in South Sudan.

 

staff meetings are universal

Some things are too universal to need explanation. Staff meetings fall in that category.

This morning our team was privileged to set in on the weekly United Methodist Staff meeting. And although there were many of the same reports and updates there were also a fair amount of differences. After the meeting was opened with devotions the first order of business was a security report. That is different.

Every department reported successes and challenges, as would be expected, but at the end of the meeting the staff took up their weekly collection for their Agape Alms Fund. Every week the staff donates to the fund in order to provide aid to those in the community they select in need of help. That is also different.

After a delicious lunch (cabbage, kale, pumpkin, fried okra, rice and beans) several of us walked to the UMCOR (United Committee on Relief) compound where we spend several hours with Dr. Lynn and Dr Sharon Fogleman, a medical missionary couple who have been here in South Sudan for over 3 years. This is where I began gathering the information necessary for the potential food security project that brought me here to South Sudan.

South Sudan has the highest maternal mortality rate of any nation in the world. There are several factors that contribute to this statistic but malnutrition plays a large role. And malnutrition here in this area is rising.

Even though this is safest area in entire country the impact of the war is felt here. Food prices have almost tripled since March. And the outlook for the immediate future in not good.

Stop Hunger Now allowed me to come because we want to make a difference in South Sudan. We want to do the right thing in the right way. Hopefully, by the time I return to the States we will have a better idea how to make that happen in a significant and sustainable manner.

Stay tuned. There’s more to come

South Sudan’s hunger crisis

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Even though South Sudan’s hunger crisis isn’t making the headlines it is terribly real. Today I am at Lake Junaluska in the mountains of North Carolina having meetings  with United Methodist leaders from the Holston Conference about our common ministry in this embattled country.

Our hope is to partner in our efforts to increase our impact. We all realize that working together accomplishes far more than working alone. In today’s meetings we will explore ways to connect and serve even more of those in need.

imagine no more malaria

Malaria is a killer. Millions of our family suffer and die annually from this deadly disease.

The United Methodist Church is actively combating the spread of malaria. This piece by Antonia Blumberg in the Huffington Post tells a little of the story. My small congregation of 50 folks at Forest Road UMC has already raised over $1,500 toward this effort.

Working together we can change the world. Never doubt it.

United Methodist Church Raises Millions In Small Donations To Fight Malaria

The Huffington Post  |  By Antonia Blumberg

Posted: 04/23/2015 4:35 pm EDT Updated: 04/23/2015 4:59 pm EDT

The United Methodist Church gave $9.6 million on Wednesday to the Global Fund, a health-focused nonprofit based in Geneva, to help the group fight malaria. It was the single largest contribution to the fund by a faith organization, and was made possible largely through grassroots efforts by congregants.

Local fundraising efforts, ranging from lemonade stands to car washes to 5K runs, provided the bulk of the sum, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton told The Huffington Post, with the average contribution amounting to just $87.31.

“It’s been a phenomenal response from the grassroots to this worldwide campaign,” he said.

Global Fund Executive Director Dr. Mark Dybul confirmed to HuffPost that UMC’s donation will go specifically toward the fund’s efforts against malaria.

Bickerton and Rev. Gary Henderson, who run the UMC’s Imagine No Malaria initiative, presented the gift to Dybul at a Wednesday ceremony in Washington, D.C. The ceremony was one of many events being held around the world in the lead-up to World Malaria Day on April 25, which addresses one of the U.N.’s eight Millennium Development Goals: to “combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.”

The bishop told HuffPost that the $9.6 million sum included “a few major gifts,” but “the majority was done through local United Methodist congregations.”

“Some congregations raise $500, some raise $5,000,” Bickerton added, “but it all adds up to — to date — 66 million dollars raised for Imagine No Malaria by millions of United Methodists.”

In 2010, the UMC set an overall goal of raising $75 million to fight malaria, $28 million of which the church has pledged to Global Fund. Wednesday’s check of nearly $10 million was the result of 18 months of fundraising, Bickerton said. Dybul noted that the gift far exceeds the monetary contributions from other faith organizations.

“The United Methodist Church is the one faith-based organization that provides large direct contributions to the fund,” he said.

The Global Fund has an annual budget of $4 billion a year, Dybul said, which it funnels largely into grants for local organizations and governments in countries affected by HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. These grants are meant to support educational programming, improved health services and the buying and distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets.

Although no other religious group comes close to the UMC’s monetary contributions, Dybul said faith organizations play a critical role in fighting malaria in the areas affected by the disease.

“The faith community is deeply involved in implementing programs,” he explained. “They’re the ones distributing bed nets and making sure people sleep under them. It’s the faith community on the ground that often gets to the people who often aren’t reached.”

Jem Jebbia, a Master of Divinity candidate at the University of Chicago Divinity School, worked on malaria prevention in Malawi in 2009 as part of a faith-based fellowship with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. During her time in Malawi, Jebbia saw the power of faith groups to serve the health needs of their communities.

“Muslim and Christian communities came together to pool their resources to stock and build health clinics,” she told HuffPost. “They also tried to promote awareness of how to use a bed net and why malaria can kill people.”

But Jebbia cautioned that malaria does not exist in a vacuum. Community workers have the difficult task of not only fighting malaria, she noted, but also addressing other Millennium Development Goals, like child and maternal health, that can be compromised if combating disease is the only focus.

“[Malaria is] such a multifaceted problem that in order to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals you have to work on all of them at once,” she told HuffPost.

Bickerton says he is cognizant of this challenge, arguing that Wednesday’s donation is just one step in what needs to be a long-term campaign to end the disease. The bishop said he’s been paying attention to this issue since he first traveled to sub-Saharan Africa on a missionary trip in 1986, where he saw firsthand the devastating effects of poverty and disease.

“What I encountered there changed my whole life,” he recalled. In the five years since the UMC began its campaign to raise $75 million to fight malaria, Bickerton says he’s seen others in his religious community become ignited with the same passion to make a difference.

“We’ve been surprised at the resiliency of our people,” Bickerton said. “This has remained a front-page issue in their minds, and we need them to continue to fight to reach the end goal. That takes a lot of marketing and communications on our part.”

Many other faith organizations are working toward the various Millennium Development Goals. The World Bank, which is focused on the first of the goals, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, announced in April that it is partnering with a coalition of 35 religious groups worldwide in an effort to end extreme poverty by 2030. The coalition includes Bread for the World, Islamic Relief International, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Sojourners.

“Our approach to this staggering need must be holistic, rooted in the spiritual visions of our respective faiths, and built on a shared recognition of the intrinsic dignity and value of every life on Earth,” the coalition said in a call to action.

do all the good you can

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. — John Wesley

This familiar quote by the founder of Methodism never loses its appeal to me. Every time I hear it used or every time I see it quoted again reminds me that we have an unending responsibility “to keep on keeping on.”

What continues to inspire me is that John Wesley didn’t just preach about doing good. He demonstrated the “do all the good you can” philosophy every day of his life. He preached to the poor, visited those in prison, and never ceased crusading for those marginalized by society.

Mr. Wesley would  not be popular in today’s United Methodist Church. He would be disgusted by (what would appear to him as) the laziness demonstrated by the majority of today’s clergy. He would find the amount of time we waste as both abhorrent and inexcusable. He simply wouldn’t tolerate the lack of zeal we demonstrate as leaders of the people called Methodists.

He wouldn’t be gentle in instructing us about doing good at all the times we could. He would be quick to administer a solid kick to the seat of our pants with a loving reminder that we are to do all the good we can for as long as we can.

And I am quite sure Mr. Wesley would let us know in no uncertain terms that there is no retiring from doing all the good we can. Wesley was raising funds for the poor in snow and ice less than two weeks before he died. But then, for him,  doing good wasn’t a career. It was a calling.

 

the too-sweet smell of rotting food

He looked at the piles of food again, and it was like he was seeing it with new eyes. “This is wrong”, he thought, “Letting food rot while people die of hunger. It’s evil.”….
He breathed in the too-sweet smell of rotting food, “I can stop this evil.

This passage from Margaret Haddix’s book, Among the Enemy, brings back all too vivid memories of the piles of rotting potatoes that were the catalyst for the the Society of Saint Andrew’s “Potato Project.” Once you smell 50-60,000 pounds of decomposing potatoes…well, it’s something that is hard to forget. Let’s just say it sticks with you.

I was privileged to live on Virginia’s Eastern Shore for two years while I was the pastor of the three rural United Methodist Churches that composed the Oak Hall Charge. It was a great two years. My son started first grade there, and one day when he got off the bus he excitedly told me about the enormous piles of potatoes he had seen in the woods during his bus ride home from school. A few days later, as I was out visiting church members I passed by the site and saw the rotting potatoes for myself.

It was actually almost four years later that those tons of rotting spuds manifested themselves into the beginnings of the Potato Project, yet the power of those rotting potatoes remains as strong for me today as it did over 35 years ago. The too-sweet smell of rotting food is an evil that is far too real in a world of hunger and malnutrition.

Reports now show that almost 40% of food grown for human consumption is wasted in the United States. That’s around $165,000,000,000 ($165 BILLION) worth food being wasted every year. “It’s evil…” and we can stop it.

The Society of Saint Andrew’s Potato Project and it’s Gleaning Network are perfect examples of how to help. Since these programs began they have kept billions of servings of nutritious produce from being wasted, and have made sure that produce has reached the plates of the poor and hungry here in the United States.

Working together we can end hunger in our lifetime. Getting rid of the too-sweet smell of rotting food is a good place to start.