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The Magazine

Stories from God’s Playbook

God’s game plan powers quarterback

Fall 2009 a publication of the Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church


Features Fall 2009

Stories from God’s Playbook 2 4 6

A marathon effort

Youth Force edition

9 10 12 14 15 18

Border school nurtures life of ministry

Witnessing with their feet Extreme makeover:

God’s game plan powers quarterback Sprouts in God’s garden Learning from the littlest Hallelujah! moments It Worked for Us The FIGHT Club:

Men connect through sports and service

21 22 23

On the Web

Applied love helps girls grow Chemical Dependency Ministries: Summer School inspires new career purpose

COVER PHOTO:

Sam Bradford, photographed by Holly McCray. Story, page 10.

CONTACT The Magazine

CONTACT is a publication of the Department of Communications, Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church 1501 N.W. 24th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73106-3635 www.okumc.org Dr. Joseph Harris, Director of Communications jharris@okumc.org Holly McCray, Editor editor@okumc.org All contents copyright © 2009

Witnessing with their feet

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By Holly McCray ake off your shoes, the pastor directed. You are on holy ground. Quietly, worshippers moved to carry out his instruction on April 25, 2009. Heads bowed over the task. Shoes were pushed aside. Bare feet—and some in socks—touched the sanctuary floor in First United Methodist Church, downtown Oklahoma City. They stood on a sacred space. They took the measure of a place where faith was battered by a bomb on April 19, 1995. Feet flexed and moved the people, carrying their shoes and memories of the 1995 tragedy. They stepped up to line the altar rail with their footwear. Running shoes shared space with boots, sandals, and other styles. Even baby shoes. The worshippers were participating in the Blessing of the Shoes, prior to the running of the ninth Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. The Blessing of the Shoes is one of many ministries that form First Church’s Second Wind marathon outreach. The intercessory prayer is a high point in the Saturday evening worship service that precedes the Sunday run. Laura Alfonzo, church communications director, said attendance increases each year for the Blessing of the Shoes. Most worshippers at that


Arms outstretched, worshippers ask God to bless a group of marathon runners at OKC-First Church.

On of the

the mountain of

Lord

God,

the angel

appeared in flames of fire

from within a bush. Tending sheep there,

Moses

saw that, though the bush was

on fire, it did not burn up.

He

moved

closer to see the strange sight.

God

called to him from within the bush, saying,

“Take off your sandals, for the

place where you are standing is holy ground”

(Exodus 3:1-5).

service are not regular members of the congregation, she noted. One man she met this year had not been to the bombing site since his brother died in the attack. His decision to participate in the worship exemplified God’s healing power. First UMC also leads a brief sunrise worship service, beneath the Survivor Tree at the national memorial site, on race day. “Thanks for allowing me to stretch some of you out of your comfort zone!” Pastor Mark McAdow wrote later in his online blog, about the barefoot experience. “It was very moving to see people come and place shoes of all sizes and styles at the altar and then begin to stand as we sang ‘Holy Ground.’ I wanted us all to experience the blessing of standing on holy ground and remind us we are all connected to each other—whether we were running or not.” On the sanctuary’s big screen that night, a scene played from the classic movie “Chariots of Fire,” about an Olympic runner. “What do we all need to run a Christian life?” Rev. McAdow asked the worshippers. He said past tragedy can become motivation to move forward. “Remember,

but don’t remain in the past. Get in the race, and keep going for the long haul.” Climaxing the emotional service, McAdow and Kirk Norman prayed over the shoes and the runners in the audience, and anointed worshippers with oil upon request. “As we anointed each, we said, ‘Run for the pleasure of the Lord Jesus Christ and in memory of those who died, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,’” McAdow wrote in his blog. This year, he ran in the Memorial Marathon for the first time. He completed the 5-kilometer route. More than 19,000 people, from 49 states and seven other nations, entered the 2009 benefit run, as reported in The Oklahoman on July 15. The marathon raised $450,000 for the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum at the bombing site. About 250 volunteers made possible all the church’s ministries offered under the umbrella of Second Wind marathon outreach. Continued on page 5

In the evening prior to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, a family waits to receive anointing with oil during the Blessing of the Shoes at OKC-First Church.

Photos by Holly McCray


Photo by Holly McCray

A marathon effort By Jenni Carlson April 19, 2009

N

“Let

us run with endurance the

race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on

Jesus,

the

Author

and

Perfector of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

4

ext Sunday, just like every Sabbath, First Church will have a service. Thing is, it won’t have a sermon from the pulpit or an anthem from the choir. It won’t be a worship gathering at all. Instead, the downtown church’s service will be to those at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. It will make free pancakes for runners and spectators alike. It will provide a place for folks to use the bathroom, warm up, cool down, even watch the race. That’s not even the half of this ministry. First Church calls it Second Wind. “It’s more than preaching and teaching,” said staff member Kirk Norman, about the church’s role. “It’s hands-on where the rubber meets the road.” And First Church is where the road begins (and ends) for the marathoners. The church sits across the street from the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Thousands of runners take their first steps near First Church’s front steps. That has given the church a unique opportunity. But the congregation didn’t always see it that way.


StorieS from God’S Playbook Photo on the left: Volunteers Melvin Ervin and Steve Blake discuss the Second Wind marathon outreach at OKC-First Church. The ministry includes serving free breakfasts to thousands of people during the annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

Like most marathons, the Memorial Marathon is run on a Sunday. That’s the day traffic is lightest and street closures are easiest. But having the marathon on a Sunday meant something different for First Church — streets around the building would be closed and parking lots would be blocked. When Oklahoma City’s marathon began in 2001, First Church saw only one option. No service on Sunday. “The doors were locked,” said Laura Alfonzo, the church’s director of communication. Some members were none too happy. Their church, after all, was hit by the bombing on April 19, 1995. Their sanctuary was nearly destroyed, windows shattered and walls shifted. It cost millions of dollars and caused lots of heartbreak. The congregation was displaced for three years. “We could’ve moved out of downtown,” Alfonzo said, “but we decided to stay here. We really have a kindred spirit with the memorial.” For two years, First Church closed on marathon day. Then, before the third marathon, the senior pastor proposed a pancake feed, a service to those at the marathon. “We decided to open our doors and see what would happen,” Norman said. That first year, First Church served 900 plates of pancakes. That’s a bunch of pancakes, but with thousands of runners and thousands more spectators, the response was relatively small. Volunteers were practically begging people to come inside.

But they weren’t deterred. Instead of backing down, they stepped up. They partnered with the marathon committee, which provided pancake mix from Shawnee Mills. They increased promotion. That second year, they served 2,500 plates of pancakes. In 2008, they served at least 3,000 or 4,000 plates. They lost track somewhere around the time they ran out of pancake mix and attempted to make more from scratch. The number of pancakes served isn’t the only thing that’s increased. First Church’s level of involvement has skyrocketed, too. About two-thirds of the church’s active members are involved in the marathon ministry. “It grows on you,” said Diana Mooney, who started volunteering four years ago. “You hand someone a plate of pancakes and sausage at 5 o’clock in the morning — they really, really like you.” She laughed. “They’re so appreciative. They’re building us up.” First Church sees the smiles, the thank-yous, and the growth of this ministry as evidence this is its calling. This is what it’s supposed to be doing on marathon weekend. “When the world comes to your door and they find it dark and closed, that’s really the wrong impression, especially for the church,” Norman said. “We couldn’t idly sit by and act like it wasn’t happening. We had to be involved.” The church that once grumbled about the marathon is now First Church of The Marathon. Next Sunday, they will be of service. Alfonzo said, “That’s really being the church.” —Copyright 2009, OPUBCO Communications Group. Reprinted from The Oklahoman.

Witnessing with their feet Continued from page 3

“We are becoming, more and more, a part of the overall marathon planning,” Alfonzo said. McAdow wrote, “Thanks again for all the time and effort so many of you invested in our Second Wind marathon outreach. I believe our Lord was honored! ‘Those who honor me, I will honor’ (I Samuel 2:30). That’s the scripture Olympic runner Eric Liddell carried with him as he broke the world record in the 1924 Olympics.” The 2009 race climaxed a “marathon month” for First Church, explained Alfonzo. The April calendar included Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, the marathon—and the celebration of the church’s 120th birthday! The church was officially established on April 28, 1889. Within two months, the congregation had purchased the lot that is the current location. Its historical record notes that First Church has survived two world wars, urban flight in the 1960s, and the bombing. Like the Apostle Paul (Hebrews 12:1-2), First UMC is persevering in the run for life in Christ.

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x

E treme makeover:

Youth Force edition

By Holly McCray

“I’m convinced the kids are going to get as much out of doing the house as the family.

When our kids walk away, they will be changed.

The tasks we

are doing should never be more important than the relationships we build.

People will know

their hands did what them to do.”

6

God told

D

ylan and Shelby each gave up a week’s paycheck from summer jobs to personally help renovate the Spiva home in Stillwater. The two teens are high school seniors. Shelby Dawson works at a large discount retail store. Dylan Harnly mows lawns. But during July 5-10, they joined 112 other United Methodist youths and adults for Youth Force-Stillwater. Unlike other Youth Force programs, this one concentrated on one project. It was modeled after the TV show “Extreme Home Makeover.” While the Spiva family enjoyed a vacation in Oklahoma City, volunteers converged to redo the family’s home. All was revealed in a “move-that-bus” moment, complete with cheers and happy tears. Ultimately, “Momentum Makeover” drew together about 150 people—from sixth-grade students to professional builders—to remodel and refurnish the home of Jeff and Heather Spiva and their two boys, ages 7 and 9.

An inspired encounter The plan to target one site for Youth Force germinated when Alton Carter led a community basketball camp for youngsters. That’s where Carter, the youth director at Stillwater-First UMC, met Thomas and Jonathan Spiva. “Out of 170 kids we had, I’m convinced the camp was for those boys,” Carter said. He learned they lived in nine foster homes before their adoption by the Spivas, and they have special needs. Carter said he, too, lived in “many, many” foster homes as a child. He and his wife also have two sons, ages 9 and 11. The Carter family joined Stillwater-First on Jan. 14, 2008. “I felt like God said, ‘This is what I want you to do,’ when Youth Force came around. In doing the house, we looked at what this family will appreciate, respect, and be proud of,” said Carter, who directed Youth Force-Stillwater.


Stories from God’s Playbook

“Move that bus!” shout Youth Force-Stillwater volunteers, counting down with director Alton Carter. An OSU fan bus shielded a major home makeover from a Stillwater family’s view until the crowd gave the command.

He first participated as a Youth Force adult volunteer in 2008. He is a former police officer who returned to school to earn a sociology degree. Carter said he has volunteered as a youth camp worker since he was 18. “How can I say it’s important for them if I don’t go? I knew without a doubt God called me to work with young people,” he said.

Many hands make changes Youth Force triggers change for those served and those serving. “I’m convinced the kids are going to get as much out of doing the house as the family. When our kids walk away, they will be changed. The tasks we are doing should never be more important than the relationships we build,” Carter explained as work got under way in Stillwater. “People will know their hands did what God told them to do. It’s faith in action. That separates us from just being construction workers, from just doing a good deed.” The hands-on holy work was reinforced with daily worship. On Sunday evening, the young people signed a covenant: “I will use my mind to study the Word, ears to listen to Your voice, eyes to look for ways to serve, heart to love others as You have loved me, hands to do the work of the Lord, legs to bow in awe of You, feet to travel the road You have chosen for me.” Youth Force leaders taught that worship is not limited to a sanctuary. “It has little to do with the song you are singing, but what’s in your heart as you are singing,” Carter remarked.

Other adult volunteers noted the youths’ personal growth during the week. Generosity emerged from selfcenteredness. Small-town students gained self-confidence in a city. Dylan and Shelby noticed changes, too. A spirit of cooperation superseded peer friendships. “I see God when I see everybody working together to get this project done,” Dylan said. Continued on page 8

Photos by Holly McCray

Dylan Harnly hoses off window screens on the final day of a Youth Force home renovation project in Stillwater. He is a Stillwater high school senior.

7


Teens welcome home Jeff and Heather Spiva and their two young sons. The family was provided with a vacation in Oklahoma City while their home was remodeled as a Youth Force-Stillwater project. Blindfolds helped preserve their surprise until the project’s climactic “reveal” moment. Continued from page 7

Youths participated from seven UM churches: Henryetta-First, Tulsa-Christ, Yukon-First, Mount Zion at El Reno, Eden Chapel, Perkins, and Stillwater-First.

The finish line The project’s final workday was nail-biting. In late afternoon, the on-site frenzy included assembling furniture, interior painting, installing appliances, hanging doors, even ironing linens. A semi tractor arrived to haul a massive dumpster from the driveway. The vehicle volunteered for the “move-that-bus” moment was steered into place. Three families share ownership of the colorful OSU Cowboys fan bus. Volunteers donned clean Youth Force T-shirts and scurried into the back yard. A crowd began to sort itself along the shady side of the residential street. Apparent chaos was actually poetry in motion. All was readied for the Spivas’ arrival, about 7 p.m. Carter posed questions to the family about the vacation, also provided through Youth Force. The youngest boy interrupted, “Can we see our house now?” The crowd roared its support. The home makeover included converting the garage into a family game room and enlarging the backyard patio. Landscaping included new sod. Inside were new flooring, kitchen cabinets, and countertops. Rooms were staged with new furniture, valued at about $32,000, according to Carter. Painting inside and out was completed. Painted by United Methodist member Bill Miller, wall murals personalized each boy’s room. 8

The project’s success was undergirded by wide community support. Stillwater business donors included a major building supply company. An anonymous family donated $5,000. “People wanting to be part of it gets you excited. I enjoy seeing God bless people,” Carter said. “I think it is a great way to mobilize the people to do something and do something new,” said Stillwater District Superintendent Bert Potts, according to the Stillwater NewsPress. “I pray more people will see the benefit of ministry activities and how they can take care of their neighbors.”

Project builds wider support “We are hoping the way Youth Force is done will inspire other churches to take on similar projects involving youth,” Carter told the NewsPress. Momentum Makeover was Shelby’s first Youth Force experience. The first full workday impressed her most. At day’s end, she realized, “we had accomplished so much in one day.” “This was the perfect way to introduce me to Youth Force,” she said. Her primary tasks during the week involved painting. Hardest for her was the detailed work of staining wood in windowsills. Ripping up and replacing floors kept Dylan on task. He also had a role in the worship leadership; he plays base guitar in the youth band at Stillwater-First. Dylan has been a Youth Force member about five years. “This is the one thing I try to do each summer,” he said. See Youth Force photos online at http://www.okumc.org in the “News Archive” section.


Stories from God’s Playbook Fernando Rivera, center, is joined at Dayspring in late July at Canyon Camp, by David Shaw and Sarah Himes from OKC-Chapel Hill. More than 600 young people attended the four sessions of Dayspring 2009, a United Methodist discipleship camp for senior high youth, held at the Oklahoma Conference campgrounds.

Border school nurtures life of ministry

I

By Aloise McCullough magine it is 4 a.m. You have to get up that early to be at school by 7. In your backpack you carry your school supplies—and your passport. Your bus ride to school takes 90 minutes, crossing the border into the United States. You do it to change the future for you and your family. You are a Lydia Patterson Institute student. The institute was established in 1913, as the Mexican Revolution boiled. Methodist laywoman Lydia Patterson established a mission high school for refugee Mexican families in El Paso, Texas. Her efforts almost 100 years ago have turned into a thriving United Methodist private school, with more than 450 students in grades six through 12. More than 90 percent of them are from Mexico. The school operates as an institution of the Church’s South Central Jurisdiction. Fernando Rivera, whose hometown is El Paso, is a graduate. His friends from Mexico make the trek to the school, he said, because they might otherwise have to drop out of school to help their families if they stay in Mexico. “The kids see an opportunity to make a difference in their lives,” said Rivera. “They’ve learned English, have had an education in the U.S., and have passports.” His education there was supported by the Apportionment, donations, and his own work in exchange for a scholarship. During high school, Rivera and his peers worked an hour or two per day on chores at the school. “It really teaches everyone that you have to work for what you get,” he said. He arrived at 7 a.m. many days, and did not go home until 7:30 p.m. because he also was heavily involved in extracurricular activities including Student Council, football, and basketball. “That was pretty much my home,” Rivera said. “I spent more time there than I was at home.”

Photo by Kristin Van Nort

He spoke at the 2009 Oklahoma Annual Conference, telling how his personal journey has brought him to Oklahoma. He is an active participant in United Methodist life here. During Rivera’s junior year at Lydia Patterson Institute, a guest speaker was Bishop Robert Hayes of the Oklahoma Area. The bishop emphasized Oklahoma City University in his speech. Rivera was encouraged by others to apply for admission and was accepted in 2006, with a full scholarship. He started out as a business major—but decided in his freshman year that he wanted to go into full-time ministry. Now a college junior, Rivera said he didn’t always want to go in the direction of the church. He recalled he “hated” going to church as a sixth-grader. When Rivera and his family were invited to a Christmas service at an El Paso church, he went reluctantly. Once there, he was struck by the music being played, he said. Church leaders later contacted his family about becoming part of a new Hispanic Ministry. Rivera wanted to be a part, despite his family’s opposition. “God called me to ministry through music,” he said. His Christian ministry has expanded since then. In eighth grade, he gave his first sermon. He became a lay leader in high school. Today he is active in the Wesley Foundation at OCU, serving as a guitarist and in other capacities. He has been serving an internship at OKC-Chapel Hill UMC since 2008. This past summer, he was an Americorps member with Project Transformation. Because he wants to enter full-time ministry, Rivera said, being active in different ministerial capacities helps him “know all areas of the church.” “This is my passion,” Rivera said. “Ministry is what I do. My biggest dream would be to go back to Lydia Patterson and give back—even just for a little while.” 9


Photo by Ty Russell, provided by OU Media Relations

God’s game plan powers quarterback

T

“Surround yourself with good people, who strive to do the right thing.

That helps any battle you

are fighting.”

10

By Holly McCray he story of David and Goliath is Sam Bradford’s favorite from the Bible. Like David, he faces big challenges—especially on the football field for the University of Oklahoma. Like David, he is confident that God goes with him into battle. “I think it’s a great story. It’s grown to become a big part of my life,” the OU quarterback told an audience at United Methodist Church of the Servant, Oklahoma City, where he is a member. “With God, you’re so much stronger than you could ever be by yourself. Any time I step on the field, I know I’m not alone. He’s got my back.” In a personal interview, he added, “You can apply the story to anything. If you struggle in school, that’s a Goliath, too. If you pray about it to the Lord, and you meet Him halfway and put in the work, He’s going to bless that and help you get through it.” Bradford described his first months at college as especially challenging for him as a Christian. “I was just out of my comfort zone, away from my church, and out of my routine as far as spending time with the Lord.” He was frustrated in his sport, too. An outstanding athlete in three sports at Putnam City North High School, Oklahoma City, he had been recruited to play for the Sooners. But he found himself bench-sitting. He longed to get in the game. “I was waking up at 5 every morning and working out, but not really playing,” he recalled. “I thought I had made the wrong decision. I thought He had led me to make this decision and felt He almost forgot about me. For a while, I kind of turned my back on Him. I really struggled to get in the Word and spend time with Him.” Study requirements initially thwarted his participation in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), which meets regularly at OU. An FCA leader persisted,


StorieS from God’S Playbook “is definitely very open about his faith, and he does a great encouraging the freshman student athlete to make time job,” said the quarterback. for the group, to find scheduling options. In his second On the gridiron, a certain foe is Zac Robinson, who semester, Bradford did. steers the Oklahoma State University Cowboys. However, “Seems like spending an hour a week listening to the quarterbacks stood together as Christians in a joint other athletes and speakers share about the Lord really appearance at Church of the Servant. Current pastor got me back on the right track,” he said. Robert Gorrell told the audience, “They made Jesus He was a sixth-grader when he began listening Christ their priority tonight, and I think that says closely to Christians. That’s when Kent and Martha something about them. There is a time to be united as Bradford and their only son became members at Church Christians.” He prayed publicly for both young men. of the Servant, and Sam started participating in the Bradford talked more about believers in the Lord church’s youth programming. supporting one another. The Bradfords frequently traveled on weekends “Surround yourself with good people, who strive to do because the son played junior sports extensively. “But the right thing. That helps any battle you are fighting,” when they were in town, they were at church,” said he emphasized. “If you surround yourself with bad people, Norman Neaves, retired pastor. it doesn’t matter how strong you are, eventually you’ll He credited the parents for the maturity their son slip or let them pressure you into something you don’t evidences today. Age 21, the college junior and Heisman want to do. That could haunt you for the rest of your life.” Trophy winner is a national sports celebrity—and an He counts on a strong, supportive network of people honor student. “Not to be filled with conceit is one of the as the pressure of celebrity builds for things most special about him. It’s the star athlete. He also strives exactly the way his dad and mom to practice The Golden Rule have brought him up,” Rev. Neaves (Luke 6:31). “I’ve had to deal with said. recognition in public more and “You couldn’t ask for better more. That’s a challenge for me. parents,” said Sam Bradford. Treat people the way I’d like to be He gives the credit to God for treated—that’s always something athletic gifts—and to his parents I go back to,” Bradford said. for teaming to nurture him and He starts every prayer his talent in sports. His dad, “the by thanking God “for all the biggest role model in my life,” has opportunities, all the blessings also been his coach. A physicalthat He’s put in my life.” education teacher, his mother took Bradford said, “God has a him to water parks and played A church directory photo from the late 1990s plan for everyone. Everything you golf and catch with him when he shows Kent and Martha Bradford and their do happens for a reason that God was younger. Football now is his son, Sam. wants. I feel He’s done so much for focus, but for leisure he relishes golf, me. The most fun I’ve ever had is out there on Saturdays fishing, and other outdoor sports. He’s scored holes-in-one playing in front of 85,000 people.” on golf courses as well as in life. The stadium sat empty on the summer day he made His spiritual growth as a youngster flourished in the one-on-one time to discuss his faith. He spoke sincerely church’s Confirmation Class. “I spent a lot of time in the about his belief; his smile was as genuine as when he Word. I probably learned more about God in that eightcompletes a touchdown pass. In the quiet of the Stadium week period than I did in the first 12 years of my life,” Club, imagine thousands of believers cheering his Bradford commented. confidence in God. Confirmation included a weekend retreat. Leaders Sam Bradford, record-holding OU athlete and honor were high-school students as well as adults. “You have student in finance. Son of a former OU player. Citizen of older kids there, working, setting an example, talking the Cherokee tribe. about living in the Word; that’s something I decided I Sam Bradford, Heisman Trophy winner. Academic wanted to do,” he said. All-American. Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Teammate Gerald McCoy also is a Christian role Sam Bradford, Christian. model for him. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year 11


Sprouts in God’s garden

T

The Epworth Methodist Community Garden began in 2001. The land was donated for a community garden by

Oklahoma

City. In addition to the support of the congregation, the project has benefited from the assistance of the

Oklahoma Regional Food Bank,

Oklahoma County Community Service Workers, and teen mission teams and from

Confirmation classes

United Methodist churches.

In 2009, the garden has blossomed with oversight by

Anna

Faye Rose and Bertha and Helen Wolford.

12

By Michelle Pitt he boy scanned the garden. He’d been shown the okra and peppers, smelled the lavender, and tasted his first asparagus. Squinting in the sun, he looked up at me and asked, “Where do you grow the ketchup?” I smiled to myself as we walked to the tomato patch for further explanation. Ketchup, like the Epworth Methodist Community Garden, is a process and, for me, they both begin with tomatoes. My appreciation for a straight-from-the-garden tomato was a gift from my grandmother, also my link to church. For Grandma Jones and other ladies in their tiny town, part of the pre-church ritual was collecting flowers to celebrate joys and sorrows and food to feed the Methodist masses. After many years of absent Sundays, I found myself in the sanctuary at OKC-Epworth United Methodist Church, seriously scouting a regular pew. The first announcement was an invitation to potluck following the service, and the second, a call for community gardeners. God’s message was impossible to miss. Before we were halfway through the ham and cheese grits at lunch, a new church member and a community gardener sprouted. A novice, I cleared some overgrown beds and set in 28 tomato plants. The established gardeners raised their eyebrows, but said nothing. Conditions were perfect, and soon the Park’s Whopper tomatoes sported pounds of blushing beauty on a vine. Those tomato plants enjoyed the same attention as a firstborn infant. They were fed and pruned and watered just right, and the bounty bent the branches. Then one morning, the day of the long-awaited harvest, they were gone, vanished. Stolen. Memory has faded as to the exact nature of my rage, but I do remember spending about $50 on signs that said: “Do Not Pick the Vegetables.” The omission of “Please” was not an oversight. This led to a rather direct discussion with one of the gardener elders, who pointed out that produce disappears in a community garden and the signs were unwelcoming. So the signs came down. It’s hard to be good when the giving’s not easy. Gardening is an act of faith, but community gardening is faith as a contact sport. The congregation rallied in support of the garden. Margaret told the story of the Great Tomato Heist during the Epworth children’s moment and focused on the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” People sent cards of encouragement. Prayers for a safe harvest were offered, and anonymous gifts of flower and vegetable plants began appearing inside the garden gate. It’s hard to quit when everyone is wishing you success. By the end of September, justice was served in the form of nearly 600 pounds of tomatoes distributed through


Stories from God’s Playbook the weekly medical clinic in Epworth’s basement and to the congregation. The extraordinary results of the “year of the tomatoes” remain a record. The land also produces other crops: eggplant, all colors and shapes of squash, melons and pumpkins, potatoes, onions, garlic peppers, squash, herbs, and peas. The variety of foods grown reflects the diversity of the gardeners—some who planted only for a season, others who have been there from the building of the first beds, only a few of us officially members of the congregation at Epworth, and yet all connected. Slowly, slowly the neighbors came out of their houses and into the garden. At first there were random conversations about weather and other polite pleasantries. Gradually we got to know each other. Bertha, slim and straight in her 80s, was born in Holland. She pointed out edible weeds and flowers and told me stories about Holland during World War II. “During the war, and after, all the children had plots of land at school and they grew food. We grew whatever we could eat, and when you’re hungry there’s a lot that can be eaten. Even that thing”—she pointed to a pokeweed in the Epworth garden—“can be eaten if you boil it enough times, but I never cared for it. Too slimy.” She shuddered. In 2007, with the help of Jackie, an Americorps volunteer on loan from Oklahoma Regional Food Bank, children became weekly visitors during school months. They planted purple hull peas and green beans, a labor-intensive task. Many of the children visiting the garden have never seen plants growing together in this way. They show surprise when they discover that vegetables begin with a flower, delight in navigating the towering rows of okra, and are willing to taste most anything. Several overcame a fear of creepy things and became organic garden soldiers, waging war against asparagus beetles, plucking them from the ferns and tossing them into warm soapy water. Others smell the herbs and name things

they are reminded of: lavender “like my Grandma’s lotion,” mint “toothpaste,” oregano “pizza.” Some just draw flowers and enjoy the sunshine during their green hour. The ambitious drive to grow bumper crops has been replaced with an appreciation for the space itself. Friends donated a wooden swing and bench, and new neighbors find a place for relaxation and rejuvenation. A man brought his toddler daughter to admire the colors, and she giggled infectiously when shown how a snapdragon flower got its name. Pinched on the sides, the blossom opens and looks like the yawning mouth of a dragon with a furry tongue. One evening, I came upon a woman sitting in the swing, gazing at the gladiolus and zinnias glowing in the setting sun. “I’m staying with my granddaughter across the street,” she said. “She’s just had a kidney transplant and needs a lot of help. I love this place. I can walk across the street, bring the phone and still be close, but looking at these flowers reminds me of my own mama’s farm in Texas. It makes me stronger.” The Epworth garden process started with tomatoes, but its shelf life extends beyond the growing season, beyond the land, beyond the individual gardeners. In connecting to the earth, to the neighborhood, and to the church, I discover that in the garden hope is always growing. Photos by Michelle Pitt

Students prepare to tour the Epworth community garden from Positive Tomorrows, a school for homeless children.

13


missiOn

“The special duty or function for which someone is sent as a messenger or representative,” according to a Webster’s dictionary entry. When Christ sent out the disciples, he directed they go to all nations. The United Methodist Church further defines its mission: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The Oklahoma Conference Strategic Plan identifies goals to achieve that mission. One goal specifies collaboration—churches connecting, networking, and offering Christ in fruitful ways not easily achieved by one congregation. These stories of discipleship are harvest fruit from that worldwide United Methodist connection.

Learning from the littlest By Meri Whitaker Director, Cookson Hills Center ne of the greatest delights in my life is to be asked to care for someone’s children … This week I am taking care of a 9-year-old boy and his 11-year-old sister. Their father is a single dad, and he is a Fire dancer. In the Cherokee Tribe there are men and women who are trained to fight the big forest fires that threaten homes and towns in the spring, when the winds are high and the rains have been sparse. They are famous for going into the high country or into the toughest terrain to put out fires. When there are fires to fight, they have to be gone for weeks at a time, but the pay is good. When there are no fires, there is no pay, and so this family lives very humbly. He was on his way to Arizona, and he asked me to keep his children while he was away.

O

Photo by Holly McCray

The boy played hard; he had been to the barn, fished at the pond, and collected all of the dirt that a 9-year-old possibly could on his feet and hands. I told him that he needed to take a shower and get washed up. “I really don’t like showers,” he told me as I got out the towel, turned on the water, and told him where the shampoo was. He looked up at me and asked, “Is it warm?” It doesn’t take much to body-slam me back into reality! I was suddenly very aware of how much in my life I take for granted. Of course the water would be warm; showers are warm — but not for everybody. Many of our children don’t know the luxury of regular hot water. God has given me a very good life … I am grateful today for the gentle reminder that the advantages I have are gifts and not everyone has the same quality of life that I have. —Copyright 2009. Reprinted with permission from the book “My Sister the Father,” by Rev. Whitaker, a United Methodist missionary. Proceeds from sales support ministry. http://www.cooksonhillscenter.com/merisbook.htm

Cookson Hills Center is one of five Oklahoma projects listed in the 2009-12 Giving Resource Guide of The Advance. The others are: Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) Parish Partners, OIMC Construction Project Fund, Native American Children’s Fund, and Clinton Indian Church & Community Center. The Advance is a pathway for second-mile giving to United Methodist missions. Missionary Meri Whitaker, left, sits amid supplies donated for the daycare at Cookson Hills Center.

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! h a j u l ts e n l e l m a o m H practicinG peace —By David Markay, Jan. 8 ITALY—On the way home from a church confirmation retreat, the teenager from Ghana got a call on his cell phone. His 19-year-old friend, Abdul, had been killed in Milan. Details unfolded. In an Italian bar with a friend, Abdul allegedly reached for an item on the counter and then left the business.

frOm zerO tO six —By Jodi L. Cataldo, Nov. 13 LITHUANIA—A huge smile appeared on the face of Gražina Bielousova as she received bouquets of flowers in honor of

fOOd fOr thOuGht — By Jodi L. Cataldo, May 14

United Methodists in mission around the world

Stories compiled from reports by the Mission Education unit of the denomination’s General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM)

The owner and his son ran Abdul down in the street and beat him to death with a metal pipe. The item allegedly stolen: a package of biscuits, valued at one Euro ($1.39). Racial tensions in the country were high. An African group was already protesting other killings of some of their countrymen. On the night after Abdul’s murder, 7,000 people converged on Milan’s Piazza Duomo. They lit candles, chanted angrily, and waved banners threatening retaliation. In the days prior to Abdul’s funeral, commentators and politicians on all sides made pronouncements. That week, God’s peaceable kingdom seemed merely an irrelevant bit of fantasy. However, Abdul’s parents made a quiet plea for justice, not revenge. And, in a poignantly creative gesture, people marched to the bar and placed one-Euro packages of biscuits on the ground outside the door. The point was made. Our confirmation friend also received a few other calls that week. The callers had not known Abdul, had not marched. Culturally, they appeared to have more in common with the bar owner—but they had shared in the experience of the confirmation retreat. “Just calling to see how you’re doing, friend,” one of them said. My wife and I are co-pastors of the international congregation of the Methodist Church in Milan. her commissioning as a Probationary Elder. She became the second female and the sixth indigenous pastor in a country where, only a short time ago, there had been none. In 1995, The United Methodist Church in Lithuania reemerged after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. After a few years, Pastor Kristin Markay began the work of church planting in Vilnius, the capital. Gražina was one of the first youths to become involved in that church plant. Early on she felt the call of God on her life and began studying at Lithuanian Christian College, with the support and encouragement of her home congregation. She went on to graduate from Duke Divinity School. And today she serves The United Methodist Church in her home country.

provided a poignant lesson for me about what it means to be the global church. One child had a bag of snacks to tide her over until lunch. The other girl had none. As I watched, I was moved by the transformation that took place in the face of the girl with the crackers, as she looked at the face of the girl who had none. She opened her heart, invited the other girl to sit with her, and proceeded to share her very precious crackers. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, made clear what his ministry meant when he declared, “The world is my parish.” As participants in God’s mission to the world, we are called to share all that God has to offer—even if that means our crackers. The Vida Nueva Methodist Church is part of the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador, where GBGM is promoting planting churches as part of the 400 Fund.

Photo by Jodi Cataldo

EL SALVADOR—The little girl held her bag of snacks protectively, fearing another child might take one of the crackers. She had been playing hard, working up an appetite. She took out a cracker and savored its salty taste in her mouth. Another child looked longingly at the bag of snacks held so tightly by the girl. The two girls were entertaining themselves in the church during a teacher-training seminar. Their interaction

StorieS from God’S Playbook

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the church On the rOck —By Devi Bhujel and Jodi Cataldo, Feb. 20 NEPAL—The faltering economy grips the remotest parts of the earth. In Nepal, life is unstable. The ability to have a work day often revolves around

OvercOminG tabOOs —By Aly Bashir, May 28 SENEGAL—“I have been in the dark, without knowing anything about myself,” a young man told us in Diamniadio, where we were holding HIV education and testing. “There are no talks about sex in the home, and I cannot even sit with my sisters.” More often than not, in Senegal, in far western Africa,

—By Shana Harrison, Dec. 12 CHILE—Upon making new acquaintances, Adriana quickly invites them to tea. She proudly gives a tour of the entire home, assuring guests that “here they take good care of us” and introducing them to all of her “brothers and sisters.” Today, she is counting the days to her 75th birthday. When asked what she wants for her birthday, she replies, “Whatever you want to give me!” Laura has reached the golden age of 85. Bilingual, she easily spots English speakers and loves to

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people are reluctant to openly tell others their stories, especially about anything intimate such as sex or family life. For that reason, someone sick from a sexually transmitted disease, such as syphilis or AIDS, would not admit to such illness. Exposure would lead to being thrown out by family members, for disgracing them. Through the Senegal Mission Initiative, where I serve as wellness medical program director, I work to reduce preventable diseases while sharing the good news of the Bible. After several meetings with the young man, giving him HIV/AIDS information as well as counseling, everything changed for him. He became an activist so that people would not be blindfolded, but instead educated and well-informed. Initially it was difficult for him because of stigmatization. But with support from the Senegal Mission Initiative and from other nongovernmental offices (NGOs), he became bold enough to speak publicly. He even talks about AIDS on television and radio. Now he relates, with conviction, “Out of ignorance and certain outmoded cultures and traditions, many people have died. I will do everything humanly possible to rectify those anomalies because the saying goes that ‘he who conceals his sickness should not expect to be healed.’”

practice the English skills her mother taught her as a child. Edith has celebrated her 65th birthday. She is very observant and eagerly jumps to assist her classmates— assistance not always well-received. Caring for these developmentally disabled women in their later years brings about challenges. Laura, Adriana, and Edith. Laura, who brags about the number of pieces of steel in her body as though they were war wounds, has been reprimanded for using her cane as a weapon. Adriana has needed reassurance that she won’t die in her sleep by swallowing her false teeth. Because Edith is 65, she is no longer eligible for a disability pension. We must file for pension for the elderly. Once again she … and we … will have to go through a series of interviews to prove her case. The Group Home of La Esperanza, in Santiago, Chile, serves as an advocate for these “Golden Girls” who live on pensions well below poverty. It provides them with the opportunity to live in community, experience independence and self-worth, and receive loving care. They will not be pushed aside or left behind, because in this community home they will always have family by their side.

Photo by Shana Harrison

the GOlden Girls

the presence or absence of electricity. Crime has risen; the inflation rate is soaring. Yet The United Methodist Church in Nepal continues to grow. Church leaders and members came together on a cold, wintry New Year’s Eve. Despite economic realities, these Nepalese Christians committed themselves to the Lord and asked God to make them and the Church a channel of blessing in that country. Then they celebrated! They celebrated the creation of The United Methodist Church Centre in Nepal. They celebrated the first-ever training event for pastors and leaders. They celebrated the licensing of six Nepalese pastors and the declared candidacy of 12 more. And they celebrated the many activities of the local churches. Nepal may be in upheaval politically, socially, and economically, but the church stands strong —because it is built on nothing less than the Rock of salvation, Jesus Christ.


StorieS from God’S Playbook

baby

nO-name —By Rachel Gabler, July 9

Photo by Matthias Reuter, Mercy Air, SA

MOZAMBIQUE—The cry of a baby was heard in the village of Ilha Inamisengo. The joy of childbirth, however, soon gave way to heartbreak. Both mother and baby were very sick, and the baby was not expected to survive. There was no need to give this child a name. A family does not name a baby until they are sure the baby will live. In Africa, naming a baby is particularly meaningful. Who you are is determined by whom you are named after.

So why name an infant if it is going to die? When emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual resources are stretched to the breaking point, you must protect them and conserve them. There is no point in naming a dying baby. Mercy Air, where I am assigned, regularly transports a health team to this village. We airlifted mother and baby to the hospital at Marrumeu. Both were stabilized and brought back to the village. But the mother’s health was deteriorating. When the health team revisited the village, the mother had died. Now the baby was even less likely to be named. The father brought the infant girl to Nurse Liana. He pleaded with her and the team to take the baby. There was no one else to care for the child. They took the baby to an orphanage—and “Baby No Name” thrived! The father has visited several times. He is so happy with the baby’s progress that he gave the child a name. She was named “Liana,” after the nurse who rescued her and provided hope. Welcome, Baby Liana. You are a child of hope.

NeW miSSioN aWard Will debUt iN 2010

Announcing new All-Star church award program For years, the Oklahoma Conference has celebrated The Five-Star Church Award, honoring churches’ excellence in missions. Beginning Jan. 1, 2010, the Conference’s Mission & Service Ministry Team (MSMT) will launch a revision of the program. It will be named The All-Star Church Recognition and Award Program. Why the change? “Two reasons,” said Tom Hoffmann, MSMT chairperson. “First, we wanted a way to recognize significant missional efforts made by churches that could not always complete all five stars in a single year. Second, we wanted to give churches more choices in how they responded to missions.”

With the new program, a church can be recognized for earning a minimum of three stars—“and awarded as many stars as it sets its heart and hands to!” declared Rev. Hoffmann. A church acquires “stars” by supporting selected United Methodist missional emphases and ministry opportunities within a calendar year. •

Conference recognitions will be given to churches that achieve a minimum of three stars.

Conference awards will go to churches that achieve a minimum of five stars.

Churches that report exceptional work in missions can receive additional Gold Star or Stellar Church awards.

The criteria for the program will be reviewed annually by the MSMT and will periodically change, to reflect General Church and Conference emphases. Changes typically will be announced at the Annual Conference session prior to the year of implementation. To apply for recognition or an award, a church must pay in full its Conference and district apportionments. “For the 2009 calendar year, the award criteria will still be based on the Five-Star program,” Hoffmann pointed out. “The new All-Star program will not begin until 2010.” For more information about the new award program, download the information sheet located online at http://www.okumc.org/All_Star, or contact the chairperson at tomhoffmann@fumctulsa.org. You can find an application for the current Five-Star Church Award online at http://www.okumc.org/Five_Star. Applications for the Five-Star award must be submitted to the Conference secretary of Global Ministries, Michael Fletcher-Taylor, mlft@cox.net. Deadline is Jan. 31, 2010.

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It Worked for us Stories from God’s playbook flourish throughout Oklahoma. Here are 12 stories of high-scoring game plans—one from a church in each district. The Oklahoma Conference Board of Laity presented “It Worked for Us” awards at the 2009 Annual Conference to these churches for ministries developed and led by laywomen and men.

Bartlesville District

the FIGHt Club:

Men connect through sports and service

By Holly McCray

T

he FIGHT Club is a church men’s group. The name may cause raised eyebrows, and the men hope it does. They are fighting to win more men to Christ. The FIGHT Club (Fellowship in God’s House Together) of Claremore-First UMC has both an unusual name and an uncommon strategy for men’s ministry. “Thinking outside the box. That’s part of the genius of the whole thing,” said Pastor Ray Crawford. The church wanted to reach younger men and younger families with children. A Saturday breakfast event, held monthly, was drawing a faithful group of United Methodist Men. However, most were retirees. “If we want to reach men we aren’t reaching, we

Jaimie Willis helps a youngster hoist her prized catch.

have to do things that we aren’t doing,” said Rev. Crawford. “So we’re doing things that men’s groups don’t usually do—and it’s gotten attention. We are trying to reach out using our culture.” An original group of seven men discussed their varied backgrounds but common enjoyment of traditional men’s activities such as sports and fishing. They agreed the club’s focus would be on masculine fellowship. They scored a home run with that idea. The approach has provided “an adrenaline shot” for men’s ministry at the church, according to President Jaimie Willis. “God’s really blessed us.” The FIGHT Club currently plans quarterly activities—three fellowship events and a service project. Continued on page 19

Ardmore District– Ada-Asbury UMC

Clinton District – Clinton-First UMC

Asbury United Methodist Church in Ada had been providing a facility for meetings and graduation activities of the Pontotoc County Drug Court program. Then a young woman in the program was baptized and joined the church, along with her family. After discussions with her, members took a more active role with Drug Court. “I think God had to hit us between the eyes to get our attention to the fact that this was where our ministry should be,” a church leader wrote on the award application. The WAY has evolved into a Tuesday evening program for Drug Court participants and the Southern Oklahoma Addiction Rehabilitation center. Leaders report numbers have grown to more than 60 adults and more than 20 children.

First United Methodist Church established the Clinton Free Medical Clinic in 2001. The clinic is open on two Thursdays each month. On a rotating basis, local doctors provide their expertise and service. Volunteers fill support roles. On average, the clinic assists more than 150 people each month. The clinic is housed on the church’s campus and relies on donations from the congregation and community to provide medication at no cost to the patients. Gently used medical equipment, such as walkers, is distributed. The Clinton Community Kitchen is another part of the ministry. “This ministry causes us to think on a Kingdom level as we show the love of Christ to people we may never see again,” stated Jalynn Youngberg on the award application.

The WAY

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Free Medical Clinic


StorieS from God’S Playbook The men have attended college basketball games and played laser tag. They go fishing, skeet shooting, and four-wheeling. About 20 traveled to Dallas for a Promise Keepers event. Military veterans were invited to speak at one fellowship event. “What a healing night that was,” Crawford remarked. “They were telling us things they had never told before. That enabled others to open up. It was a powerful moment.” The men include their children in some events. For example, the club hosted a district fishing tournament where youngsters took part, too. Church leaders report growing numbers of men and younger families in worship. Claremore-First recently completed construction of a $4.2 million children’s center. Willis said, “We have an outline for every event. We start with prayer, have a devotional, then do the event, and end in prayer. We want to make sure these guys are fed the Word every time they come. The event is fun, but we make sure we offer Jesus each time we are together. Our common bond is Jesus Christ.” Participation is significant in the service projects, too. The club learned a single-parent family lived in a home without indoor plumbing. About 50 men took part

Lawton District – Verden UMC

Joshua’s Closet

Joshua’s Closet was established by Verden UMC with a Petree Grant from the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation and individual donations. This clothing ministry was developed to reach out to families in the community that needed extra help to clothe the children in their homes. The project supplies pants, shirts, coats, shoes, socks, and underwear. “This ministry has opened the eyes of our members to social problems our community has, and allowed us to step out in love from our own four walls,” church leaders wrote. “We believe this is a wonderful ministry for any church, but it really works in our small town. The families we help are wanting to help other families in return.” McAlester District – Stigler UMC

Backpack Nutrition Program

The members of Stigler UMC recognized some children in elementary school were hungry on weekends. Teachers in the congregation shared stories of children who regularly asked for something to eat. After investigating the possibilities and talking to leaders of other churches who were engaged in a weekend

in a major remodeling effort, completing most of the work in one day. They installed a septic tank system, water heater, and plumbed the house. They added two bedrooms and built a deck. For the family of a seriously ill teenager, the club built a picket fence as a gesture of caring. The gift fulfilled a longtime wish for the mother. The men arranged to do the work while the child was receiving medical care out of town. Matching black T-shirts help promote the men’s group in the community. The front imprint states “The FIGHT Club.” The back of the shirt displays a crown of thorns. The design is deliberately simplified to encourage questions from the public. “People will ask about it, and we have a chance to witness. We are a visible witness wherever we go,” Willis explained. Other club leaders are Matt Tucker and Steve Egleston. A DVD presentation is available. “There is a huge mission field out there,” Crawford said. “We look at our church as a mission outpost rather than a chapel. The FIGHT Club is a mission tool, an evangelistic tool, to reach men that the church just has not reached” in other ways.

nutrition program, Stigler UMC decided on a plan and shared it with the school principal and counselor. Permission letters were sent to the parents of children enrolled in the school free-meals program. The letter asked the ages of other children in the home, so food could be provided for them as well. On Friday, backpacks that contain nutritious, easy-toopen food items are sent home with participating children. The backpacks are returned on Monday, to be refilled for the next Friday. Cost is about $400 per child for the school year. Enid District – Enid-New Hope UMC

After-School Tutoring

In early 2009, the pastor and members of Enid-New Hope church began planning a tutoring program for elementary students. Working with Enid Public School District personnel, they established weekly tutoring and mentoring at the church for fourth-grade students at Garfield Elementary. The principal and two teachers selected 10 students for the opportunity, and parents were contacted for permission and support. The program consists of academic and social components. The social component focuses on forming mentoring relationships. For the new school year, the same students will be invited to participate as fifth graders.

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OKC-North District – Edmond-New Covenant UMC

His Hands Ministry

His Hands Ministry is the name of a devoted group of people who meet faithfully each week to pray, write encouraging notes, and work in the sanctuary of New Covenant UMC, Edmond. The church sponsors an online prayer network. Prayer boxes set up around the church invite people to drop in requests, and a phone prayer ministry tracks requests, too. Specific requests for the pastors are delivered to them. His Hands Ministry manages these prayer avenues. The requests are taken to the altar each week for prayer by the group, and notes are written in response. His Hands Ministry also replenishes the printed prayer resources and attendance supplies in each pew. The prayer card sent out by His Hands Ministry features art painted by a young member. He offered the artwork as a thank-you to those who extended love to him.

Muskogee District – Morris UMC

Farmer’s Market

Two women in the Morris congregation noted the town of 1,500 people did not offer a farmer’s market, although many in the community are involved in agriculture. They shared their idea to host one at the church. Scheduling was one concern. Restroom facilities for farmers or market customers would only be available if the church was open on Saturday. The church chose hospitality. Youngsters from the farm families also were invited to take breaks in the youth room, where there is an air hockey table. “Hosting the market has helped the church members deepen their discipleship by focusing on hospitality to the community,” stated Pastor Nathan Mattox. “In turn, everyone who steps foot in our parking lot on Saturdays gets to meet some of our members and take a brochure about our church.”

OKC-South District – Norman-McFarlin UMC

Gleaning Urban-Style

In 2006, the United Methodist Men’s group at McFarlin church, Norman, became aware of the national gleaning program led by the Society of Saint Andrew, to help feed the hungry. The men developed a list of 17 agencies and churches that either provide meals or have a food closet ministry. The men gather leftover produce from fields after commercial harvesting, and they distribute the fresh vegetables and fruits through those groups. The McFarlin UMMen expanded the project in June 2008, when Bill Chissoe learned unsold produce at a Norman farmer’s market was often discarded. He asked those farmers to donate that produce, too.

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Stillwater District – Perry-First UMC

Blessings and Comfort Through Stitches

In June 2007 the First United Methodist Church at Perry began a quilt ministry. A few women met weekly for several hours of community social activity. It was, in effect a revival of the quilting-bee tradition. As the group grew, they presented completed quilts to victims of natural dis­asters and to military personnel. Today the ministry has expanded to include missions such as the Circle of Care Boy’s Ranch, baptismal quilts for newborns, and prayer quilts for those who are ill. Baptismal quilts are labeled with the name and birth date of the infant. Before a quilt is given away, it is draped over the altar. Church members tie a knot in the quilt and sign a card for the recipient. Up to 10 women gather for about three hours each week to work on the blankets. The group has received about $6,000 in donations. Tulsa District – Tulsa-Faith UMC

Special Angels

The “Special Angels” ministry started when Tulsa-Faith members identified a need for families with special-needs children to find a church home that would welcome them. In 2007, the youth minister spoke to members about these families. Several months of training and education followed. The ministry has grown to nine children with special needs. Members provide personal care for their “Special Angels” each Sunday. T-shirts identify the volunteers, who are each assigned a child to supervise, to minimize confusion and reassure the child. Woodward District – Shattuck-First UMC

Extravagant Invitations

Two years ago, Shattuck FUMC’s Missions & Evangelism Team decided to go all-out to invite people to their new, contemporary worship service. From the church members, they collected names and addresses of people whom they knew didn’t have church homes in the area. They went to work baking cookies, putting them on sticks with ribbons, and arranging them in small baskets as Cookie Bouquets. The week before they launched the new service, they hand-delivered 87 Cookie Bouquets. People from 29 of those households visited in worship! Many of these people continue to be involved in the church. Last fall, they filled mugs with bags of coffee, hot chocolate, and tea mixes. They added a spoon dipped in chocolate and a magnet with information about worship and Sunday school times. They hand-delivered these “Mugsn-Magnets” to 149 households.


Stories from God’s Playbook

On the Web

You can learn more on the Internet about ministries featured in this magazine United Methodist Men

Oklahoma Conference homepage

www.gcumm.org

http://www.okumc.org

The All-Star Church Award

The United Methodist Church homepage

http://www.umc.org

http://www.okumc.org/All_Star

Oklahoma Conference Youth Ministry

The United Methodist Advance

Cookson Hills Center

Youth Force http://www.okumcministries.org/Youth Youth_Force.htm

Lydia Patterson Institute

http://www.lydiapattersoninstitute.org

“It Worked for Us” http://www.okumc.org/page.asp?PKValue=747

General Board of Discipleship

http://www.gbod.org

http://new.gbgm-umc.org/advance/projects (type in Cookson in the search field)

General Board of Global Ministries

Oklahoma Conference Board of Laity

http://new.gbgm-umc.org/Advance/

http://new.gbgm-umc.org/

Oklahoma Conference Chemical Dependency Ministries

http://www.okumcministries.org/ Chemical_Dependency/CDhome.htm

Discerning a call to ministry? A United Methodist Seminary is closer than you think. Saint Paul School of Theology at Oklahoma City University offers stimulating studies and helps you serve God, the church and the world.

Connect with Us! 800-825-0378 www.spst.edu

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Applied love helps girls grow By Kristin E. Van Nort The Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation he Bartlesville MUTUAL Girls Club is one of Bartlesville’s best-kept secrets,” says Jane Stewart, MUTUAL board member and Foundation employee. The MUTUAL (Methodists United To Use Applied Love) Girls Club offers a unique opportunity for girls in the Bartlesville area to develop life skills and talents through after-school, summer, and winter break programs. “They do more good with less money than any organization I have ever known and reach girls who would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn vital life skills,” says Stewart. Established more than 40 years ago, MUTUAL was started by a group of United Methodist women to fill a void in after-school activities for girls in lower income areas of Bartlesville. Girls from first grade through high school participate in performance arts, dance, cooking, sewing, crafts, etiquette lessons, games, and much more. MUTUAL has grown to offer programming five days a week and serves students in Bartlesville and Dewey. “We provide a safe environment for girls to experience friendship, togetherness, and grow as individuals,” says Director Pat Netzer-Willard. “We now have second-generation girls attending MUTUAL. Parents know their daughters will gain so much from the programs and activities.”

T

22

The organization strives to enhance each girl’s self-esteem. “The girls come together regardless of their background, school, or home life,” says Netzer-Willard. MUTUAL received a Petree Grant from the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation last fall to start a basic career skills class. “The MUTUAL board saw an urgent need for our girls to acquire career skills not available to them anywhere else,” says Amelia Nash, a board member. In this class, girls participate in specific skills training for one to two hours per week. Community, education, and business professionals and potential employers help guide the training sessions and hands-on learning. The girls are taught work skills such as following directions and attitude on the job. They learn about phone etiquette, proper attire, job interviews, and resume preparation. Older girls have the opportunity to job-shadow and, as they enter the work force, serve as mentors to the younger girls. The programming is supported by each of the Bartlesville United Methodist churches: First UMC, East Cross, Oak Park, and Grace Epworth. The Tuesday House, which is a resale shop, as well as businesses, organizations, and individuals also support the girls club. “Each of our churches can be incredibly proud of working together and making the organization what it is today. We are making a difference in the lives of these girls,” says Netzer-Willard, who has been a part of the organization for 16 years. Since 1996, the Petree Endowment Fund has awarded more than $1 million in grants to United Methodist agencies and churches across Oklahoma. Applications are available on the Foundation’s Web site at www.okumf.org, and must be postmarked by Sept. 15, 2009.

The Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation serves Oklahoma United Methodist churches and individuals through endowment programs and planned and estate giving. Call the Foundation at 800-259-6863 or visit the Web site for more information.


Chemical Dependency Ministries:

Summer School inspires new career purpose

By Aloise McCullough

G

Photo by Ricky McAuliffe Photography

start to tear up—things that have happened to me in my family, things I had been through from having someone in rowing up, Jonathan Triplett often felt “pain, my family that has dealt with alcohol and drugs.” embarrassment, and negative feelings” He left the classroom to regroup. The former pro toward his alcoholic mother, he said. Their athlete, 6 feet 6 inches tall, has traveled the world. But strained relationship continues today. Alcohol abuse was the sudden emotion made him something he himself overcame uncomfortable in public. After during college. he returned and spoke with the Now he helps other people presenter, he knew what he had conquer addiction. to do. In 2008, he signed up for “I decided I wanted to be alcohol awareness training a licensed alcohol and drug through the Summer School on counselor. I wanted to have Chemical Dependency, presented as much training as possible by the United Methodist Chemical from the Chemical Dependency Dependency Ministries of Summer School,” Triplett said. Oklahoma Conference. The credits he earned there count In the two-week program, toward a master’s degree in clergy and laity are taught “the counseling. facts about addiction, the effects Now he teaches in alcohol of addiction on the individual education programs commonly and family members and faith known as “DUI schools,” and he communities, and the spiritual especially reaches out to educate roots of addiction, through the even younger people. In July, 12-step program,” according he directed the OCU First Class to Annette Harper, director of Individuals Life Skills/Basketball Chemical Dependency Ministries. Camp. Campers were in grades Triplett has played basketball four through 12. Resources from professionally, in Turkey, Chemical Dependency Ministries Switzerland, France, Taiwan, were used. China, and Argentina. Then he The risk of becoming changed careers; he now works at alcohol-dependent is greater for Oklahoma City University, where Jonathan Triplett presents a trophy to a young a person who starts drinking at he is director of Intramural Sports camper in the OCU LifeSkills/Basketball program. age 14 in comparison to age 21, and Recreation. according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and In 2008 the university established an alcohol Alcoholism. awareness program. As a leader, Triplett wanted more Triplett said children and young adults will make knowledge about the topic. So he signed up for the better decisions about alcohol if they are alerted to its Summer School. The program stirred a calling on his dangers. He senses “awesome” potential in what he has life, which he spoke about at the 2009 Oklahoma Annual learned to prevent others from encountering what he did Conference. as the child of an alcoholic. In the Summer School, Triplett heard one of the 21 “It makes me believe that I am serving the Higher presenters talk about adult children of alcoholics. Power in the way I am supposed to be serving Him,” “How does this guy know all this stuff?” he pondered. Triplett said. “I feel I should be doing this.” “He said some things in that session that caused me to 23


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