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Messenger VOL. 48, NO. 2

Can you help Sami save the world?

Check us out online:


Running for hope

pg. 7

Water’s Edge members raise money for Africa

Caring for God’s Creation

pg. 11

AC 2011: Spiritual Formation 

pg. 12

Dave Vetter, family honored for work in organic movement

Spring 2011


A Great Plan for the Great Plains By Trish Johnson Nebraska Conference communications coordinator The Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition Team held a webcast March 13 to announce its recommendation that the Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska conferences form a new, single annual conference in the Great Plains, in place of the three current annual conferences. The recommendation was announced by a panel of six members of the transition team: Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson (Nebraska), Bishop Scott Jones (Kansas Area), the Rev. Troy Bowers (Kansas West), the Rev. Janet Maxwell (Kansas East), the Rev. Debra McKnight (Nebraska) and Tom Watson (Nebraska). The webcast originated from the Nebraska United Methodist

Conference Center in Lincoln and was streamed live with viewing groups watching at more than 40 sites across the three conferences. Each panel member took a turn addressing viewers; Sherer-Simpson offered an opening prayer, and then gave a brief recap of the transpiring events that led up to the creation of the Transition Team. IMAGINE VITAL MINISTRIES McKnight, associate pastor at Omaha’s First United Methodist Church, iterated the scripture that has laid the foundation for the transition team’s work, Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” She set forth the ways in which the team envisions

See GREAT PLAN, p. 9

The recommendation to become one conference was announced by a panel of six members of the Transition Team (from L to R): the Rev. Troy Bowers, the Rev. Debra McKnight, Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson, the Rev. Janet Maxwell, Bishop Scott Jones and Tom Watson.

Sharper focus on horizon The Common Table refines role, supports ministry teams The Common Table of the Nebraska United Methodist Conference has worked continuously to organize and implement a ministry plan adopted at the 2008 Annual Conference Session. The teams of The Common Table — Leadership Development, Congregational Transformation and Risk-taking Mission and Justice — are now well established and working across the conference with churches and ministries to help make disciples for the transformation of the world. Recently, The Common Table turned its attention to its primary role of being a generative and visionary body for the Nebraska Conference. The Common Table is also responsible for evaluation. Ideas from “A Journey Into the Wilderness” by author and consultant Gil Rendle is helping The Common Table move forward with greater focus on discipleship and a mission fieldbased focus. “Focus on a few things; with conference support, with a common and clear vision of outcomes, and then determine what we are doing to get us there,”

is a recap statement from The Common Table’s March 18 meeting. The group pointed out that historically the church has been reluctant to enforce accountability and measures for its work, noting that clear definitions of outcomes are needed. Another point made was that additional collaboration is needed between the Board of Ordained MinDOUG conference staff, the Council on ANDERSON istry, Finance and Administration and the Cabinet to provide broader, more inclusive, leadership development opportunities for lay and clergy persons in the conference. Recent attention to Lay Speaking Ministries was lifted as an example of some of the positive direction being taken to improve opportunities for lay leadership development. Team members continue to look for direction from The Common Table. There was a general feeling among attendees that the Common Table needs to distance it-




Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger

From the Bishop

Looking toward Annual Conference

Bishop Ann Brookshire Sherer-Simpson “Turn the church inside out so that Christians might turn the world upside down,” spoke Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher at a recent gathering. This succinctly states what I see

happening all over our church. We are seeking to move beyond maintaining our lives, to risking our lives as local churches, in order to see who lives near us, who we can serve, with whom we can partner in ministry, how we can grow in love of God and neighbor so that we see this world with new eyes and live as God’s own people. Nurtured by the power of God’s loving and graceful spirit, we can move into the world and make lifechanging differences. We can be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. Our Annual Conference gathering begins in less than two months. At Annual Conference we will work together with our hands and muscles on Tuesday, serving the community. We will worship together many times during the week and open ourselves to God’s spirit. We will work daily on pressing, even difficult, issues seeking to keep

(ISSN 0194-7761 USPS #376-540) Vol. 48, No. 2 Spring 2011 To inform, educate and inspire Nebraska United Methodists in all areas of mission and ministry in the church.

Kathryn Witte, editor Trisha Johnson, communications coordinator RoxAnn Delisi, circulation Editorial opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Nebraska Conference of the United Methodist Church. Columns and letters to the editor are the views of that writer and not necessarily of “The Nebraska Messenger” or the Nebraska Conference. Published four times a year (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall) by the Nebraska Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, 3333 Landmark Circle, Lincoln, NE 68504; phone 402-464-5994 or 800435-6107; fax 402-464-6203. Periodicals postage paid at Lincoln, Nebraska. Postmaster: Send address changes to the Nebraska Messenger, 3333 Landmark Circle, Lincoln, NE 68504.

Letters to the editor posted to UMconnect

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our hearts, minds and spirits open to God’s guidance. As we move toward Annual Conference, change is imminent. We are becoming one episcopal area with Kansas. Do we feel called of God to be one conference with Kansas? Can this be a disruptive moment when we can catch a glimpse of how we can be more faithful, courageous, effective disciples in each local church and community? Is God shaking us up so that we can do what God needs done? We need to watch and pray to discern what comes next. At Annual Conference the Rev. Gil Rendle will speak. Gil has worked with the Council of Bishops, the South Central Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops and our Nebraska-Kansas Transition Team as we have sought a global, regional and local vision of where God is leading us. What does The United Methodist Church, which God longs to use for the transformation of individual lives, communities and the world, need to look like? What is everyone’s role in this kairos moment? Gil will help us ask hard questions as we discern together. How does God call us to change the church and the world? We will spend most of one day looking at the hard questions of our culture and conferencing about what steps God would have us take in response to some resolutions. Wouldn’t it be glorious if we could see clearly? But as Paul

reminds us in I Corinthians 13 (The Message): “We don’t yet see things clearly. We are squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears, and the sun shines bright! We will see it all then, see it all clearly as God sees us, knowing God directly just as God know us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly; love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” I ask that you please share in the pre-conference briefing webcasts in May (see pg. 12 for dates, times and locations), and pray for us as an Annual Conference as we seek God‘s will for us. And know that there is no need to worry. Easter, the ultimate hopeful action of God, is near. “We are in days of new beginnings. Our God is making all things new.” Grace and peace,

Ann B. Sherer-Simpson Resident Bishop Nebraska Area The United Methodist Church

DEATH NOTICES Marie A. Beatty, 87, the widow of a clergy member of the Nebraska Annual Conference, died Jan. 18, 2011. She is survived by sons and daughter-in-laws, Richard Paul & Barbara Beatty, Gretna; Daniel & Wanda Beatty, Mack Beatty all of Lincoln. She was preceded in death by her husband, the Rev. Dr. Henry C. Beatty. Visitation was: 10-11 a.m. Jan. 21 at Roper and Sons, 4300 O St., Lincoln, Neb., and interment followed at Lincoln Memorial Park. Memorials to the family for future designation. Elizabeth “Bette” Irwin, 89, the widow of a clergy member of the Nebraska Annual Conference, died Jan. 27, 2011. She is survived by sons James Jr., David, Stephen; daughters, Christine Irwin, Mary Irwin and Beth Kumpost. She was preceded in death by her husband, the Rev. James K. Irwin. A Celebration of Life service was held at 10:30 a.m., Feb. 1, at the First United Methodist Church, 900 O St, Gering, Neb. The Rev. Lauren Ekdahl officiated. Cremation followed the service. Inurnment was at West Lawn Cemetery in Gering. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the First United Methodist Church, PO Box 68, Gering, NE 69341 or to the UNMC College of Nursing.

ON FAITH AND POLITICS Editor’s note: Sen. Lowen Kruse served in the Nebraska Legislature from 2001-09 and is also a retired United Methodist minister. We have asked him to share ideas on how persons of faith can effectively discuss difficult issues and affect important community decisions. We pray “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” The Lord’s Prayer reflects the Golden Rule, an amazing guide, taught by Jesus, on relating to others. (Mt 7:12) Medical research has discovered that our brains are ‘hard-wired’ for revenge and also for forgiveness. Krista Tippett’s “Einstein’s God” reports on research described in a recent book by Dr. Michael McCullough, “Beyond Revenge.” When we think about it, we know that makes sense. Our instinct is to get even, yet we do want to forgive. What is fascinating about his discovery is that we manage revenge and forgiveness all the time, and can learn how to make them serve us well. Our urge for retaliation is normal, lighting up the same area of the brain as thirst. It can be sensible, setting limits that give us our safe zones. It is as practical as interaction with an obnoxious neighbor or the political candidates we oppose. We can manage revenge. The ancient “eye for an eye” in scripture is from a primitive culture where they insisted that revenge is to be controlled. No more than one eye for an eye. Serious injury or death is not acceptable. Jesus rejected this revenge. (Mt. 5:38-42) Before we had organized governments, retaliation placed limits on injustice. Societies have their own ways of using retaliation for enforcement. We have revenge in the death penalty. We could do better. School shootings are usually from revenge, are often related to bullying, and point to a person who lacks the discipline to manage revenge. Forgiveness also has a purpose. We tolerate and excuse shortcomings and mistakes of those we love and those we work with. We do that hundreds of times without glorifying it or thinking “forgiveness.” An 8-year-old is told to learn from that error and to “forget” it. Thankfully, we do forget tolerating countless mistakes. The payoff is survival. Forgiveness is not weak or the act of being vulnerable. It is the way by which the strong can cooperate. We tolerate mistakes and cooperate with people we have never met, knowing they will not be perfect. Forgiveness is not heroic, except in limited instances. Nelson Mandela’s forgiveness for years of unjust imprisonment is monumental, for without it South Africa would not be the thriving economy it is. Victims of the Oklahoma City bombing were frozen in place until they dealt with Timothy McVeigh. One father of a victim wept as Timothy’s father wept before his son’s execution. A father found someone to share the pain of the loss of his beloved son. The Jews have a phrase for forgiveness: Repair the world.” It takes clear thought in the time of crisis to avoid revenge and to find new relationships. True apology resets my thinking and is the next best thing to revenge. If a change in the other person’s attitude convinces me that I am now safe and able to move, I am freed. It is not surprising that Jesus’ teaching reflects the way we are created. We have a brain that can improve relationships.


Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger


COMMON TABLE: from p. 1 self from the day-to-day work of the teams to establishing expectations in the form of broad goals and vision. Team members are looking for more inspiration and less operational input from The Common Table. All agreed that the conference needs new and better ways to tell the stories of life-changing ministry happening in many places in Nebraska. It is out of those stories that transparency can happen and trust develops. In light of the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area beginning in 2012, the group believes that everyone should move forward with their ministry plans until such time a reorganization might call for changes in direction. A draft of the 2012 Funding Plan was reviewed with a potential 2 percent increase from 2011. The final funding plan will be reviewed and voted upon during the 2011 Annual Conference Session. The 2012 Funding Plan will be included in the 2011 Annual Conference Session resource book and on the website in late April/early May. Doug Anderson, a consultant from the Indiana Conference (41

DEATH NOTICES Ralph H. Ford, 64, clergy member of the Nebraska United Methodist Conference, died Feb. 26. He is survived by his wife Marla, 25247 River Crest Dr., Leesburg, Fla., 34748; and son, the Rev. S. Eric Ford, pastor of OrchardPage-Ewing churches. There was a small service in Leesburg, Fla. A graveside service will be held June 9 at 11 a.m. at the Oakland Cemetery, Oakland, Neb. The Rev. Jeff Thurman and the Rev. Teryl Otto will officiate. Lunch will follow at the United Methodist Church, 113 N. Oakland, Oakland, Neb. Cremation. Memorials to Camp Fontanelle, 9677 County Road 3, Nickerson, NE 68044. Barbara Bauer, 65, pastor of Prairie West ELCA/UMC in Potter, Neb., died March 18. A memorial service was held at the Prairie West Church in Potter. The funeral service was at Bethel Lutheran Church, 45th & Poppleton in Omaha, Neb. Bauer is survived by her children John-Charles (Selena) Yazowski of Bellevue, Neb.; Sharon Yazowski of Los Angeles, Calif.; and Linda-Gail (Chris) Hough of Nashville, Tenn.

years in the Indiana Conference, 13 years as director of the Reuben Job Center) joined the joint meeting of The Common Table and teams on Saturday, March 19. His work with the Nebraska cabinet has been to help strengthen its support for the development of leaders in the conference. On this day, Anderson focused on worship attendance as a measure of growth, and that, regardless of the measure, we should all have an urgency around the health of the church. One group member said, “The opportunity to have a new conference will force us to do the things we could have, should have done long ago. Great opportunity to help pastors focus on the mission.” All agreed worship attendance is not the only measure of church health and vitality, but it’s a common measure that is a solid indicator of successful discipleship. Anderson encouraged a focus on one thing in order to bring about better teamwork and focus to do the work. He talked about the need for buy in, “It may not be the best goal, but what we’ve been

doing hasn’t been working so far. Give it your best shot. Focusing on worship attendance is not just about focusing on worship.” Recent research shows that 70 of the 387 Nebraska churches have an average Sunday attendance of 100 or more. Of greater concern is the debt load that many Nebraska churches are carrying in support of their ministries. Anderson reminded the group that the denomination has been in decline for 50 years, and that Nebraska is not alone in its seeking for new ways of doing ministry. Anderson’s key messages included: Our purpose is not created, it is discerned. Our purpose is to be centered on God’s will and the example and life of Jesus Christ. Prayer, study and holy conferencing will lead to discernment. Don’t confuse activity for achievement – just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re achieving your goals. He encouraged the group to

really take a look at what is being measured … the outcome or the activity. Everything is about the mission –Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. This is our centering point. “John and Charles Wesley said what Methodists should look like. A disciple lives out these five things -- prayers, presence, gifts, service, witness,” said Anderson. He reminded the group of the definition of a priority – “A priority is something for which anything else will be an excuse for not giving our best effort to accomplish.” The primary foci of The Common Table should be – resourcing, equipping and training – “If we don’t do that, there will be a disconnection, some will struggle on their own,” said Anderson. (Not for The Common Table do this work, but ensure the teams and staff are helping/ equipping churches to fulfill their mission.)

One of Anderson’s concluding observations was that in his experience the strategy for the largest church he served was the same as the smallest — ministry based on relationships. He noted that in his last church appointment the congregation’s size increased 20 percent over 38 years. He added, “What if every church’s congregation was given instructions by its pastor to love two people into the kingdom of God. “The primary strategy is a relational strategy,” he concluded. A series of questions were raised with small group team discussion resulting in many recommendations, ideas and frustrations being shared. Lists were made and have been forwarded to each team for further evaluation. Complete meeting minutes area available on the Conference website. The Common Table will meet April 15 to review and forward the Nebraska-Kansas Transition Team proposal for presentation and vote at the 2011 AC Session. April 16 is a Common Table and teams mission day — part of covenant to be involved in mission — to be led by United Methodist Ministries, in Omaha.


Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger


God’s Renewed Creation: poverty, planet, peace By Sabrina Miller, RTMJ Team member from Lewellen Has our church “left the building?” To answer, we must ask ourselves, what are the problems facing people outside of our churches? And what is the Christian response to those problems? The Council of Bishops (COB) has endeavored to answer these questions and provide resources for local churches to take action. In a statement addressed to all United Methodists, the COB focuses on three major global issues and the ways they intertwine: pandemic poverty and disease, environmental degradation, and the proliferation of weapons and violence. These weighty topics are sprinkled with the hope of a vision for God’s presence and purpose in the world. The document and accompanying liturgy are available online at, or by Googling “God’s Renewed Creation.” Use the resource for a Bible study, for upcoming Earth Day events on April 22, or the


2. Planet: Thanks to Sabrina Miller and Kathryn Cunningham, former Micah Corps interns, Nebraska United Methodist Women have the opportunity to involve their congregations in becoming “Green Teamcertified.” Miller and Cunningham designed the certification model.

Sami’s shoebox Six-year-old Ogallala girl collects $700

for earthquake, tsunami victims in Japan

Kathryn Cunningham (left), former Micah Corps intern, and Judy Dangler, UMW Conference social action coordinator, with a “God’s Renewed Creation” manual. Festival of God’s Creation on April 24, to educate and uplift these concerns in your community. The bishops remind us that hope is found through our shared story: “It is the story that begins with God’s loving gift of creation and culminates in God’s promise of

renewal for all. It is the story of the Word made flesh, the Incarnation, God’s presence with us. It is the story of Jesus’ ministry to the most vulnerable, his denunciation of violence, greed, and oppression, and his call to discipleship.”

Three ways Nebraskans are living out “God’s Renewed Creation”

1. Poverty: A public witness of banners in front of the Conference Center in Lincoln (pictured at right) lifts up our concern for immigrants. What drives people to leave their home countries is often grinding poverty. In the words of Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson, “There is a clear biblical injunction to care for the widow, the orphan, the sojourner among us … ones about whom God is most concerned.“


Congregations select specific acts to do under each of these areas: Education; Analyze Your Impact; Worship and Pray; and Act in the Larger Community. To involve your church, go to 3. Peace: There are around 400 Nebraska United Methodists who participate in the Peace with Justice Ministries project, Voices to the Capitol. This network of advocates contacts national leaders on

peace and hunger issues 10 times each year. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Voices to the Capitol folks practice their faith by writing one letter, one e-mail or making one phone call per month on behalf of God’s Renewed Creation. And on Dec. 22, 2010, they experienced a fruit from their faithfulness! The U.S. Senate voted 71 to 26 to ratify the New START Treaty with Russia. The strong senate vote in favor of the treaty sets the stage for additional efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons. Peacemaking is work, it takes effort! If you are interested in becoming part of Voices to the Capitol, e-mail or call 402-455-4281.

The following was submitted by Christina Baltzell, administrative assistant in the Great West District office. On March 11, 6-year-old Sami Baltzell of Ogallala watched the news with her family and saw the devastation in Japan caused by the earthquake and tsunami. She asked many questions about what happened there and expressed sadness for the families and their losses. Two days later her parents awoke to an excited little girl, eager to tell them about what she was going to do to help Japan. She showed them a shoebox she had emptied and placed a sign in the lid that read “Help Japan.” She had gathered loose change and dollar bills from her piggy bank and placed them inside. She asked them to put money in the shoebox for Japan, too. Then she asked if she could take the shoebox to her school, St. Paul’s Lutheran, to ask her friends and teachers to help Japan. After talking with her teacher, it was decided that the shoebox would come to school. Sami’s father, Dave, asked her if she would like to take the box to church on Sunday and ask people there for help. She liked that idea and so did the pastor, the Rev. Chuck Rager. So the shoebox came to the Ogallala First United Methodist Church. Sami’s parents talked to her about the different charities that donations could be sent to. It was decided that any money she helped raise would be sent to UMCOR (the United Methodist Committee on Relief) because every penny of money donated to them goes to the relief effort. This big-hearted little girl ultimately raised $700 to help others.

Sami Baltzell shows off some of her donations for those in trouble half a world away.

WANT TO HELP? If you would like to support Sami in her efforts to help Japan, you can make a donation at your local church — checks should be made to UMCOR with “Advance 678” on the memo line — or, for credit card donations, go to and click on the Japan/Pacific Emergency link.

Faith community speaks out on behalf of child welfare providers The proposed budget of Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman includes a 5 percent reduction in rates paid to child welfare providers. For Epworth Village the reduction means either a cut in positions or ending programs. Epworth Village has the furthest west residential group home in Nebraska, in Grand Island. It also has the furthest west residential treatment center and treatment group homes located in York. There are no girls’ residential treatment centers west of Omaha. Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson along with District Superintendents Harold Backus and Dan Flanagan spent

time in the Rotunda of the State Capital on March 14 to urge support from state senators prior to the Health and Human Services hearing. The senators included Greg Adams, Abbie Cornett, Mike Flood (speaker), Dave Pankonin, Scott Price and John Wightman. Following their conversations the bishop and cabinet members were hopeful of increased revenues for services to children. “The senators with whom we spoke are living with the reality of fiscal scarcity but clearly have a heart for children,” said Flanagan. “I know they will do the best they can to provide adequate resources for our child welfare agencies.”


Good in all ways Anthropologist Jane Goodall speaks of hope, conservation in Nebraska Wesleyan lecture Opening with a chimpanzee welcome call, you’d have thought Jane Goodall had just returned from her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees in what is now Tanzania. Goodall presented “Gombe and Beyond: The Next 50 Years” on March 19, as the featured guest of the 24th annual Nebraska Peacemaking Workshop. Instead, Goodall was sporting a broken wrist from a recent fall and celebrating the 50th anniversary of her first trip to Africa where she achieved her groundbreaking work on the behavior of chimpanzees and initiated her life-long work on global conservation. Goodall is a British anthropologist who studied chimpanzees near Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, in the 1960s and is now considered the world’s foremost expert on them. Goodall credited her mother for supporting her dream of being a scientist and for being on-site with her in Africa, supporting her research. Today Goodall’s work revolves around inspiring action on behalf of endangered species, particularly the chimpanzee, and encouraging people to do their part to make the world a better place for people, animals and the environment. The Jane Goodall Institute works to protect the famous chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, but recognizes this can’t be accomplished without a comprehen-

sive approach that addresses the needs of local people who are critical to chimpanzee survival. Her community-centered conservation programs in Africa include sustainable development projects that engage local people as true partners. These programs began around Gombe in 1994, but have since been replicated in other parts of the continent. Likewise, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, which she started with a group of Tanzania students in 1991, is today the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program for young people from preschool through college, with nearly 150,000 members in more than 126 countries. She noted that Doane College, Crete, Neb., has a Roots & Shoots chapter. Goodall spoke about the hope for the future and the responsibility laid upon today’s youth to correct the destruction of preceding generations. Her hope stems from the vigor she finds in young people to affect change. She used Roots & Shoots and as an example of young people living to improve the condition of the world, not living just for consumption. She places hope on the human brain and its extraordinary capacity to create and innovate. Her third reason for hope is the resilience of nature itself. And finally, she

Famous for her work with African chimps and environmental activism, scientist Jane Goodall encourages greater conservational efforts around the globe. pointed to the human spirit and told a story about Mr. H. Mr. H. is a stuffed monkey given to her by a blind man who was told that skydiving and mountain climbing would be impossible for him. He’s done both, she laughed, and she carries the monkey with her to remind herself of this man’s heart. She made one more chimpanzee call before exiting the stage, leaving the audience filled with inspiration and hope for the conservation of the earth.

MORE ON THE WEB Generosity of camp supporters pays off ranch debt

Generous donors are helping Camp Fontanelle complete one of its goals in paying off the Kevin Rahfeldt Ranch. Trent Meyer, camp director, said the property is close to having its debt retired. The nine-acre farmstead was purchased in December of 2007, as housing for the newly created assistant director position at the camp In helping to pay off the loan, a challenge was given by an individual that for every $2 given, there would be $1 matching up to $10,000. That goal was met and with that $30,000 gift/match and a generous $20,000 gift by Calvary UMC of Fremont, the loan is almost paid. Read more about this story at www.

Wesley House to close its doors in June After much research, care and consideration, the Wesley House transition team has decided to move forward with the closure of the Wesley House Community Center and sale of the associated properties. Wesley House has a rich history in Omaha. It started serving as the original Omaha City Mission in 1872. Throughout the 20th century it grew and was instrumental in the establishment of a number of key community businesses and programs. Pending approval, the transition team plans to have a public celebration of the history and ministry of Wesley House on Sunday, May 1. Read more about this story at www.

Omaha mission church continues to grow in numbers

In the last issue of the Nebraska Messenger, we shared the inspiring story of Living Hope UMC, a mission church located in a part of Omaha known for its high crime rate, that is truly living out the mandate to be the church and to welcome everyone with open hearts, minds and doors. Under the leadership of the Rev. Ralph Elwyn Gaines, Living Hope has continued to grow in numbers. Gaines reports that since July 1, 2010, 41 people have joined the church, and 16 have been baptized. This brings the total number of members to 65, along with 36 regular attendees. “To God be the glory,” said Gaines. Read more about this story at

Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger



Sunday, May 8 (Mother’s Day) is a day you can offer help to two groups: the children of the Jalingo Orphanage in Nigeria and United Methodist Native American Ministries. (Note: This is only the suggested day for these offerings; your church can observe these days on the Sundays of your choosing.) Established in 2005 through the Nigeria-Nebraska Partnership, the orphanage in Jalingo is currently home to 48 parentless children who not only live at the orphanage, but also receive their education there, as well as spiritual nurturing. Go to nigeria for resources. Native American Ministries Sunday is one of the UMC’s six churchwide Special Sundays. Approximately 22,310 United Methodists identify themselves as Native American. About 141 United Methodist churches, fellowships and ministries relate to Native Americans. Go to www. for resources.


The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation is accepting application materials for the nine seminary scholarships it administers for students planning to pursue careers in the ministry within Nebraska. The deadline for application submissions is June 30, 2011, with the exception of the Baldwin F. and Amy L. Kruse Scholarship, which is May 31. For more information and printable application materials, please visit the Foundation’s website,


Lincoln First United Methodist Church received the Art Palmer Micah 6:8 Justice Award on Feb. 16, 2011, at the State Capitol Building. The award is sponsored by the Manna and Mercy Center for Faith in Public Life. The following is an excerpt from the Center’s e-newsletter: “The Art Palmer, Micah 6:8 Justice Award is given annually to the congregation in Nebraska that most exemplifies what it means to pursue justice as directed in Micah 6:8. It is named for the late Art Palmer, an ELCA Lutheran, who dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice. This year’s Art Palmer Award was awarded to First United Methodist Church of Lincoln, Neb. For the past 24 years, First UMC has sponsored an annual Peacemaking Workshop, each of which has focused on some pressing issue related to peace and justice. This year, First UMC did an outstanding job of presenting a faith perspective related to immigration issues through two Peacemaking Workshops. We thank First UMC for its continued efforts.”


Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger




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Summer Camps

Visit our conference website at From here you can see a list of summer camps, be linked to the websites for Comeca, Fontanelle, and Norwesca, and you can register for camp online.

Open House/Easter Family Fun Day/GaGa Ball Tournament

If you have never been to Camp Fontanelle, this is the day to see it. Take a family walk through the 180+ acres, color your Easter eggs, and try out our unique tree climbing! We will have Easter egg hunts by age group and conclude the day with a worship service. This day will also be our second ever GaGa Ball Tournament. Find the team registration on our web page under the “camping resources” link.

Movie Nights

(Begins May 14) Every other Saturday, at dusk, we will project a movie onto our 12’ screen hanging from a tree by the barn. Bring the family to an outdoor movie experience. Your are invited to come early and use one of the many fire rings to prepare your own supper or snack. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, and come enjoy the outdoors. Call to find out what is showing.

Annual Barbecue

This has turned into a “Don’t Miss” event! From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., you are invited to join us in celebrating Camp Fontanelle. Worship with us at 11 a.m. and/or 5 p.m. Two great meal options are served, live and silent auctions, great entertainment, and the beauty of Camp Fontanelle surround you. Donations always graciously accepted as this is our major fundraising event for the year.

Pumpking Patch and Corn Maze

Come get lost in the corn. This is the 5th year for our little 10 acre maze. Open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and by group reservation. Plan a 2, 3, or 4 hour visit to Camp Fontanelle’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze this fall! This years partner and maze design is, The Boy Scouts Of America.

2nd Annual Halloween Wilderness Race/Walk

This 5k race or 1 mile walk takes you through the woods at Camp Fontanelle. See some trails few see and enjoy the day at Camp Fontanelle. All participants are encouraged to dress in costume as prizes are given. Shirt and meal with registration.


April 16: Spring Work Day #1 April 17: Open House/Easter Family Fun Day/GaGa Ball Tournament May 14: Spring Work Day #2 May 27: Summer Camps Begin with Family Camp Sept. 10: Fall Work Day Sept. 18: Annual Barbecue; Opening of the Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze Oct. 23: Search For Treats; Halloween Wilderness Race/Walk Oct. 21, 22, 29: Haunted Maze and a Movie

For more information about these events, visit or call 402.478.4296. Camp Fontanelle is located north of Fremont on 9677 County Road 3, Fontanelle, NE 68044


Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger


Running for hope

Members of Omaha Water’s Edge UMC run to raise money for kids in Africa, build friendships By Trish Johnson Communications coordinator

The Rev. Craig Finnestad is an experienced runner, having competed in numerous marathons over the years. He’s seen many of his friends run to raise money for various causes, and one day last year he had an epiphany of sorts. “I thought, ‘I want to do that, but I want to do it through church,’” he said. “I’ve always had a heart for Africa and its people.” That is how Running For Kids in Africa came to the Water’s Edge, the United Methodist Church Finnestad serves in Omaha. Though the congregation has many runners amongst its members, Finnestad still wasn’t sure what to expect one Sunday last fall when he presented the idea to form a team to run either the 2011 Lincoln full or half marathon, all in the name of raising money for kids in Africa. “I was thinking we may have a couple of dozen runners sign up,” said Finnestad. “We ended up having almost 80 say they were on board; that totally exceeded all of my expectations.” Almost 80 percent of those who are participating have never before run a half marathon (13.1 miles) or marathon (26.2 miles). Most of them are doing the half; Finnestad is among those who will be running the full. They’re doing their fundraising through Team World Vision, a program of World Vision that enables athletes to raise awareness and funds for communities in need through their athletic events. The program provides each runner with a fundraising page; some runners have raised more than $1,000. The race is May 1; the team has currently raised nearly $15,000 of their $20,000 goal. “I believe we’re going to meet our goal,” said Finnestad, “I’m very optimistic.” There will be an opportunity at the Water’s Edge in April for nonparticipants to donate or sponsor a runner and/or child in Africa. While raising money for and awareness of hurting kids in Africa is the primary reason for running, Finnestad had additional goals for wanting to implement a running ministry, including

WHAT IS...? World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. It serves 100 million people in nearly 100 countries around the world. Find out more at

to encourage healthy lifestyles, build friendships and help people accomplish a dream. He says it’s worked on all counts. “The participants have lost hundreds of pounds (combined), are getting to know each other and are chasing down a dream,” he commented. Husband and wife Justin and Jennie Clements will both be running their first half marathons. “We went to Lincoln last year to watch the marathon and were inspired to do a half-marathon someday,” Jennie said, “Little did we know that our ‘someday’ would be sooner than later.” She continued, “When Pastor Craig presented the idea at church about starting a running group, we were ecstatic and jumped on board right away. It’s an added bonus that we get to do this with people from church and raise money for children in Africa in the process!” The team gathers every Saturday at Lake Zorinsky in Omaha to go on a long run. Team World Vision offers a training schedule for both the half and full marathon. Finnestad also assembled a team of mentors and experts, including a dietician and physical therapist, to help the runners meet their goals. Renee Eardensohn is one of the participants serving as a mentor to some of the first-time half-marathon runners. “I was so excited to be asked to be a mentor, because I’ve had people serve as one for me over the years, and I know how much it helped” Eardensohn said. “It’s so fun to see them accomplish their goals and inspiring to see their excitement when they run farther than they ever thought they could.”


Some of the members of Team World Vision at the Water’s Edge; top row, from left to right: the Rev. Craig Finnestad, Peg Pearson and Sherry Wilson. Kneeling in foreground, from left to right, Lonnie Gibson and Jessica Weakland. While Eardensohn has run many races over the years — this year’s Lincoln Marathon will be her 20th race of that distance — she said running for a cause definitely feels different than just running a “normal” race. “Running for those kids in Africa gives it a meaning and a purpose beyond

just yourself,” she said. “You’re not running for the fun or accomplishment of it, and it’s not just about crossing the finish line, you think about those kids while you’re running, and it strengthens you to know that somebody’s going to benefit.” Or as it states on the team’s website,

“We aren’t running for medals. We are running for hope.” For more information on Team World Vision at the Water’s Edge, or to make a donation, visit


Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger


Church and Community Workers (CCW) are commissioned missionaries of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) of The United Methodist Church, who, in response to God’s call, are devoted to uplifting the poor and disenfranchised in rural and urban areas throughout the United States. They work to change the social inequities of poverty, racial injustice, and domestic violence. As their name implies, they take the church into the community and bring the community into the church. Support for the Church and Community Worker is shared between the General Board of Global Ministries and the conference/project to which the worker is appointed. Workers normally serve in a project six to10 years. The Nebraska Conference has three approved sites: the Elkhorn Valley District, United Methodist Ministries of the Missouri River District and Justice for Our Neighbors Nebraska (note: Justice for Our Neighbors does not currently have a CCW assigned).

Purscell set to move to Appalachian ministry Hildrebrant plans to come to Elkhorn District with focus on rural church revitalization After serving more than 10 years as a Church and Community Worker in the Nebraska Conference, the Rev. Koni Purscell is moving to work with outreach ministries in the Appalachian Mountain areas of Virginia. Purscell worked primarily in northeast Nebraska as a resource and organizer. For several summers she provided outreach to churches with a summer vacation bible school (VBS) on wheels. The summer VBS offered small rural

churches the ability to offer programming they could not offer on their own. Working with the Nebraska Rural Ministries Project, she helped bring mission teams to work at the Winnebago Indian Reservation. Purscell worked with churches on asset mapping and most recently provided Rethink Church resources focused on revitalizing churches. “Koni’s passion for serving the needs of people and churches in rural Nebraska has brought hope and

vitality to communities across our district,” said Elkhorn Valley District Superintendent Nan Kaye-Skinner. “She has expanded our unTHE REV. KONI derstanding of PURSCELL what it means to be in mission, both locally and globally. We are blessed by her last and lasting gift of empowering others to carry that ministry on after she moves to Virginia. “ Kaye-Skinner noted that one of Purscell’s greatest contributions was

the organizing of the district-wide Volunteers in Mission (VIM) group to work on disaster recovery following the flooding of the Elkhorn River. More than 90 volunteers participated in the disaster recovery work over a span of nine days. Her work in organizing that event resulted in an active ongoing Elkhorn Valley District VIM ministry. Randy Hildebrant, who has spent the last 10 years working among the poor in Tennessee is coming to the Elkhorn Valley District and will begin his duties on June 1. His focus will be on rural church revitalization and leadership development.

Maupin to head new CCW site at UM Ministries Decision by General Board of Global Ministries caps three-year application process United Methodist Ministries (UMM) Executive Director the Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede recently announced that UMM has been designated a Church and Community Worker site by the General Board of Global Ministries. UMM received word in December of their selection after a three-year application period. In addition, UMM’s Lisa Maupin has completed the Church and Community Worker process and will serve at the UMM site.

UMM has been working a long time to be part of the Church and Community Worker program. “The program is important to us because it adds an additional linkage to the global United Methodist Church,” said Ahlschwede. “We are pleased and proud to participate in the Church and Community Worker, Advance, and Volunteer in Mission programs.” Maupin’s job duties include coordinating VIM teams that

serve through UMM; planning events including the four annual Days of Service hosted by UMM; and leading the UMM comLISA munications MAUPIN department. She will be commissioned this fall in New York City along with the other new Church and Community Workers. “One of the best things about being a Church and Community

Worker is the opportunity to further develop my leadership skills, to grow, and to practice my faith,” said Maupin. “To be able to say that my vocation is working in the field of mission and justice as an employee of the church, is amazing.” “I am particularly excited that Lisa has this opportunity to relate to other church professionals who share her passion for ministry,” said Ahlschwede. “Her gifts and graces are truly perfect for this program, and we are so pleased that the match committee allowed her to begin her career as a Church and Community Worker with us.”

Conference archivist takes new Library position Terri Raburn discusses her move to Scottsbluff as the Panhandle Regional Library System services coordinator After serving as archivist/director of the Nebraska United Methodist Historical Center for the past four-and-a-half years, Terri Raburn recently accepted the position of Panhandle Regional Library System services coordinator, with offices in Scottsbluff, Neb. She began her new

duties April 1, but took some time out before leaving to answer some questions. What was the biggest eye opener when you started the Historical CenTERRI ter position? RABURN After growing up in the United Methodist Church, I was surprised by how much I had to learn about the organization. It’s much more complex than I had imagined. What has given you the greatest satisfaction as the conference archivist? I have been able to provide on-

line access to our book catalog, photographs and finding aids for our discontinued church collections. If you don’t provide access to the public, it’s like the collections don’t exist. I have also been lucky to meet so many great people through this position. What has been the biggest challenge(s)? The collections had been arranged more as library collections than archival collections. I reconstructed collections as much as possible. I have arranged all new collections according to archival theory and tried my best to weave them into the existing overall collection. What advice would you give to a new person coming in? I would advise getting to know the ministers, Conference employees,

and in particular the district support staff. They are the ones who make sure you get the items you need to collect. Basically, you do the best you can with limited resources. You have the best volunteers in the world, they will help you get through whatever problems you have. What do you love about what you do? I love the stories you find in the boxes of records. To me, history comes alive when you can put a face or a name to an event. What do you not love? This can be a dirty job. Once in awhile, at the end of the day, I am covered with cobwebs, dirt, even mold. Yuck. Tell us about your new gig? I will be the Panhandle Regional

Library System’s Services Coordinator. I will be responsible for outreach and continuing education for 128 libraries in 14 counties. Raburn recently wrote an article about the historical impact the Evangelical United Brethren church has had on the United Methodist church through the 1968 merger and beyond. Watch for this article in “UMconnect” the weekly conference e-mail blast. Raburn leaves with big shoes to fill. In closing she said, “I will really miss working with the Conference staff as well as the clergy. Everyone has been consistently kind to me — a great bunch of people!”

AROUND THE CONFERENCE GREAT PLAN: from p. 1 God’s plans unfolding for United Methodists in Nebraska and Kansas as they become one episcopal area — and perhaps one conference — imploring viewers to “imagine”: Even more vital, fruitful ministry in our conferences and at the same time growing ministries around the world. A bishop whose best time, energy and gifts are used to lead pastors and churches into God’s plan and vision for the future, instead of the administration of three annual conferences with separate identities, mission statements and structures. Fostering connections and gatherings through which pastors and laity sharpen, help and learn from one another.

‘WHAT WE’RE DOING IS UNSUSTAINABLE’ Watson, chairperson of the Transition Team, gave his perspective as a member of a local church and as a lay person who has served the church on many levels. “I have experienced first-hand the presence and grace of God, yet I’ve also seen the struggle to meet our ultimate goal of making disciples and spreading the Good News,” he said. “All three conferences have experienced a loss of members, decline in worship attendance and a lack of discipling practices, and on top of all of this the cost of ministry has increased. As a follower of Christ, this troubles me. As a leader, this frustrates me. I recognize that the world and cultures we live in are changing rapidly … but I also recognize that our current practices of ministry, and even our institutional organization, are unsustainable.” WHAT’S BEEN LEARNED Maxwell, Parsons District superintendent, said the Transition Team has gone through a “process of learning” over the past 18 months. “We’ve learned from God, from one another, from annual conference listening sessions, from 17 conference-wide listening sessions and from other annual conferences and episcopal areas.” She also gave credit to the two bishops, conference staffs and consultant Gil Rendle. Some of the things the team has learned about the Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska annual conferences include: Both lay and clergy understand and affirm the mission of “making disciples for the transformation of the world” and that there is a general openness to change if it enables us to better serve the mission of Jesus.

Many have articulated the willingness to explore ministry with all three conferences to strengthen mission and avoid duplication. There is a desire from many that if change is going to happen it should happen quickly rather than over a drawn-out period of time. Demographically and regionally, Kansas and Nebraska are more the same than different.

McKnight then officially announced the team’s recommendation to form a new, single annual conference in the Great Plains; the first step of which will be sharing a bishop starting in September 2012. “We don’t have all of the details worked out yet, and we need your help in determining what the major issues are and how to provide for them,” said McKnight. She informed viewers that two technical teams have recently been created to care for two of the areas that have been the focus of the most concern: one to address the issue of pensions and health benefits and the other to address collective property. Members of each annual conference will serve on the teams. A list of those members may be found on the respective conference websites:, www., and www.umcneb. org. FIVE MISSION-FOCUSED REASONS There are five mission-focused reasons the Transition Team is recommending one new annual conference: 1. Frees the Office of Bishop from performing internal management tasks in triplicate to be exercised more effectively for visionary leadership and adaptive change. 2. Allows reorganization of internal structures to simplify decision-making and reduce bureaucratic barriers to best ministry. This could unleash the power of leadership at all levels to be exercised for more visionary leadership and adaptive change. 3. Presents the opportunity to be proactive in re-inventing connectional life as a whole. By creating one conference, we give ourselves maximum freedom to set a sustainable course for the future of United Methodism in our region. 4. Allows for more creative and adaptive recruitment, training and deployment of leaders of every kind needed

by creating critical masses in every ministry setting. In strengthening leadership generally, there is opportunity to exercise better leadership within the jurisdiction and general church as well. 5. Gives freedom to better leverage communication and technological assets to create a larger presence in the mission field and to better resource the communication and technology needs of local churches.

These five reasons are listed in the proposed recommendation, which also contains a three-pronged motion. The document, titled “Great Plan for the Great Plains,” is available on each conference’s website. Sherer-Simpson said the document is just a draft and that the transition team will continue to hear from the people of the Kansas and Nebraska areas. “The team has spent a great deal of time and energy in order to come to this vision,” she said. “We don’t expect you to be completely there with us yet, but we want to bring you into the conversation as frequently and transparently as we can. Our discussion today will inform the proposal and recommendations that will be presented at our annual conference sessions in 2011.” The Transition Team’s next meeting is April 7-9, when they will work on a final draft with the goal of making it available to go in each conference’s annual conference resource materials. The votes taken at the 2011 annual conference sessions give permission to move forward with a one-conference concept so that the team can present an operational plan of implementation at the 2012 Annual Conference Sessions. Viewers were given approximately 20 minutes to ponder and discuss the concerns and questions they might have and submit them either via e-mail or telephone. A Q&A document with all of the aggregated questions and answers will be posted online in the near future. A document of questions and answers from listening sessions is already available on all three conference websites. ONGOING PROCESS Members of each conference are encouraged to continue to submit their questions and feedback, call 800435-6107 or send an e-mail to info@ or kansasbishop@ A Twitter conversation also continues at #gpumc. An archived version of the webcast can be found on UMtube (go to, click on the UMtube link found on the home page). Additional background and information, including a series of questions and answers, is available on at

Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger


Celebrate and Serve Mark your calendars and gather your friends and church for Celebrate Community: Engage. Serve. Learn., on Saturday, May 14, in Omaha. Celebrate Community is a day hosted by United Methodist Ministries for congregations, friends, and community members to come together and engage in service in the Metro-Omaha area. The event is being held in conjunction with Change the World activities sponsored and promoted by The United Methodist Church. Participants will work at local community agencies doing handson volunteer work. Along the way we will learn about our neighborhoods and agencies that are making a lasting difference in our community. The day will be a fun opportunity to meet new people while serving and identifying ways that we can continue to create lasting

community change. Multi-generational teams are welcomed and encouraged. Work will be available for all skill sets. Go to to register yourself or a group. For more information, contact Lisa Maupin or Jaimee Trobough at 402.898.9862 or e-mail info@

It’s a social epidemic 1,000 people every month 1,000 human hearts dealing with the pain of behavioral and mental health issues.

Here’s the bottom line. . . Epworth Village, Inc. operates as a public/ private partnership. This means we must raise 20% of our budget each year to fulfill our mission. Children are growing into adults by the minute. Epworth is a crossroads in their precious lives. The time is now. We can’t heal this epidemic alone. Children are looking at you and asking, “Will you be part of the 20% solution?” Be a part. Donate now. Epworth Village, Inc. PO Box 503 York, NE 68467 (402) 362-3353 Epworth Village | PO Box 503 | York, Nebraska 68467-0503 |


Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger


Continuing the legacy of Eunice Harrington By Louise Niemann UMW president “You must plan and plant the seed and never worry about living long enough to see the blossom.”

This quote by Eunice Harrington gives insight to the determination, leadership and humility which led her to serve as president of the United Methodist Women’s Society of Christian Service, 1968-1972 (later United Methodist Women). Eunice was an ordinary woman from Nebraska, who accomplished extraordinary things as a woman in mission. The third annual Eunice Harrington Award will be presented at the 2011 Annual Conference Session to one district officer of United Methodist Women in the Nebraska Conference. District teams have nominated the following district officers for the distinction: Blue River: Lori Miller Elkhorn Valley: Louise Boyd Gateway District: Joyce Solomon Great West: Cindy Berndt


It’s Spring Event time for the United Methodist Women across the state. The topics are varied with special speakers, activities and music. March 19 — Missouri River: “How to Live a Joy-Filled Life,” this event featured Fred Wilson, Mary Ann Bede and the Omaha St. Paul Praise Team. April 9 — Great West: “Finding Peace in Creation,” with the Rev. Bonnie McCord as the featured speaker. April 9 — Elkhorn Valley: “Prayer,” with Lisa Maupin as the facilitator.

Missouri River: Joyce Jacobson Prairie Rivers: Debra Swartz The district leadership positions of United Methodist Women are held by ordinary, salt of the earth women; women who share their leadership skills in their local units, local churches and communities. These are women who

April 9 — Prairie Rivers: “Finding Peace Within” with guest speaker the Rev. Cynthia Karges. In-kind gifts will be collected for Epworth Village.


Nebraska Conference United Methodist Women

ANNUAL MEETING October 14-15, 2011

April 12 — Gateway: “Finding Peace,” held at Camp Comeca in Cozad. April 30 — Blue River: “Making Peace with Mother Earth,” with the Rev. Meridith Whitaker as the featured speaker. In-kind gifts to the Pak-nSnack program at Cookson Hills Center. WHERE: York First United Methodist Church and Epworth Village in York, Nebraska KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Harriet Jan Olson, Deputy Secretary of the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries.

stand up, speak out and act to correct the injustices in their communities and around the world. Thank you, Lori, Louise, Joyce, Cindy, Joyce and Debra, for continuing the legacy of Eunice Harrington, serving those in need with determination and humility.

Volunteers in Mission event with Epworth Village youth and staff. Plan to come and help with organizing the Christmas Store, clipping Campbell’s labels, cleaning the school, grounds work, making bead crosses, painting pumpkins, taking a tour of the village and more!

Paid for by Nebraska UMW

Contact: Rogene Silletto 8000 Lowell Ave. Lincoln, NE 68506


Asking the question: What do we do? By Doug Kallesen, UMMen communicator In Luke 6, Jesus shares thoughts on real love. Especially in verse 31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Let us reflect individually and as a group of men on this “golden” advice. What are we doing and what more can we do? Verse 27 is a “hard” verse in that it doesn’t allow us to limit our love to just Christians, or to people like us.

Nebraska is Connected

In one direction, the Conference UMMen is connected through districts to the men in local churches. We would be more effective for Christ if we could strengthen these ties, and we pray for that to happen. In the other direction, we are connected through our South Central Jurisdiction to the General Commission (GCUMM). Check out www.gcumm. org to learn about the missions and ministries we support by our charters and EMS memberships. You can get on board by joining up with GCUMM through their website or call us.

Ride/Walk/Donate for UMMen Missions

There are three possibilities to help raise money for our 2011 mission plans. If you are not able to ride a bike or walk in Norfolk on Saturday, May 28, you can help by donating. Or start your own local ride/walk. The event registration is available at our webpage listed at the end of this article. If you don’t know a rider/walker you may send donation checks to the address at the end of the article and it will be included in the event proceeds; or, call Doug Kallesen for more information. The UMMen support about 20 missions locally and around the world.

100 Club Scholarship Dinner and Auction

The UMMen 100 Club provides scholarships to young men and women entering full-time Christian service. You can help by attending the 22nd annual dinner and auction in Lincoln, June 1, at 5 p.m. associated with the United Methodist Annual Conference at First UMC. More information on purpose, reservations, or donating/ purchasing auction items is available at the webpage listed at the end of this article, or call the number listed there.

Meet Gary Spivey, Prayer Advocate

The Upper Room Living Prayer Center is one of the primary ministries supported by the UMMen. Gary Spivey, member of Bellevue St. James UMMen is the Nebraska coordinator, or Prayer Advocate. One can call 1-800-251-2468 anytime day or night and expect a live person to pray with you. The prayer line can be answered remotely (e.g., at your church). If you would like to help out and schedule a few hours of praying with people on the phone, please call Gary at 402-291-3121. Gary serves in other roles with the district UMMen, the local church, and in the community. He has been married for 40 years to Mary Alice and they have three daughters. Gary is retired from the Air Force and is a pilot for the government with over 6,000 hours of flying time. Gary’s mantra is “The Main Thing is to keep The Main Thing The Main Thing!- Amen - Let it be Jesus!”

Meet Mike Wilson, Secretary

Also from Bellevue St. James, Mike Wilson is in his first year as Conference UMMen Secretary. Mike serves his local church as a lay leader, as co-president of UMMen, and by singing in the choir. He has been married to Tina for 20 years and has one daughter. Mike states that his faith has been strengthened by their weekly men’s small group Bible study and he plans to start more men’s study groups. Mike would like to see more churches encourage their men to be involved in district and conference men’s activities so that we can all be strengthened by their fellowship.


Approximately 20 men enjoyed the Winter Rally at Camp Norwesca Feb 18-20. Thanks to the Chadron UMMen and the Camp for their excellent hosting. The UMMen of the South Central Jurisdiction and the GCUMM will gather in Wichita on July 29-31, 2011. For more information go to scj-gathering.html. Join the carpool. The Summer Rally will be held at Camp Fontanelle, by Fremont, August 19-21, 2011. Check the website below or call for more information.

Paid for by UMMen

Contact: Doug Kallesen 402-563-1570 3917 Adamy St. Columbus, NE 68601


Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger


Caring for God’s creation Vetter family honored for contributions to rural life, promoting organic farming movement Editor’s note: Dave Vetter and his family members who run Grain Place Foods are long-time members of the Aurora United Methodist Church, in Aurora, Neb. The following story appeared in the March 20, 2011, issue of the Grand Island “Independent” and has been reprinted with permission.

By Robert Pore, Grand Island Independent MARQUETTE, Neb.—Dave Vetter of Marquette, a pioneer in the organic and sustainable agricultural movement, was recently recognized with two awards honoring him as a lifelong advocate of stewardship of the resources that make food production possible now and for generations to come. Last month, Vetter received the Seventh Generation Award from the Center for Rural Affairs during an awards banquet prior to the organization’s fifth annual Market Place entrepreneurship conference in Kearney. The center’s Seventh Generation Award is a lifetime service award presented to an individual who has made major contributions to improving rural life and protecting the country’s land and water. “Dave Vetter is without a doubt one of the nation’s most important pioneers of organic farming,” said Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs. Also, the Vetter family recently received the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) award for Organic Farmer of the Year. MOSES serves farmers striving to produce high-quality, healthful food using organic and sustainable techniques. These farmers produce more than just food; they support thriving ecosystems and vibrant rural communities. Vetter started farming organically in 1975 near Marquette after earning a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and soil science from the University of NebraskaLincoln and a master of divinity degree from United Theological Seminary. In 1980, Vetter and his father began processing grain and today they run Grain Place Foods, one of the nation’s premier organic processors, employing two dozen people. Grain Place Foods is located about seven miles north of Aurora on Highway 14. Vetter helped create the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society and was involved in development of the Organic

Among the other awards and recognition Vetter (at right) has received in the past decade are UNL Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year (2006); New Hope Natural Media and Organic Products Expo Award (2003); Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Steward of the Year (2002) and United Methodist Federation for Social Action Gary Schlosser Justice Award (2001). Crop Improvement Association. “Dave has been crucial in building the organic movement, helping other farmers take the leap into organics and weighing in on policy discussions that matter to rural America,” said Hassebrook. “His family’s business — Grain Place Foods — is Nebraska’s leading organic processor.” In presenting the award, the Center of Rural Affairs noted that in 1953, Don Vetter, Vetter’s father, began “questioning the science and ethics of the agricultural practices of the day, began to adopt organic farming methods.” The farm was certified organic in 1978 and became The Grain Place Inc. in 1979. As the business grew, they added grain cleaning and storage facilities to serve small-scale organic farmers and specialty organic food distributors and processors, becoming one of the first on-farm operations of its kind in the northern Great Plains. In 1987, Grain Place Foods Inc. was created to take advantage of value-added manufacturing opportunities and it assumed the grain processing business of The Grain Place. Grain Place Foods is now operated by a staff of two dozen highly trained individuals, several of whom have been with the company for more than 15

years. The mission of Grain Place Foods is to provide to its customers grain products that are grown and produced in an ecologically sustainable and socially responsible manner — with the conviction that how your food is produced does matter. Mike Herman, Vetter’s brother-inlaw, now does most of the farming, while Vetter is still involved in much of the decision making. According to MOSES, the Vetters have grown a wide range of crops not typically seen in the region, such as edible soybeans, edible dry beans, blue and white corn, popcorn, heirloom barley, flax, amaranth, lupines and pasture. Fruit and nut trees are planted in the buffer zones to increase biodiversity and add another income stream. Pastures are rotated around the farm to support a cow/calf herd for direct-marketed, grassfinished beef. Grain Place Foods, which is located on the homestead, is a diverse facility that processes organic popcorn and other whole grains, along with a full line of organic rolled cereal grains. It also manufactures a variety of organic specialty pet foods. Among the products offered by Grain Place Foods are barley, brown rice,

chia, cane sugar, corn, flaxseeds, Kamut® Khorasan Wheat, millet, oats, popcorn, quinoa, rye, sesame, soybeans, spelt, sunflower, triticale and wheat. To find out more about Grain Place Foods, go online to its website at www. According to MOSES, Vetter has been a leader in the development of organic standards and the certification process, as an early president of OCIA International (Organic Crop Improvement Association). As a steward of the land he encourages farmers just transitioning to organic production to put a strong focus on building their soils, since so much of a farm’s success depends on that major resource. “Soils are one of those few things on which our life is dependent on for health and nutrition,” Vetter said. “How we shape soil ends up shaping us and we tend to forget that. We have a tremendous amount of influence over how soil develops, how it becomes and how it is destroyed, long term. In effect, we end up doing that ourselves. There is only so much we can substitute for the real thing with synthetics because it has been proven over and over again, for years and years, that we don’t understand the system well enough to make the

kinds of management decisions we have been making.” According to Vetter, as a farm begins to mature into a functioning organic system, the addition of biodiversity both within the crops and around the farm continues to enhance the resources needed to provide healthy crops and profitable yields. And for Vetter, that’s the direction agriculture must travel in the future as modern agriculture is very good at growing a lot of stuff, but not food. “That seems to be the focus, growing volume, but not good nutrition,” he said.


In 2009 the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church issued a pastoral letter and study guide titled "God's Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action." It states that, “We cannot help the world until we change our way of being in it ...” Read more about “God’s Renewed Creation” and how Nebraskans are living out its message, on page 4.


Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger



A spiritual


The Rev. Drs. Gil Rendle and Safiyah Fosua headline Nebraska Conference’s annual gathering Lincoln St. Mark’s United Methodist Church will host the 2011 Nebraska United Methodist Annual Conference (AC) Session, June 1-4, with an optional “The Church Has Left the Building” mission/justice work day on May 31. The work day is open to all, not just to AC attendees. AC members will vote for 2012 General Conference delegates during this session. AC members will also consider and vote on recommendations forwarded by the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition Team regarding the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area which goes into effect in September 2012. Special guests include the Rev. Dr. Gil Rendle and the Rev. Dr. Safiyah Fosua. Fosua will lead morning workshops/studies on spiritual formation, focusing on thanksgiving, lament and hope. Her specialties include small groups and community-building. Rendle, who has served as the consultant for the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition Team for the past year, will lead a presentation on leadership and change, and will also preach at the ordination service. Rendle serves as senior consultant with the Institute for Clergy and Congregational Excellence of The Texas Methodist Foundation in Austin, Texas and as an independent consultant working with issues of change and leadership in denominations and large churches. Prior to this position he served the Alban Institute as an author, seminar leader and senior consultant for 12 years. A graduate of Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, Rendle did his seminary training at




Boston University School of Theology and earned a Ph.D. in psychoeducational processes from Temple University in Philadelphia. He has an extensive background in organizational development, group and systems theory, and leadership development. He works with leaders on planning, staff and leadership development, and issues of change. He is well known for his work with middle judicatory and national denominational offices and staff as they wrestle with denominational and congregational change. Complete biographies of the presenters are available on the Conference website, Fosua has roots in both Kansas and Oklahoma. Her academic background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University of Evanston, Ill.; a Master of Divinity degree from Oral Roberts Seminary in Tulsa, Okla.; and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary of Dayton, Ohio, in Afrocen-

tric pastoring and preaching. Fosua writes weekly lectionary-based preaching helps and articles for the General Board of Discipleship’s worship Web page ( and has written for Upper Room publications, Cokesbury’s Daily Bible Study, Urban Ministries, Inc., and contributed to the Women of Color Study Bible. There will be a guest area at the AC Session for those wanting to hear and observe the proceedings, presentations and worship services. Registration and information on lodging will be mailed to members in mid-to-late April and will also be available at www.umcneb. org. The Rev. Matthew E. Fowler will preach at the memorial service on Wednesday, June 1. The awards and courtesies banquet will be held on Thursday, May 2, at 5:30 p.m. and will include messages from General

The briefings will cover the schedule of the session with particular attention to the next steps in the development of the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition Team recommendations. AC members are encouraged to attend the closest briefing location. Attendees are also asked to bring their copy of the resource book with them to the briefing. The briefings are open to anyone in the Conference who is interested. If you cannot attend one of the following locations, you can participate from home by logging on to and look for the UMstream quick link on the right side of the home page.

Secretary of Communications Larry Hollan and President of the Lydia Patterson Institute Secorro de Ande. Lay Leader Tom Watson will present the District Laity Awards and deliver the laity address. Both clergy and laity orientation sessions begin at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Other action items include voting on the 2012 Funding Plan and votes on several resolutions. Questions regarding the 2011 AC Session should be sent to the Rev. Dr. Carol Roettmer Brewer at

For more information, contact the Rev. Carol Roettmer Brewer at Blue River District: Lincoln St. Mark’s UMC (both days) Beatrice Centenary UMC (both) Elkhorn Valley District: Locations to be determined. Gateway District: Kearney First UMC (Sunday) Broken Bow (Monday) Great West District Gordon UMC(Sunday) Ogallala,UMC (Monday) Missouri River District: Papillion UMC (Sunday) Nebraska City UMC (Monday) Prairie Rivers District: Central City UMC (Sunday) Geneva UMC (Monday)

YAC AND MAC TO BE HELD AT NWU, CAC WILL BE AT ST. MARK’S The organizers of Youth Annual Conference (YAC) are excited to announce that there will be a conference for middle school-age youth this year (MAC). MAC and YAC will begin on Tuesday, May 31, with registration at 3:30 p.m., and end on Saturday, June 4, at 11 a.m. MAC and YAC attendees will be staying at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Children’s Annual Conference (CAC) will be hosted at Lincoln St. Mark’s and is scheduled to begin at at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 1, and end Saturday, June 4, when the AC session ends.

Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger  

Spring 2011 edition of the "Nebraska Messenger"

Spring 2011 Nebraska Messenger  

Spring 2011 edition of the "Nebraska Messenger"