ADVOCATE Upper New York
A publication of the Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church
Trusting that God is Enough
YOUR RESPONSES | GRIEF/HEALING RESOURCES | A PROMISED LAND
IN YOUR OWN WORDS
We asked UNY Conference members when they have had to trust that God was enough. Read their responses.
TABLE of CONTENTS
SAVING LIVES IN SOUTH SUDAN
The Southern Sudan Health Project resulted from the collaboration between United Methodist Churches in Central New York and the Lost Boys. Learn how this team is making a difference in South Sudan.
JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF
Read stories of how trusting God is enough helped these people ease their pain after the loss of a loved one.
28 A PROMISED LAND
“After living through the terror of the earth shaking their world to ruins, these people had faith enough to go out into the barren desert, draw property lines in the sand, and use their own hands to build a new life.” Learn more about the future of Canaan, Haiti.
Her doctor’s prognosis was not good. Read how one woman’s journey through an aggressive disease showed her that trusting God was enough. 2 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
The grounds at Centerpoint Christian Fellowship provide space for outdoor fellowship, prayer, and reflection. Read more on page 30. Photo by Shannon Hodson.
FROM the PUBLISHER God is always enough
n life, in our world, and even in our Church, there are times when it is hard to see the way forward. There are times when we just don’t have the energy or resources to do what needs to be done. But, even when things seem hopeless, they are not, because God is there and God is enough. This is reflected in the theme of this year’s Annual Conference Trusting that God is Enough, which is part of the quadrennial theme of Together in Prayer. The theme was explored extensively leading up to Annual Conference and at Annual Conference itself. Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb’s Opening Worship Sermon went particularly deep into the theme and you can read excerpts of if in this issue of The Advocate. However, this year the issue of the Advocate following Annual Conference is taking a new approach. In the past, this issue of the Advocate has generally been a recap of Annual Conference, running many of the same articles that appear on the website and in other formats. This year, the Advocate shares the theme of Annual Conference, but it has almost entirely new content. This vision is for this issue of the Advocate to serve as a next step rather than a recap—to take us deeper into knowledge that God truly is enough. In this issue, there are inspiring and emotional stories about how God was enough to pull people though dark times, how God was enough to start ministries even when there were no resources, how God was enough to reinvigorate worn down people, and much more. These are the stories of people all around your Upper New York Conference, they are our stories, and the hope is the stories will put a spotlight on the truth that God really is always enough. Stephen J. Hustedt, Editor/Publisher
On the cover
Lost Boy, Mayol, reunites with mother, Abiei, after 21 years. Photo courtesy of Nancy Williams. Follow us online: www.unyumc.org www.facebook.com/uppernewyork www.twitter.com/uppernewyork
Upper New York
Vol. 9, Issue 3
Upper New York Area
BISHOP MARK J. WEBB Resident Bishop (315) 898-2020 email@example.com Editor/Publisher
STEPHEN J. HUSTEDT
UNY Director of Communications (315) 898-2000 x2016 firstname.lastname@example.org
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ADVOCATE Upper New York
A publication of the Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church
Together in prayer
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This issue of the Advocate reflects the Upper New York quadrennial theme, “Together in Prayer:Trusting that God is Enough.” In June, during Opening Worship at the eight session of the Upper New York Annual Conference, I spoke about the deep meaning and importance of this theme for the future of the United Methodist Church. Here is some of what I shared…
“I want to be honest this morning – this message was one of the hardest I have ever prepared. What do you bring to a Church that is anxious, divided, and holding its breath about the future? How do we share authentically in the midst of deep disagreements that are present not just around human sexuality but in even more foundational matters of doctrine, theology and ecclesiology? How do we live together as a group of people who are called to love one another, but sometimes fail to treat one another with respect, too often see one another in categories and at times struggle to like one another? How do we focus on being together in prayer when we are not certain what it means to be together or if being together is even what we want or desire?
“Let us be careful - Prayer cannot be a spiritual exercise that keeps us from acting and prayer cannot become something we use to support our own desires. John Bunyon said, ‘You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.’ We are called to humble ourselves, to stop depending upon our own strength and depend solely upon the power of God’s spirit and the direction of God’s voice. We are called to seek God’s face – to stop looking for help and purpose in every area of ourselves and life first. The Church is not called to seek the ways and opinions of the world, or the halls of academia or politics or the journals of science, first – we are called to seek the face of God!”
How do we seek God together without continuing to harm one another and the world we seek to offer Christ to? How do we allow our disagreements to be spiritfilled rather than mean-spirited? How do we find space to celebrate our diversity, follow our convictions and honor our covenant with God and one another? How do we move forward?” FOLLOW BISHOP WEBB ON TWITTER
“God is enough for the future we face! God is enough for the future of the United Methodist Church! God is enough for the future of The Upper New York Conference! God is enough for the future of your local congregation! As we seek to live out our why, God is always enough. God gives to us the gifts, energy, and resources that are enough to accomplish the task God has given us. We have to trust that God is enough! That’s the truth throughout the Biblical narrative. • God was enough when Noah built loaded and lived in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights. • God was enough when Abram became Abraham and Sari became Sarah. • God was enough when Moses was called to lead God’s people out of Egypt. • God was enough when the Israelites wandered the wilderness for 40 years. • God was enough when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. • God was enough when David slew Goliath. • God was enough when Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. • God was enough when Esther became queen. • God was enough when life crumbled around Job. • God was enough when Daniel found himself in the lion’s den. • God was enough when Jonah tried to run away.
• God was enough when Mary found out she was going to be the mother of God. • God was enough when over five thousand needed lunch. • God was enough when the blind man wanted to see. • God was enough when Jesus was mocked, tried, and crucified. God was enough when the stone was rolled away and sin and death were forever defeated. God is enough! God is always enough! As we strive to be the Church that God has called us to be, we have to stop living with a theology of scarcity and start living the truth that God is enough. Whatever God is calling us to, wherever God is leading us, God has already given us everything we need to accomplish God’s purpose and plan. God is enough for your life – God is enough for the ministries of your church – God is enough for the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God is enough for the future of The United Methodist Church!”
Editor’s Note: Visit bitly.com/UNYAC2017BishopWebbsermon to read Bishop Webb’s entire Annual Conference 2017 Opening Worship sermon.
Want to go deeper into the 2017 Upper New York Annual Conference? We’ve got you covered!
Watch full-length and recap videos, read full articles, and review the notes from this year’s session.
www.unyumc.org/events/annual-conference-2017 unyumc.org 5
How people throughout the UNY Conference trust that God is enough
We asked and You answered... As we prepared for this issue, we asked UNY Conference members: When have you had to trust that God is enough?
Following Godâ€™s call despite cerebral palsy By Rev. Chris Wylie As a person living with cerebral palsy, and in a disabled body, I've had to trust God again and again. To begin with, as I pursued ordained ministry, I had to leave Social Security and other disability insurance policies behind in order to follow God's call on my life. Now, eight years later, I find myself back on disability following complications from knee replacement surgery which I had December 28, 2015. Though I've had my ups, downs, and questions through this, I know God is not done with me yet. God has used this time, in which I have no choice but to trust Him, to clarify the direction of my call in what comes next including the pos6 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
sibility of a New Faith Community here in Niagara Falls where people can come and know God's love for them no matter who they are, where they've been, or the bodies in which they live. My entire existence, past, present, and future is reliant on trust in God. I haven't always done this perfectly; I know a perfect God with whom I can walk more closely each day. The Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Faith is taking the first step when you can't see the rest of the staircase." For me, faith is wheeling forward into the unknown even if I can't see the ramp or the path on which I'm being sent. I follow in the grand biblical tradition from Abraham and Sarah to the Apostles, and more, venturing out and trusting I'm being called to the place God will send me.
When God takes over By Pastor Gary Kubitz First United Methodist Church of Voorheesville During my first year in ministry, serving two small congregations, I found myself in the midst of an overwhelming situation. On the day of the Memorial Day parade, a young boy who was a part of my congregation was tragically killed in a freak accident during the parade. There are things that I saw that morning that will never leave my heart and mind. The ensuing week was one of the most difficult times of my ministry... and of my life. The evening leading up to the funeral service was long. I didn't sleep...I tried to find the right words to speak to the large group that would gather the next day, only to keep stumbling over my emotions. The reality was that I didn't have the right words - that there were no words. As I was greeting people as they entered the sanctuary for the service the next day, one of the members of my congregation stopped and asked me how I was doing. I looked at her and said, "I don't have the words." She squeezed
my hand, smiled reassuringly, and continued on into the sanctuary. As the hymn was being sung between the scripture readings, I said a silent prayer, more of a desperate plea, "God, I can't do thisâ€”it's your turn." I don't remember much of what I said during the message portion of that service and what I do recall is more from people recounting bits and pieces of it to me since that time. At the conclusion of the service, as those who had gathered together were leaving, the woman who had stopped and greeted me before the service stopped once again, gave me a hug, and said, "Those were the right words." In my weakest and most desperate moment of ministry, I learned what may be the most valuable lesson that I will ever learn as a pastor - God is enough. God will supply the words, the strength, and the Spirit to carry us through the most trying times. The truth is that God is not only enough, but that there is more love, grace, and mercy in God than there is sin and brokenness in the world. God is enough...Amen...God is enough.
God’s strength throughout my life By Rev. Rhonda Kouterick Horseheads UMC When have I had to trust that God is enough? When haven't I? And when haven't you? Here are some times throughout my life when I have trusted that God is enough: • It was when I went off to seminary with a sleeping bag and $75 in my pocket with no guaranteed place to stay and thinking I could buy what books I needed for the semester; The housing person yelled at me then found me a room, but only if the others there agreed; And in my mailbox was notification of a book award that paid for the year's books before I even discovered how outrageously expensive they were. • It was in Texas doing a year long stint of Clinical Pastoral Education at the Austin State Hospital completely broke, not able to even make my car payment and at the chapel service I was in charge of, the patient choir sang "It Took Me So Long, So Long but I Learned to Trust the Lord."
• It was when I was on my way to be introduced to the people at my first appointment and feeling totally inadequate and the DS handed me a list of what the people were looking for and I realized they were looking for me. "I can do those things" I said; and the DS laughed. • It was during the second year of my second appointment at Thanksgiving, when with a 10th grader, a 1st grader, and a 3-yearold, we found out that my husband would need brain surgery. It was over Christmas; everybody from everywhere sent prayers and words of support. My sister from Florida was able to come and be with the children so I could go to Strong in Rochester and not worry. • It was the next year, a few months after my husband’s second brain tumor surgery, juggling full-time pastor with everything else and in prayer, God let me know "I'm with you, it will be okay." And so it has been, every year, every time.
• It was during the last month of seminary When I was at my wits end with one of the classes when the world stopped when kids, with the church, with health issues, every I found out that my husband, Lon, had year, every time, and even early morning this testicular cancer and needed surgery impast Christmas Eve when my husband, surroundmediately. We only had health insurance because he was working on the Drew cam- ed by family passed away after a long courageous battle with cancer, God is enough. God's pus as a custodian in the Science Building. His supervisor, an Asian refugee Christian, strength is enough to get me through the deep came to pray over him. water and to the other side.
8 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
Feeling Godâ€™s peace By Frederica Webb Wellesley Island UMC & Alexandria Bay UMC Over four years ago, my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer. When he didn't come out of the colonoscopy area, I just had that feeling, you know, the one in the pit of your stomach. The nurse came and got me and when I went into the room where my husband and doctor were, I felt a deep sense of peace. I just knew whatever it was, it would be okay. We just held hands and listened and did what we were told, and continued life. He was sent for a MRI immediately that day, and less than a week later had the colon surgery to remove two large tumors. There were some difficulties afterwards, but the lymph nodes taken were absolutely free of cancerous cells. Our doctor told us he was absolutely amazed that the large tumors hadnâ€™t caused problems and that there were no cells in the lymph nodes. None! We told him that God had taken care of it. Neither my husband nor I felt at all worried about this diagnosis or the surgery. It was just something we knew would be okay. God gave us such a sense of peace through the whole episode. Even in the aftermath, when four years later, they found some anomalies in a routine blood test, it turned out on the PET scan to be arthritis around his spine. There was still a sense of "it will be okay, a knowing that God's got a handle on this. Truly God is enough - I know; we know.
If you have a story of when you had to trust that God is enough, feel free to let us know by sending it to email@example.com.
“If you hear the story of one Lost Boy, you hear the story of all Lost Boys.There were so many of us and we all endured the same thing.” ~Majer Kuon By Shannon Hodson UNY Conference Writer/Editor
oday’s headlines about South Sudan provide a glimpse of the struggles that the Southern Sudanese people face today. Civil war casualties. Famine. Attacks on aid workers. South Sudan (which was a part of Sudan until 2011) has a long history of struggle. Colonized by the British in the 1940s, Sudan became independent in 1956. However, conflict immediately grew between the Northern part of Sudan (and the Sudanese government) and the Southern part of Sudan (considered the rebels). The Northern part of Sudan was Muslim. The Southern part of Sudan was not and did not want to follow Islamic rules. This civil war lasted until 1972, which ended with the Addis Ababa Agreement, granting those in Southern Sudan much more autonomy. A second civil war erupted in 1983 due to 10 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
longstanding issues heightened by then President Jaafar Nimeiri’s decision to reinstate Islamic law (with this law, for example, children could not be schooled if they were not Muslim). The Northern Sudanese army was much more powerful than the Southern rebels; they started taking control over the South and inducting many of the rebels to become part of their army. Southern Sudanese civilians were killed daily by Northern planes dropping bombs In 1987, over 16,000 young boys, between the ages of 7 and 14, fled Southern Sudan by foot to escape death or induction into the Northern Sudan army. Those that survived became known as the Lost Boys. Majer Kuon, from the Bor area of Southern Sudan, was one of the Lost Boys. These boys walked over 1,000 miles in and out of war zones until they reached Ethiopia 35 days later. Many died of dehydration, exhaustion, and other causes. Speaking of the dire conditions of the journey, Majer said, “There were times with no water. We would try to eat wild fruit from trees along the road, but you are not thinking of eating…you are thinking not to die; so you just go the direction that you do
not hear gunshots. We saw many die and we buried them, and kept going. A lot of boys also drowned in the river crossing because they couldn’t swim.” The Lost Boys settled in a refugee camp in Pinyidu, Ethiopia, but they were forced to leave in 1991 because the newly elected Ethiopian government was an ally to North Sudan. They threatened using force to kick the Southern Sudanese children out of Ethiopia so the Lost Boys fled once again. This time, thousands more died—many from starvation. Fleeing gun shots, many jumped in the river and drowned or were attacked by alligators. Those who survived moved to South Sudan and stayed along the border, continually walking south to Kenya, a journey that lasted from May of 1991 to August of 1992. Along their journey, the Red Cross dropped food from planes and had a truck that came to supply water for the boys. Once in Kenya, they settled in the Kakuma Camp. The camp, monitored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was a blessing that began drastically improving the lives of the Lost Boys. Majer said, “Kakuma became our home for a long time. That’s where we went to school. Here, many organizations affiliated with the UN came to help and supply food for us.” The Church was very central to the lives of the Lost Boys in Kenya. Majer said, “Sundays could not come soon enough. It is in Kenya where my wisdom about God’s power kicked in. Before coming to Kenya, when I reflected on the journey we took from South Sudan to Ethiopia and then Ethiopia to Kenya, I thought my survival was fate, but in Kenya, I came to realize that there is something bigger that protected so many of us from death. Faith became strong amongst my whole community in Kenya. We trusted in God.” Because the war waged on in Sudan the UNHCR determined that family unification for the Lost Boys was not a viable option. They contacted the United States Government about relocating some of the boys to the U.S. and the U.S. agreed. The UNHCR recommended around 4,500 of them for resettlement in the United States starting in 2000.
Majer explains the selection process, “The INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) brought a lawyer and interviewed us. Bit by bit, some of us qualified. There was a board where they would post the names of people who were going. I saw my name there in December of 2000, learning that I would be going to the United States in 2001.” After several flights, Majer arrived in Syracuse, NY. A group of Methodist churches helped make his arrangements and stay comfortable. He said “I was filled with excitement! After all I went through, here I was in an apartment where I could have light 24/7. And I was crazy about education; I earned a Bachelor’s Degree at Binghamton University.” Majer said, “The Christians here care about people that they don’t even know; they do it without anyone even asking. They do it because of their faith; because they trust that God is enough.” Editor’s Note: Major returned to Sudan in 2007, during a time when there was peace, to help his father who had fallen sick.While Majer was back in South Sudan, he connected with Upper New York United Methodists to help form the Southern Sudan Health Project, which you can read about on pages 12-15. Majer Kuon’s father passed away in 2016. Civil war between tribes in South Sudan also began in 2013; thousands have been killed. Majer is now back in Syracuse. for medical treatment for arthritis. unyumc.org 11
Southern Sudan Health Project: Saving lives with health education
By Shannon Hodson UNY Conference Writer/Editor Editor’s Note: This is a story of the Southern Sudan Health Project, a project that resulted from collaboration between United Methodist Churches in Central New York and the Lost Boys.The Lost Boys are a group of refugees from Southern Sudan, many who were granted help to resettle in the United States between 2000 and 2001. You can read more about one Lost Boy, Majer Kuon, who has been an integral part of the Southern Sudan Health Project on pages 10-11 of this issue.When this project started in 2005, Southern Sudan was part of Sudan. In 2011, the Southern region was granted independence and became known as South Sudan. For purposes of consistency, the area where this project started will be referred to as South Sudan.
n 2005, one of the Lost Boys who resettled in Syracuse, NY, Dut Deng, approached the Rev. Bradford Hunt at Andrews Memorial United Methodist Church and said “Do you think we can create a health clinic in Southern Sudan?” Rev. Hunt loved the idea and broached it to other United Methodist Churches in Central New York (CNY). Before long, a committee was created to get this idea off the ground with members from several United
12 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
Methodist Churches in CNY, including: Andrews Memorial UMC, Geneva First UMC, Erwin UMC, Sandy Creek UMC, St. Paul’s UMC, James Street UMC, Fayetteville UMC, and eventually Journey of Faith UMC, and Faith Journey UMC (these two churches had not been formed yet). Soon, added help came from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, who informed the group that the idea was great, but that healthcare clinics would be too expensive to run; however, they said a community-based health care system could work and suggested they try that. This idea came to fruition in ways no one could imagine is possible in what is now known as the Southern Sudan Health Project. This project has helped improve the lives of thousands of Southern Sudanese and has even helped save lives. All this became true by trusting God is enough. In 2008, a group of three CNY United Methodists (Jan Whitter from Sandy Creek United Methodist Church, Nancy Williams of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, and Mark Fullerton of James Street UMC) and two Lost Boys went to South Sudan. Majer Kuon was in South Sudan at the time and helped make connections.
Nancy likened the conditions to TV commercials you may have seen produced by World Vision or a similar organization that seek aid to help feed children in Africa. She said, “Most of the children would have flies on their faces and nothing to wipe away their runny noses and eyes. A lot of children had distended abdomens from malnutrition. There were no latrines or anything like that. We saw villagers bathing and gathering drinking water in the Nile River at the same time cattle crossed and they just didn’t understand how this worked against their health.”
Malek is a village, not like a village in the United States. It is a very spread-out area with four main territories. It borders the nearby city of Bor, which has a hospital in the event a serious emergency occurs. It was determined by elders in each community that eight healthcare workers would be hired, one woman and one man for each of the four territories.
Witnessing the conditions first-hand, the CNY United Methodists were passionate about helping to resolve the problems they saw and they went about it very systematically. Jan said, “We had questionnaires made out to do a survey; we met with a lot of people including the governor and county health officials, clinics, and more. We did a lot of touring. We wanted to find out the needs and resources. We learned that there were very little resources and a lot of needs.” The group learned that 85 percent of the health ailments people suffered from could be cared for without a doctor. Most of these conditions were also preventable. The causes of most of the problems were related to improper hygiene and/or lack of education on how to care for the problems, which mainly included: malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory problems.
These eight workers have done amazing things. They are funded by Upper New York Churches, each earning $100 a month, which goes a long way in South Sudan. In addition to the $800 spent to pay the healthcare workers, an additional $700 each month Nancy said that the approach that the CNY United is used to support a liaison to the workers (Majer Methodists had with the help of the Lost Boys was at one point and now that Majer is in the United to, “train village people to provide these (needed) States, a young man by the name of Nhial Kuol (who services…not to just go in and do the work ourselves. is referred to as Abraham) is now the liaison) and to It was to educate and empower from the village level. also buy supplies. We felt our role was to provide the resources and The Bor County health supervisor, Paul Riak, serves then allow the local people to take over. That jived as a supervisor for the workers as well. completely with what the government was looking for Nancy said, “Those eight workers go beyond at that time.” anything I could ever imagine to be people who serve Learning a lot from the first trip to South Sudan, one another. They serve over 1,000 people each Jan and Nancy and two Lost Boys returned again in month. They keep records that help us track data, 2009 and a third team went in 2010. During these which will help us get grants. trips, it was determined by the government, local The workers are serious about their jobs; they healthcare officials, and an NGO (Interfaith Medical have decreased the amount of preventable health Assistance (IMA)) that Malek would be the perfect problems; they have educated women’s groups, place to implement the Southern Sudan Healthcare mothers, children, entire villages.” Project. Continued on page 14 unyumc.org 13
Nancy shares a story of just how meaningful the group of healthcare workers is to the community, “One story was about a woman that was unable to conceive because she was sick; our healthcare workers helped her. She left during the conflict and came back a few years later with a child. She ended up being able to conceive! She named her child Nyang, which meant healthcare worker in the Dinka language(spoken by the Southern Sudanese) because she was so grateful.”
they continued working in the refugee camps! Because it is a community-based healthcare program, it goes to where the people go; it’s not based on a particular location. It’s based on the people working together so when they went to the refugee camps, they just kept on working.” Nancy also shares how amazing Majer and Abraham have been as liaisons; she said, “Both of those guys have been incredible, on-the-ground, upfront help for this project and their hearts are in this project as well.” While the CNY United Methodists were in Malek, they also worshipped God with the villagers in the larger city of Bor. Nancy described this powerful experience, “There is a metal building in Bor that people worship in; that was their church.You could see holes in the roof where the sunlight was coming through. Mayol (a Lost Boy) said, ‘Those are bullet holes from the conflict when we were little boys.’
Abraham Nhial Koul and healthcare partner, Mary, diagnose villagers’ medical needs. Photos courtesy of SSHP.
Rev. Hunt shares another story of how committed these healthcare workers are. He said, “One of the best stories I know about these workers is that when the war broke out(again) in Sudan in 2013, we lost contact with all of our home healthcare providers. Malek was ground zero of the war zone and what we later learned is that the home healthcare workers had to evacuate and they went to refugee camps. We didn’t hear from them for three or four months. When we finally heard from them four months later, they were wondering where their pay was because 14 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
It was so powerful to see all of us with the same belief system, all of us knowing what our roles are here. Jesus’s commandments of putting God first and loving one another are so evident among these people. I’ve never seen quite the extension; you are responsible for everybody. That’s a piece of Christianity that was very touching to me. All we kept feeling and thinking was peace.” The Southern Sudan Health Project is successful because the people follow Jesus’s commandments and trust that God is enough. He is enough despite the wars and conflict against them. He is enough despite their lack of resources. According to Nancy, “This is a group of people who trust in God completely; they have so little materially, but so much spiritually.”
Lost Boys reunite with family members Another way that God showed up during the trips that the CNY United Methodists and the Lost Boys took to South Sudan was the reunion of family members. Some of the Lost Boys were connected with family members they have not seen in more than 20 years. Mayol was one of the Lost Boys that went on the second trip to South Sudan. He reconnected with his mother and his sister while there. Nancy explains both reunions, the first with his mother Abiei and the second with his sister,Yom. “Mayol met his mom for the first time in 21 years and to experience this was an amazing spiritual thing because these mothers had sent away seven-year old boys and they came back as 30-31 year old men.
Mayol meets mother, Abiei, for the first time in 21 years.
I was introduced to Abiei as Mayol’s American mother because that is how our family embraced him and that is how I had treated him for several years. I had taken a cross necklace for Abiei to have. When she met me, she put her hands on her heart and then reached her hands to the heavens. She and I didn’t speak the same language, but we spoke the same love of Christ. That was so emotional for me. And I became known in the family and community as Abiei as well and I’m still referred to as that. The way that Mayol reconnected with his sister is that one time when we walked on the dusty path through Bor, a person walking by said to Mayol, ‘You just walked by your sister.’ He had not seen his sister since she was a toddler. Mayol turned around and saw this young woman nearly ready to deliver her first child and he didn’t know her as a grown up. He was so happy.”
Watch the full-length video about the story of the Southern Sudan Health Project. Visit: https://vimeo.com/uppernewyork/sshp
Mayol embraces sister, Yom.
Lost Boy, Machar reunites with his cousin. unyumc.org 15
Operation Christmas Child 2016. photos courtesy of Lori Buno-Taylor.
Overcoming the challenge of a part-time pastoral appointment By Lori Buno-Taylor Owl’s Head UMC
pastor is called to serve God in all settings, at all times. Part-time does not change what we are called to do, it just challenges us to trust that God is enough when time, schedules, and resources do not appear to be enough. God has a way of teaching us to work as the Body of Christ with a congregational team.
The Owls Head UMC (OHUMC) team lives into the mission, “To live the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love to our neighbors in all places” with a relish and sincerity reminiscent of Romans 12. Here are words expressed by a variety of OHUMC members about just some of the many ministries at OHUMC Vacation Bible School 2017. and how they relate verses of Romans 12. 16 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Playground (Tammy and Steve) My husband and I were saddened by the dilapidated state of our local playground so we decided to take action. We reached out to OHUMC members who helped with the fundraiser and managed the funds. With this help, our community playground was brought back to life! Summer Lunch Program distribution Summer Lunch Program is a time to provide a meal to local children. Just to see the smiles on their faces when they walk into our church and receive their PB & J is priceless. Romans 12:4-8: For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Community Garden (John W) “Bit by bit…row by row…see how our community gardens grow!” Raised bed garden plots next to the Meeting House enable church folk and Owls Head community members to grow veggies and flowers for personal use and to share with others. VBS (Cathie W) In 2015, we were led to reach out to all the area children.We initiated a new vacation Bible school tradition. The joy of watching God create a team using our differing gifts added to children learning through song, story, and games delighted us all. CCC -Costumes, Crafts and Cider; Caroling, Crafts and Cocoa; Clues, Crafts and Cookies – (Marcie R, Rick & Mary L) These are three of the activities that we have for the children in our area. It’s just our way of teaching them that Jesus is the Reason for EVERY season even with a pumpkin prayer.
Romans 12:10-12: Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Gas/gift card, Christmas Family & Requested Prayer (Carter & Linda A) Christmas and other times of giving are for people who might need a little extra help. Some people are less fortunate than us. Sometimes gas cards can help out. Valentines to Nursing Home It’s a joy to go on this day to bring a card of love. It means a lot for us to see the smiles on the resident’s faces at the Alice Center. Some of us used to work in a nursing home. Sometimes we’re their only family. Romans 12:15-16: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Operation Christmas Child (Nancy H) Everyone gets involved in this a labor of love; signing up to provide approved items, holding a church-wide packing party and labeling all of the shoe boxes.We have a Sending Forth ‘ceremony and pray over each and every shoe box before collection and Christmas delivery.This year, our Lay Leader challenged us to double our number of shoe boxes from 30 to 60.The challenge was exceeded.We packed and delivered 66 shoe boxes! Romans 12:17-18 Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Little Lending Library Owls Head’s Little Lending Library, built by one member with funds provided by another, stands at the roadside in front of our church. It delights us to see young and old, afoot or by vehicle choosing books.There’s no expectation that books must be returned. Love in action is the gift of the Holy Spirit among us. With that understanding Owls Head not only trusts that God is enough, we are amazed with the abundance found in the Body of Christ. unyumc.org 17
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Sherie Heins and Family.
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Faith is not enough By Sherie Heins Trinity Federated Church
rowing up in rural New York State, I was part of what I always thought of as a typical family in a typical home environment. We ate dinner around the table each night; we said our bedtime prayers; we attended church and Sunday school and joined the church when we were of age, growing into a faith-based life. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how many families do not have that bedrock.
Maddie. Photos courtesy of Sherie Heins. 18 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
It served me well, as two of my brothers died at young ages before I had turned 14. I looked to Mom – as she held the family together – and I knew it was her faith that was holding her together. So faith always seemed to “be enough” as I grew into adulthood, gained independence, and started my own family.
The years went by and my family grew into three grandchildren as well as my two children, and they, too, grew into that much-loved and handeddown faith. And still that faith seemed to be enough…getting us through the tough times that families face – mental illness, death of my husband at a young age, financial problems. And then, in February of this year, my beautiful 11-year old granddaughter, Maddie, died totally unexpectedly, leaving a gaping, raw hole in my faith. Suddenly, faith didn’t seem enough. It wasn’t explaining anything; it wasn’t easing the loss; it wasn’t fixing a thing. In fact, I questioned my faith, and my God, and the good that could possibly come from this devastating loss. There is no magical formula in “having faith” that makes everything better or takes that grief away.
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Maddie and father, Tad, at Grape Festival.
Early on in our grieving, I said to my son, Tad (an amazingly good single-father of just this one child, now gone), “I want to love God again. I don’t like being mad at him.” My son looked at me, smiled through his heartache, and said, “Mom, weren’t you ever mad at your Mom and Dad? When they did something you didn’t see any reason for and couldn’t understand, it made you mad at them, but you didn’t stop loving them. It’s just like that with God.You’re mad now, but you still love him.” At that moment, humbled by my son, I felt the full impact of what I’d been doing. I’d been leaning on my faith as a quick-fix…a Band-Aid, if you will, to ease the pain I was feeling. What I wasn’t doing was trusting that God is enough. Certainly, my faith felt stretched at that point in time, and it wasn’t providing the usual amount of comfort and familiarity. My faith was stretched beyond my ability to recognize it as faith, but in that one sentence my son reminded me that my faith is still there, its bright light still shining, just waiting for me to come back to it. Just waiting for me to realize that when its light doesn’t seem to shine so brightly for me, that is exactly when I need to trust that God is enough. And in doing so, my faith will snap back into shape – perhaps a different shape, but likely stronger and brighter.
Sherie, Tad, Maddie, and Cousin, Skye, at Kershaw.
Maddie and Tad at Christmas. unyumc.org 19
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Rowing toward shore I do not remember very much about the first six months. I do remember thinking that I now understood the purpose behind committing Bible verses to memory – writing them on one’s heart. During these times of true heartache, those words moved in through the cracks and provided comfort. I still had trouble putting my scattered thoughts into words; so much of my time with God was silent. This provided many opportunities for God to speak and for me to listen.
Jan and Husband. Photos courtesy of Jan Rothfuss
By Jan Rothfuss Rochester: Aldersgate UMC
y husband’s death was not completely unexpected but I was holding on to the thought that we would be together a while longer. After all, he had survived his initial bought with cancer in 2013 and 2014 was a great year, including the birth of our first grandchild and a road trip together out to Colorado. But in June of 2015, he was called home. While I had experienced the death of grandparents and parents, what I felt during these days was quite different. I did not understand the depth of emotions that would come over me at unexpected moments. We were both fishers and it seemed that the image to describe my turmoil was described best as 10-feet waves repeatedly crashing over me. 20 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
Early in 2016, I continued to struggle with my innate need to do something. I was beginning to feel a slight degree of control over my emotions. I came across a suggestion that I could hold on to: Pray to God….But Row toward Shore. It suggested to me what I already knew deep down. That God is faithful and patient and that God wanted me to begin my journey afresh as I moved toward my new normal. But it also appealed to my internal drive to do something instead of just stand by and wait for something to happen. I moved through the months toward the oneyear anniversary trying to rebuild while continuing to listen. I joined our church’s GriefShare group which placed me into a caring community of persons who were traveling a similar path. I continued to spend time with my son and his family, enjoying the love that is uniquely shared between a grandmother and grandson. As June arrived, I began to feel that I was getting closer to shore. It was around this time that I came to a realization that would impact the rest of the journey. I realized that my boat was not empty. Now I know that God was there with me all along. Trusting God is enough.
Messages that uplifted Jan Rothfuss during her journey through grief
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Stephen Ministry beyond church walls e have thought of you often over the past several weeks, and we want to express our continuing sorrow for the loss of your _______________.” That is how the letter begins – the letter that accompanies the first of four Journeying through Grief books that are mailed to grieving persons/families in the Bath, NY community by the Stephen Ministers at Bath: Centenary UMC. The first book and letter are followed by three more, at roughly three-month intervals, with the fourth and final book sent at the one-year anniversary of the loved one’s death.
ministry, intended to spread the faith and hope that indeed, in “the valley of the shadow of death,” we can trust that God is enough, and will continue to be enough. Centenary UMC members regularly request that the grief books be sent to friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. This is a seed-planting ministry, intended to reach out to people in their greatest time of need, with no expectation of a response directly to the church or its members. The harvest is completely in God’s hands, and it has been revealed in numerous ways, and in numerous positive interactions with community members beyond the walls of the church who have benefitted from the ministry, and even with community members who have indirectly heard about the ministry, without experiencing it first-hand.
This ministry seeks to serve not just the members of the Bath: Centenary UMC faith community, but also the larger Bath community, and sometimes far beyond. It started as a congregational care ministry, but it has grown into far more. This is an outreach
The Journeying through Grief series of books were written by Dr. Kenneth C. Haugk, the founder and executive director of Stephen Ministries. Stephen Ministries is a not-for-profit Christian training and educational organization based in St. Louis, Missouri.
By Rev. Eleanor Colllinsworth Bath: Centenary UMC
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Since 1975, Stephen Ministries has trained and resourced thousands of congregations from more than 150 denominations. Stephen Ministries offers resources in the areas of grief support, lay caregiving, small group ministry, spiritual gifts discovery, caring evangelism, spiritual growth, and more. Stephen Ministry is a vital and long-standing congregational care and outreach ministry at Bath: Centenary UMC. The group is currently led by two trained Stephen Ministry Leaders – Diane Doty and Don Snyder, and the group consists of 14 trained and active Stephen Ministers who are involved in one-on-one caregiver/care receiver relationships. The first letter to grieving persons/families ends with the words, “May God bring you comfort and peace during this difficult time.” Implied, but unwritten are the words, “We hope you can find a way to trust, in this most difficult time, that God is enough.”
Stephen Ministry Leaders, Don Snyder and Diane Doty. Photos courtesy of Eleanor Colllinsworth. unyumc.org 23
Resources for Grief/Healing
When tragedy hits, the grieving process can be vital to keeping your life on track. Don’t let life’s unexpected turns weigh you down. These resources will help you understand how. You can find these and more at the Upper New York Conference Media Resource Center. For more information, please contact Diane Miner at Diane@unyumc.org.
Books Beyond the Broken Heart By Julie Yarbrough
How does the heart understand grief when it is broken by the death of a loved one? To survive and live forward, those who grieve must find answers. Beyond the Broken Heart is a 10-week support and ministry program for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Author Julie Yarbrough chronicles her personal experience combined with a deep love of Scripture and years of leading grief support groups to create an authentic and deeply personal study.
Why- Making Sense of God’s Will By Adam Hamilton
Where is God when the innocent suffer? Where is God when my prayers go unanswered? Why is God's will so hard to understand? The four sessions include: Why Do the Innocent Suffer?, Why Do My Prayers Go Unanswered?, Why Can't I See God's Will for My Life?, and Why God's Love Prevails.
The Way of Hope
By Beth and Dave Weikel Follow the Way of Hope with Beth and Dave Weikel as they lead you along your own dark paths toward the true light, found only in God's Word. They themselves have passed the way of tragic loss several times and have found always that, through the pain and brokenness, God's promises in Scripture become so much more meaningful. Discover personally what it means to be blessed because you mourn--what it means to be comforted by God. He promises you there still can be hope, still new life.
By Robert Morgan, PhD Making sense of life when life doesn't make sense. Each and every session will help anyone that has been or ever will be, in a difficult and troubling situation in life. In modern times we use the term "crisis" to define very difficult, life-changing events going into a crisis, coming out of one, or in the midst of it right now. And we know la lot of other people in the same boat. So what do we do? How do we handle those life-changing times? And just as important, how do we help others in crisis? 24 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
Grieving Sudden Death Paraclete Press
When someone we love suddenly dies, we are stunned. We had no preparation and no time to gradually absorb the reality that our world was about to change dramatically. Because this type of loss is so disruptive, recovery almost always is complicated. This video is for those who have suffered a sudden loss through a medical disruption, suicide, homicide, accident, military death, or an unexplained death. Through expert advice and personal testimony, this video will offer support and encouragement for rebuilding your life after such a devastating loss. Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One provides a full hour of support, wisdom, and counsel from experts of many backgrounds including Earl A. Grollman, the "Hero of The Heartland" for his work with the families and volunteers of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Helping Children Grieve This resource offers helpful information to adults on how to help children of all ages grieve with hope and heart. You will meet two experts whose personal experiences with death give them intimate knowledge and compassion. You will meet others who are now in the process of helping their children through grief. Topics include: Differences between how adults and children grieve, How a parent can grieve while still helping a child to grieve, Three common feelings expressed by all grieving children, and How to be authentic and tell children the truth about death.
Nooma-Matthew Losing someone we love can be the most difficult thing to go through in life. All the explanations and comforting words in the world don't really help and everything can seem hopeless. But what might help us is to know, that in facing this kind of loss, Jesus wept.
Programs and groups We Will Remember A meditation for those who live on. Originally created as the centerpiece for a service of remembrance, this program uses nature photography, reflective music, and thoughtful narration for its confirming message: we will do well to hold on to the memories of those who have gone before us, and allow those memories to lead us into the future. This piece has been used in hundreds of services of remembrance.
How Do I Go On? Your future after crisis has changed your life-For those losses so serious a whole new way of living is called for. Five steps are outlined and offered as an aid, including starting with where one is, exploring the options, letting go, embracing, and living as fully as possible with what is at hand. unyumc.org 25
By Rev. Beth S. Malone Lyndonville United Methodist Church
ake a deep breath” is good advice for anyone facing a challenge. This is also good advice for a church in need of revitalization. Lyndonville UMC’s journey toward vitality began almost three years ago. As their newly appointed pastor, I arrived at Lyndonville United Methodist Church for my initial meeting with the leaders of the church, I was full of excitement and hope for our future together, when I left the inceptive meeting, I barley had breath, and my face hurt from smiling so much. I guess I was overcompensating for the tension I felt in the room. I decided to wander into the sanctuary before I left that evening.
Lyndonville United Methodist had been praying for renewal way before I arrived on the scene. There was a small covenant group of families and singles who began meeting on Saturday night for prayer and praise music. Gratefully, they invited me and my husband to join them shortly after our arrival. They stood with arms and hearts raised as Casting Crowns belted the song, Thrive.
“God,” I prayed, “We need you here; please fill this place with the power of the Holy Spirit, and make this church alive once again.” I knew God would answer my prayers, God brought us together; I left that night with a sense of peace that I had not had when I arrived. What happens when prayers for revival are lifted up? An explosion of possibilities! You see, the folks at 26 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
Community meal at Lyndonville UMC. Photos courtesy of Beth Malone.
As the church members began to feel the activity of the Holy Spirit once again, they took the excitement and joy out into the community, which gathered a year ago in the sanctuary with standing room only to pray with us for a little one with brain cancer. We took our community outreach to a high level, with all of the following:
Shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse.
“Pray for us,” they asked. So we began to pray together, with the confidence to expect a miracle! Like the song says, we were made for more than the ordinary. That core group acclimated back into regular worship and began to get excited. It’s easy to pick up one of the many books written about how to become a vital congregation, but to do so takes a lot of mutual trust, hard work, and steady change. With no time to lose, we began a strategy for renewal, first of all, regular, healthy, transparent church meetings, with “teams” not committees. Accountability, was also key, as well as pastor-led, renewed Conference support. Paying Ministry Shares became vital. Next came revitalization of our church building. I came in with new eyes to see the boxes of stuff piled in many corners, and a tired space. We began holding church work days, where volunteers gathered to clean and restore the building. As the space became alive once again, it became a breath of fresh air. Really, all it took was some encouragement, and a reminder that we are joy-filled people because of Christ.
• We are part of an community ecumenical food pantry that feeds hundreds of families a month. • We offer Divorce Care. • The ladies group has adopted a kindergarten class at the elementary school. • We reach out to Samaritan’s Purse with over a hundred shoe boxes. • We put together flood buckets. • We worship at the local nursing homes. • We offer community children a Christmas shopping spree for family members at a very reasonable minimal. • We host a community Easter Egg Hunt with a thousand eggs. • We have a Men’s DVD and a meal small group. • We have a Co-op youth group. Our worship planning team began decorating the sanctuary with contemporary banners, and yards of fabric. Along with redesigning the space, we became a church of praise, in our music, and attitude toward visitors (who receive gift bags and followup) and especially the children who are ever present as members of the praise band in all their noisy, delightful activity. I encourage “helpful criticism” and receive feedback from some of the more seasoned members who shared that the praise music was a challenge, but who understood that change would bring growth! We are a church that believes everyone is important.
God is doing a big thing at Lyndonville United Methodist; we trust that God is enough! Many ask what our secret is. I believe the biggest change we made was that we began acting like a large church, not a small struggling one. Sure we have had some setbacks, but for the most part we are faith-filled, Volunteers work to build a shed and restore their church building. disciples charging ahead with Jesus in the lead. unyumc.org 27
Haitiâ€™s Promised Land: Building new lives
makeshift shelters. As people were evicted from the displacement camps, they sought refuge in the desert, and many were drawn to the dream of having their own land. Nearly everyday for six years, families continued to arrive.
By Melinda Miles Coordinator, Haiti Takes Root
n March 2010, Canaan was a mix of floodplain and foothills, a desert scorching in the midday sun. It was a far cry from the forests of hardwood trees that stood there a hundred years ago, although a breathtaking view of the Bay of Port-au-Prince and seeing the hazy capital itself across the sparkling water gave the place a sense of hope. The first residents arrived just two short months after a 7.0 earthquake had shattered their lives, and before long, the foothills were dotted with
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The people named it Canaan because it would be their promised land. Without aid agencies or government support, 250,000 people constructed homes, businesses, roads, churches, public spaces, schools, and markets. After living through the terror of the earth shaking their world to ruins, these people had faith enough to go out into the barren desert, draw property lines in the sand, and use their own hands to build a new life. Today Canaan is Haitiâ€™s third largest urban area, and it has approximately the same population as Buffalo, NY. However, that is where the similarities between the two cities end: Canaan exists in less than 40 percent of the space Buffalo takes up, and although areas of Canaan are mixed income, the vast majority of its residents are extremely poor and live in substandard housing, without latrines or clean water.
can trust that God is enough because his teachings are very clear in that every single one of us is called to serve. We can trust that when we live our faith and take the steps to make the world better, we are being true Christians – we prove the existence of God through our actions. In Haiti, you don’t find many people sitting around; everyone is always working to survive.You don’t hear talk of hopelessness because people can’t afford to lose hope. They trust in God because they trust in themselves; their faith fuels their courage to get through each day. While Canaan is an example of what faith can build, the story isn’t over yet. Working in partnership with a network of neighborhood committees and community groups, my team at J/P Haitian Relief Organization is Canaan today. Photos courtesy of Melinda Miles. planting trees to create green spaces and protect this new city from the harmful impacts of climate change, The first time I saw Haiti, I was stunned by the especially flooding and landslides. Although Canaan is poverty. The idea that nearly half of the world’s people a new life for thousands of families, this quality of this live in extreme poverty with less than $2.50 per day life is still poor – very few trees mean no shade for is very abstract when you haven’t seen it, and in Haiti, children to play in, for youth to study, for women to it’s even more severe: 80 percent of families live in do the laundry. extreme poverty and more than 50 percent live on This is where you come in. We are seeking partners less than $1.00 per day. Those families are lucky to eat for our new Adopt a Park program. The Baldwinsville a meal once every other day. First community is the very first to Adopt a Park My first visit was a short mission trip with my in Canaan, and hopefully their example will help us high school, and what I saw challenged my beliefs, spread green across the desert. To learn more visit: including what it means to be a Christian. The poverty www.jphro.org. I witnessed in Haiti made me question the existence of God in that way we do when something just seems too terrible to be true. How could God let so much suffering and misery exist? At the same time, I was clear about what Jesus taught: treat others the way you want to be treated. Not only that, but serve those who do not have what you have. He called on his followers to work for the poor and the vulnerable, to clothe the naked, and feed the hungry. So for me the question is this: in a world with inequality this vast, where the majority of the world’s families live in poverty, how do we live our faith, and what does it mean to trust that God is enough? As Reverend Patricia Walz of Baldwinsville First United Methodist Church said, “Sometimes, God’s people need to step forward as Jesus would do.” We
The future site of parks in Canaan, Place Horeb. unyumc.org 29
Love, Grow, Serve:
The story of Centerpoint Christian Fellowship By Shannon Hodson UNY Conference Writer/Editor
he story of Centerpoint Christian Fellowship (CCF) in the Mohawk District showcases how a New Faith Community becomes a success by trusting that God is enough. Starting in 2008-2009, the initial meetings of CCF took place from at the old Trenton Town Hall in Barneveld, NY. They quickly realized that they needed much more space for worship, study, fellowship, and outreach. God provided means necessary to acquire a commercial building and adjoining 50 acres. Half of the 13,000 sq. ft. building space would be converted into a sanctuary, Sunday school rooms, and office space comprising two floors, and the other half of the space would continue to be leased out to the existing tenants in the building, including a dance studio and a dog-grooming business. In July 2013, Pastor Wayne Clemens was appointed to Centerpoint Christian Fellowship and tremendous growth soon followed; attendance has more than tripled with over 100 worshippers at two Sunday morning services. This was made possible through 30 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
an extremely active leadership team that Wayne developed using the Next Step sessions, which help members determine their spiritual gifts (learn more about Next Step in Volume 8, Issue 1 of the Advocate, pages 26-27). The leadership team is comprised of Lay Leader, Barb Mezzanini; Hospitality Team Leader, Rebecca Simpson; Discipleship Team Leader, Don Simpson; Social Media Minister, Jeremy Swanson; and Childrenâ€™s Ministry Coordinator, Kathy Peters.
The leadership team at Centerpoint Christian Fellowship. Photos by Shannon Hodson.
Each of these team members described how they became members of CCF and much of it has to do with Wayne and his loving, non-judging, non-pressuring acceptance. Barb has been a member of CCF for a year and a half. She became a member because of a large community event CCF hosts in the summer, called Music Fest. She said, “I planned to go and check out Music Fest and I stayed the whole day, became a member of the church, and never looked back! You can feel the spirit moving here and Wayne is just so welcoming. He’s definitely a servant of God.” Kathy has also been a member of CCF for a year and a half. She had worked at a Christian bookstore that Wayne frequented often. Wayne said, “I prayed daily for Kathy to fill the void we had in children’s ministry. Then, she called me one day telling me that she needed to be a part of CCF’s children ministry.” Wayne had never mentioned the void to Kathy; she heard God’s call. Kathy said, “And now we see the fruit. When I started, there were about 6-8 kids; now, we have about 25.” Don and Rebecca are husband and wife. Don first came to CCF two-and-a-half years ago for a men’s bible study that included several men from many different churches and backgrounds. Then, he started going on nature trail walks with Wayne. He said, “Never once did Wayne ask me to go to church.” Soon after, Don encouraged his wife and children to attend the church. Rebecca has a natural gift of hospitality and she has the beaming, positive attitude that one would expect of a hospitality leader. She said, “I love making sure our guests enjoy their experience here and are excited to come back.” First-time guests receive a stainless steel coffee travel mug, with goodies inside, including a Dunkin Donut gift card. Wayne said, “We go out of our way to provide radical hospitality for our guests.” He explains that he refers to them as guests and does not use the “v” word (visitors) because visitors are thought of as people who stop by
for a short period of time, whereas guests are those that are very important to you; they are those that you take out the fine china for. Jeremy has been a member of CCF for two years. He said, “I need to feel accepted because, here I am a guy with all these tattoos. The first-time, I came in a nice button-down shirt and I was immediately accepted. The next weekend, I came in a t-shirt and ripped -up shorts and was just as accepted. I can fully be myself here.” The ambience inside Centerpoint Christian Fellowship is just as welcoming as the members. Like God’s open arms, walls were literally taken down inside CCF to create a wide-open space, with the sanctuary and a fellowship area combined together. One side has rows of chairs that can seat 120 people and the pulpit; next to that is an area that has a counter for coffee and treats, with tables and chairs to join others in fellowship. The grounds reflect God’s beautiful creation, with a 1.25 mile nature trail, meandering through a wooded area—the perfect place for prayer and reflection. There is a space for fellowship outdoors as well with a pavilion that was constructed in 2014. Wayne plays the acoustic guitar for the church’s praise band and his powerful, amazing voice displays the Spirit of God, in contemporary songs like God is on the Move. God most definitely is on the move at Centerpoint Christian Fellowship. This is why in In March of 2015 CenterPoint was officially incorporated, and at the Upper New York Annual Conference in June of 2016, CenterPoint became officially chartered. The church successfully fulfils its mission to Love... God & others Grow… together in community Serve… our neighbors & the world.
My journey through stage-4 cancer deadlines and extra Lent services, but would ease after graduation. We all know life can change in a heartbeat. Suddenly, I was thrust into the deepest wilderness I had ever known.
By Pastor Sue Crawson-Brizzolara Ouaquaga UMC & Harpursville UMC
n May, 2015, life was amazing. I was a newlywed, with a wonderful family, serving two amazing congregations, preparing to graduate with a dual degree, MDiv and Clinical Counseling. Feeling exhausted, I decided to focus on the MDiv first and the MACC later. Life was intense, with final project
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One night I woke up coughing blood. Within a couple weeks it happened again and my husband, Dan, insisted I see a doctor. I saw my NP, Julie Barnes, the next day. She quickly referred me to a pulmonologist. That should have been a clue, but I was so busy. When the pulmonologist said I likely had a tumor of the lung we were stunned! I was extremely healthy and normally energetic. This could not be! Graduation was Saturday, so we agreed to focus on celebrating. A biopsy of the tumor confirmed the diagnosis. I had Non-Small Cell Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Stage Two. Thankfully, we were told it would not metastasize. Through numerous frustrating events, (I later discovered was Divine Intervention) I went to Upstate University Hospital Cancer Center. We learned the tumor was inoperable, so chemo and radiation treatments were used. I told the head physician, Dr. Adham Jurdi, (I was also treated by Dr. Jeffrey Bogart), that at least it would not metastasize. He disagreed and ordered a brain MRI immediately. The next week, Dr. Walter Hall, the neurosurgeon said I had brain tumor, and stage-four cancer. Shocked,
I said, “I know the diagnosis, who gives me the prognosis?” He looked down, and said, “I can do that,” got quiet, and finally mumbled “Typical life expectancy in this situation is two years.” Wow! Two years! 730 days! I was in shock. 700 days and I would be gone. Completely. No longer existing. Maybe not even that long. What would those days be like? Would I be sick, hospitalized, incapacitated, unable to work? How could I tell my husband and family? We told everyone that night, amidst a roller coaster of emotions. The next day I fell apart. This cancer is aggressive, only one in ten people live five years; most die within months. My mind raced with questions, loss, and deep grief. I sobbed, in a fetal position as emotion overwhelmed me. I had Stage-Four Cancer! There is no “Stage Five.” The next stage would be “Exit….. Stage Left!” Death. What would that be like? I was concerned for my family, friends, and congregations. I might not live for my son’s wedding in October, 2015. Grief overwhelmed me as despair and depression settled in. I cried until there were no tears left. I was alone, frightened, emotionally exhausted, and confused, laying in silence. Then a thought occurred. If I had only 700 and some days left, how did I want them to be? How did I want to “live” those precious, few days? In a small, simple way the Holy Spirit spoke, “It’s up to you.You
Sue with husband, Dan. Photos courtesy of Sue Crawson-Brizzolara.
can lay here every day sobbing for all that is lost, or make those days count. It really is your choice.You control much more than you realize.” A tiny ray of hope opened in my heart, just one little strand of hope, glistening with the colors of Divine Love. It was enough. I recalled that Jesus never focused on what happened to him physically, or the cross, after resurrection, but always on the Spiritual. Abba was his priority, helping him overcome physical and emotional pain. I decided to follow his example. Continued on page 34
Sue stands next to her son at his wedding in 2015. unyumc.org 33
How did I want to live these last days and what legacy would I leave? “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15). I had a choice to focus on the loss or keep my eyes on the Creator. I could cry every day or make those days count, leaving the sweet fragrance of Christ’s love. I wanted a legacy of love and goodness, showing the power of faith and love. A Spirit-led plan began to formulate, as I chose to follow Jesus and keep my focus on The Creator. I would look for the love of YHWH, grateful for at least one blessing every day, and do something positive every day. Psalm 139 came to me. Where can I go from your Spirit? Even if I settle on the farthest side of the sea or in Sheol “your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.” While alive, Creator would be holding me, but what about in death? I realized then, even in death, Creator would hold me, and those I love. Like Paul, I knew living or dying, we belong to God. I could trust Creator to hold us all in love. Being held in life or death was enough. My fear of death instantly subsided, and I knew it would be fine. We would grieve and hurt, but it would be fine. That was my salvation, healing moment, as fear dissipated and the Holy was revealed. Jesus overcame the power of death in my spirit.
The rock at Bushkill Falls. 34 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
That does not mean there were not emotional times and grief later. Grief is a normal part of terminal illness. Not long after the diagnosis, I wanted to run away and told Dan this. Thankfully, he looked at me and said “Where?” For reasons I did not understand, I said “Bushkill Falls.” I had only heard of it once, 15 years prior. I wondered why I said that, but we went. There, in a sacred space, with water gushing from underneath a rock, The Creator blessed me with a Vision. The air filled with spirits of my ancestors (the great cloud of witnesses). One spoke, saying most had died before I was born, but I am part of them. They were there to strengthen me. I was to remember I am not alone, drawing strength from them. They faded, and Jesus appeared, telling me the living water was gushing forth resources within me, just as the water was gushing forth from the rock. He said it was not trickle or drip, but gushing forth strength and resources and I would be alright. He would be with me, strengthening me. Then he faded also and I was alone. This vision nourishes me still. Jesus and my ancestors are with me. That is enough.
Husband, Dan, shaved his head with Sue.
What I call my “Wellness Plan” began to form. It has many components, but the main ones are focusing on the blessings of Creator and putting out positive energy every day. I am aware of divine hands holding us in love, and offer love through prayer, emails, posts and visits. I did not allow negativity to invade my holy space. Other components are good self-care, prayer, meditation, journaling, and scripture. Blessings poured in from so many: cards, texts, emails, and messages of love. At first, like Peter, I would not let Jesus wash my feet, but soon, I learned I had to let others care for me and love me through it. Family and friends drove to our home for me, then 90+ miles to the Cancer Center in Syracuse for treatments which lasted six hours or more, then back home. That is nothing less than divine love
poured out! Every single friend, including those I had not spoken to in years, sent messages of love. People from so many places prayed for me. “…it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and spilling over into your lap.” (Luke 6:38). Rev. Marilyn Barnard, Retired, and her husband, Ray, volunteered to lead the congregations so I could focus on treatments and recovery, knowing our Creator was holding everyone in Love. A professor placed my name in the Western Prayer Wall in Israel. A friend had a friend in a congregation in China that was praying for me. Prayer chains from everywhere, prayer shawls, blankets, and scarves were wrapping us in love. One prayer quilt was made by a woman who sat with her son as he died of cancer. She used her pain to bless others. I imaged each act of love like a line of an ink drawing, weaving Divine Hands of Love that held us together through the journey. I have been in remission since September, 2015, two weeks before my son’s wedding, which I attended, celebrating with loved ones. My medical team will not say “cured” until it has been five years but that is my goal. Through all of this I learned that love poured out is healing. I am in a much deeper relationship with our Creator and humbled to be alive. Many others facing this say the same. I blogged some of it, including the hard times, the challenges and where I found Creator in that. Many folks found inspiration in my journey. I pray you do as well. In May, I celebrated the second anniversary of the prognosis. Since the prognosis, not only have I learned that God is enough on a deep level (“deep calls to deep”), but also, I know that no matter what, Creator holds us all in love. And that is enough.
A Certified Lay Minister and her proactive congregation
By Helen St. Louis Lay Minister, Colton UMC
Because of the small size of the congregation, a core group of dedicated members had been organizing and running most of the work of the church. As the membership grew, however, they took on more projects and more people got involved. I mentioned to one of the women, for example, that another church was sending care packages to soldiers overseas and that maybe we could put out a box for people to donate things that we could send. The next Sunday, she brought in a box all decorated in red, white and blue and somebody found out about an Helen St. Louis individual soldier that we could support. That project was off and running!
As our congregation has grown, we have benefited greatly from the experience, knowledge, and skills of our new members. It’s no longer just a small group fter I started leading worship as Certified Lay Minister at the Colton United Methodist Church who has to do all of the work. With a mixture of new and long-time members, we started a visioning in October of 2014, friends from other communities committee. That committee recommended, and would ask, “How are things going in Colton?” I would the Administrative Council approved, adopting the always answer, “Great! They do stuff!” NOW (Nurture, Outreach, Witness) model of church At that time, the main thing that they did was make leadership. We now have coordinators of Nurture children’s quilts for Project Linus. After our county’s (with a worship coordinator), Outreach (with a chapter of that project was discontinued, the ladies missions coordinator) and Witness. The coordinators kept making quilts and took care of the distribution as work together and each area develops projects for well: to victims of domestic violence, the school nurse, church members to get involved in, including a mission Red Cross, nursing homes, and to individuals in need for each month. A recent project organized by the of comfort and warmth. outreach coordinator, together with a member of
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the congregation who belongs to the Red Cross, was offering a two-hour class on disaster preparedness and response. The joke is that I don’t actually do anything—I just come up with ideas and get other people to do what needs to be done. I feel strongly that we need to notice people’s skills, interests, and passions, encouraging them to see how they can use them to serve God’s Kingdom. One member, for example, was asked to be the Nurture coordinator, but didn’t feel comfortable with that position. He did say, however, that he might enjoy being treasurer, so now he is part of the finance committee and has computerized our systems. One person, new to the congregation, noted how beautiful our grounds were and said that we should have a picnic. Some people weren’t excited about the idea, but the new couple was willing to take charge so we followed them and planned the picnic for the end of August. The church hadn’t had children’s Sunday school for several years, but the organizers decided to use the picnic as a kick-off for a new Sunday school program that would start the next week. Seven children who were at the picnic came to that first week of Sunday school! We trusted God and followed the passion.
God may have been watching out for me personally when he put me in the Colton church. When I had been there six months, my husband had surgery and suffered complications. Over the next year of his time in and out of hospitals and the nursing home, the church supported me. We are fortunate to have a retired RN in the congregation and she and her husband showed up at the hospital without being asked. They even drove over to Burlington to be with me during the surgery there and she acted as my medical consultant. During all this time the congregation supported me emotionally and, when I had to miss a Sunday, members of the congregation stepped up and led worship for us. When my husband passed away last spring, almost every member was at the calling hours or the funeral, or both. A fellow CLM has said that since I encouraged leadership development and didn’t take responsibility for projects and administration myself, that when I leave Colton, the church will be able to function just fine without me. That will soon prove to be true since I now plan to move west to be closer to my family. When I’m gone, I know that the Colton United Methodist Church will continue to trust that God is enough.
Congregation members of Colton UMC. unyumc.org 37
Carrying out my mission to help thousands in South Africa By Erma Mae Perkins Zululand Hospice Partnership Member, Rush UMC
have had an interest in the continent of Africa for as long as I can remember.
My friend Judy spent several terms as a missionary nurse in Ethiopia. Judy adopted an abandoned child before returning to the U.S. When Patience, her adopted daughter, was 12, Judy planned to take her to visit her country and invited me to go along. It was an uncomfortable visit in many ways, but upon my return home, I had an intense desire to revisit Africa. In 2002, I noticed an appeal for a team to teach Vacation Bible School in South Africa. The cost was $1,700â€” I applied and was accepted. I was a hospice nurse and hoped to connect with work with AIDS patients as the epidemic was much in the news. Our hosts in Johannesburg were protective of us and I did not encounter anyone in healthcare.
Upon my return to work in the U.S., I discovered my colleagues also had an interest in getting involved with HIV/AIDS in Africa. I received permission from the leadership of Lifetime Care Home Health and Hospice to apply for a partner hospice through Care worker delivering Morvite. Global Partners in Care. We were assigned to the Photos courtesy of Erma Mae Perkins. Zululand Hospice Association (ZHA) in South Africa. 38 UNY ADVOCATE 2017, Issue 3
I went on two visits organized by the leadership of the organization. Then it relocated and there were no more trips to join. I knew if I was to go back, I would have to organize the visits and I lacked confidence. However, the Lord continued to grow my concern for this mission. In 2006, I trusted that God was enough to support my planning the visit and providing the finances.
Rush UMC members, Cathy Russell and John Kessler, work on the orphanage kitchen.
Zululand Hospice sale items.
I am currently preparing for my 14th trip in support of Zululand Hospice and an orphanage, Musa weNkosi. The number of travelers has ranged from three to 13. In 2014, seven people from Rush UMC accompanied me to convert an abandoned chicken house into a kitchen and dining room for the orphanage. We shop in South Africa at craft markets and bring items back to sell to raise funds. We have raised over $250,000. ZHA has four vehicles with the Lifetime Care logo on them. This has allowed the staff to grow in size and increase the areas in which they provide care where there is great need. Many patients live in hovels without running water or electricity. ZHA fills the “boot” of the cars with Morvite, a nutritional cereal as many patients don’t have food with which to take their medication. We take hundreds of pounds of medical supplies each year. It is disheartening to see the living conditions, heart-rending to hear the stories of neglect and abuse, but heart-warming to see the dedication and hard work of the staff. Despite hot, humid conditions there during our winter, God is enough to strengthen the care workers every day. They sing and pray each morning before they are deployed. When we return home, we carry the orphans, patients, and staff in our hearts and prayers. Trevor Hudson writes, “In light of Jesus’ example and words, embarking along the compassionate way involves three primary tasks: becoming aware of those who suffer; being with them in their pain; and where appropriate, acting together with them for the sake of their greater wholeness.” A Mile in My Shoes
Pastor Alison Schmied and ZHA Careworker.
I am grateful God empowered me to trust that He is enough to provide everything I need to carry out this mission and share the opportunity with everyone who opens their hearts and bank accounts to Zululand Hospice and Musa weNkosi. unyumc.org 39
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