Eat, Praise, Love

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World Communion Sunday is a special day in the life of mainline churches. Celebrated the first Sunday in October, congregations throughout the United States celebrate communion while conscious that other congregations are breaking the bread and drinking the cup. The practice has, for the most part, been done in the isolation of the local congregation. World Communion Sunday became a little more global this year in Bowling Green, MO. The congregations of the local Presbyterian, Methodist, and Disciple churches celebrated together. Members of the three congregations gathered at the Methodist church for breakfast. Participants also wrote simple prayers on strips of cloth that were tied to tree branches that were placed on the chancel area for worship.

Members then gathered for the worship hour at First Christian, DOC. The service featured a choir comprised of members from the three congregations. Communion was shared. The worship became a World Communion experience.

Worship was followed with a carry-in lunch at the Presbyterian church to conclude the day.

The Bowling Green Ministerial Association is comprised of these three faith families as well as several others that have never heard of World Communion Sunday. Information was shared concerning the plan for the special observance. The larger Baptist congregation, located across the street from the Methodist and DOC churches chose to combine their two services into one to celebrate “World Communion” in a single service and share a potluck afterwards. Perhaps the community effort will expand in the future and World Communion will be experienced as World Communion. Meanwhile three churches in Bowling Green are discussing what more will be done together.

Submitted by:
Rev. Bruce Moeller
Interim Pastor First Christian Church
Bowling Green, MO

Farmington CC Delivering Hope to St. Francois County

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In 2016 the Farmington Christian Church joined nine other Farmington churches to participate in Rural Compassion/Convoy of Hope.  Convoy of Hope is a “faith-based, nonprofit organization…” based in Springfield, MO with a goal to “bring help and hope to those who are impoverished, hungry, and hurting.” Convoy of Hope’s mission is “to feed the world through children’s feeding initiatives, community outreaches and disaster response.” 

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Under the leadership of FCC’s Executive Council and Outreach Division, area agencies were selected as our partners. For example, the following agencies receive food, paper supplies, toys, cleaning supplies, snacks, water, drinks, and more. These shipments arrive about every two months, and our church inventories and delivers the supplies to our partner agencies:

  • W.L. Johns in the Farmington R-7 Schools (this school is for high school students who have       struggled in the regular classrooms) They enjoy snacks, drinks, etc. Not only have the students appreciated the items, but also the recipients in turn have shared with others. 
  • Jefferson Elementary in the same district  (1st-4th graders) Fun day with 1st graders in the Spring—students were given toy watering cans to water the plants they had just planted.
  • Farmington Skate Park. This park is a very popular gathering spot. In addition to recreation, there are Bible studies after school. Again, the leaders of the park find the “goodies” a drawing card for the skaters. In addition, FCC sponsors an after-school Bible study in each of the elementary-junior high schools, and the food delivered by Convoy of Hope nourishes the students just as the Bible study nourishes their faith in Jesus and God.
  • Additionally supplies have been shared with other agencies: Parkland Pregnancy Resource Center and Shared Blessings.

In conclusion, FCC is partnered with Convoy of Hope in sharing donated supplies ranging from food to toys to cleaning supplies, etc. with our “adopted” community friends.   We pray that other churches research Convoy of Hope and join us in “opening doors for education, clean water, sense of hope.”

After a successful 2016, FCC signed up for 2017-18. 

Thank you to Marlene Ragland,  Kim Amsden, and
Pastor Russell Alexander for this information.

Updated 10/09/2017 11:55am

Helping Hurricane Recovery Efforts

Two local churches, Community Church and First Christian of El Dorado Springs, MO partnered together to go on a work mission trip to Beaumont, Texas. For four days the group of nine worked to pack water soaked belongings out to the curb, remove sheet rock and tiles, and distribute funds and goods to folks in need.

The group of nine persons represented 5  churches and had donations from 9 churches.  They traveled about 1,500 miles in two vehicles pulling two enclosed trailers containing tools and about 1,500 lbs. of items to give away.  They helped 5 families in Texas and spent $4,000.00.

 

Those who made the trip and were able to serve were:  Scotty Pritchett, Heath Brown, Randy Haberle, Mike Nelson, Mike Greer, Sharon Greer, Chad Daniel, Eli Daniel, and Jack Daniel.

 

The youngest was 13, and the oldest was 73.  With the Daniel family, three generations were represented.  Thanks to those who donated, those who prayed, and to the folks of Texas who gave the workers such a warm welcome and showed such determination to overcome adversity.  Even one couple aged 97 and 94 whom they helped, is determined to build back and live in their home again.

Story and photos courtesy of Jack and Chad Daniel.

People to People Spiritual Pilgrimage to Chiapas, Mexico

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Mid-America Region & Missouri Mid-South Conference
People to People Spiritual Pilgrimage to Chiapas, Mexico
Group Leader, Dr. Larry Colvin

You are invited to take part in the Mid-America Region & Missouri Mid-South Conference People to People Spiritual Pilgrimage to Chiapas, Mexico April 17-26, 2018. The pilgrimage is sponsored by the Disciples & UCC in conjunction with Global Ministries. Our mission co-worker partner, Elena Huegel, and the Intituto de Estudios e Investigacion Interultural will be our hosts. The pilgrimage is open to nine adults (age 18 or older) from across the Region and Conference. Dr. Larry Colvin, Regional Minister Team member (CCMA), will serve as group leader.

The pilgrimage cost of $1,530 includes round trip airfare from St. Louis to Mexico City (air fare in Mexico is additional – see below), all lodging, land transportation while in Mexico, and most meals in Mexico. Pilgrims will be responsible for any baggage fees, taxes, additional food, and sundries.

Tickets from AeroMexico for flights between Mexico City and Tuxtla Gutierrez must be purchased individually. Ticket prices may very depending on the date of purchase but will be approximately USD $300. To purchase ticket please contact travel agent Lauri Kercher at It’s Travel Time! – 816 632 0526 travelgrl81@hotmai.com.  Please have the following information available.

  • Date of Birth
  • Name listed on Passport
  • Passport Number
  • Expiration date of Passport (Must have at least 6 months remaining at time of trip.)
  • Credit Card

Once ticketing is complete, information concerning travel will be sent.

A date for a planning meeting will be set later.

Please see the preliminary itinerary of the pilgrimage. Housing will be dorm style – comfortable but basic.  Toilets and showers are private but in separate building. Transportation will be by bus and walking over rough terrain will be expected.

Registration, including a $200 deposit must be submitted no later than November 1, 2017.

Remainder of payment must be submitted by December 31, 2017.  No refunds can be offered after this date.    REGISTRATION FORM

We are excited to offer an opportunity to people to participate in this mission endeavor even if they are not able to travel. We are raising money to provide emotional & physical first aid kits for migrants and refugees who are traveling through Chiapas. Learn more about this project and how you can help!

For questions or more information, contact Larry Colvin at (630) 200-5364 or larry.ccma@sbcglobal.net

Read Elena's most recent article following recent earthquakes in Mexico. 

Flight Schedule

April 17
            St. Louis/Atlanta 6:30am – 8:34am, Delta
            Atlanta/Mexico City9:50 – 12:28pm, AeroMexico
            Mexico City/Tuxla Gutierrez 4:40pm – 6:20pm, AeroMexico

April 26
            Tuxla Gutiereez/Mexico City 9:18am – 11:10pm, AeroMexico
            Mexico City/Atlanta 3:35pm – 7:56pm, Delta
            Atlanta/St. Louis 10:30pm – 11:13pm, Delta

Great Day of Serving in Neosho

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Each year the Neosho Area Clergy Coalition sponsors a “Great Day of Serving” on the Sunday closest to September 11th.  The Day of Serving is a memorial for 9/11 that offers service and love as a response to the violence of that date.  This year’s Day was on September 10 and featured 15 faith organizations and over 350 volunteers doing service projects that varied from yard cleanup to minor home repairs to painting.  Because of the hundred year flood this past spring, the Neosho and Seneca area had quite a few projects that needed to be done. 

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First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Neosho is not only one of the original organizing churches, but one that has participated every year since the inception.  This year, working with Week of Compassion, FCC assisted three families in Neosho who were devastated by the flooding.  As part of the Day of Serving, the members of FCC undertook a project for one of those families – a single mom with children.  Her fence had fallen over from the flooding and was laying in sections in her backyard.  The group of seven worked hard and got the fence back up, so the back yard is enclosed again.  In total, FCC was part of a city wide group that did over forty work projects.  It was indeed a “Great Day of Serving.”

Story & photos courtesy of FCC pastor Rev. Al Gritten.

Encounter World Religions Centre - Discovery Week 2017

Community meal provided at the Sikh Temple after worship.

Community meal provided at the Sikh Temple after worship.

Thanks to Brian Carwana, Executive Director of the Encounter World Religions Centre, in Toronto, Canada and his staff, it was a lifetime experience for both of us.  Through the Discovery Week 2017 program, Rev. Sharon Taylor and I experienced the landscape of many world religions.  I feel like we have traveled through time and history of sacred places.  

 

Visit to the Buddhist Temple

Visit to the Buddhist Temple

 

Words cannot convey the depth of understanding we gained as we studied 11 of the major world religions, shared a meal with people of many different religious cultures, and observed and participated in the varied religious practices.  The leaders at each religious site received us graciously and spoke candidly about their practices and concerns.  We desired to understand their religion and they were grateful for the time, money and effort we spent in engaging in this undertaking.  Many times, we heard that their hope for these Encounters would be to create a more peaceful and kinder world. We went on this journey to meet face to face, but more importantly, we also met heart or heart.

 

Classroom at the University of Toronto. Note: Director Brian Carwana (pictured below) was the keynote speaker at last year's Persons in Ministry Retreat. This annual event occurs in partnership with the Missouri Mid-South Conference of the UCC, and is happening this year Sept. 18-20. 

Classroom at the University of Toronto.

Note: Director Brian Carwana (pictured below) was the keynote speaker at last year's Persons in Ministry Retreat. This annual event occurs in partnership with the Missouri Mid-South Conference of the UCC, and is happening this year Sept. 18-20. 

 

Has it changed me?  YES, and I am so grateful for my new perspective on global faith communities.  If you are interested in learning more, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Lisa Foglesong & Rev. Sharon Taylor
Eldon First Christian Church
Office:  573.680.4170

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Eleven Religions Studied:
Christianity
Islam
Hinduism
Buddhism
Native Spirituality
Taoism
Rastafari
Judaism
Sikhism
Zoroastrianism
WICCA

WGCC Members Partner with Community for Families with Young Children

In 2014 Webster Groves Christian Church (WGCC) began to work with HOPE Partnership, of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), to prayerfully discern the ways we could most faithfully understand and respond to God’s call to us as we continued to minister in the name of Jesus Christ in our western suburb of St. Louis.  Through the process with HOPE Partnership, which involved retreats, learning, discovery, and community engagement, we affirmed our commitment to serve our local community, and began to take steps to address the opportunity gap between white and African American students in our local school district.  We learned that our local school district had one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation, and we began to explore ways that we could partner with our neighbors to help address this problem.

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As we studied the issues and listened to community members, we saw that one important area for work and concern was early childhood.  When children and their families have access to important community resources like nutrition, health care, and high quality early childhood education, they are better prepared to begin to learn and thrive in school and beyond.  We began to meet and work with partner organizations, and initiated Project N.O.W. (Nutrition on Weekends) in coordination with a local Head Start preschool center, providing nutritious weekend meals and snacks for children and their families.  Members of WGCC also began reading in Head Start classrooms and providing once per month coffee for parents and grandparents as they dropped off their children at the center.

We also worked with community and school district leaders to form the Kirkwood Area Every Child Promise (KAEChP), a community-wide commitment to increasing access to nutrition, physical and mental health, high quality early childhood education, and general family wellbeing.

Through our participation in the National Benevolent Association’s (NBA) SENT Seminar and additional help from NBA, we formed this new not-for-profit community agency and began to use our building and grounds to better partner with and serve the needs of the people in our community with the fewest resources. Through this effort and with multiple community partners we have continued and strengthened Project N.O.W., and created “Promise Place,” a resource center where parents can find new infant and toddler clothes, diapers, and safety items like cribs and infant and toddler car seats.  KAEChP is now partnering with the Kirkwood School District and several area preschools to provide sliding-scale scholarships for children to attend high quality programs.  KAEChP partner schools have also agreed to participate in ongoing evaluation, professional development, and continuing focus on KAEChP’s family wellbeing goals.  KAEChP and its community partners have provided free dental screenings for the entire school district and community preschool families; begun multi-cultural book and reading programs; helped to strengthen connections between families and the Parents as Teachers program (Parents as Teachers is now using space at WGCC for developmental screenings, meetings, and programs); and established a growing network of concerned parents and community members who are committed to the wellbeing and success of every child in the area served by the Kirkwood School District.  WGCC has dedicated additional space for future low cost, high quality day care and preschool classrooms.

KAEChP has raised $75,000.00 in its first few months, and continues to reach out to community members and businesses to build support for its mission:

The Promise: Every child and family are prepared for success as they enter kindergarten.

Our community will…

  • Foster quality early childhood experiences for all children and families by providing supportive partnerships and financial resources.
  • Ensure the health and mental health of all children and families by addressing barriers to access.
  • Create systems to support the basic needs of children and families.
  • Engage in activities, practices, and networks to promote the efforts of KAEChP.

On October 2nd Webster Groves Christian Church will be co-hosting a golf tournament fundraiser in support for KAEChP. 
Watch their promotional video!

We are excited about the possibilities and partnerships we have been encountering as we have worked to answer God’s call to serve our community, and we look forward to building and strengthening new relationships and programs to equip our families with young children for wellbeing.

Story by WGCC pastor Rev. Dr. Jeff Moore.
Editor's note: The NBA Mission & Ministry Grant Program
is currently accepting grant applications
to support programs for at-risk children.

FCC Cameron Mission News

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The Cameron Ministerial Alliance coordinates the Back Pack Buddies program through the Cameron School District and for the 2017-18 school year the goal is to provide week-end meals for 175 children. The cost of the program is $150 per child per year for a total fundraising goal of $26,250. First Christian Church in Cameron recently donated $7,013 to the Ministerial Alliance for the Back Pack Buddies program. This gift will sponsor meals for over 46 children this school year.  The offering from our Vacation Bible School (VBS) was over $300 which provided meals for two children. It is so wonderful to witness children helping other children through our VBS offering.  

For more information on the Back Pack Buddies Program go to  https://www.ourcommunityfoodbank.org/initiatives/nourishing-children/

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Each Month the Cameron Food Pantry provides over and average of 11,000 pounds of food to 150 or more local families. Many members of the Cameron First Christian Church work at the food pantry each week and recently the congregation provided over 200 pounds of food the Pantry. The Congregation collects non perishable foods throughout the year for the help the hungry in our community.

On Saturday, September 9th the Christian Men's Fellowship will host their annual Fish Fry. Join us from 4-7 p.m. for great food and fellowship at Cameron First Christian Church. All of the proceeds are used to support the men's mission and outreach projects. Please see the attached flyer.

Thanks to pastor Russ Hamilton for
sharing these stories and photos.

Ozark CC Mission Trip to Mission Arlington - Love God, Love People

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The 2017 Ozark Christian Church mission trip is in the books and no one will ever be the same again.  OCC sent 11 people in 3 vehicles, 1200 miles (round trip) for 5 days of work with Mission Arlington in Arlington, Texas.  The group had one focus community in Fort Worth to work with, and saw about 30 kids (preschoolers to teens) attend a Bible Study and/or Rainbow Express (Mission Arlington’s VBS for the communities they serve) during the 5 days. 

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Comfort zones were stretched repeatedly during the trip for both the community kids and the OCC group members, yet there couldn’t have been a better way to grow.   Many seeds were planted during the days spent in the community, with some of those seeds being harvested (7 kids and 3 adults committed their lives to Jesus during the week) and some of those seeds left to grow and develop with continued prayers from the OCC family.  Many lessons were learned by the OCC team, both serious (your testimony can have a huge impact on someone’s life, if you only share it) and funny (when all else fails, try chicken McNuggets). 

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While the work with the kids took center stage every afternoon, and in evening discussions, the team also did morning service projects, including passing out Rainbow Express fliers in communities, picking up donated furniture and clothing, delivering furniture to individuals and a community in need, and sorting clothes in Mission Arlington’s donation room.  The OCC group was fed spiritually with morning and afternoon worship services each day, which included uplifting music and meaningful messages about the work being performed.  They were also left in awe over Tillie Burgin, Mission Arlington’s founder, and the faithful way the organization goes about serving those in need.

The group experienced many blessings during the week, including getting assigned a 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment for 11 people (as opposed to 1 bathroom), located very close to Mission Arlington.  There were small blessings (finding lost car keys) and big blessings (2 days of making real connections with the kids after 2 days of near total chaos).  These blessings were no doubt a result of the faithful prayers of OCC family back in Ozark.

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Nothing that happened during the week would have been possible without the love and support of the OCC membership.  From the funds raised, to the supplies donated, to the prayers said, everyone became a part of this mission trip whether you were in Arlington sweating in the heat or back in Ozark in a comfy and cool home.  “Love God, Love People” is something everyone at OCC does very well, regardless of their location.  It was a privilege the mission trip team will not forget, to take that message to the Fort Worth community they served and to the people of Mission Arlington.

Story & photo submitted by Marna Strahl.

Broadway CC Youth Mission Trip to Ohio

Early Sunday morning July 16th twenty-six Broadway high school students and adults loaded up in our newly acquired church bus and a rental van and headed the more than 650 miles to Steubenville, Ohio for our 2017 Youth Mission Trip. It wasn’t the easiest drive we’ve ever done, and yet God does amazing things when you say ‘send me.’

Our home for the week was the J.O.S.H.U.A. house where we joined a long history of other youth and adults who went to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people in the Ohio Valley. The JOSHUA work mission program is a branch of the Urban Mission, a Methodist founded non-profit that provides food, shelter, and other essential services to their low-income population. 

We did this primarily through serving homeowners in the Ohio Valley. We were able to serve our homeowners by removing crumbling concrete stairs and replacing them with new treated wood ones, silvering the roof of a trailer home, working to replace old skirting and repainting, and contributing to finishing out several bedrooms and living spaces in a home in much need of some rejuvenation.

Our spirits were lifted and our hearts met others along the way that inspired us, taught us, and lead us to think differently about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. One homeowner was so grateful that while we sat and ate our sack lunches in her backyard, she started to provide the most delicious side dishes you’ve ever tasted: deviled eggs, potato salad, baked beans, fresh cucumbers, lemonade and iced tea. While none of it was expected or asked for, she showed us just what gratitude looked and tasted like!

Alongside homeowners and the amazing staff of the Urban Mission we had the opportunity to leave our mark on the city of Steubenville, just as it left its mark on us. If you would like to see a little more of the story, check out the local news coverage we got while we were serving.

Story and photo courtesy of Rev. Nick Larson,
Associate Minister at Broadway CC in Columbia.

When is Toilet Paper Sacred?

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Doniphan, Missouri and New Life Christian Church United are two small membership congregations in Southeast Missouri that have each discovered renewed vitality in mission. On any given Sunday average attendance at FCC is 25-30 persons and NLCUU varies from 20-25. FCC is an older congregation in both history and average age. NLCCU has been around since 1985 and the average age is significantly lower than that of its sisters and brothers in Doniphan. The two churches are in towns roughly a half an hour from each other and they share a pastor.

Neither church has the financial resources nor the number of people to engage in huge mission events as some of our larger churches are able to do. That does not stop the folks in these congregations from being active together and as individuals following the Way of Christ in this world. Combined, the 45-55 folks have a passion for feeding the hungry, and seeking and ministering to the disenfranchised. FCC supports the Lean on Me Food Pantry in Doniphan/Ripley County with monthly financial contribution, donations of food, volunteers to assist, and in making known the needs of the pantry to others. NLCCU partners with the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, members help out at the Northside Nutrition Center and that includes helping deliver Meals on Wheels. At the last fundraiser for Northside, folks from New Life generously donated over a third of all money raised! NLCCU also reaches out and helps find resources for the Families and Caretakers of those who suffer from mental illness and also provides meeting space to various organizations. Both congregations collect and deliver personal care and hygiene products to the women and children in the domestic violence residential shelters in their respective communities. In addition NLCCU makes sure each victim receives her own pillow when she arrives. Members of the Disciples Women’s Ministries group at FCC serve as life mentors for women in the shelter in Doniphan, teaching them, among other things, how to make better choices when food shopping and how to portion and store food more economically. And sometimes, they simply share a cup of coffee and listen to someone who hasn’t had an ear or shoulder before. NLCCU has collected items to give to resettled refugees and has partnered with the International Center in St. Louis to get those household items directly into the hands of those being resettled. Both congregations contributed generously to an appeal from Disciples Home Missions for assistance with Refugee Resettlement Ministries. NLCCU has also hosted two sets of Global Ministries partners who were “home” and visiting in the Region.

Yes, these two small, sometimes overlooked congregations “down in the sticks” do ministry that is local and also that reaches around the world. And both find Jesus and themselves smack0dab in the middle of the process.

So what does all of this have to do with toilet paper?  The staffs at Lean on Me and St. Vincent DePaul both tell us that people often ask if toilet paper is available. Most of us don’t have to think about making a choice whether or not to buy something as simple as toilet paper. Saving the price of a package of toilet paper frees up funds that are already stretched to the limit for the households served by the pantries. So both churches have begun taking toilet paper the pantries. Just as we pray for those who receive other services, we pray for those who will be receiving the toilet paper. One of our members, with a smile on his face, refers to it as “The Blessing of the Toilet Paper.”

In both churches folks gather on Sundays and some again mid-week. While together, we worship, pray, study, and provide nurture. Each week we figure out what we need to do and where we need to work and then we simply depart to try to BE God’s love.

And for us-----well----that is mission.

Story and photo courtesy of Rev. John Harwell
who pastors both of these congregations.

A Little Thing That Means A Lot

As another day dawns for children in the foster care system to transfer to another location, their belongings get packed hurriedly. Precious photos, some clothes, maybe a toy or two – all shoved in the same bag the neighbors stuff their garbage in. Yes, it is a sad reality. The children get to carry all they have left in a trash bag. Not a backpack or a duffle bag. A trash bag.

Pretty soon, the children feel like trash themselves. Wouldn’t you?

But God loves these young ones, no matter what stage of life they’re in. And First Christian Church in Gallatin values whom God values. In an effort to show Jesus’ love to the kiddos, the church family gathered new or gently-used duffle bags for two weeks during the National Foster Care Month (May).

The results were overwhelming. Duffle bags kept coming in to the church office. After the two-week drive, there was hardly any space in the SUV as Dr. Julia Filley, Esq., together with Pastor Corey and Ivonne, delivered the bags to the Children’s Division.

It was a short “Duffle Bag Drive,” but it’s only the beginning. No child should feel like trash. Jesus values the next generation greatly. And so should we.

Story and photo courtesy of Corey and Ivonne Norman.

Riding with the Spirit

Mayor Pro Tem Randy Bland, deCycles Director Dr. Norm Houze, and Rev. Jack Daniel (Holding up the pastor’s bike that isn’t proper for cross country riding…but made it through town.)

Mayor Pro Tem Randy Bland, deCycles Director Dr. Norm Houze, and Rev. Jack Daniel (Holding up the pastor’s bike that isn’t proper for cross country riding…but made it through town.)

On July 11th, approximately 45 deCycles youth pedaled their way into El Dorado Springs and spent the night at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as a part of their “Riding with the Spirit” 2,000 mile cross country bicycle journey through America. Mayor Pro Tem, Randy Bland along with Rev. Jack Daniel and two First Christian youth, Cody LeAn and David Nations, met the group at the edge of town and led them down Main Street to their overnight destination at the church. First Christian Church provided accommodations for the group and served an evening meal and breakfast before the bicyclists continued on their journey across America. Organizers Dr. Norm Houze and his wife, Cricket, are members of a Disciples of Christ congregation in Indiana. The term “deCycles” is a spin-off from the word “disciples.”

Not exactly appropriate bikes for cross country, but made the journey across town. First Christian Church (DOC) Rev. Jack Daniel, Cody LeAn, and David Nations, Jr.

Not exactly appropriate bikes for cross country, but made the journey across town. First Christian Church (DOC) Rev. Jack Daniel, Cody LeAn, and David Nations, Jr.

The deCycles is a nonprofit ecumenical youth leadership program offering high spirited summer bicycle trips for teenagers and young adults. The deCycles bicycle trips are designed for participants to learn more about themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The 2017 deCycles participants, ranging in age from a set of 12 year old twins through age 19 are living examples of how the Holy Spirit moves in individuals’ lives to accomplish what most would think is impossible – 2,000 miles on a bicycle! But, the impossible happened every day and every mile of the way on their 3 ½ week journey from Los Angeles to Bloomington, Indiana.

“Leaders of the Pack arriving in El Do”

“Leaders of the Pack arriving in El Do”

Members of the group shared their stories in an evening program provided to the entire community. The deCycles principles of kindness, commitment, faith, and happiness are the foundation for the strength that each rider must possess to get down the road. Started in 1969, this interfaith teen bicycling group pushes everyone out of their comfort zone and challenges riders to look inside for the “power” to make it down the road. The teens ride in groups of 6 and never leave their slowest member behind. The group averages over 100 miles per day with one record breaking day of 243 miles. Together, with the love of our Lord and Creator, deCycles teens are empowered to move through the many adversities of riding down the road and riding down the road of life. We should all be inspired to take time for others as we all journey on the path of life together! For more information about deCycles, visit www.decyclesindiana.org.

Thanks to Jack Daniel and Barbara Walsh for the story and photos.

Let's Do Lunch

The free lunch program at Second Christian Church in Jefferson City has become a summertime staple for many area children. The program began when Malissa Smith became the congregation’s Outreach Committee chair. She knew that she wanted to introduce people to the church and help the community, and this effort is definitely doing both!

The church’s local community is made up of many mid to lower income families who may sometimes have difficulty making ends meet. During summer vacation, neighborhood children are without not only a school-provided lunch, but the weekly ‘buddy packs’ of supplemental food they might also receive when school is in session. So Melissa and the committee decided to step out on faith and feed the hungry children.

It started slowly at first but has grown in popularity, reaching a to-date record of feeding 117 children in the single hour of that day’s service.

Of course, such a program needs lots of support, and the Outreach Committee has it! Many volunteers lend their time and talent to preparing and distributing the lunches each day. And then there’s the matter of funding it… The impact of this wonderful program on the church’s operating budget has been exactly ZERO dollars. It is fully funded by community members and local businesses who make both financial and food donations, even providing for a few extra-special events like pizza day and cookout day throughout the summer. The church has also added a couple of fundraisers, including a raffle, to their annual activities to supplement the program.

What it takes on the congregation’s part is the space, the volunteers, the organization of the donors, and the desire to make a difference. If you’d like more information about this program, see their recent coverage in the Jefferson City News Tribune. Malissa is also happy to share and encourage other congregations with similar efforts. She can be reached at the church (573) 635-8349. Second Christian Church's pastor is Vernell Weston and co-pastor is Penny Weston. They celebrated their second anniversary leading the church just yesterday. Congratulations!

FCC Edwardsville Youth Care for Creation

As Christians, we are called to live out our faith and care for all of God's creation.  The youth at First Christian Church of Edwardsville, IL recently demonstrated God's call by serving in a variety of ways during Faith Community Day at our local Watershed Nature Center.  The leadership team and volunteers at the Watershed are dedicated to providing environmental education, passive recreation, and enjoyment of native habitats for Edwardsville and surrounding communities. 

 

Faith Community Day was an ecumenical service project where youth and adults from several area churches gave up much of their Saturday to beautify, restore, and preserve the Watershed's native prairie, forest, and wetland habitats.  Not only did we enjoy the fellowship but we also worked hard and completed the following projects together:

  • Planted numerous trees
  • Planted milkweed
  • Cleaned debris from around the storage shed
  • Painted the storage shed
  • Hauled and spread mulch 

This project was a rich and rewarding experience which served as a reminder that beauty is not only found in each of one of us but also in all the living creatures that God created.

Story and photos courtesy of FCC Associate Minister Rev. Jeff Wrigley.

FCC Provides Summer Camp for Youth in St. Joseph

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This June First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)  in St. Joseph, Missouri celebrates a 25-year partnership with the organization Royal Family Kids, a national faith-based outreach to children who have experienced abuse and neglect. As part of this program, each summer First Christian organizes and hosts a week-long camp for 20-30 local at-risk children. The focus of the camp is simply to provide the children a week away from the chaos and fears of their daily lives and to share the good news that "God loves you unconditionally and completely!" The event is free for the kids and funds are raised through the church budget, donations, and the support of the local community and beyond. 

At camp, the children are guided throughout the week by their adult "big camper" with the ratio of one adult to every two children. This big camper is responsible for the care of those two children the entire week as they swim, sing, fish, boat, create crafts, play, and learn about God's love. Each evening includes activities such as musical performances by local groups, a carnival, campfires and a hayride. A highlight of the week is the camp-wide birthday party (many of these children come from home situations where they've never had their own party) where each child receives special gifts including a bible, toys, sports equipment and an mp3 player loaded with all the camp songs to take home with them. In addition, the local Rotary Club presents each child with a new pair of shoes (again, a luxury many of these children have never experienced). 

At the end of the week, the children go back to foster care, shelters, or to their families, often to difficult home situations. But the hope is that they also carry with them the understanding that, despite life's challenges, God is with them and loves them. Though First Christian sponsors this camp and much of the church membership is involved in one way or another, the event also relies on the help and support of dozens of other persons from the wider community, working together to bring some light into the darkness of children who have experienced abuse.

 

If your church is interested in starting a Royal Family Kids Camp in your community, you are encouraged to contact Rev. Brian Kirk at First Christian to hear more of their 25-year journey or visit the Royal Family Kids official website. (http://rfk.org/)

 

Brian Kirk, Lead Pastor
First Christian Church
927 Faraon
St. Joseph, MO 64501
816-233-2556
www.fccstjo.org

Story and photos by Rev. Brian Kirk.

The Impact of Partnership

Several years ago Marshfield Christian Church developed a new mission and vision for their community of faith. Through much prayer and discussion the congregation felt called to honor their history and imagine a future where they could feed themselves and others in the community physically AND spiritually. However, they didn’t know what that would look like. Then an opportunity presented itself to partner with Ozarks Food Harvest to distribute USDA food commodities to citizens in Webster county struggling with food insecurity.

Now in its third year, our Bread of Life ministry regularly provides food to approximately 250 families in Webster county. By applying for matching grants, partnering with the local alternative school, and tapping into the congregation and community, MCC is able to receive, package, and distribute thousands of pounds of food each month, all within the course of about 7 hours. This all-volunteer effort has breathed new life and a spirit of service and innovation into the congregation. And, has proved that listening for God’s will and direction can take you to unexpected and life-giving places.

Story and photos courtesy of pastor Alex Ruth.

Older Adult Ministry Program Continues

Earlier this year, the Mid-America Region arranged to bring important information about older adult ministries to congregations across the state. Made financially possible through the Rickman Legacy Fund, we partnered with gerontology consultant Jan Aerie for a series of seminars on older adult ministries. They focus on equipping the church to better meet the pastoral, emotional, health, fellowship and recreational needs of older adults in their communities of faith.

Several churches responded to the invitation to host such a seminar, and another in the series has recently taken place at Lake Ozark Christian Church. What follows is Jan's report of the activity of the day.

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The program began, after introductions and a welcome, with an overview of some of the realities and myths about aging. The use of a ten question “quiz” enabled group participation. The participants numbered 28 from various cluster churches.

The bulk of the morning was spent discussing care-giving and -receiving. The challenges and issues of the mission and ministry of caregiving were highlighted. Concerns about change, loss and grief and about how to ask for and receive help as a caregiver/receiver were chosen as focus points. Several activities, including small group sharing, underscored the importance of processing our emotions. Choosing a priority of focus, balance and flexibility in our mission and ministry as care-ers was exemplified by an activity with feathers.

Bible verses and a few biblical stories highlighted points about stopping to listen, care and about the importance of the ability to accept help. Prayer, rituals and support groups were tools for self-care that were emphasized.

Following a lunch break the group reconvened to discuss ways congregations can learn from and view ministry with and for older adults. Inter-generational and age specific programs and activities were mentioned. Small groups were again formed and each began by listing assets of their church that are helpful for older adults. The small groups then prioritized their lists by their views of the importance of the assets. The next step in the working process was to develop responses to three ministry model questions by expanding their priorities into more specific program ideas.

The entire group came back together to share their findings and hopes. An exercise demonstrating how we cannot stand alone, but must work together wrapped up the session. The participants were invited to share reflections and questions before the day was concluded with a summary and prayer.

The purpose and goals for the day were to raise awareness about individual aging, and to touch upon ways our thinking and stereotypes impact our outlook and longevity. A second goal was to serve the interests and needs of those present by listening to their cares and concerns. Many were caregivers yet many care-receivers were also present. The topic of caregiving issues and needs was a program priority. A third purpose and goal was to explore and discover ways congregations can address the needs and unique gifts of older adults in church programming.

The group seemed to be receptive, well engaged and involved throughout the day. There was enthusiastic discussion and honest sharing. Participation by the cluster church’s clergy throughout the day, as well as their helpful work in planning for the day, added a value and importance to the topic.

This cluster called for and chose a longer program timeframe of four hours instead of two hours. This was highly beneficial in addressing the topic in greater depth, and easing the feeling of needing to lightly touch on many important points. Though a lunch was then necessary to include, (and so the program time is actually closer to 3 1/4 hours), it is a recommended model for future older adult ministry programs.

For more information about this program, please review our coverage of the first session and/or contact Regional Minister Team member Paul Koch.

Affton Christian Church: INASMUCHAS

For the past few years, the congregation of Affton Christian Church has adopted and adapted a one-word mission statement: “INASMUCHAS.”  Taken from Matthew 25:40 (The Message), “INASMUCHAS” has challenged us to look out for those who are often overlooked and ignored. We have allowed this word to serve as our “polar star” when it comes to being the hands and feet of Christ in our community. 

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On the last Wednesday of the month, several people prepare and share a meal with the residents of the Fisher House, a place of lodging for veterans and their families who have traveled to St. Louis for an operation they cannot receive at home. Think Ronald McDonald House but for the VA. Often, families travel hundreds of miles and do not know how long they will need to be in St. Louis. Not knowing anything about the area – streets, directions, services; families often feel lost and alone. Deidra, ACC’s coordinator of this ministry, shares the following story:

At the Fisher House dinner last April, we were serving the guests, when a woman in her late 60s walked into the kitchen looking very sad and exhausted.  She looked at the spread of food on the large kitchen island and then looked up at us with a strange look on her face.  One person from Affton went over to her and asked if she would like something to eat; another, asked what she would like to drink.  She just continued to look at us with a look of disbelief on her face, and then she leaned on the island with her head down.  When she finally looked up at us, there were tears in her eyes.  She explained that she had been at the hospital since early morning, before the sun had come up.  Her husband had surgery that day, and it did not go as well as expected.  She did not have a chance to even eat lunch.  Traveling home from the hospital she decided it was the worst day of her life.  She went on to say, that she was wrong about that now.  When she walked in and saw she had a hot dinner waiting for her, and people with smiles on their faces to eat with her, something good had happened to her that day.  It was not the worst day of her life, and she was sure that tomorrow would be better.

Another way we practice “INASMUCHAS” is through our Thursday Night Food Trucks during the summer. Once a month, we invite 3 or 4 food trucks to set up shop in our parking lot. We pitch a tent and provide tables and chairs and invite the community for dinner. This isn’t a fundraiser, as we receive nothing from this event – other than the pleasure of meeting our neighbors and sharing a meal with them.

People often ask how much we make or why we are doing this. It is rewarding to be able to tell them we do this just so we can get to know our neighbors. They see our sign in the yard that reads, “All Are Welcome Here,” and surprised we are not trying to entice them to join our church, they often go on to ask questions. And this gives us an opportunity to have real, meaningful conversations with our neighbors.

Sharing meals, conversations, and experiences – this is how the congregation of Affton Christian Church lives into God’s mission of “INASMUCHAS.” 

Story and photos courtesy of ACC pastor Rev. David Woodard.

FCC of Burlington Junction Serves the Lord Inside and Outside the Walls!

This small congregation in Northwest Missouri has been reaching out beyond the walls of their church building for quite some time. This movement has had a great impact on the community.

Several years ago the congregation began designating a couple Sunday’s a year to cleaning up the community. They have adopted a portion of US Highway 136, which runs right through the middle of town, to keep the trash picked up in the community. In addition they plant flowers in planter boxes on Main Street, and clean up the park. A group also remains at the church to assist visitors in knowing what is being done and pack different types of gift bags of hygiene products to be donated to various groups from nursing homes, community food pantries, to local high school students. 

Although I am not quite sure how this particular act of service got started, I imagine that a congregation member stood up in church and said something like, “Hey, I have an idea!” That’s the way this group of amazing people operate. In the almost three years I have been serving this church I have seen this happen several times.

  • “Hey, let’s serve Thanksgiving Dinner to anyone who has no place to go. ON THANKSGIVING DAY!
  • Hey, let’s adopt the school and start a homework club and mentoring program!
  • Hey, let’s start a youth group for grade 3 and up!
  • Hey, let’s open up a food pantry! “

All these things have been answered with a rousing sure let’s do it! And they have done them all!

Here are some photos of just a few of the outreach projects being done!

We are blessed over and over again by the outreach we provide. The joy of watching the congregation serve, the look of gratitude on the faces of the community members we serve, increased attendance in church, but mostly the joy of serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are alive through Him and for Him; for it is in Christ that we live and move and breathe and have our very existence.

Story and photos by Pastor Terry Robison.
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