Bear Creek UMC provides sack lunches for those in need

There are more than 200,000 reasons here in Arkansas for us to try help feed others. One of the members of Bear Creek United Methodist Church in Evening Shade had this concept placed on her heart several years ago, and we had been discussing this for some time before the 200,000 reasons initiative. But when that came up in annual conference we knew that was the sign we had been praying about.

Here in our little town, we know that there are many others who need food. We represent an area of rural Arkansas that do not have a lot of resources or aid. Our children and elderly and shut-ins have no meals-on-wheels or myriad of churches vying to help stop hunger. So we started a free sack lunch program one day a week. We know that is not a lot, but that is something that we can do.

We have between 20 and 30 people who attend church. Many are elderly, but we have some younger families as well. Everyone is busy just like in other places; we all have plenty to do with our families, doctor appointments, cooking, jobs, homework, and housework. But the work of the Lord needs doing, too. Since we are such a small, rural church we have to work together to accomplish anything worthwhile. Tuesdays are busy for us; that is our free sack lunch day.

We started the program last year in April and continued through most of October. That way we could serve the school-age children who were out of school for the summer and had no free lunch from the school. The school is 12 miles away; so even if they offered a summer free lunch, our children wouldn’t have a way there and back. What we found out that first year is that our elderly population was in dire straits as well. We began with about 25 lunches and even reached 50 a couple of times that first year. Now we are serving 75 to 100 and growing! Since our little church is 3 miles out in the country, it was inconvenient to have people come out there. We decided to pack the bags up and bring them into town to a central place, our old-school gym, to distribute. This is within walking distance of many of our children and easy access to anyone driving up. It is a neutral place where everyone feels like it is approachable.

A couple of people are in charge of buying lunch sack items for the week, and several of us meet on Tuesday mornings to begin getting the lunches ready. We make sandwiches without condiments, put them in individual bags and place all of the sandwiches in coolers. Others are packing the sacks with chips, a sweet (cookie, snack cake, marshmallow treat), a fruit (apple, tangerine, raisins, applesauce), and we put in a slip of paper with a scripture on it. We put the sacks in boxes and transport all of this to town. We give out lunches from 11:30 to 1:00.

We give to anyone who wants lunch. Children, parents, business people, laborers who come by and see our sign. There are many reasons to need a lunch on any given day. We are not there to question, just to serve. We step down to the car to ask how many, or people will get out of there vehicles to stand and talk with us, and we listen to their stories. Everyone is so very thankful and grateful for lunch. We are rewarded most of all because we know we made a difference in someone’s life that day. We have received so many thoughtful comments and heartfelt thanks.

Sometimes we get thank-you cards handed to us, and one man drew us a handmade card. Comments such as, “You don’t know how much this means to us.” is very common. Even the scriptures are a big hit. Many have told us that they read the scripture first, before eating the lunch, and some have said that the scripture was really what they needed that day. The community has embraced this program and have made fliers for their businesses, and told us that they are happy to be a part of a community that would think of others. Still, others have helped to fill in when our numbers were short due to illness and other things.

Lastly, someone takes sack lunches around to the shut-ins in town and surrounding area. God has truly blessed us through this ministry. We started out wanting to be a blessing to others, but we are the ones to feel blessed.

This article was submitted by Patty Sample, a member of Bear Creek United Methodist Church in Evening Shade, Arkansas.

Sept. 19 Lawyers Conference free to United Methodist attorneys

For more information, contact:
Jessica Szenher, 501-413-9212

Beth Deere, UMFA Board Chair and U.S. Magistrate Judge in Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (July 5, 2018) – United Methodist attorneys in Arkansas are invited to attend the annual Lawyers Conference Sept. 19 at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Little Rock. Financial sponsor is the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, and there is no cost to attend the full-day event.

“Bill Waddell began this conference in 2008, and largely through his efforts, it has grown to be an annual event that attorneys throughout the state look forward to,” said Beth Deere, UMFA Board Chair and U.S. Magistrate Judge in Little Rock. “I’ve attended every conference, and I’ve always learned something new. Presentations at the conference provide legal updates as well as information about resources available to lawyers through the Foundation to better serve their local United Methodist churches and their clients.”

Lawyers Conference sessions help lawyers understand how to best apply the Discipline and handle issues and roadblocks they may face in helping their local churches. Fellowship among the attorneys who participate creates valuable relationships and builds community. In addition to earning free CLEs, lawyers gain confidence in their ability to help their local churches and develop resources to call upon if they need help during the year.

“Part of an attorney’s job is to counsel clients about financial and estate planning. I’ll be making a presentation this year about tools the United Methodist Foundation offers to help lawyers in advising their clients about effective ways to leave legacies to local churches or other United Methodist institutions,” Deere said.

For registration information, UM lawyers may email Haley Klein at or call 501-664-8632 before the Sept. 12 deadline. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits will be awarded to those who attend.

The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas manages $165 million in endowment funds and other charitable assets that benefit local churches and United Methodist ministries. UMFA is one of the largest United Methodist Foundations in the country. Founded in 1963, the Foundation is responsible for over 800 funds that support United Methodist ministries.

Jacob Turner named Conference Website and Analytics Specialist

Jacob Turner

Jacob Turner has been named as the new Arkansas Conference Website and Analytics Specialist, beginning August 6, 2018.

“I’m incredibly excited to be a part of the Center for Communication as the Website and Analytics Specialist! I look forward to supporting the churches and ministries of the Arkansas Conference as they make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the world,” Turner said.

In his position, Turner will maintain and develop the Conference website and its content, as well as perform technical maintenance of all Conference-provided church websites. He will also provide analysis for all Conference outlets, including websites, social media, email, and more.

Jacob Turner is a student at Hendrix College who is currently working to complete his Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies with a minor in Computer Science. A lifelong United Methodist, his work with churches goes back to high school, where he was Worship Technician for the First United Methodist Church of Sheridan as well as the Vice President and Technology Coordinator for the Southeast District Council on Youth Ministries. In college, he has been active in the Religious Life ministries at Hendrix, as well serving as the Station Manager for KHDX Radio, the on-campus FM radio station.

Amy Ezell, Director of the Center for Communication had high praise for Turner and his new role in the Conference.

“Jacob is an amazing young man and a very hard worker. Not only has he served as an intern twice in the Arkansas Conference, he has also assisted in numerous projects for the Conference this summer, including the complete redesign and relaunch of the Conference’s website. We are pleased to have him officially on staff, and we look forward to seeing the great work he produces for the Conference,” Ezell said.

Melinda Shunk named Conference Children’s Ministry Coordinator

Melinda Shunk

Melinda Shunk has been named as the new Arkansas Conference Children’s Ministry Coordinator beginning August 1, 2018. The Rev. Jim Polk, Conference Director of Connectional Ministries, in speaking of her said, “Children are and have always been a vital part of the church, and having a strong ministry to support the spiritual growth of our youngest disciples is an imperative. We are fortunate to have Melinda in this position, and I am confident that she is the one to guide our conference children’s ministry into the future.”

In her position, Melinda will be responsible for promoting and strengthening the Children’s Ministries of the Arkansas Annual Conference by leading the Conference Children’s Council and District Children’s Coordinators to resource local church children’s ministries and leaders.

Melinda, her husband Neal and their four active teens moved to Hot Springs in 2016 for Neal’s work from Seattle, WA. The family soon became active members at First United Methodist, Hot Springs. Melinda is a 1995 graduate of University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Elementary Education and Speech Communication. Melinda worked in the public schools in Colorado and Iowa until 2003. In 2004, she felt the call to ministry at Faith Lutheran Church as the Early Childhood Ministry Coordinator and then as Children’s Minister until 2014. She is currently working part-time as the Coordinator for Children’s Music and the Arts at Hot Springs First United Methodist Church.

When asked what she thought about her new position, Melinda said, “I am so excited to be part of the Children’s Ministry Conference team and look forward to supporting all the wonderful people who make Children’s Ministry happen in the state of Arkansas. God has big plans for the Arkansas Conference as we work to help the youngest disciples to know, love, and serve God in our communities.”

United Methodist Bishops call for prayers of peace in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa meets with then Commander of the Zimbabwean Army Gen. Constantino Chiwenga in 2016. Chiwenga is now one of the vice presidents in Zimbabwean government. Photo curtesy of UMC Zimbabwe Area.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The bishops of The United Methodist Church are calling for prayers of peace for Zimbabwe, which is witnessing violence in the aftermath of presidential and parliamentary elections. Here is the statement from the Council of Bishops.

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church is joining our colleague, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, the resident bishop of Zimbabwe, in a call for prayers for peace in that country. We join with international observers in their commendation of the great majority of people of Zimbabwe in their maturity amidst this historic election. We appeal also for calmness in the midst of great anxiety, and we condemn all forms of violence as the country awaits the full results of the election. We grieve the deaths of those who have participated in this democratic process. We extend our sympathy, acknowledge their pain and stand with all peace-loving Zimbabweans.

The United Methodist Church rejoices in the faithfulness of the people of Zimbabwe, where the UMC has two annual conferences, hundreds of churches, mission centers, hospitals, clinics and schools. We especially hold in our prayers the students, staff and leadership of Africa University, one of our crown jewels of Methodist education in Africa. As brothers and sisters in Christ who share in the Cross and the Flame, we call upon the name of Jesus Christ, who is our peace (Ephesians 2), and we search for the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5) in these events.

We call upon all United Methodists and other people of faith throughout the world to join in prayers that peace will prevail in Zimbabwe.

Bishop Kenneth H. Carter
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa
Resident Bishop, Zimbabwe Area
The United Methodist Church


Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church