‘God truly blessed our day at Quest!”: Inaugural Quest event a fun, faith-filled success

‘God truly blessed our day at Quest!”: Inaugural Quest event a fun, faith-filled success

By Melinda Shunk

Children's Ministry Coordinator

Sept. 15 was our first Quest ever, and it won’t be our last, so don’t be sad if you missed it! Just be sure to mark your calendar and share pictures with your students for next year. We have no doubt that word of mouth will do most of the publicity for next year’s event and will surely double this year’s attendance of 150.

St. James Christian Life Center was the perfect host church for this event under the leadership of their Children’s Minister Sean Dunbar who made sure we had everything we needed to make the event run smoothly. Michelle Wilkins, Sadie Wohlfahrt, Peaches Smith, and Tiffany Jones helped with all the registration, set up and take down throughout the day.

The lessons were written by Karen Swales who spent countless hours planning and writing appropriate third through sixth-grade lessons. We were blessed to have the Rev. Zach Roberts, the Rev. Jonathon Bevil, Pam Snider, and Melinda Shunk to teach each group of about 30 children.

Sure we had bounce houses, an amazing playground, nine square, photo booths, and box lunches, but what touched children’s lives the most was bagging rice for the food pantry, worship with students serving Communion, and hands-on fun rotational lessons that taught kids that our God Loves Us, our God Chooses Us, our God Gives Spiritual Gifts, and God Calls each of us.

“Wow! We had a great time! Kids showed up Sunday to church with their crosses on from the Lesson from Pastor Zach,” said Anne Stocks, Children’s Minister at Trinity United Methodist Church. “They seemed so much more plugged in and invested in each other. I think we will be reaping the benefits from Quest for some time yet. The kids want to know when we will be doing something like that again. They are all in.”

Bishop Mueller was able to Skype into the morning worship to share with the students his call for the larger church, and the Rev. Jim Polk led the student-assisted Communion. Craig Williams used his gift of music to get everyone rocking and out of their seats for praise while calming us back down as we learned that we can even offer prayer in song!

We also worked hard on the Quest Connector’s Challenge! Students were challenged during the opening to connect with and remember the names of at least five or more people outside of their home church. Twelve students were awarded a Cross Quest necklace and candy for standing up on stage at closing and naming at least seven new people that they met by the end of the day.

The goal of this event was to give the tween students something that was a statewide event tailored just for them. Quest was an Arkansas Conference event that brought them outside of the walls of their hometown church to show them we are called to be one church. God truly blessed our day at Quest!

A Paradox of Faith

Carving out regular time with God is important. In fact, it’s essential. But what goes on during these moments matters. If you’re focused on trying to tell God what to do, you’ll come up empty very quickly – every single time. But if you open up to God, you’ll be excited and delighted by God’s amazing reservoir of healing, hope and joy every single time. It’s an age-old paradox of faith. The more you make it about God, the more you discover how God is making it about you!

Changing seasons, changing leaves: Explore the beauty of autumn with a trip through Arkansas

Changing seasons, changing leaves: Explore the beauty of autumn with a trip through Arkansas

By Caroline Ezell

Featured Contributor

Fall is the season where God’s handiwork is uniquely alive. Leaves emerge in yellow and golden hues and begin to float around your feet. Temperatures settle into lower registers, giving the wind an exciting chill to carry and reminding you to unpack your favorite sweater. The air turns crisp and you find yourself on the porch wrapped in a quilt and sipping tea, hot with cinnamon. Foliage can vary from tree to tree, luscious reds from Black Gums, Sassafras adopts oranges and yellows, and Sweetgum can offer a brilliant purple. You are unwittingly lulled into a gratitude and kinship with nature’s bounty.

My grandparents, James and Allamae Ezell, started their lives together as farmers in a yellow fieldstone farmhouse in a grove of old oak trees surrounded by rice fields in Weiner, Arkansas. Fall is my grandmother’s favorite season and although the expansive land they lived on was beautiful, it was relatively flat and did not host the autumnal splendor she adored. While the farm was always busy during autumn’s harvest season, James always made time to take Allamae on an annual tour of Arkansas’ finest foliage. They would travel into the Ozarks and stay in Eureka Springs, down into Petit Jean State Park, and through Harrison and Russellville, admiring trees from the car and on foot. When it comes to fall, Arkansas is something special.

In Buffalo River country, expect nothing short of breathtaking. Hawksbill Crag, also known as Whitaker Point, is home to one of the most sought after views in Arkansas. At sunrise, you are guaranteed an awe-inspiring expanse of wilderness and watercolor skies. It’s a place for people seeking an experience off the grid requiring certain precautions and a sizable hike. The trail might be long, but there are many stopping places to rest, one featuring a waterfall. Trust me, this one is worth the effort.

For those who prefer scenic drives to hiking endeavors, the stretch of US 62 from Rogers to Harrison is dense with changing trees lining the road, perfect for complete immersion. Highway 7 is another course bursting with picturesque displays of autumn, Arkansas’ first state-designated scenic route. It winds through four separate regions from El Dorado to north of Harrison.

At its highest point, Mount Magazine State Park in Paris, Arkansas reaches 2,753 feet. For sweeping views of the Arkansas River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake in the crisp October air, this is the place. This park welcomes mountain bikers, rock climbers, hang gliders, horseback riders, and hikers of all skill sets. Whether you desire a grand adventure or a simple walk to ground yourself in nature, this state park will sate you.

Hot Springs is a haven for all things natural, including Garvan Woodland Gardens. The botanical gardens belong to the Faye Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas and boast a number of trails and attractions suitable for anyone wishing to rejoice in this season’s opulence. Accessibility is a priority making wheelchairs and strollers functional on the trails and offering golf cart tours. Their mission statement establishes their goal of “preserving and enhancing a unique part of the Ouachita Mountain environment” and “providing people with a place of learning, research, cultural enrichment, and serenity.” Their manicured gardens are in harmony with native growth, a graceful balance affirming their tranquil ambition.

For our Southwestern denizens, Logoly State Park is a great retreat for relishing in this season’s offering. Six miles south of Magnolia, this park has stunning mineral springs, campgrounds, and walking trails, but Logoly doesn’t stop there. This park considers itself a resource for environmental education. At the heart of their 368 acres of coastal plain, the visitor center offers several interactive exhibits to educate visitors about conservation. The park encourages visitors to learn about the dangers of pollution and the energy crisis so that, in return, Logoly can stay the beautiful destination it is for years to come.

Autumn in Arkansas is a spectacle to say the least. In every corner of the state, we are greeted with spectacular feats of nature only enhanced by fall colors. Get out there and enjoy it while the season is right.

Your Beginning, Ending and In-Between

You believe it, have experienced it, and have even told others it’s true. But when tragedy becomes personal, you still struggle. That’s why it’s so important to face the reality of tragedies through the even greater reality of God’s love. It’s a love that’s present in the midst of your shock, grief and questions. It surrounds you when you are most vulnerable and most angry. And it brings healing, hope and unexpected joy. There’s a reason. When all is said and done, God’s love is your beginning, ending and everything in-between.

A Sunday Prayer 10/21/18

Lord, the fact of the matter is I’m so caught up with ‘me’ that I don’t begin with ‘Thee’. I’m not proud of this. In fact, I despise it. Because it is what it is – sin.

Lord, You don’t start with my ‘me-ness’. And You don’t hold my sin against me. Instead, You begin with Your amazing grace. Grace that takes the initiative. Grace that reaches out. Grace that embraces. Grace that forgives, heals and transforms.

Lord, I worship You. I adore You. I praise You. I give You my heart, mind and spirit. And I do as this fully, completely and totally as I humanly can. Today, tomorrow and for all eternity.

Lord, I do all of this in the name, power and assurance of Jesus.

May it be so!