A Sunday Prayer

Lord,

Many people are experiencing new beginnings today. Some will be easy. Many will be filled with great challenges. But all are filled with great potential.

Give them the grace to experience Your presence in every moment. Wisdom to learn from the past. Patience, perseverance and courage to keep going. Hope to move into Your future. And faith to trust that even “failures” can be the start of something amazing.

But most of all, help them experience how all new beginnings lead to life in Your always-existing eternal love.  

I pray this in the strong name of Jesus.

Amen.

A Sunday of Solidarity for Suffering Children

In light of the recent news about children in U.S. government holding facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border, the United Methodist Committee on Relief has received numerous requests to respond. We have heard the plea for action from the church. Unfortunately, the facilities in question are managed in such a way that precludes even UMCOR’s assistance. Access to these government facilities is extremely limited.

As the arm of The United Methodist Church mandated to cultivate and promote mission, the General Board of Global Ministries seeks to equip your church with tools to use as you confront the frustration and helplessness that this situation evokes. While this particular case is in the U.S., we recognize that migration is a global issue and the breadth and depth of our Global Migration programming at UMCOR and Global Ministries reflects that fact.

As a church that is united on the need to care for children, we can be in mission together. This Sunday, June 30, Global Ministries encourages you to take part in A Sunday of Solidarity for Suffering Children in three ways:

  1. PRAY – We encourage you to pray for children. Below, you will find a prayer to use this Sunday. You might choose to dedicate a service to suffering children everywhere or conduct a prayer vigil in your community for the children suffering along the border.
  2. ACT – We encourage you to act on behalf of children. While we cannot take UMCOR hygiene kits to the U.S. government holding centers, we are distributing UMCOR hygiene kits at transitional shelters all along the US-Mexico border. In the last three months, UMCOR delivered 46,128 hygiene kits to six church-run transitional shelters. Instructions on how to make and send these kits are available at this webpage: https://www.umcmission.org/umcor/serve/relief-supply-network/hygiene-kit
    You can also act by calling your U.S. elected officials. The following link to the General Board of Church and Society, our sister United Methodist agency responsible for advocacy, will give you some suggestions on issues to raise with these officials. https://www.umcjustice.org/whatyou-can-do/advocacy/take-action/stand-with-immigrants-and-refugees
  3. GIVE – Finally, we encourage you to give on behalf of children. Through the Global Migration Advance (https://advance.umcmission.org/p-525-global-migration.aspx), UMCOR provides grants to organizations along the U.S. border and elsewhere around the world that are working to fill gaps in the needs and rights of migrants.

Jesus implored his disciples to welcome the children. This is our mission: to make sure the children are welcomed. Thank you for your prayers, your actions and your gifts.

A Prayer for Suffering Children
God of All Children Everywhere,
Our hearts are bruised when we see children suffering alone.
Our hearts are torn when we are unable to help.
Our hearts are broken when we have some complicity in the matter.
For all the times we were too busy and shooed a curious child away,
forgive us, oh God.
For all the times we failed to get down on their level and look eye to eye with a child,
forgive us, oh God.
For all the times we did not share when we saw a hungry child somewhere in the world,
forgive us, oh God.
For all the times we thought about calling elected officials to demand change, but did not,
forgive us, oh God.
For all the times we thought that caring for the children of this world was someone else’s responsibility,
forgive us, oh God.
With Your grace, heal our hearts.
With Your grace, unite us in action.
With Your grace, repair our government.
With Your grace, help us to find a way to welcome all children everywhere,
That they may know that Jesus loves them,
Not just because “the Bible tells them so,”
But because they have known Your love in real and tangible ways,
And they know that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate them from Your love.
Amen.

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About the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)
Founded in 1940, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the global humanitarian aid and development agency of The United Methodist Church. UMCOR is working in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the United States and its territories. Our mission, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, is to alleviate human suffering – whether caused by war, conflict or natural disaster – with open hearts and minds to all people. UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters that are interruptions of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community’s ability to recover on its own. UMCOR works through programs that address hunger, poverty, sustainable agriculture, international and domestic emergencies, refugee and immigrant concerns, global health issues, and transitional development. Learn more on our website at UMCOR.org, or social media: Facebook.com/UMCOR and twitter.com/UMC_UMCOR.

Experience Some God Joy Today

You assume there’s nothing special going on today. But no day is ever ordinary. Every day is a gift from God and God is doing something special. God is showering you with love – today. God is calling you to a deeper understanding of the purpose for your life – today. God is inviting you to make a difference in someone’s life – today. And God is helping you experience the joy of simply being alive – today. So embrace today as a gift from God. And experience some God joy today.

Hope UMC Holds Ecumenical VBS

By Melinda Shunk

Children's Ministry Coordinator

Libby Tyson, left, of FUMC Hope and Elizabeth Cowart, right, of FBC Hope put on a skit and lead the starting and closing sessions of the ecumenical VBS.
|| Photo provided by Melinda Shunk

The definition of ecumenical is promoting or relating to unity among the world’s Christian churches. Rose Gagon is doing precisely that at First United Methodist Church in Hope for the second summer in a row! In 2017, Rose met the new Baptist pastor of First Baptist Church of Hope at a community event. As she and Brother Daniel got to know each other, Rose mentioned how nice it would be if they could join together to hold their Vacation Bible School. Not in a way that they share supplies, but in the way of combining volunteers and VBS campers into one large VBS. Brother Daniel thought that would be a wonderful idea and suggested it to Sara O’Brien. Sara is the “full-time volunteer” for Children’s ministry at First Baptist Church of Hope. She soon met with Rose, and they began planning for the 2018 Vacation Bible School.

During their planning meeting, many things had to be decided, but first, it was a commitment plan. They decided because this has never been done before they would need to have a two- year commitment to the Ecumenical VBS to work out the kinks and give everyone a chance to experience the positive results of change. It was a smart decision and kept the lines of communication very open between Rose and Sara, the now co-directors of Vacation Bible School. The next decision to be made was where to hold VBS, but that was not difficult because the Children’s wing at First Baptist Church of Hope was under renovation. So, it made perfect sense to hold the first Ecumenical VBS at First United Methodist Church for the first year with the 2019 VBS scheduled to be held at the First Baptist Church. They then had to compromise on the timing. First Baptist always did their VBS in the evening, and FUMC did theirs during the day for four days. They combined ideas and held VBS in the evening for four days and found that it was very beneficial for getting the whole family involved in programming because parents were home from work. The co-directors found that as they planned, their resources grew. They grew because they had more volunteers to place in just the right role. They also found when they ordered supplies, their money went further when they ordered in bulk. The extra money allowed them to purchase a VBS shirt for all the campers to enjoy for free!

Pastor Steve, right, of FUMC and Brother Daniel, left, of FBC work together for Bible story time. || Photo provided by Melinda Shunk

The co-directors might be getting along just fine, but you may be asking how the campers and the volunteers experienced the same collaboration? The Holy Spirit was working that first Ecumenical VBS because no one was upset about going to VBS with their neighbors. It increased their attendance and ability to work together. The kitchen teams were asking their Baptist friends to work with them before the directors even got the phone call made. The youth group that serves as assistant crew leaders were excited to work with their friends from school. The VBS campers just knew they had enough kids to play a solid competitive game during the sports rotation. VBS campers had no idea what volunteers were from which church because they all wore an Ecumenical VBS shirt made special for the week. Rose said that everyone had the mindset that God is a loving God. God brings us together, and that was and is the focus of 2018 and 2019 VBS.

The host church handles the online Google forms for registrations, but together they share publicity with both churches’ names on everything that goes out. They post it on the Baptist digital screen, on each other’s Facebook Pages, flyers that go to the school and into backpacks, and the directors even host a night at the community Farmer’s Market to promote VBS sign-up and registration. VBS is free for all who want to take part. Last year, they had 104 kids and 60 volunteers. This year, they hope to increase outreach numbers by 30-40 kids!

Rose and Sara agree that a wonderful addition to ecumenical VBS is having two pastors take part in everything, even getting a balloon in the face during the last night of festivities. Their 2019 VBS is scheduled for June 24-27, and they will include a third church into the VBS program! A Place of Meeting is a non-denominational church that will be joining in the planning and preparation. Brother Nathaniel Crane, who leads A Place of Meeting, witnessed the success of last year and asked to join in ministry this year. So now everything, from food to decoration supplies, is being split three ways. They may even have to get the vans ready to bus some kiddos into VBS! After one year, the ecumenical idea from two churches has grown to three. God’s love for us is big, but God’s love has an even bigger impact on making disciples when we come together as one body of Christians!

Expect More from God

Sometimes it seems presumptuous to expect more from God. Yet that’s exactly what God wants you to do. So expect God to be part of your life. Expect God to shower you with amazing grace. Expect God to do the unexpected on a regular basis. Expect God to give you an eye-opening vision for the future. Expect God to help you achieve your dreams. And expect God to free you to love compassionately. When you’re really ready to expect more from God, you’ll discover how much more God is ready to give!