Rev. Jim Benfer and a team of 11 church members from Dardanelle FUMC have returned from their annual mission trip to Rio Bravo, Mexico. This was Rev. Benfer’s 20th mission trip to Rio Bravo.
Approximately 450 children’s books were distributed to the orphanage (Casa de Esperanza) and another 450 books were donated to children in nearby Nuevo Progresso.
Sewing machines were left with the Vamos Tamaulipas Center and Iglesia Fuente de Agua Viva, as well as a supply of sewing material and supplies to continue to leverage their work with the people.
“Our VBS presented Bibles to all the children and our medical team distributed Bibles to families who came in for health checks. All medications were provided to those who came for health care during our mission. We are so blessed to continue a relationship with Manos Juntas and the people in the communities around Rio Bravo,” shared Rev. Benfer.
The next mission trip for FUMC Dardanelle is scheduled for the last week in May of 2022 into June.
Rev. Jorge Acevedo, senior pastor at Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida, will be guest speaker at Little Rock’s St. James United Methodist Church Nov. 13-14. His topic will be “Ministries of Recovery from Addiction.”
As featured guest of the 2021 Fiser-Christie Lectureship, Acevedo will participate in a panel discussion from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, and speak at the 8:30, 9:30 and 11 a.m. worship services Sunday, Nov 14. All events are open to the public and will also be live-streamed at www.stjameslr.org.
Rescued from a life of addictions, Acevedo leads a congregation recognized as having one of the largest and most effective recovery ministries in America. A published author, Acevedo has been recognized for excellence in evangelism and church leadership.
The annual lectureship, which honors the lives of Paul Martin Fiser, M.D., and Rev. James and Marie Christie, explores topics related to the Church’s responsibility for and activities in missions, both domestic and international. St. James UMC is located at 321 Pleasant Valley Drive.
Community Coordinator for The Delta Project, 200K More Reasons
This holiday season, 200K More Reasons wants to help congregations develop and promote ministry models that increase family stability. For families experiencing poverty and food insecurity, the holidays exacerbate stresses around having food on the table, providing gifts for loved ones, and staying warm. Our congregations exhibit unbelievable generosity during this time of year to ramp up their food pantries, offering warming centers, and collecting and distributing gifts for children, families, and those in care facilities.
However, we still struggle with how to help relieve the mental weight for families in need. More and more congregations have begun offering “Blue Christmas” and “Longest Night” services recognizing that the holidays can bring up feelings of grief and depression. However, these services while offered to the community may not be available to under-resourced families struggling with the same issues.
How can we reach out to children and their families who have experienced trauma during the year? These experiences can be due to unpredictable circumstances in the home- parental incarceration, domestic violence, or parental substance abuse. However, these experiences can also be due to environmental factors like poverty, poor housing quality and availability, or lack of economic opportunity. By increasing resources available for parents and families to sober living programs, childcare, mental health resources and others, we can increase resilience in children and help to make their lives a little more stable.
While your congregation plans and prepares for the holiday season, please remember your neighbors who may be experiencing food insecurity- those who visit your food pantry, the children at the school that receive backpacks, or those who visit your Little Free Library. Consider ways that you might engage in one of these three strategies developed by the 200K More Reasons Mental Health Task Force.
Increasing Mental Health Awareness and Access
Opening Doors to Training and Learning
Creating topic-driven small groups for under-resourced families served through other resource ministries like food ministries
Increasing awareness and access to mental health resources is perhaps the stepping stone to family stability. A way to begin is to speak openly about mental health from the pulpit. The stigma that surrounds mental health exists, but bringing that language into the sanctuary can help people who might be struggling to know that it’s okay to ask for help. One way a congregation in the Southeast District is increasing access to mental health resources is by raising money for community members to receive counseling and substance abuse services. Caleb’s Climb occurs each year at White Hall UMC. The month-long fundraiser garners support across the community and helps individuals know that the church is there when they might not have the funds to go to sober living or visit a therapist or counselor.
Another way your congregation can get involved in family stability ministries is to offer a training or learning opportunity. You might consider connecting with an individual or group that offers mental health first aid. Like regular first aid training, this helps you to know how to get help for people experiencing mental health crises. Pastors, staff, and lay ministry leaders can get support for helping to identify mental health needs in the community. Another opportunity would be to host an event like Soul Shop by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This faith-based training equips churches and church members to work to prevent suicide. These types of opportunities can happen in a single congregation or through the efforts of groups of churches in a community.
Finally, increasing family stability means extending an invitation. Congregations can invite neighbors from our food pantry and literacy ministries to participate in opportunities like Grief Share and Divorce Care. This also means including your neighbors who are food insecure into family events especially those that provide childcare.
What is the most wonderful time of the year, can also be the most stressful and demanding time of year. As your congregation makes plans for the season, please consider ways that you can address the mental health needs as well as the physical and spiritual needs of your community. Include your neighbors experiencing poverty and food insecurity into services and classes that offer hope and light in the midst of grief and darkness. With God’s help, we can offer support not just to those in our congregation, but those who need it throughout our communities.
On Sunday, September 19, Russellville First United Methodist Church Manna held its Manna House Food Pantry ribbon-cutting ceremony along with a dedication and open house. Members of the community were invited to attend the event and were given tours of the new building. Manna House volunteers showed off the new facility and explained how the different areas were designed to support the specific needs of the organization. Bishop Gary E. Mueller was present to offer a prayer of dedication on this special day that makes a significant contribution toward the Arkansas Conference initiative “200,000 More Reasons” to eliminate childhood hunger in Arkansas. There will also be an area dedicated to “Giving Books for Love” for collecting books to build the personal library of children who come to Manna House for assistance.
Inside the building’s main doors, visitors are greeted with a bright, airy entryway that leads to the offices and the storage/set up areas. To the right, two service windows invite patrons to the services of Manna House and the Help Network. Between the two windows is a hallway lined with offices and meeting spaces for the Manna House volunteer staff. Across the room from the service window hangs an original painting of the holly tree that stood outside the original Manna House Building. Local artist Boyd Osborne donated the artwork after realizing how meaningful the tree was Manna House and its patrons, as it served as shade for many waiting in line. The tree was removed to make room for the new building. Smaller holly bushes have been planted as a reminder of the original tree that provided the classic look of the space.
The storage and organizing areas of the facility feature large rows of shelving, walk-in refrigeration and freezing units, stainless steel worktables, and plenty of space for the volunteers to work sorting the variety of donated food items.
Since breaking ground on January 20, 2021, members of the community watched as the old building was taken down and the land leveled before the new construction began. With approximately 7,000 square feet, this building is designed to serve the almost 84,000 residents of Pope and Yell Counties. Manna House Food Pantry is the largest food pantry in the Arkansas River Valley serving approximately 22,000 persons per year. Not only is Manna House one of the largest food pantries in the area, but it is the only one open five days a week.
The anticipation has been building throughout the year, particularly after the exterior sign was installed on the façade on July 27. The local citizens have been eager for Manna House to open its new doors on Tuesday, September 7, and a record number of patrons have been served daily in the new location.
ATLANTA (October 18, 2021) – United Methodist Global Ministries is launching a new initiative and joining interfaith partners in an effort to increase the equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine around the world. Funds donated to a new Advance giving project will support “Love Beyond Borders: The Interfaith Movement to End the Pandemic” campaign supporting UNICEF’s global vaccine distribution efforts.
Proposed to Global Ministries by First United Methodist Church of Boise, Idaho’s, missions team, “Love Beyond Borders: The Interfaith Movement to End the Pandemic” seeks to engage The United Methodist Church in supporting UNICEF’s global COVID-19 response, including distributing safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, diagnostics and treatments.
Through this initiative, members of The United Methodist Church will contribute to UNICEF’s historic efforts in leading the procurement and supply of 1.4 billion COVID-19 vaccines to approximately 196 participating COVAX countries and economies by the end of 2021. For just $37 dollars, members can help provide 10 people with two doses of the vaccine. Global Ministries has created Advance #3022671 for this effort to ensure that 100% of donations go directly to UNICEF USA for this project.
“Since the start of the humanitarian crisis, Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) have responded with health boards, medical professionals, disaster management coordinators and faith leaders to help, as comprehensively as possible, manage the crisis and strengthen existing work,” said Roland Fernandes, general secretary of United Methodist Global Ministries and UMCOR. “It has been said that no one is safe until everyone is safe. Helping to fund the equitable distribution of vaccines through this Advance will help United Methodists play a key role in efforts to make that a global reality.”
“United Methodists in the Northwest have been saving lives by fighting COVID-19 for more than a year. Our people and churches have made this a priority by masking, keeping distance, meeting immediate needs for food, shelter and community, suspending in-person worship, singing and communion, welcoming and encouraging vaccination,” said Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky, episcopal leader serving the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church. “But it was hard to know how to extend our love of Christ and one another beyond local communities to neighbors around the world. ‘Love Beyond Borders’ is a grassroots campaign, envisioned by one member of one church in the Oregon-Idaho Conference. Now, as an Advance project within The United Methodist Church, working with interfaith partners and UNICEF USA, it offers a beautiful way to protect and save lives around the world.”
The coronavirus pandemic continues to have severe consequences, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable populations. Accelerating the rate at which all people are vaccinated is the key to ending the pandemic, alleviating suffering and stopping deaths.
Global Ministries and UMCOR have supported partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North America as they work to respond to the pandemic and its impacts. Grants have been awarded for personal protective and essential medical equipment; cleaning solution, soap and handwashing stations; assistance with salaries, livelihoods, food, rent and utilities; awareness and training in COVID-19 prevention; and vaccine promotion.
Activities with partners and communities have included training and grants, directed and administered through Global Ministries’ Global Health program.
In July, as part of the Interfaith Vigil for Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access, Global Ministries urged President Biden to share COVID-19 vaccine stockpiles and advocated for equitable global distribution of vaccines. He has pledged 500 million vaccine doses to the world’s lowest income nations, but far more will be needed to stop the spread of this deadly illness.
At its August meeting, the Connectional Table, a United Methodist leadership body, took an action affirming the importance of equitable COVID-19 vaccine distributions.
According to research from Northeastern University, 61% of deaths globally could be averted if an effective vaccine were distributed to all countries proportional to their populations. While many wealthy countries have made significant inroads into vaccinating their citizens, this is not the case in less-developed countries. The Love Beyond Borders campaign will support COVAX’s initiative to equitably distribute vaccines around the world.
About the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church
Global Ministries is the worldwide mission and development agency of The United Methodist Church. Founded in 1819, Global Ministries today supports more than 200 missionaries in over 60 countries, including the United States. It has personnel, projects and partners in 115 countries. Founded in 1940, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the global humanitarian relief agency of The United Methodist Church and is a part of Global Ministries. Learn more about Global Ministries by visiting umcmission.org or by following facebook.com/GlobalMinistries and twitter.com/UMCmission.