Obituary – Johnnie Merle McDowell

Johnnie Merle McDowell
Aug 5, 1933 – Apr 29, 2022

Johnnie Merle McDowell passed away on April 29, 2022, surrounded by her family. Born on August 5, 1933, in Yell County, Johnnie’s family moved to West Helena when she was a young girl, and she lived there until she moved to Little Rock to be closer to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Thurman Robert “Bobby” McDowell was taken with Johnnie’s beauty, and they married on January 27, 1951. She and Bobby raised their three children in a happy and loving home with Johnnie loving them unconditionally and caring for them as the consummate homemaker. She was able to live independently until two days after Easter of this year, maintaining the same immaculate home, yard, and her beautiful appearance.

Bobby and her son, Rob, predeceased her, as did her parents, Otis Benton Watson and Grace Howell Watson, and six of her siblings: Earl Watson, Inez Cook, Neva Harden, Ida Matthews, Geraldene Von Kanel, and Nina England. She is survived by two other sisters, Betty Chambers and Lois Madonia.  She is also survived by her daughters, Debbie Dillier (Larry) of Bentonville and Patty Waddell (Bill) of Little Rock, and her daughter-in-love, Robyn McDowell of Gurdon. Cherishing her memory as their Mamaw are her grandchildren, Allison Wood, Elizabeth Robinson, Jessie Teegarden, Grace Waddell, Anna Waddell and Trent McDowell, and her great-grandchildren, Lawson Wood, John David Wood, Fisher Robinson, Lilly Robinson, Stella Robinson, and Georgia Teegarden. She delighted in each of them and they were her pride and joy. 

The family will hold a private memorial service. Memorials may be made to Highland Valley United Methodist Church, 15524 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, AR 72211. The family extends its heartfelt gratitude to the staff in the ICU South Unit of Baptist Health for their tender care and support during Johnnie’s last days.

Surprise, I Got You!

Surprise, I Got You!

Rev. Nathan Kilbourne

Jacksonville First UMC

One of my daughter’s favorite activities is to crawl into our bed in the morning, hide under the sheets, and surprise my wife while she is getting ready. Often, I’ll still be in bed, and she’ll say, “Daddy, hide me so I can surprise mom.” So, we work together in hiding her and wait for my wife to come into the room. When she does, I’ll say something like, “Wow, Lynn, have you seen how swollen my leg is?” Suddenly, from underneath the covers, giggles begin to erupt. Then in a swift motion, blankets are thrown back and a 7-year-old emerges yelling, “Surprise, I got you!”

This image dances in my heart as I look over the past couple of years of ministry.

For many of us, we have trudged through trenches of ministry. We have been in survival mode as we seek to respond to the next challenge then the next challenge. It didn’t help that the pandemic only seemed to exacerbate our weaknesses, or at least expose them, and now we are in constant rebuilding or recovery mode. The past couple of years have been a mixture of emotions. In fact, it’s downright easy to be discouraged.

Yet, over the course of the past year, I’ve been surprised to discover the joys of ministry hiding in plain sight. Like a 7-year-old emerging from underneath a blanket saying, “Surprise, I got you,” God in Christ has continued to show up in this part of the Body of Christ known as Jacksonville First UMC.

In the midst of our hybrid online and in-person services, when the technology was nothing but a headache, I had an individual come to me and say, “The sermon God laid on your heart this week caused me to get a Study Bible.” To provide some background, we had been in a series called, “Being Better Students of the Bible,” in which we were equipping our congregation with skills to read the scriptures better. And this man was moved by God to take the next step in his study of scripture and buy a Study Bible. While my attention had been focused on sound issues, camera problems, or dipping numbers, God snuck through, transformed a life, and said, “Surprise, I got you!” This moment shifted my mindset. Rather than wallowing in dismay or discouragement, I realized God hadn’t given up on us or the world.

I began looking for signs of the Resurrection, rather than remorse or repose in our congregation. In doing so, I found within the church God’s fingerprints. I heard of individuals calling to check on one another. I saw small groups figuring out hybrid zoom classes and not giving up. I saw our feeding ministry, which last year pivoted from in-person meals to to-go meals, giving away over 900,000 pounds of food. I heard of our LIFE groups (small groups) talking about how an empty chair means an opportunity to fill it.

Over and over again, I’ve heard Isaiah blasting in my ears until it has finally sunk in, “Be not dismayed, I am your God.” In large and small ways, God continues to remind me of this.

Indeed, hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s worth looking back to see how God has been hiding in plain sight. If you listen closely, God just may giggle and say, “Surprise, I got you!”

ARUMC Center for Communication Receives Awards and Nominations

Each year, the United Methodist Association of Communicators invites general agencies, annual conferences, and local churches to submit their very best work to be evaluated by a panel of judges. The contest recognizes excellence in print publications, digital publications, writing, internet communications, video production, audio, photography, visual design, publicity/advertising, and media presentations. 

This year, the Arkansas Annual Conference Center for Communication submitted six entries. We are thrilled to announce that we received the following awards: 

1st place was awarded to Christina Choh for “See What’s New in 2021 for CouRSe” promotional video in the category for video production.

1st place was awarded to Jacob Turner and Amy Ezell for “Ministry Lab” podcast in the category for audio/podcasting.

1st place was awarded to Christina Choh for the staff headshots in the category of photography/portraiture.

2nd place was awarded to Day Davis for the “First Fruit” financial email newsletter in the category for digital publications/electronic newsletters.

2nd place was awarded to Christina Choh for the CouRSe logo in the category of visual design and brand development.

3rd place was awarded to the Communication staff in the category of media presentation. Day Davis created these banners for the Arkansas Conference districts, using photography by Rev. Stephen Coburn and Rev. Rodney Steele to highlight the beauty in each district.

In closing, we are thrilled to announce that our very own Amy Ezell, Director for the Center for Communication, and Jacob Turner, Communication Strategist and Local Church Advocate, both received nominations for UMAC Communicator of the Year.

“I am so grateful to each an every one of the members of the Center for Communicaion team and the continued support of Bishop Mueller. Everyone on this team contributes with their own special talents, experience, and personality. We are so blessed to have a fun, trustworthy, and creative working environment where we get to produce excellent results,” shared Ezell.


Obituary – Rev. Dr. Victor Ellis Green

Rev. Dr. Victor Ellis Green
October 12, 1932 – April 16, 2022

Rev. Dr. Victor Ellis Green, 89, of Benton, passed from this life into Heaven on April 16, 2022, at Circle of Life Hospice Home in Bentonville. He was born on October 12, 1932, in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the son of Ruby Marie Ellis Green & James William Green. 

He was a graduate of Guthrie High School, Oklahoma State University, the Perkins School of Theology at SMU, and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Drew Theological School in New Jersey. 

Victor loved the Lord and worked hard to fulfill the call of his life to share God’s love, God’s word, and the hope found in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Rev. Green served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church for over 50 years, mostly in the Arkansas Conference. He served the towns of Batesville, Tyronza, Fort Smith (Wesley), McCrory, Pocahontas, Beebe, and Stuttgart (Grand Avenue) as senior pastor.  After retiring, he served as Pastor Emeritus at First United Methodist in Benton where he was a member. He also served in the US Army and was deployed to Korea from 1954 – to 1956 at the end of the war.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Green (nee Adney); daughter, Kimberly McNabb; and his parents.

Victor is survived by his daughter, Karen Blasingame (Daniel) of Fayetteville; son-in-law, Mark McNabb (Joni) of Jonesboro; sister, Frances Van Schoyck (Nick) of Maineville, Ohio; and grandchildren, Ophelia Blasingame, Victor Blasingame, Fiona Blasingame, Oliver McNabb, Jackson McNabb, Lehman McNabb, Mary Claire McNabb, Veronica Lawson, Victoria Lawson, Tyler Lawson, and Danica Lawson.

He loved his family & his church family very much and enjoyed the many large family gatherings. Victor also enjoyed golfing, airplanes & aviation and maintained a private pilot’s license for much of his adult life. He and Mary enjoyed square dancing and were members of the Twirling Lariats.  They also loved playing dominoes with their friends in Benton.

Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, April 23 at the First United Methodist Church in Benton with funeral services beginning at 11 a.m. Graveside services will be 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23 at Petit Jean Mountain Cemetery in the Hamilton addition. Rev. Keith Dodson will be officiating.

Online guest book at

Cherokee Village UMC: Both/And Ministry Success

David Malone

Cherokee Village UMC Lay Leader and technical team coordinator

Like many churches, Cherokee Village United Methodist Church did not have an active online presence prior to the pandemic. We used Facebook to post about special events, but we were limited to posting pictures with an occasional video. That all changed with the COVID pandemic. We found our sanctuary and classrooms empty. That’s when we decided we wouldn’t stop getting the message of Jesus Christ into the world.

We were complete novices at streaming worship. Often our pastor would record a message, add in prerecorded music, then schedule a post on Facebook. We kept thinking of how we could grow our outreach and a team of volunteers working with the pastors developed a plan.

First, we imagined just what we needed to share each week. The message on Sunday was a given, but what about Bible study, Wednesday evening service, Sunday School, and children’s ministry. Our administrative board meetings and others needed to be shared as well.

The team of volunteers developed a children’s ministry based on a Toucan. The theme is “if Toucan, you can.” Each week a video message and craft are presented by our children’s coordinator. Crafts are mailed a month in advance so the children can pull out a week’s craft and watch the message and prayer online. We now have kits being mailed across the country as word spreads about this wonderful ministry.

We live stream two worship services on Sunday as well as on Wednesday evening. People all over the community and in several states from Florida, Texas, Indiana, Iowa, California, and others join us. Our adult Sunday School class is offered via Zoom and Facebook live. Our classmates join us from their homes in the community, hotel rooms, campgrounds, and cars.

Our homebound members also find they can feel a part of worship as well. We strive to give everyone online a full worship experience, not just a video of a sermon. We have ways they can safely give electronically and truly be an active member.

We continue to work on improvements as the ministries grow. We are not perfect and sometimes technical issues happen. We try to keep improving and growing through our online presence. Our call to make disciples has grown from our church into the world. God is Great!