When Life Gives You LemonsHow Two Little Disciples Showed Love in a Big Way

When Life Gives You Lemons
How Two Little Disciples Showed Love in a Big Way

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Alyce Read, Ellie Quick, Lawson Quick in front of Lemonade Stand for Drake. More than $1,200 was raised for Drake, who was recently diagnosed with acute leukemia. 

By Rev. Corey Tyson Read

Wesley Foundation at Southern Arkansas University

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! A phrase most of us are familiar with and a motto that has been lived out after a recent college graduate was diagnosed with acute leukemia. Drake Souter, 23 years old and a member of Greers Chapel United Methodist Church in Magnolia, Arkansas, was stunned by the news that he would be facing the greatest challenge of his life, just six months before he is to be married in November 2021.

It wasn’t long after the community heard of Drake’s diagnoses that people started pulling together in support of Drake and his family. Ellie and Lawson Quick, two of the youngest members of Greers Chapel UMC, took the opportunity to set up a lemonade stand in support of Drake. In a Facebook post to help advertise the event, Kathryn Quick said, “Ellie & Lawson have chosen to raise money to give a family very near and dear to our hearts, the Souters. Drake was diagnosed with acute leukemia and we want his family to not have anything to worry about other than getting Drake better so this is just a small way that we felt led to love and support our friends!” 

On two of the hottest days of the summer, Ellie, 4, and Lawson, 3, set up their lemonade stand for a total of four hours to raise money for Drake. On the first day, they raised $200 and by the end of the second day more than 125 people showed up and a total of $1,200 was raised for Drake.

When Drake first heard of the Quick’s plans to set up a lemonade stand, he thought it was super sweet of them to think of him. “I had no idea it would raise that much money,” said Drake. “We have all been so heartfelt by what people have done. We live in the most giving community. It just shows how two little kids can make a difference,” said Kelli Souter, Drake’s mom. 

Drake Souter
Drake Souter, surrounded by cards of love and prayers.

When the Rev. Dan Read, pastor at Greers Chapel UMC, first heard of Ellie and Lawson’s lemonade stand he was, “particularly proud that some of Greers’ youngest members are leading the way” in showing love toward others. They led the congregation and community in an act of generosity for a beloved family of the Magnolia community. What a testament to how two of Greers’ youngest disciples can make a huge difference, of how we can all make a difference in the lives of others. 

As people continued to show up until the last second to grab a cup of refreshing lemonade, we were all amazed at the support of the community. Members of the First United Methodist CDC pre-school class even walked over with dollar bills in hand to give. “Drake’s going to be so rich,” said Ellie. In response to this, Ellie’s mom commented saying, “She’s not wrong, because Drake is rich in love and has so many people praying for him and that makes our hearts glad!”

Online or In Person, Our Conference Is Connected

Online or In Person, Our Conference Is Connected

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By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Have you ever been to a hybrid Annual Conference, one that takes place both in-person and online? Do you know of any other Annual Conferences that are having hybrid events? Did you even know such a thing was possible?

Last week, the Arkansas Annual Conference held its annual meeting of business, worship, and fellowship. The June 2-4 meeting was in an entirely new format, one that we have never attempted before, and if we’re being honest, one that we weren’t entirely certain would work.

Although we had successfully completed an entirely virtual Annual Conference experience last year in 2020, adding an in-person layer to the event created a completely new layer of complexity.

But it worked! Our tech crew and backstage staff faced a few hiccups at the beginning, but once all the tech demons were exorcised, the event ran flawlessly, perhaps better than we could have imagined.

People attending in-person at the arena were able to hear and see virtual participants on our big projector screens near the main stage. When the Bishop spoke on his stage microphone, or when someone came to a mic in the crowd, the Zoom participants were able to hear them as well. It was sort of like a TV news station going to a reporter on the scene of an event for a live report.

One of the biggest advantages of pulling off this hybrid event was the sense of connectionalism and fellowship that it brought everyone attending the event. Whether online or in-person, you were able to see and hear people who many of us have been separated from since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

COVID protocols were still in place for our in-person members, but those who had been fully vaccinated were able to hug their friends and colleagues for the first time in more than a year. For some, this was the first time they had seen many of their fellow United Methodists in person since Annual Conference 2019!

Despite the pandemic continuing to spread through our communities — granted, at a much slower rate than before vaccinations become available — the Arkansas Annual Conference was able to bring some semblance of normalcy back to our people.

I don’t have to tell many of you how important connectionalism plays in our United Methodist heritage. The pandemic not only devastated people’s lives, but it also devastated their connection to their communities.

Technology kept us connected last year, true, but it’s simply not the same as seeing your friends and neighbors in person, being able to hug their necks, squeeze their arms, and see their facial expressions in person when you recall a funny story from the past.

The hybrid experience was difficult, perhaps one of the most difficult things we’ve ever attempted at an Annual Conference, but it was worth the added struggle to be able to offer people that sense of community and connectionalism that they have sorely missed in the last year. I hope that if you attended Annual Conference this year, whether live or online, you felt some of that normalcy return. And let’s continue to pray for COVID to be defeated so we can return to full in-person fellowship at Annual Conference 2022.

The Gift of an Unexpected Pause

The Gift of an Unexpected Pause

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Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

By Gary E. Mueller

Bishop of the Arkansas Annual Conference

There’s “THE QUESTION” that overshadows everything in the Arkansas Conference, “What is the future of the United Methodist Church going to be – and when is it finally going to be decided?” The fact that we cannot answer it – and anyone who tells you otherwise is just wrong – has led to uncertainty, anxiety, frustration, anger and impatience.

Our current experience shares much in common with the people of Israel who were delivered from oppression in Egypt and then spent the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.

Their journey began after a dramatic deliverance from Egypt, and God’s promise that they would end up in a land flowing with milk and honey. Along the way, God did amazing things. And how did the people respond? Sometimes faithfully. But often they were impatient and impertinent, grumbled about how much better life was back in Egypt, threatened to rebel against Moses, and built a golden calf to worship.

Our journey began nearly 50 years ago as a disagreement over theology, especially pertaining to matters of human sexuality, and morphed into a painful breach as we have sought our own promised land. Not a place, but the promise of a solution that will finally “fix” the deep division in our denomination either by seeking to have certain people leave the United Methodist Church or by finding a way to exit the United Methodist Church. And as this has not been difficult enough, we are turning on each other as if we refuse to believe that we actually are sisters and brothers in Christ.

I understand why so many of you have reached the point you have – just ready for something to happen so it is finally all over. But I wonder if our impatience, anger and desire to settle things as quickly as possible are signs that we do not trust God, and so God is keeping us wandering until we are formed into a more faithful people. Just like God kept the people of Israel wandering until they were formed into a more faithful people.

We have a very important decision to make.

Are we going to be like the people of Israel who threatened to overthrow Moses, constructed idols and grumbled about returning to Egypt because we do not think things are going the way they should? Or are we going to trust that God is leading us on this journey designed to take us to the future God dreams for us?

I choose to see this period of time leading up to General Conference – and whatever it decides – as the gift of an unexpected pause during which God can form us into a more faithful church as we engage in three holy ventures that are at the heart of the Christian faith, the Wesleyan movement and the United Methodist Church.

And I pray that you do, too.

First, use the gift of this unexpected pause to flip-flop how you look at things. Instead of letting denominational issues – as important as they are – determine the health and vitality of local churches, let’s let local churches, where so many amazing things are happening, make the denomination more alive and faithful.

Second, embrace this time as a wonderful opportunity to double down on the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.

Third, use these months to fall head-over-heels, passionate and crazy in love with Jesus. God has done something in Jesus that is unique and essential. He gives you what you absolutely need and cannot get in any other way by reconciling you with God, with others and with yourself through his death on the cross.

I believe Jesus is at the heart of everything. As imperfect as I am, I believe it. As many times as I have turned away from him, I believe it. As educated as I am, I believe it. And on this – the 40th anniversary of my ordination as an elder – I believe it. In fact, I believe it so much that if I could have one do-over in my ministry, it would be to make it more about Jesus.

Q&A w/ Kelly Murray-NormanSummer Intern with the Center for Communication

Q&A w/ Kelly Murray-Norman
Summer Intern with the Center for Communication

Kelly Murray-Norman

The Center for Communication at the Arkansas Conference is happy to announce our communications intern for summer 2021. Kelly Murray-Norman is currently a student at Hendrix College studying psychology and plans on graduating in 2022. She is from White Hall, Arkansas, and is the daughter of the Rev. Mark Norman and the Rev. Natasha Murray.

Check out her responses below and learn a little bit more about Kelly. Be sure to say hi to Kelly as well if you see her at Annual Conference!

What motivated you to come work at the conference office as an intern?

I was motivated to work for the conference office when I received an email about the internship opportunity. I have attended Annual Conference many times and thought it would be enthralling to work for the event rather than just being in attendance.

What are you most looking forward to working on this summer?

I am most looking forward to working on Annual Conference.

What are your plans for after you graduate?

After I graduate from Hendrix, I plan to take a gap year before attending grad school.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

When I am not working I like to nap or spend time with my family and friends.

Who is someone that inspires you in your daily life and why?

A person who inspires me in my daily life is Michelle Obama because of her impactful initiatives and how she carries herself as a woman.

Churches Step Up Summer Ministries for KidsFeeding and Literacy Ministries Take Priority for United Methodist Churches in Arkansas

Churches Step Up Summer Ministries for Kids
Feeding and Literacy Ministries Take Priority for United Methodist Churches in Arkansas

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The Rev. Zach Roberts and a team of volunteers have been partnering with New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Blytheville to make sure kids doing school work at the local library are fed during the weekday. Pictured from left to right are Bill “Big Daddy” Kenner and Beth Roberts. Photo provided by Rev. Zach Roberts.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Summer is often one of the most challenging times for families with school-age children. Meals and learning opportunities for kids are drastically reduced during the summer months when they’re out of school. However, United Methodist Churches around the Arkansas Conference have stepped in to make sure kids of all ages are well-fed and well-read this summer.

Blytheville First UMC recently partnered with their local library in Blytheville to provide free meals to students who spend the majority of their day at the library using the computers for virtual classwork.

“These kids were showing up when the library opened in the morning, they were working and reading … using the library services until they closed, but they were not leaving all day and they were not eating,” said the Rev. Zach Roberts, senior pastor at Blytheville First UMC.

Zach said that his spouse, Beth Roberts, works at the Blytheville Public Library and sees these kids working non-stop on their assignments all day and not eating. He said that Beth was the one who told him about the need to provide food for kids in their community.

“And so what we did is we kind of recognized the cause and we put our heads together a little bit to try to solve it,” Zach said. “But the big solution was that there’s a church across town, a predominantly African-American congregation, called New Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church. And I was fortunate enough that one of my church members, Bill Kenner, is very connected to the community, and Bill knew about the feeding ministry that New Mount Olive already had going on.”

Zach said that New Mount Olive has an ongoing ministry where they feed the community every day, but because the church is across town from the library, there was no way kids would be able to walk that distance for a meal.

So Zach and Blytheville UMC decided to bring the food to the kids.

“What we offered to do was take the food that was already being prepared at Mount Olive and bring it to the library,” Zach said. “So that these kids have something to eat and can do it in a safe place.”

The volunteers from Blytheville FUMC show up at New Mount Olive at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. The food is bagged up and loaded into cars, and then delivered to the library for lunch.

Zach said that through this feeding partnership, he and the other volunteers at Blytheville FUMC have had good conversations with the members of New Mount Olive, and it’s not only been a way to provide for kids in the community but also to meet new friends and partner with a church that they might not have had the chance to partner with otherwise.

“For a predominantly White church and a predominantly Black church to be working together in that way across social and denominational lines is a great thing,” Zach said.

At Fairview UMC in Camden, the Rev. Kathryn Burchfield and volunteers at her church have found another interesting way to provide meals and learning for kids in their community as well.

“Our summer reading/feeding program is for kindergarten through first-graders in our school district. About 300 students will be getting a fun gift bag, with a very nice cookbook, cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, and an apron. The bags will also be filled with food to cook 10 recipes from the cookbook,” Burchfield said.

Fairview UMC’s approach to feeding hungry kids this summer is a two-fold approach, combining both a need to feed them as well as a learning experience where they can have fun while learning to cook.

The cookbook contains 10 recipes and the program is meant to last 10 weeks through the summer.

“We’re going to divide up those five recipes in the first load of food and then midway through summer, give them the rest of the food. They’ll be able to watch the recipe on Google Classroom to observe how it’s done,” she said.

The bags of food and supplies will be delivered to the kindergarteners and first-graders in the last week of school, Burchfield said.

She said the cookbooks were provided to the church for free by the University of Arkansas, and contain both English and Spanish cooking instructions. The items that will be placed in the bag were paid for by a recent 200,000 More Reasons grant that the church received.

Fairview UMC is also collecting gently used books as part of the 200,000 More Reasons Giving Book for Love initiative. Burchfield said they are planning to give away donated books at their food pantry as well as during their Vacation Bible School this summer.

Mary Lewis Dassinger, Project Coordinator for 200,000 More Reasons, said she is excited about the work that both of these churches are doing in their communities.

“Both churches are very creative in combining literacy and feeding ministries, which is what we hope to see. In addition, they are ensuring kids will have healthy foods to eat over the summer when access to food is harder for families who face food insecurity,” Dassinger said.

For both Blytheville FUMC and Fairview UMC, helping kids in their community came about in different ways, but the goal of both churches remains the same: to make sure no child goes hungry or misses out on an educational opportunity.

“I think you could talk to any teacher or educator and know that a child can’t engage their mind and can’t engage with a lesson if their physical needs are not being met. We strongly feel that if they’re not being fed, if they’re not physically nourished, then they are not going to be able to nourish their minds either,” Beth Roberts said.

For more information on how your church can get involved in providing for children in your community, visit arumc.org/our-ministries/200k-more-reasons/.