THE COLUMNS – DECEMBER

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s I was counting God’s many blessings over Thanksgiving in Ecuador, I began to reflect on our many journeys throughout 2015. God has been working overtime in the Global Missions ministry team to create new partnerships and solidify our existing friendships. God stretched us. He gave us tension to walk through with perseverance and humble hearts. He overwhelmed us with joy, and at times, tears. He has taught us the value of mutuality and interdependence, and above all, He taught us the importance of the gift of love, as we live out our calling to Love God and Love Our Neighbor. I invite you to look back through the months of 2015 and celebrate with the Global Missions ministry! What a year it has been! – ASHLEY
01GMJANUARY
JANUARY – HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Our year began in Mukono, Uganda, at Agape Christian Academy! With our 44 children, we built a towering bonfire and ushered in the New Year with hymns and testimonies of faith. Days later, we celebrated Christmas by playing the popular party game – “White Elephant.” This game went on for THREE hours! Every student was able to open a “Christmas gift,” something most had never done before.
02GMFEBRUARY
FEBRUARY – BRRRRRR…!
Before our annual winter trip to Russia, Sam Speed prayed for the cold to vanish! Would you believe the temperature was 40 degrees warmer than it was the previous February in Yekaterinburg, Russia?! It was only 20°, as opposed to -20°!! The joy, however, in the prayer services, small group gatherings, worship celebrations, and family dinners warmed our hearts more than the readings onthe thermometers!
03GMMARCH
MARCH – BIENVENUE A AYITI!
Kay Ferguson, Stefania Tarasut, and I ventured to Haiti to revamp the one-on-one Haiti Orphan Sponsorship program. We compiled a packet on each of the 61 children to include photos and a few fun facts! The kids loved the photo shoot, and now nearly every child has a family at FUMC praying for him/her. (If you’d like to sponsor one of our children in Haiti, it’s not too late!)
04GMAPRIL
APRIL – FIRST FAMILY MISSION TRIP TO COSTA RICA!
Sadie McGuire wrote, “We were all children of God doing work in His name – each missionary doing a small part, whether it be digging the foundation holes or putting on the roof. It reminded me of when we lay our hands on people to pray over them – the group showing their presence and care in a small way that has a big effect. Each of us ‘laid our hands’ on Costa Rica by contributing what we could. This trip made me realize that missions are an extremely powerful way to grow closer to God by building relationships (and sometimes buildings) with the people around you for a common purpose.”
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MAY – CLEAN WATER FOR ALL GOD’S CHILDREN!
Our team traveled to Haiti to install a solar-powered clean water system with Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Cavaillon, a small town near Les Cayes. On Sunday of the trip, following two worship services, the community of hundreds came to dedicate the water system and drink its first drops of clean water. There are few sights more precious than children giving a toast to clean water for our bodies and souls!
06GMJUNE
JUNE – ДОБРО ПОЖАЛОВАТЬ В РОССИЮ!
Though we had hundreds of children file through the doors every morning for Vacation Bible School, my memories wander to the evenings. The book studies. The Bible studies. The prayer services. First UMC Yekaterinburg embodies the word “community.” Walking in, though I may not understand the language, or even know what’s going on, I know I am with the family of God…and that makes me feel at home, like I belong there.

JULY – REFLECT & RENEW
July was a quiet month in the Global Missions Ministry. This allowed us to catch up, write and receive reports, check in with all of our partnerships, and rest before plunging ahead!
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AUGUST – A UGANDAN WEDDING & BIENVENIDOS A SHREVEPORT!
In June 2014, we introduced our friend Eve to our friend Vincent. In August 2015, they got married! Jill Anderson and I went to Uganda for their 8-hour ceremony to introduce Vincent to Eve’s village. If you did not read our personal accounts in the October Columns, I highly recommend downloading the issue at firstshreveport.org! Wardrobe changes, chickens and briefcases, dowries and suitcases…and then FUMC hosted our Costa Rican Missionaries – Wil, Yolanda, & Isabella Bailey – for the first time at the end of August. We’ve sent two teams, and 51 individuals, to work with Costa Rica Missions Projects in San Isidro, and we were blessed to welcome the Bailey family into our Shreveport homes. Wil spoke in FaithLink Sunday, August 30, and reminded us of Jesus’ call to “abide in Him.” (John 6:53-56) On that same Sunday, Vicki & Matt Whitehead, representing Common Ground, placed grocery bags in the narthex for folks to pick up and fill it with food. Before we left, Yolanda asked if we could pick up a bag and fill with groceries for this local ministry. This left me in tears. Here were our global partners asking to serve in our local ministries. This is mission partnership.
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SEPTEMBER – BIENVENUE A SHREVEPORT!
Our ministry team emphasizes mutual, equal relationships. As such, we don’t want our visits to be one-way, nor do we want to limit our relationships to a small number of people; we want our entire church congregation to know our global partners in ministry and to welcome them into our Shreveport home. Haiti has been part of our mission ministry for at least five years, yet Pastor Mongerard and his wife Neemy had yet to visit our church! So many of you opened your homes to our Haitian family, and for that, I THANK YOU! We capped off their visit in FaithLink on Sunday morning, where Heather Gunter had created a tribute to the Darivager Orphanage. The montage played during a special song, sung in Creole and English. There was not a dry eye on my pew.
10GMOCTOBER
OCTOBER – THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!
This visit was huge. This was the first time Rev. Oleg Tretyakov, his wife Nadya Tretyakova, and Olga Lazareva had visited the United States…and their first visit was to SHREVEPORT! We love, absolutely love, visiting our Russian brothers and sisters in Yekaterinburg, and it was an honor to have our friends visit us. Oleg continually told his testimony…at Sunday school classes, small groups, church gatherings, dinner tables… I was in awe of the ease in which accounted for his past and how God walked in through to his present. He exemplified humility and courage in his awe-inspiring journey of faithfulness. Thank you to the Osborns, Heningtons, Becks, Caruthers, Paynes, and Sylvia Wright and Jean Whitaker, who invited our Russian friends into their homes and made them a part of their families. The hospitality at FUMC Shreveport is outstanding!
11GMNOVEMBER
NOVEMBER – HAITI AND ECUADOR!
After a quick trip to Haiti to visit our 61 children at Darivager, our team of 15 traveled to Quito, Ecuador! This is our annual medical mission trip to Aida Leon, where Pastor Wilson and his wife serve the Church of the Eternal Hope. With the help of Dr. Roberto Contreras, they transformed their sanctuary into a medical clinic to see over 400 patients in 4 days.
12GMDECEMBER
DECEMBER – HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM UGANDA!
After celebrating Christmas with our family and friends in the United States, our team of eight will return to Uganda to ring in the new year with our 44 children at Agape Christian Academy. When we visited in August, I was asked time and again, “You’re still coming for New Year’s, right?!” They were already planning for the New Year’s Eve party and talking about the Christmas games we would play afterwards. The ministry of presence is so real and needed in places throughout the world where orphans and widows feel forgotten. God calls us to Love Him and Love Others, and I can’t think of a place I’d rather be on the last day of 2015 and the first day of 2016. Here’s to a year FULL of blessings, adventures, and learning all over the world.