The Columns – January


The Epic of Eden
Join us beginning January 19th and 20th, 2016 for a 12-session study, THE EPIC OF EDEN, by Sandra Richter. This study shows us how Old Testament understanding leads to fresh depths of New Testament faith for everyday life in the real world. Old Testament can sometimes feel like a puzzle we’ve tried to put together but wind up putting back in the box because its too complicated. You will find this study to be a great adventure as we explore stories, characters and events (beginning with Eden!) and how they connect with the New Testament lives we live today. Call the church office or email to register!

Upcoming Events
UMW Fiesta! • Saturday, January 23 • 9:30AM • Storer Activity Center, First UMC
We welcome all women from FUMC, including all current UMW Circles, to come together to learn more about United Methodist Women and what they can accomplish if they work together.
UMW’s official purpose is to know God and experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative and supportive fellowship of women; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church.
Membership in this dedicated and far-reaching group is open to any woman with a desire to participate in the global mission of the church. We have fun because we believe in our goals and have faith we are supporting God’s mission in the world.
Consider this an open invitation! Hope to see you soon!
Sheila Berry, President
FUMC United Methodist Women

2016 will be a great year for Women’s Ministry! Our planning team will be led by Cindy Paul and Rene McGee. Other participants include Graceanne Byrd, Elizabeth Harrel, Joyce Hooper, Kay Olson, Lindsay Smith, Sonya Toms and Mary Beth Wilhite. The UMW co-leaders are Sheila Berry and Clara Hemmings. If you have questions, suggestions, ideas to share or want to volunteer in ministry, give us a call at 424-7771, ext. 131.

Ways to Lead with Women’s Ministry
Contact Deana Mitchell today if you would like to help lead the women of First UMC!

  • Women’s Leadership
  • Women’s Special Events
  • Women’s Education
  • UMW Leader


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The Columns – January


Let’s just see where God takes this”… These were my husband’s words once we made the decision to begin a connect group. We prayerfully considered our focus and how it should be formed, and decided to simply list it in the church publications. To be honest, I worried about the group before it even took shape. Would everyone get along? Would we have enough in common? Will this be a draining and time-consuming endeavor on top of my already busy life? I had friends that were already in connect groups who praised the difference their group was making in their lives. One went so far as to say that his experience re-defined what it meant to be a part of a church family. I reflected on one of my favorite passages of scripture, Philippians 4:5–9 which addresses our anxieties by reminding us to pray and surrender our fears to God.

About six weeks later, we had our first meeting of four couples and four single adults. Some of the members I knew – others were relative strangers. What became clear from the beginning was that this was a group of eleven individuals with a desire for Christian connection above all else. And it was that desire and willingness that quickly eclipsed my earlier fears. We have different careers, life experiences, family circumstances and faith traditions, yet we find genuine commonalities and are developing lasting relationships. At our meetings we don’t always have a set agenda, but discuss current events or other similar topics through a Christian lens. I don’t feel the pressure of having to plan for our time together – all of our members are equally vested in the group and therefore discussion ideas just seem to come. Sometimes, we just chat.

One of our members, Becky, said it best; “I’ve been thinking about our connect group and my experience so far. First off, I couldn’t have prayed for a better group of folks! God just knew exactly where I needed to be. . .amazing! I was a bit apprehensive at first but after attending my first gathering, I knew I had found a place to belong. I was so blown away with how sincere, genuine, compassionate, caring, welcoming, friendly…and the list could go on forever…that each and everyone in the group was. I left my first connect group gathering on a “high”…this wonderful blessed feeling. I told everyone I could that I met the most awesome group of folks and that I had never met more genuine and sincere folks ever. You all just amaze me! You are all so filled with Christian love and the Spirit. I am truly blessed to be a part.”

Our church had challenged us to “connect-grow-serve-lead” and our connect group is heeding this call. I encourage every member of our congregation to consider being a part of a connect group regardless of where you are in your life. Connect groups come in all shapes and sizes, and there is a place for every person who desires to experience God in this way. Make the time – YOU will be blessed as well.

Looking for a Connect Group?!

• Hey FUMC!!! We would love you to join Melissa and me in our new connect group, two evenings a month to just have dinner and talk about how Christ can be injected more into our daily lives. If you’re interested, contact me, Victor Crusan, at

• I’m looking to start a connect group for those living in the Long Lake/Southern Trace area. Membership at FUMC is so valuable to me and I see this as an opportunity to make it even better. If you’d like to join in that journey with me, please give me a call, Robert Mills, 318-469-1191.

ERIK RASMUSSEN • Director of Connect Groups/Singles/Counseling • • 318.424.7771

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The Columns – January


10 You will learn valuable skills and traits that will alter your thoughts and actions. One of the biggest things you will learn when traveling is how to be flexible and creative. On a trip, it is almost guaranteed that not everything will go according to plan. But that’s okay! You will learn to adapt and be creative in order to keep the trip positive. Upon return home, you will notice that your new found flexible planning and thinking will allow you to slow down and enjoy life just a little bit more.

9 Chances are, you will get the opportunity to get to know someone from church better! When out of your element, travel and mission create the chance to learn more about your neighbors from home! You’ll start as acquaintances and return as best friends.

8 You have the opportunity to visit and learn more about the world—God’s great creation! As St. Augustine said, “The world is a book; those who do not travel read only a page!”

7 You will get to meet our wonderful partners from all around the world and begin to create relationships! You will value and continue these friendships and relationships when our partners come to visit Shreveport in October 2017! You’ll be a familiar face for them!

6 You can experience new forms of worship and deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ. From an open air building in Uganda to a beautiful sanctuary in Russia, you will see that the love of Christ has no boundaries.

5 You might have the chance to try foods that you never have before! Through food, you can see the culture of different communities better!

4 You will have experiences that you can cherish for a lifetime!

3 You can be a disciple of Christ! Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, – Matthew 28:19

2 After your trip, you can encourage others to go as well!!

1 You can spend time with me and/or Ashley Goad! We can’t wait to get to know you better and serve the Lord together!

ASHLEY GOAD • on Instagram

Register Now for Costa Rica!

  • Who: Ages 10+; All Students under 18 must be accompanied by a parent
  • When: SPRING BREAK – March 26 – April 2, 2016
  • Where: San Isidro, Costa Rica
  • What: Construction
  • How much: $1200.00 ($200.00 due upon registration; $500.00 due by February 1; $500.00 due March 1.

2016 Global Missions & Events

  • RUSSIAN MISSION TRIP – February 13-23
  • HAITI MISSION TRIP – May 27 – June 3
  • MISSIONS LAUNCH LUNCH – Sunday, November 13
  • UGANDA MISSION TRIP – December 27-January 6

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The Columns – January


God created each of us to impact the world for His Glory. We have this kind of lasting significance only by growing in our relationship with Christ and increasing his impact on lives. Each month this page offers challenges aimed at doing just that. I hope you will resolve to join your church family in reading, memorizing, and living out the Word of God that together we might grow as disciples of Jesus Christ in 2016.

This month we are focusing on our need to increase in wisdom as we grow in our relationship with Christ. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” (Luke 2:52). Jesus spent 30 years growing in wisdom before he began his ministry. Not only did he grow in understanding of God and His Word, but he also grew in understanding of the world he lived in and the people with whom he spoke. As disciples of Jesus, we too are called to increase in wisdom and understanding–continually learning about God, God’s Word and Truth, the world we live in and the people around us.

A disciple who is mature in wisdom knows God, the world, oneself as a child of God, the reconciliation offered through Jesus Christ and what this means for oneself and others. We grow mature in wisdom by continual learning through reading and studying God’s Word, learning about the world and society, discovering and developing spiritual gifts, knowing and implementing the spiritual disciplines, understanding the Triune God and faith. James gives us a clear vision of the character of wisdom in our memory verse for this month. Wisdom that is from God is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield (knowing when being right isn’t the most important thing in a situation), full of mercy (knowing when to let a wrong go rather than insist on consequences or compensation), full of good fruits (using our knowledge in ways that improves the world, blesses others and reveals God’s goodness), and without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. In other words, the character of our wisdom should look like Christ’s character.

May you increase in wisdom this year while growing closer to Christ.

Grow Opportunities
James 3:17 – But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

James – Commit to join your church family in reading through the book of James this month. This can be done in solitude, with your family, with a reading partner or with a small group. Set aside time on a regular basis to read and reflect on God’s Word this month.

The Book of James by Francis Chan
on RightNow Media
Through 12 sessions, Francis Chan works through James verse-by-verse, challenging followers of Christ to move beyond a private, intellectual knowledge of God and His Word, to a vibrant faith that impacts every square inch of life. If you do not have a RightNow Media account please email Stephanie Clark for an invitation (

• Take the Discipleship Survey at Take 10 minutes to reflect on your understanding of faith and pray about steps you will take to grow this month in wisdom. (Your answers are confidential and for your reflection only.)
• Learn a new scientific theory, a culture or nation you know little about, an important issue in our community, etc — study it from every perspective, reflect and pray about how this speaks to your faith and how your faith speaks to it, talk about your studies and reflections with a partner or small group.

• Teach Sunday school, a Bible Study or lead a book discussion
• Share what you are learning this month (faith-related or secular) on Social Media using #1Discipleship #KnowGod

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The Columns – January

On Sunday, November 8, 2015, Geoff Westmoreland and Kay Ferguson led our panelists through questions and reflections of their experiences serving not only locally, but globally. Dr. Keith Payne enthusiastically told stories of clean water and solar power in Haiti. Dr. Betsy Harrel reminded us of the power and ministry of presence, as she told of an Ecuadorian saying to her, “You being here makes me feel like I matter.” Andy Obsorn recalled with joy sweating alongside Costa Ricans to dig the foundation for future university students’ houses. Jann Connell reflected on worshipping with Ugandan children and learning from their faithfulness. Sam Speed, having visited each of our partnership countries – Ecuador, Russia, Costa Rica, Haiti, & Uganda – presented a unique point-of-view of uniting the body of Christ throughout all the world.
This was a wonderful opportunity to hear directly from those who have served with our global missions ministry. Global & Local Missions will offer two opportunities much like this in 2016 – April 22 and November 13. Won’t you join us to find out more about those whose lives are being transformed through missions?!

As Dr. Day prayed recently, he asked God to forgive us for not saying we are thankful all year long. The November GEMs Night Out was filled with lots of reminders that God has blessed us in many, many ways. First UMC feels blessed that our GEMs families share their children with us each month. As a way to say thank you to them, the GEMs Ministry Team gave a gift to each family to assist with their family’s Thanksgiving feast. The children enjoyed games, dinner, crafts, and a short movie. Thank you, God, for our children, and the adult and youth staff.

November 22nd Deaf Community celebrated its third ASL Worship Service. Hearts of both deaf and hearing were warmed as our guest speaker, Michelle Menefee from Houston, Texas, shared an inspiring message on “Grace”. Michelle is a Certified Professional ASL Interpreter, helped author the resolution passed by the Texas Annual Conference establishing standards for ASL Interpreters for all Texas Annual Conference meetings. She also serves as part of an ASL team that interprets for General Conference. Most recently, Michelle was part of an ASL team project that worked on decoding, interpreting, and producing videos of terms and vocabulary of the United Methodist Glossary now available on the United Methodist Church website. (Visit to see one of these videos). Members of Deaf Community assisted in leading the worship service by offering the prayer, scripture reading, Apostles’ Creed, hymns, and more. Deaf and Hearing were blessed by the service. A potluck luncheon and fellowship immediately followed in Bain Hall. Our next ASL worship service will be at 3pm Sunday, March 20 in Bain Hall with guest worship leaders Expressions of Emmanuel acting and signing several Bible Stories.

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The Columns – January


Joining others on the Journey and Pursuit of Jesus
My first encounter with connect groups was 14 years ago. I was a freshman in college and the campus ministry I was part of was primarily built upon relationships through connect group ministry. I loved my college ministry because there were always people to hang out with and always things to do. I became a semi-pro at ping pong and foosball (you are welcome to come up to the church and challenge me in either at any time). I signed up for a connect group, not because I thought I needed one, but because everyone was doing it, kind of following the crowd. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My faith had always been a singular adventure. It was up to me in my own life to walk through my journey of Faith. And I had been largely unsuccessful at it. I had become a Christian only the year previously, but I really never took any of God’s commands too realistically. I just kind of kept living life the same way I had before I became a Christian. I think this was partially because I didn’t really understand what it meant to live in surrender to God and partially because what I did understand I didn’t really want to do. God was convenient, and I liked Him that way.

So I walked into my first connect group encounter expecting some fun fellowship time and maybe a meal, and I got what I was expecting, at first. But as the night progressed, I started to realize that these people were serious about Jesus. As we began to read through the bible together, I saw people struggling with the words of Jesus. I saw people wrestling through what it would look like to actually follow Him. I think in retrospect I should have pulled away, the warning lights were going off, “This is all getting a little too real,” but I couldn’t. As I stated before, I had become a Christian; deep down God had my heart, and now I had others around me who were also interested in discovering what that meant. I left that evening with a zest and curiosity for what the next week held.

Next week’s meeting went largely as the previous one had, and I noticed myself not only drawn closer to God but also closer to these individuals. It was an intoxicating process. Something I never realized I wanted was developing before my eyes. I had a community; a pocket of friends who were on the same path as I was. They weren’t perfect, they didn’t know everything or do everything right, but we were all fixing our aim toward God together. We were all learning what it was to live in a pursuit of Jesus and when you have companions on that journey, it makes it all the more real.

The year progressed, and by the end of it, I had discovered something I had not known before. This idea of brothers and sisters in Christ was all of a sudden real. It wasn’t words that I read about in the bible or jargon used in the church to conjure ideas of belonging. It was actually people who knew me well enough to consider me their brother. It was actually people who I knew well enough to consider brothers and sisters. Since then I have been part of dozens of different connect group communities. And while all of them are different, maintaining a personality and function all to their own, I can’t help but see the life that I have today is largely because I discovered community. I found out what it means to belong to the body of Christ. And now that I know, I don’t think I can ever go back to my singular Christian life.

If you’re interested in joining others on this journey and pursuit of Jesus, please call me or email me and I’ll help you get involved.

ERIK RASMUSSEN • Director of Connect Groups/Singles/Counseling • • 318.424.7771

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The Columns – January


What Does the New Year Hold for You?
You are standing on the threshold of an exciting new year filled with fantastic possibilities and opportunities. If 2015 was a difficult year for you then you can celebrate that it is over and you have survived! In fact, this past year was preparation for the marvelous adventure that God has in store for you in 2016. I believe that 2016 will be a tremendous year for you.

One of the most important things as you begin this New Year is to remember that it is important to watch your thoughts because they become words. Fear has a way of making you think things are worse than they really are. Your imagination begins to run wild, leading you to conclude a worst case scenario. The Bible reminds us, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” Marcus Aurelius, one of the wisest men of the Roman Empire, said, “Your life is what your thoughts make it.” What you think determines what you become and do in life. You become what you think about most of the time. Your thoughts control and determine almost everything that happens to you. James Allen in his classic book, “As a Man Thinketh,” writes, “All that a man achieves or fails to achieve is a direct result of his thoughts.”

Paul said, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) When you change your thoughts, you change your life. Your thoughts determine your outlook and actions in life. Rich Devos once said, “The only thing that stands between a person and what they want in life is the will to try it and the faith to believe it is possible.” When you change your thoughts, you change your life.

Your thoughts determine your outlook and actions in life. Is the glass half full or half empty? The choice is yours. What you believe with constancy becomes your reality. Your thoughts determine your reality. You can have a life -changing belief that makes you happy and optimistic or it can be negative and fearful and makes you pessimistic and destroys your future. Keep your mind clearly focused on what you want and refuse to think about what you don’t want; you will attract everything you need to achieve your goals. The mind acts just like a magnet. Our thoughts attract the very things that we want or the very things that we don’t want ,depending on how we utilize it.

What do you want to achieve or become in 2016? Write it down, then picture it, believe it, and visualize it in detail. Trust God to direct your steps and affirm, “God is with me. He is helping me. He is guiding me.” Then, by faith, put your hands in Jesus Christ’s and ask him to lead you each step of the way during this year. You will be amazed at the miracles that will come into your life. You will be amazed at the most marvelous adventure the human mind can conceive.

There are no guarantees in the New Year. But if you follow what I have suggested, it certainly will give you a higher chance to succeed than if you choose to ignore it. 2016 is going to be a great year, a fantastic year filled with exciting adventures and opportunities for each one of us. So let’s step forward into the New Year with faith, courage, confidence, and positive expectancy for what God will bring and do in our lives.

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Stephen Ministries was founded in 1975 by Dr. Kenneth Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist. While the pastor of a St. Louis congregation, Dr. Haugk saw needs for care that exceeded what he alone as pastor could provide. The first Stephen Ministers were nine members trained by Dr. Haugk to work with him in providing caring ministry. The ministry was so successful that some of the Stephen Ministers suggested that this ministry be shared with other congregations. The rest is history. With 4200 members the needs for care certainly exceeds that which the
five pastors of First Methodist can provide. It is a blessing that our church has a cadre of well-trained Stephen Ministers to work with our pastors in providing a ministry of care to our congregation. As we conclude the calendar year, highlighted by the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, this can be a time of challenges. If you find yourself in need of a caring friend, please call Dr. Carl Rhoads (424-7771) in the church office.



This time of year we focus on how God expressed his love by sending his Son into the world. That world includes the marketplace to which we have been sent as Christ’s ambassadors. So, what does genuine Christian love look like at work? Tim Sanders, former Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo, tells the story of Chris in Love Is The Killer App. Chris was a new officer called to the roundtable to hear another consultant’s presentation. Chris sat stony-faced, then ripped him up one side and down the other. The consultant was taken aback, and Tim was embarrassed. They tried to bring Chris in a couple other times, but Chris continued with his aggressive, rude, and demeaning approach. No one wanted to work with him, and tried to avoid him. Chris acquired the nickname “Mad Dog.” One day Chris went to Tim and told him he realized he needed to change. Tim taught Mad Dog how to become a Love Cat by offering his wisdom freely, sharing his network, and reaching out with compassion.

We can love people by offering our wisdom freely. In our working world we often use our knowledge and wisdom as a competitive edge. We hold back our full input so that we still hold some chips. That is a mentality of scarcity. When you are on the same team – your company – you succeed together. When you share your wisdom, others benefit, but you do too. It builds trust, which fosters an open environment for the free exchange of information. When knowledge is shared, everyone is smarter and can put together the information in new and profitable ways. A pastor from a nearby church is usually considered the competition. However, a nearby pastor and I meet regularly to read books, sharpen our leadership skills, and troubleshoot problems in our churches had. Whenever one of us came back from a conference, we would teach the other one what we had learned. By teaching it we internalized the material which helped us put it into practice in our own churches. It also helped the person who had not attended the conference. When we share our wisdom everyone wins!

We can love people by sharing our network of friends. Jesus grew his inner circle from 3 to 12 to 72 to 120. Jesus was constantly drawing people together, empowering them and sending them out together. I have a mentor who planted and renewed churches. He had worked with a young man on a church renewal. My mentor thought the young man and I would mutually benefit from knowing one another, so he invited Mary Kay and me to his house for dinner to meet with the young man and his wife. My mentor received nothing out of doing that except the sheer joy of seeing a lasting relationship form. When you know two people who would hit it off, or who could help one another, the loving thing to do is arrange the divine appointment. When we connect our friends freely, everyone wins.

We can love people by reaching out with compassion. Ken Blanchard gets to the heart of grace-filled compassion. “Grace is at work in relationships when we are present for one another, accepting our mutual limitations and willing to exchange mutual efforts to enhance one another’s well-being. It is only in intimacy that grace abounds.” Every office has its own time schedules and boundaries. However, compassion can be expressed many ways. It is easy to see in the eyes and posture of our colleagues if they had a rough weekend and are facing problems at home. We also see blowups at work which can become deep hurts, resentments, and simmering anger. Touching base with them at break or lunch can mean the world to them. To know that someone sees this pain and genuinely cares can mean everything. Feeling alone in the world is a terrible burden. When we reach out with compassion we give hope and courage. It is not that hard to take a moment to truly listen to someone’s concern then ask, ‘Can I pray with you about that?’ When two or three are gathered in prayer the power of God works in amazing ways.

During the month of December, I challenge you to be love incarnate to those around you at work to fulfill Jesus’ command, “Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) Perhaps you can put Tim Sander’s beatitude in your desk drawer: ‘Happiest are the lovecats who are most generous with their knowledge, their networks, and their compassion.’


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
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.
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!
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!)
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.”
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!
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 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!
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! 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.