Leading and Living in Anxious Times

There can be no doubt. We are living and leading in anxious times: a pandemic, racial injustice, political divisiveness, economic crisis, violence and unrest, church shut-down/restart, and the uncertainty of the future of our denomination. While we may think of this time as extraordinary, it’s certainly not the first time in history when the world was in turmoil. As people of faith, we may turn to the scriptures and find stories of anxious times: the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt, Esther trying to stop her husband/king from annihilating the Jews, Naomi grieving the death of her husband and two sons, David facing Goliath, the Israelites in exile, the Jews living under Roman oppression, and Paul persecuted and imprisoned. In all these stories, we see that God was still at work, God was present, and God was victorious in bringing healing and redemption. The cross reminds us that violence, death and suffering are not the final word. Jesus Christ is the final word, the Word become flesh, who made his dwelling among ordinary people who faced extraordinary anxious times. In the cross and resurrection we find hope of a new beginning, new life. We are in the “in between” time – like Jesus, trapped in the dark tomb for 3 days. We long for the bright light of Easter morning, and the joy of resurrection. While we await a more peaceful time, we need to be patient, pray without ceasing. trust in God, live one day at a time, share our burdens with one another, look for signs of grace, and breathe deeply.

The Upper Room has created resources for anxious times, and you may find devotionals here:

https://www.upperroom.org/resources/alive-now-and-weavings-issues-for-anxious-times?utm_source=The+Upper+Room+Ministry+Engagement&utm_campaign=83bfd9fe12-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_01_15_05_38&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0542d9a4cf-83bfd9fe12-204312017

A Cure for the Dis-ease

“The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’”  Acts 17:24-28

I came across this passage today while doing a devotional in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young.   I’m sure you have read or heard of her book.   She writes as if Jesus were talking directly to her, and to all of us.

I was reminded of how relevant this passage is to our current reality.   First of all, Paul reminds his diverse audience that God is indeed Lord of “heaven and earth, and does not live in shrines made by human hands.”   In the midst of the pandemic, we have been pushed out of the sanctuary, a shrine made by human hands.  Paul was combatting idol worship, which is still around today when we value facilities over faith, and end up accumulating debt, rather than disciples.    The Coronavirus has pushed us  beyond the four walls, beyond stained glass and pretty oak pews, beyond altars and brass candles, or whatever other shrines or rituals we have made to honor God.   We have been forced to worship outside, in parking lots, under picnic shelters, or on the internet.   God doesn’t live in a sanctuary, but in the world and in us, as we are the temple for God’s indwelling spirit.   “….indeed He is not far from each one of us.  For ‘In him we live and move and have our being.”    When the vaccine arrives, and we feel safer to return more regularly to our facilities, will we look for God’s presence only in the “shrine” or will we experience God in all life, in all mortal beings, in all things?  Where does the line exist between what is sacred and what is secular, if He is Lord of heaven and earth?  Secondly, Paul was attempting to persuade others about the meaning of scriptures, as he argued in the synagogue with Jews, other devout persons “and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.” (Acts 17:17)   In this strange exile, we have been removed from the building and put in the foreign land of technology.  We have the opportunity to creatively persuade others about our faith.   The internet has opened wide the doors of the church to “those who happened to be there.”   I’m hearing stories from pastors who tell me they have more “likes” or “hits” from persons visiting their worship on Facebook than they ever had visitors in the pews.   The word “prayer” has been googled thousands more times during this pandemic, than ever before.   Many persons are searching for comfort, hope, meaning, and God has opened a way, “that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him.”   When the vaccine arrives, and we return to a somewhat “normal” routine, how will we continue to reach those who are searching for God, but are not likely to come through our sanctuary doors?   What can we offer in the “marketplace” where people are shopping for comfort and security in the midst of great suffering during the pandemic?  A vaccine may inoculate us from COVID-19, but it will not cure the dis-ease that comes from the spiritual and emotional brokenness of life in this imperfect world.   The only cure for that dis-ease is the healing power of Jesus,  4Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.  Isaiah 53:4-5

 

Help Feed Guatemala: $30,000 by June 30

A Special Mission Project for The Columbia District

In 2017 the Outreach Section of the District Council on Ministries identified Healing Guatemala as a special district mission focus.    Healing Guatemala is headed by Rev. Dr. Luke Rhyee, former pastor of the Korean United Methodist Church in Columbia.   The usual focus of Healing Guatemala is three-fold:  Education, Medical and Hunger Abetment.

In ordinary times Guatemala is a poverty-stricken country.  Many people live on a subsistence economy that is day to day.  If they do not work they do not eat.   In this time of Covid – 19 the hunger issues have taken precedents.  To that end, the folk at Healing Guatemala have created a special program that has enabled them to provide 1,500 families with food.

The organization has purchased 60,000 lbs. of corn and a similar supply of beans.  That has been distributed in bundles of 30 lbs. of corn and 15 lbs. of beans per family.  This, along with whatever vegetables the family are able to grow themselves, may be all they eat, each day, every day until the pandemic moves on and work reappears.  At a cost of $20.00 per family, these beans and corn will feed a family of four as long as 15 days.    Then the cycle starts over.   Work / food shortages are anticipated to last until late June or into July.

The Columbia District has set a goal of raising as much as possible to provide for a two-week cycle.   To do that we need to raise $30,000 by June 30th.  Every dollar raised will purchase food for the need of our neighbors.    It is hoped that each church in the district will address this need in some significant manner.

Forward funds, offered prayerfully, to the Columbia District Office, 4908 Colonial Drive, Columbia, SC 29203 with the notation that they are directed to the Healing Guatemala Fund.     Periodic notations will be sent out to pastors to inform about our progress towards the goal.

For more information about Healing Guatemala find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/healingguatemala.org/ and on the Web,  https://www.healingguatemala.org/

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?”

A Pastoral Letter to Pastors and Churches

All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.”   Julian of Norwich(1343-1416)

Grace and Peace to the pastors and churches of the Columbia District:

First and foremost, I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the creative  ministry you have been doing “outside the walls of the church”.   I have watched your worship on TV, FB, and Youtube, and have been inspired by your spiritual leadership.  Pastors and church leaders are charting new territory.  The church is in exile, and we have been placed in the foreign land of technology.  Ministry is relational, and it is difficult for the Body of Christ to not gather face-to-face.   I know you are eager and anxious about the next phase of ministry:  Return to Church.   The Bishop,  Cabinet and Conference staff have been working this week on decisions and guidelines.   As you receive these documents, no doubt concerns and questions will arise.  Please know that each church has a different context.   If pastors and church leaders discern that it would be highly risky for your particular population to gather (or too risky to share in communion), then it is certainly fine for you to delay re-opening, beyond the date given by Bishop Holston.   While the Conference will provide guidelines, you may also be overwhelmed by resources that are flooding your in-box and the internet.   To discuss “best practices” for your particular context, it would be wise to consult with leaders of similar church sizes.  I will set up Zoom meetings to discuss Return to Church (2 are set for next week: Monday – all pastors at 3:00pm, and Thursday, 12:00noon for moving pastors and SPRC Chairs).    In the midst of all these challenges, take time to care for yourself.  Don’t hesitate to call on me for guidance.   Stay grounded in God.  Pray without ceasing.  And remember our Wesley Rules:  “Do no harm.   Do good.  And stay in love with God.”

“Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things.

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices.   St. Theresa of Avila (1515-1582)

With thanksgiving to God for your leadership,

Cathy

Rev. Dr. Cathy Jamieson, Columbia District Superintendent and Secretary to the Cabinet

Connecting to Epworth During Social Distancing

A Letter from Rev. Kathy James

Dear Friends,

Grace and peace to you in this holy season and in this unprecedented time.   As I hope you know, Epworth Children’s Home has responded to state and federal law changes regarding child welfare by expanding their ministry to include the recruitment, training and support of foster parents and kinship caregivers, and by setting up offices throughout the state to provide these and other services locally and in partnership with United Methodist churches.

The nearly 60 children currently on Epworth’s Millwood Campus are primarily middle schoolers and high schoolers.  Younger children are now mandated by the state to be placed in foster care as close as possible to where they are from.  To date, Epworth has placed 49 children in foster homes, has licensed 54 foster families and is currently shepherding 28 additional families through the foster care process.  In the meantime, the need for foster families in our state is significant.  There are currently 4700 children in foster care in South Carolina, and over 1900 foster families still needed.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Epworth was holding monthly Foster Care Interest sessions in Columbia and Summerville.  With the social isolation directives, a live, virtual interest session has been scheduled for Thursday, April 30 at 3:00 pm.  I am writing to you to ask for your assistance in getting the word out about this session by connecting with Epworth on social media and sharing their information broadly.

 Below you will find detailed instructions about how to connect with Epworth on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and also how to share this connection with your networks on these platforms.  You do not know who God might be calling to serve as foster parents, and you do not know how many of these people you may be connected to through social media.  Our hope is that by intentionally connecting, inviting and sharing, the word will get to people who will want to attend this interest session.  In addition to these instructions, our gifted staff has created a video that actually walks through these processes so that less technically-minded people can see how to spread the word on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.   You can see that video here: https://youtu.be/GCWonbyEWsY.

I am asking you to follow the instructions below yourself and also to share these instructions with your Methodist networks by Friday, April 17 so that we can extend the social media reach of Epworth to the people God is calling to be foster parents.  Will you allow God to use you in this way?  Thank you in advance for your consideration.  Also, now and in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me for more information regarding the work that Epworth is doing.  I look forward, once the world starts up again, to meeting with you and your local church and your leadership groups about how you can partner with Epworth to make a difference in the lives of children in your area.

Gratefully,

Kathy James, Director of Church Relations

Epworth Children’s Home, kjames@epworthsc.org

Connecting on Social Media

Connect with Epworth on Social Media! Did you know that Epworth Children’s Home is on all social media platforms? We love to share stories about what is going on, say thank you to our generous donors and volunteers, and keep everyone up-to-date on what’s happening on campus and across the state! Check out the directions below on how to ensure you are seeing our content & for ways to be an ambassador for Epworth!

Facebook:

Like us on Facebook by searching Epworth Children’s Home or follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/EpworthChildrensHome/

By liking us on Facebook it gives you the ability to see all of our posts and stay up-to-date with the latest announcements and good news!  Want to make sure you never miss a post? You can turn on post notifications by clicking the “following” icon on the home page and click “on” under “post notifications”.

Want to help support Epworth with just two easy clicks? You can invite you friends and family to like Epworth on Facebook by clicking the ellipses on Epworth’s page, then clicking “invite friends”. You can choose “select all” and then “send invites” and Facebook will invite all of your friends on Facebook to like Epworth’s page. Imagine the impact just a few clicks could have for our residents and clients!  When you see a post you like, please like it, share it, and even tag a friend in the comments who you think would enjoy it! We are truly thankful for every single interaction.

Instagram:

Follow us on Instagram @epworthchildrenshome or by clicking here: https://www.instagram.com/epworthchildrenshome/

Instagram is a great way to see awesome photos and helpful inforgraphics about Epworth! We also love to share things on our Instagram story like fun checklists or Mental Health tips from our counseling center!  Make sure you never miss a post by turning on our post notifications! You can do this by clicking “following” on our page, then “notifications” and clicking on whatever you would like to be notified about: posts, stories, IGTV or Instagram Lives!

In addition to following us on Epworth you can share our posts to your Instagram story by clicking the share button and then clicking “share on your story”. If you see a post that a friend would love – you can click that share button, type in your friends Instagram name – and send it directly to them!

Be sure to like and comment on any post that you love. We love hearing from you and want to you know what you like to see!

Twitter:

Follow us on twitter at @EpworthCH or by clicking here: https://twitter.com/EpworthCH

On twitter, like any posts that you like and retweet anything that you want to share with your followers!  On all social media, if you do something with or for Epworth, please tag us!! We love to like, share and retweet our supporters and it is so helpful when you tag us in those items.  For any specific questions on how to be an Ambassador of Epworth through social media – please reach out to Teddi Garrick at tgarrick@epworthsc.org.

District Missionary Rev. Luke Rhyee: Ministry in Midst of COVID-19

Happy souls in Chusiajcaba who enjoyed the meal.  However, currently our meal serving ministry has been suspended. Yesterday was raining in the land of Guatemala. Since last November we have not had any rain drops, which made the trees and plants wither and dry. However, the rain yesterday will refresh all the trees and plants into vivid green color. The anticipation of this alone gives me a joy in my heart.

As of this writing, TV broadcastings announce that there are more than a million people who have gotten infected globally by Covid 19, and the death toll has surpassed 60,000. The circumstance of the US is not different. The US already has 260,000 infected patients and more than 6,000 have passed away. Up until now the situation in Guatemala seems okay. Since the first Covid 19 patient in Guatemala was diagnosed, which was on March 19, Guatemala has had 50 confirmed cases and one death. One of these fifty patients came from Xela, where our mission center is located. Our Bethesda staffs are doing well. Our medical school scholarship students as well as middle school scholarship students are fine. So are our friends in Chuisajcaba.

Currently, the Guatemalan government is doing her best to moderate the transmission of Covid 19. The government ordered a “Stay at home” policy.  It forced all non-essential businesses to close. Public transportation has been suspended. The border was shut down, including the airports. A curfew was instilled from 4 pm to 4 am and has been effective.

Our ministries are also affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. Our meal serving ministry, which had served 300 children each with three meals a week, has been suspended. Our mobile clinic ministry in remote areas has been suspended also. Bethesda clinic has reduced the office hours and is attending to emergency patients with minimal staffs. In our medical outpatient department, we attend to 10 percent of patients with Covid 19 compared to the number of patients without Covid 19. In our dental department, we don’t have any patients. With regard to the scholarship programs, we keep sending the scholarships to the students.

(Our mobile clinic ministry has been suspended due to Covid 19 pandemic. In the picture, Dr. Mitch Grunsky from Trinity UMC, Sumter SC attended a patient in praying.)

So far, the Guatemalan government has done a good job in slowing down the spreading of Covid 19. However, in my viewpoint, the worst has not yet come. Until now, most of Covid 19 patients came from a high class which could afford to travel to Spain or Italy. They have resources to keep themselves in quarantine or keep social distancing order.

However, if Covid 19 spreads to the people in the low class, which is the majority of the Guatemalans, we will have a different story. The outcome would be devastating. In Guatemala there are many poor communities where they don’t have water, which is essential for personal hygiene, such as washing their hands. Nor are they in a place where they can practice social distancing. In many poverty-stricken communities, many families share one small room for their entire family. Many of them have more than 10 family members.  It is simply not possible for them to keep a safe distance from others. Also, it is the beginning moments of government regulation when people try to comply. However, if this shut down keeps going for the next several weeks, Guatemalans will be in a place where they have to decide how to die. Die from Covid 19 or from starvation. I hope this kind of situation shall not come. But it would be at the end of April or early May when Covid 19 would spread massively to the low class.

Bethesda has prepared everything possible to help the community. We accumulated a stockpile of the protection gear, such as masks, gloves, goggles, isolation gowns, intubation tubes, etc. In our plan, we wanted to purchase Covid 19 exam kits so that we may help the community directly. However, we noticed that our staffs are not ready to engage directly. This is why we changed the plan to help the community indirectly. We will help the hospitals and public health centers by sharing our resources. We will send food to the medical staffs at the hospitals. Also, we will provide food to the families in Chuisajcaba where we have a meal serving ministry as well as to the families in need close to Bethesda.

I know the circumstances of Covid 19 in the US as well as in South Korea are not good. I feel sorry to add another sad story of Guatemala to all of you. However, the impact of Covid 19 to a poor country such as Guatemala would be different than the impact to the US or to S. Korea. For to these people, it is the matter of survival of their families. For they don’t have any social or governmental safety net or savings in their bank account. Most of the families in Chuisajcaba, where we have a meal serving ministry, eat corn as their main food. For corn is the cheapest ingredient with which they can barely manage their families to not starve. Without and even before Covid 19, some of them could not manage. They often might skip a meal a day. Right now, the corn price has shot up three or four times higher than normal. This is a simple death sentence to these poor families.

Please lift these poor brothers in Guatemala in your prayers. Pray for the staffs at Bethesda. Pray that Bethesda can keep saving the people in Guatemala. Pray that we can see these bright smiles of our children very soon. Pray for those who are in pain as well as those who are mourning. Also, pray for all of us who may come closer to the Lord in the midst of Covid 19 pandemic so that the earth can restore her vivid life in the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Luke Rhyee

Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8:48

To get more information; 

healingguatemala.org

facebook.com/luke.rhyee

To support the mission;

Payable to Healing Guatemala

P.O. Box 1835

Duluth, GA 30096

한국: 하나은행

힐링과테말라

287-910017-07605

 

A Simple Mission to Do From Home

Below is an opportunity from Rev. Kathy James, Director of Church Relations, Epworth

Friends,

In this time of uncertainty, I wanted to share with you an opportunity to assist an invisible group of folks in our communities.  Kinship Caregivers are family members raising their family member’s children.  Think of grandparents raising grandchildren and using up their retirement savings to do so.  Think of Sara and Joe, with 3 kids of their own, raising Joe’s sister’s 2 kids as well.  At Epworth we have learned of some kinship care needs in Richland County, many of which can be addressed by an Amazon order from your home.  Below are the needs:

Disinfectant wipes and spray

Baby wipes

Bread

Rice

Milk

Eggs

Toilet Paper

Paper Towels

Gas Cards

Address for shipping or drop off:

4 Northfield Court, Columbia, SC 29229

Thank you for receiving this need and for responding to it as you are able.  Also, I look forward to working with your church to develop a foster care ministry and/or a ministry with parents in your community.  Now, when everything is still, is a time for dreaming and planning.  Let me know how I can help!

Gratefully,

Kathy James, Director of Church Relations

Epworth Children’s Home

kjames@epworthsc.org

(803) 256-7394, ext. 200

Appointment-making Week: A Mystery and a Myth

It’s that time of year again, when the Bishop and Cabinet immerse themselves day and night in the appointment-making process.   We will be at Myrtle Beach March 2-6, but we won’t be dipping our toes in the ocean.   We will be praying, discussing, discerning, and studying pastor profiles and church profiles.  It is a team effort, and the entire Cabinet votes on EVERY appointment.   There are many factors that impact our work:  spouses who can’t move because of a job;  families want good schools for their children;  clergy couples;  40+ retirements;  not enough clergy being ordained;  churches wanting young creative pastors (with 25 years of experience); churches needing to lower salaries;  several clergy leaving pastoral ministry.   Some pastors who didn’t ask for a move, may be “plucked up.”  That’s happened to me twice in my ministry, and its a little stressful!  You get the picture.  This is an arduous process.   It’s like putting together a puzzle, but all the pieces don’t quite fit exactly to make a perfect picture.

With all its challenges, its is who we are as Christians and as Methodists.  Jesus was an itinerant minister.  He rarely stayed in one place very long, but instead traveled to small towns, the wilderness, by the Sea of Galilee, into Jerusalem, and even into Samaria.   He was not confined to one “congregation” but instead went about the countryside, seeking lost sheep.   The apostles followed Jesus’ example, and Paul journeyed across the Mediterranean, sharing good news.  Our founder, John Wesley said

“…I should myself preach even my congregation ‘asleep’ were I to stay in one place an entire year.”

“No one whom I ever yet knew has all the talents which are needful for beginning, continuing, and perfecting the work of grace in a whole congregation.”

There are all kinds of rumors, myth and mystery about appointment-making week.  Let me assure you we are not just throwing darts on a dart board.   We are very prayerful, careful and hopeful that we are matching the gifts of pastors to the needs of churches.   We covet your prayers as we enter into this season.   Despite our imperfect system, we serve a perfect God, who will take all our efforts, and make ministry happen.   Pastors come and pastors go.   Let us remember the words of Paul, an itinerant preacher.   I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth1 Corinthians 3:6-7