“As Leo Tolstoy said in his oft-quoted opening lines of Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Most families don’t spend much time wondering if they’re happy or not, and most children assume that they are growing up in a typical family until their worldview expands to include more possibilities.”
By Emily Sheetz*
“It’s a big, big house with lots and lots of rooms.
A big, big table with lots and lots of food.
A big, big yard where we can play football.
A big, big house. It’s my Father’s house.”
Lyrics from Big House by Audio Adrenaline
This song is one of my favorites from camp, but more about camp later. For me it is a favorite because it talks about home, and how people come together, and will come together, in our Father’s house. This summer I added one room, returned to another, and shut the lights off in another.
Nearly three and a half months ago I drove into downtown Steubenville not knowing what to expect as I was beginning an internship in an environment a world apart from what I have known my whole life. Southeast Ohio is filled with hills and views I do not get in Northeast Ohio and economic challenges far different from suburban Cleveland.
Despite my hesitation, I pulled into the parking lot of Urban Mission ministries (Ohio Valley District) ready to take on this journey experiencing the mission and non-profit sphere of the Church. Every day brought a new, eye-opening experience. Each person I met, worked and interacted with made it my best summer yet. From the very first day, I was welcomed into the community with open arms. Serving alongside fellow Christians who continue to see the possibilities of spreading the love in a city was encouraging. It pushed, and pushes, me to live a life with a mission to be a person of possibility, to listen with compassion, and to serve with love.
Four years ago, I spent many Sunday mornings listening to Rev. Dave Scavuzzo plug into his sermons information about a ministry for children in the foster care system. It peaked my interest because I grew up in a home with a roof over my head every night, food on the table or in the fridge, and a loving family who supports me in everything I do.
Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) reaches out to kids who grew up far differently. It serves 32 children in the Cuyahoga County foster care system that folks from Strongsville United Methodist (North Coast District) bring to camp. RFKC spreads the concept of a safe home and safe people to others. At the end of the week, there is a talent show where individual campers or groups of campers can show off their talents to all of camp.
Three years ago, one camper blew us all away. Throughout the week, we had sung Gold by Britt Nicole and this particular camper wanted to sing it for the talent show. His family, or small group, encouraged him to go for it. Once Thursday evening came around, however, there was some stage fright, so his counselors ended up covering him up with a blanket while he sang on the stage. When the song was over, he came out from under the blanket, welcomed to a standing ovation and so much love. Now coming back this year and seeing the shy young boy I met three years ago with a huge smile on his face every day, laughing every day, and overall being outgoing was an amazing welcome back to the RFKC room in our Father’s house.
I have been attending East Ohio Camps for nearly 15 years and this year I shut the lights off in my camper room. Seven years ago, I pulled into a familiar place for a not so familiar space. I went into the gates of Lakeside Chautauqua for a new camp experience, to me, for a week of Lakeside Institute. Lakeside Institute is a high school- and college age-camp and quickly became a non-negotiable week of my summer, but this summer was my last year as a camper. This camp is where I learned to love myself for who God created me to be, where I found Christ, and where I can look around and say this is what Heaven is going to be like. As I turned the light off in this room this year, I looked around our closing circle and saw each person as someone God placed in my life over the course of the past seven years for a reason. I saw each person as someone I cannot wait to share the big, big house, table, and yard with when we are called to our Father’s house.
Home can mean so many things to all of us. To me it is a place or space filled with people who walk alongside me while I continue to discern where God is calling and leading me in ministry and how He wants me to help others experience home. As of right now, each room of my Father’s house I have experienced has helped me discern I am called to pastoral ministry in some capacity. In the coming years, and for the rest of my life, I will be adding more and more rooms that I come in and out of, and adding more and more people to invite “to come and go with me to my Father’s house.”
*Emily Sheetz is a junior at Indiana Wesleyan University studying Community Development and Honors Humanities pursuing ordination in The United Methodist Church.
by Rev. Néstor Nazario*
It has been a month since I have been in the Mid-Ohio District as District Superintendent. During the month of July, I have had the opportunity to worship on Sundays mornings at several of our congregations, including the privilege of singing in a choir of retired and active ministers, and filling in as a drummer during a contemporary worship service.
I have also had the opportunity to listen, read about, see and/or participate in some of the diverse ways we as a church are expressing God’s love toward the community we are called to serve. I have heard from pastors and chairs of some of the district committees about what we have done in the past, are currently doing, and are planning to do in the future to be an agent of God’s transforming love in the world.
I have learned from Mission-Insite that the population in Mid-Ohio is expected to hold steady, that it is very homogenous racially, that the divide between blue-collar and white-collar occupations is closely split, and that only 17% of the population consider worship attendance to be important. Forty-four percent of the population consider themselves to be spiritual but not religious. That means that they are currently meeting their spiritual needs of relating to God or a Higher Power, to others and to self through other means other than organized religion.
Knowing that Mid-Ohio has a lot of farmland, I thought it would be a good idea to experience firsthand what farmers do. When I found out at Annual Conference, that our District Lay Leader, Don Burdsall, had farmland, owned horses, and would bale hay in the summer, I volunteered to help as a way of getting to know the people of Mid-Ohio.
Sure enough, the call came, the date was set, and out to Cardington, Ohio, I drove to bale hay with Don. Little did I know, that I would be considering that experience to be my initiation to Mid-Ohio after the dust had settled. I must say it was an eye-opening experience in many ways.
It was arduous work. Stacking bales of hay while keeping your balance on a wagon being hauled by a tractor, that is also pulling a hay baler machine, is no easy feat. (It took me a while to get my sea legs back.) After stacking 108 bales of hay at approximately 45 lbs. apiece, I welcomed the respite as we transported the hay to the barn to be stored in the hayloft. Once there, Don set the hay bale elevator to begin the upload. I had to unplug the machine halfway through our load to catch my breath.
Even though I lost my eyeglasses while being consumed by this task, I got a glimpse into all the challenging work farmers do, year in and year out, to make a living. It gave me a new appreciation and understanding of who they are and what they do. It also made me think about how little do we know about the people or groups of people with whom we don’t interact or relate with. We naturally tend to set up barriers between them and us.
If we want to be a vital and growing church in our communities, we need to widen our circles of interaction to include other people. We need to start relating and interacting with the 83% of un-churched people. We need to get to know them and become their friends first, so that they may experience God’s love through us. Who knows? Maybe after that they may explore meeting their spiritual needs through our communities of faith.
It is amazing what hay baling can make you think about. I just hope Don’s horses don’t eat my eyeglasses.
* Rev. Néstor Nazario is the District Superintendent for the Mid-Ohio District of the East Ohio Conference