Farming Experience Leaves DS with New Perspective

Rev. Néstor Nazario
Rev. Néstor Nazario, Mid-Ohio District Superintendent

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.

Don Burdsall
Don Burdsall, Mid-Ohio District Lay Leader

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

Hurricane Matthew Continues to Impact Lives

By Rev. Ash Welch*

The 10th Beatitude: “Blessed are the FLEXIBLE, for they shall BEND and NOT be Broken!” That was our motto during the Mid-Ohio District disaster relief trip to assist with the continuing recovery from Hurricane Matthew.

We had to be flexible with our departure: two flat tires and a dead battery before we left caused a slight shift in plans as we left with a team of six people for Tarboro, North Carolina. The area sustained a lot of damage last October from the former Category 5 hurricane.

Once we got on the road, the trip was excellent, perhaps the best this team leader has ever had, and I’ve been on about 20 mission trips.  Our work was toward the end of the “mudding out” second stage of healing for the area flooded by the Tar River after the storm surge and rains of Hurricane Matthew.

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We worked for a week on two manufactured homes and a church basement. The work involved removing flooring and insulation that was still water-logged months later, and pounding clean the stucco walls in a hall beneath the church. It was hard work for our small team, but each worked according to their ability and strength under the supervision of the UMCOR staff with the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

On our trip we were blessed with amazement and amusement.  On our first day we saw a 1,000-pound pig named PIG-PIG, and mid-week we went to see the Whirligig Park in Wilson, North Carolina.  During our stay, St. John UMC housed us and fed us lunch and our district superintendent, the Rev. Karen Oehl, fed us gourmet suppers.

God blessed us, as we blessed others by being the hands and feet, and the heart and mind of Christ. And, we practiced flexibility!

*Rev. Ash Welch is chairperson of the Mid-Ohio District Mission Committee, and pastor of Galion St. Paul United Methodist Church.

Rev. Néstor Nazario Appointed Mid-Ohio District Superintendent

Bishop Tracy S. MalNestor Nazarioone is appointing the Rev. Néstor Nazario to the East Ohio Conference Cabinet.  He will serve as superintendent of the Mid-Ohio District. Nazario is currently in his fourth year as pastor of Hope United Methodist Church (North Coast District), which was birthed out of the merger of Bedford UMC, Maple Heights UMC, and Hathaway UMC.

“Néstor is a capable administrator and brings the experience of serving in a variety of ministry contexts,” said Bishop Malone.  “He has successfully merged congregations and has a deep commitment to social justice ministry.  He brings a deep faith, a love for people, and a passion for the church.”

Nazario’s first East Ohio Conference appointment was to Christ Community United Methodist Church (North Coast District) in 1985.  In 1988, he became a chaplain in the U.S. Navy.  During 20 years in the Navy, he served side-by-side with clergy from different faith traditions providing him with an appreciation and respect for people of other faith groups and religions.  After retiring from the Navy in 2008, he returned to the local church, serving five years as pastor to both Christ UMC and First Hispanic UMC (North Coast District), before his appointment to Hope UMC in Bedford.

“I am honored and humbled to be joining the Cabinet,” Nazario said.  “Becoming a DS was never on my list of things to do, so before taking the leap of faith and accepting Bishop Malone’s invitation I pondered on the internal struggle many of the Old Testament prophets experienced during their initial call.”

Nazario serves on the East Ohio Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, on the Commission on Religion and Race, and on the Church and Society Committee.  He will follow the Rev. Karen Oehl as superintendent of the Mid-Ohio District.

“I look forward to getting to know the clergy of the district and to journeying with them the narrow path Jesus has called us to take of making disciples for the transformation of this world, so that all people can experience the reign and realm of God’s loving grace in their midst, and find abundant life,” Nazario said.

His appointment to the Cabinet and Oehl’s appointment to Gay Street United Methodist Church (Three Rivers District) in Mount Vernon are effective July 1.

Nazario earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico, a Master of Divinity from the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico, and a Masters in Counselor Education from Mississippi State University.

He is the father of two adult children.