New Philadelphia First United Methodist Church (Tuscarawas District) celebrated Pentecost on May 20 by holding its annual Change the World Sunday. The day began with the normal three celebrations of worship combined into one 9:00 a.m. service. Rev. Jim Humphrey preached from James 2, putting faith into deeds and actions, and commissioned the congregation to go out into the world and put its faith into action.
Parishioners selected from more than 16 service projects. Some built a wheelchair ramp while others demolished the interior of a house for Habitat for Humanity. People also chose between tilling soil and planting a garden for an area group home; working with the County Board of Developmentally Disabled making gift mugs; and visiting elderly in area care centers.
One group went to the county juvenile attention center, interacted with the youth, and cooked a homemade pizza lunch. Another group filled out thank you notes and appreciation cards for area police officers, fire fighters, and military personnel, and wrote words of encouragement to inmates in the county jail.
Volunteers worked at the Dover-New Philly Area food bank. Youth potted flowers and delivered them throughout the community. Children pulled weeds and raked yards for the elderly. The area group home for girls assisted in grooming animals at the county humane society. All workers received a homemade lunch.
This is the sixth consecutive May that New Philadelphia First UMC has organized a Change the World Sunday.
“In 2017, well over 150 church and community volunteers completed over 20 projects,” Humphrey said. “We believe that the church is the body of Christ alive and at work in our world. On this day, we simply encourage intentional acts of serving others as an expression of our faith and God’s love.”
On one of my United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) trips to orphanages in the former Soviet Union a Russian woman approached me, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked at me as if she was about to burst and said, “Why did they teach us to hate you? You are JUST LIKE US!”
In July, I will make my 25th trip to the former Soviet Union. Each time I go, I learn something new and different and so do those with whom we interact and work. One of the most obvious is how much we are alike.
A trip to an orphanage teaches you many things. We learn the wonderful fact that love needs no translation, and we all share the same hopes, fears, and dreams. We discover that we all have the need to be known, to be touched, and to be loved. We learn that service is a key to breaking down barriers that have existed for years. We learn that life is a precious gift from God.
Many people wonder why anyone would want to go to an orphanage in a foreign country. While team members come from different faith backgrounds, each person shares a common desire to serve those who struggle each day to survive. We know that we are fortunate in the United States. We go to Russia hoping to give back in some way to a group of children who have so little. We go to build bridges of reconciliation and peace with a people who were once considered our greatest enemy.
Bridge-building takes place with every group traveling to a foreign country to work side-by-side with people who need assistance, support, and hope. Volunteers in mission are not exceptionally gifted people. They are people who simply make themselves available to God.
If you are interested in learning more about our July 10-24 UMVIM trip to Chernivtsi, Ukraine, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Rev. Kathryn Adams is a retired Elder serving part-time as pastor of Lowellville UMC (Mahoning Valley District).
We are very excited about what God is doing through Farmer-to-Farmer of the East Ohio Conference. In 2018, two teams from the East Ohio Conference will travel to Harrisburg, Liberia. The first team left the weekend of January 19.
The team is tasked with continuing to strengthen the connections between Farmer-to-Farmer and the Liberia Annual Conference (LAC) UMVIM program to encourage more team visits to Harrisburg, and to help with the sewing center and the construction of the agricultural high school.
Revs. Catherine and Ray Ake are leading this team. It is the third United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) trip to Liberia for the Akes, who are retired and now attend Blue Ridge UMC in Mineral Bluff, Georgia.
Rev. Ray enjoys working with the students, teaching them how to build benches, bookshelves and tables, and to repair broken chairs, for their local school. Rev. Catherine, a co-founder of the Women Empowerment Sewing Center, is traveling with some fabrics in hopes of creating a banner to present to St. John United Methodist Church in Harrisburg. They will also share a meal with the Elders of the community, spend quality time with the children, and meet with the Girls of Promise Scholarship Recipients.
Members of the East Ohio Conference Farmer-to-Farmer team traveling with the Akes are:
Freida McMath, a retired nurse who is a member of Vienna UMC (Mahoning Valley District) is also on her third trip to Liberia. She was present when the idea for the Empowerment Sewing Center was conceived.
Kim Anderson, who along with the Rev. Catherine Ake will be a guest presenter at the Liberia Annual Conference session, will speak to Conference pastors and lay leaders at the LAC office in Sinkor, Liberia, and will conduct Methodist discipline training in Harrisburg with the pastor and lay leaders of St. John UMC. Anderson is also carrying a suitcase of soccer balls to do some coaching while he is in country.
Lori Cook is a photographer and member of Thoburn UMC (Ohio Valley District). After hearing Rev. Catherine tell the Farmer-to-Farmer story when she was a guest preacher at the church, Cook approached her and said that she felt called to go to Liberia and would help in any way. She is the team’s photographer.
Mike Fox, a farmer, heard the same message preached at Thoburn UMC and also felt called to make the trip to Liberia. Team leaders had been praying for a farmer to be part of the team because Nathan Brause of Bucyrus UMC (Mid-Ohio District), the Farmer-to-Farmer resident expert farmer, was unable to make the trip. Fox met with Brause and will carry out his plan to assemble the three Bradley walk-behind tractors that were shipped earlier, and train the farmers on how to use and maintain the equipment.
Laurie Collert previously taught home economics sewing. She will offer classes at the Dr. Linda Crowell and Rev. Catherine Ake Women’s Empowerment Center in Harrisburg. Before leaving, Collert borrowed a treadle machine and practiced using it. She made beautiful uniform shirts she took with her on the trip.
I thank God for each member of this team and I know that they will be a blessing to everyone they meet. Please pray God’s blessings and traveling mercies for our team members.
God willing, our next team will leave for Liberia in early November 2018. I will lead that team. If you are interested in more information, or would like to request an application to be part of the team, you can reach me by phone at (216) 401-4663 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
*Pryde Bass is coordinator of the East Ohio Conference Farmer-to-Farmer ministry.