Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Connections

Our family has a tradition of sharing thanksgivings as we sit down to a Thanksgiving feast.  We also pass around a cup where each person gives some money which goes to help people in need.  One year we bought restaurant gift cards and kept them in our cars to give to those on the street corners asking for help.

Last week we gathered the gifts but didn't know for sure where to give them.  Then I had the chance to meet Pauline, from Cameroon, Africa, who was speaking Sunday at St. John.  Pauline is the widow of a pastor with an amazing ministry to her neighbors.  St. John has been sending teams there for the past several years.

Pauline wanted to thank me for supporting the mission efforts when I was pastor at St. John.  She gave me a gift.  A bottle of peanuts that she raised and harvested in her garden.  It was an amazing gift of love...to imagine how she cared for these peanut plants and picked them when they were ripe.  I want to keep them as a visible reminder of the love of a disciple of Jesus who is sowing seeds of God's love in a tough place on the planet.

God had shown me what to do with our Thanksgiving offering.  When I gave it to Pauline with the hope that she would spend it on herself she was grateful and said it would be used to buy windows for her home.  It was a special moment for me.

One of the ways we can recover our missional identity is to be intentional about creating similar experiences for our congregations.  Yes, we will continue to send checks to food and shelter ministries.  But we also need our people to be in relationship with the poor.  Face to face.  Hand to hand.  Heart to heart.

I invite you to pray for Pauline and all of the dear saints of God working for good in the world.  I also encourage you to pray for God to open a door for you to be a friend to someone in need.  Consider going on a Volunteer In Mission trip.  Pray about stirring your church to be in ministry with the poor.

Grace Always,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Changes on the Horizon

Alaska lay and clergy will want to know about some changes to start in 2012.  One is about the Advance which is how people give directly to mission projects in the United Methodist Church.  Beginning in January we will have one Advance number (931027).  We will still receive all donor documentation so we can send thank you notes and newsletters.  And all funds given to a specific pastor or current project will be honored if we have the documentation which GBGM will send to our treasurer's office.

If a church has a general project Advance number it can be used for salary support.  In other words these churches need to choose to use the single Alaska number or one of their general project numbers.  This decision needs to be made soon.  Just let me know.

Another change involves moving of missionary pastors to and from Alaska.  Beginning in January, 2012, GBGM will no longer handle moving pastors and their families.  They will give us the money although not at the actual costs and we will handle these moves.  Hopefully, we can be more efficient with local control and contracting.  We will need to examine GBGM's moving policies and create our own.  For pastors returning to their home conferences we may need to ask for moving assistance from the receiving churches and/or conferences.

With any change in our system anxiety may be present.  We are open to ideas on how to best communicate these changes.  GBGM will send a letter to pastors, donors, and supporting churches.  We could use our Fuze online meeting service to allow these changes to sink in.  Mostly, let us hold fast to our Lord, his grace and the mission given to us all.


Monday, November 7, 2011

From Leap of Faith to Faith of Leap

Ten Alaskan UM lay and clergy have embarked on a two year journey of faith and discovery.  We are enrolled in the Academy for Missional Wisdom.  The goal is that we would begin new missional faith communities.

In our first online course called Missional Imagination we are reading and writing about "Faith of Leap" by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost.  It is an attempt to write a theology of risk, adventure, and courage.  It is about a life of faithfulness to God that includes risk, adventure, and courage.  The temptation is, and this happens a lot in the Church, to settle into safety and security.  When I was single I was fairly adventurous and courageous when it came to my faith.  When I was married and our first child entered our lives it became easy to shift into safety and security mode.

I could spend a couple of blogs and sermons talking about how the Church has retreated from risk when it comes to being missional.  According to the authors the main thing to recovering a missional identity is to create a sense of holy urgency.  This connects with the business world and the authors cite John Kotter's book "Leading Change" with eight necessary steps for bringing significant and lasting change to an organization.  The first and most important is to create a sense of urgency.

"The adventurous church thrives on a sense of holy urgency, and missional movements are built on it.  Says Kotter, "If the sense of urgency is not high enough and complacency is not low enough, everything else that we seek to do will become much more difficult."  p. 40.  The authors go on to describe how to create holy urgency in Church.

Those of us in the Academy are looking for ways to share what we are learning.  If you have a desire or a suggestion of how this interface can happen please let us know.  We are:  Cindy Roberts, Karen Martin-Tichenor, Robert Hicks, Sandra Wagenius, Jenny Smith, Eric Treider, Nelma Treider, Lonnie Brooks, Janice Carlton, and myself.

Grace Always,