Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: missions (page 1 of 2)

Guest Post: A Bucket of Hope in Texas

Not long after Hurricane Harvey left a path of destruction in southeast Texas and southwest Lousiana, my colleague Rev. Joanna Dietz, an ordained deacon in the Virginia Conference, organized an Early Response Team to travel to Texas to engage in the clean-up efforts in Texas. After following her post on Facebook, I invited Joanna to write a guest post. She and her son, Andrew, blog together at Mother, Son, and … Where’s the Holy Spirit?!

It started out like any other day, watching the news and moving through my work routine. But as Harvey hit and people began calling from around the Winchester District to see what we were doing in response, I felt that tug. You know, the one that says, “You need to do something radically different here and step out in faith.” Things quickly took shape and I found myself with four other people in two cars headed down to Texas with our ERT (Early Response Team) badges, which allow us into locations that have experienced disasters.

Our first impressions were of piles of possessions on the road, hay bales that had floated across roads, and business signs ripped from their posts and scattered across parking lots and sidewalks. Some areas had remained virtually untouched beyond the occasional blue tarp on the roof, but down by the river in the poorer section of town, flooding had done severe damage to many of the homes. This is where we spent our time in Victoria, TX.

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Guest Post: UMCOR’s Sager Brown

by: Rev. Joanna Dietz

Rev. Joanna Dietz is an ordained deacon serving as the Minister of Music at St. George’s United Methodist. Here she shares about and reflects on a recent mission trip she took with church members to UMCOR’s Sager Brown.

We exited the plane, excited to be in mission. Our rental cars took us to a remote area of Louisiana, swallowed by swamps and bayous. The silence of this remote location after the cacophony sounds of our suburban life washed tranquility over our spirits – especially as we stepped out onto the gazebo over the Bayou Teche. We had safely made it to UMCOR’s (United Methodist Committee on Relief) Sager Brown Depot. This is a magical place. Here is where thousands of kits come to be checked and packed and sent out to foreign countries and places right down the street, giving hope to those whose hope has been buried in the rubble of war, poverty, natural disasters, and chaos.

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Guest Post: The Reality of Ebola in Our Lives as God’s People

The Rev. Nancy Robinson is an ordained deacon in the Virginia Conference and, along with her husband Kip, missionaries to Sierra Leone. She reflects on the reality of Ebola in our lives as God’s people in the world.

Kip and NancyKip and I, General Board of Global Ministries missionaries to Sierra Leone, are currently exiled to the United States and are asked not to return until a later date to be determined by those in leadership; Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church and leadership in Sierra Leone. We are standing in the gap, sharing the story of an amazing people and help those here in the States to understand the context and put a face on what is a concern on all of our minds.

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New York Mission: 9/11 Memorial

One of the highlights of the mission trip to New York was the expected visit to a 9/11 memorial. A highlight because I had hoped that we would get a chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero.

One of the church members from Christ Community suggested and then took us to a 9/11 memorial at Breezy Point. There was a deck on the beach looking out over the bay, with a great view of the cityscape, including the Freedom Tower, filling up the lack of space left by the World Trade Centers.

Along the deck were tributes to each person from Breezy Point who was lost in the 9/11 terrorist attack. There were lined up all along the deck. It was a moving tribute to the individuals the community lost. Moving, as well, because there were so many.

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In addition there was a cross, made with beams from the World Trade Center Towers. A cross was beat, bruised, and bent. A reminder to us that in the darkest of tragedies and storms of life, there is One who has been there. One who is always with us, and One who loves us through the worst life can offer us.

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New York Mission: Day 7

Fridays on mission trips are often times the hardest. The team members are running low on energy, often due to the lack off sleep, while running high on emotions. Mission trips provide a unquine opportunity for individuals to grow closer to others, God, and themselves, all while helping others. This has most certainly been true this week.

After our quiet time/devotions and small group discussions, we loaded up and headed out to Breezy Point one last time. Some worked with Habitat for Humanity workers in finishing up Sheetrock in the winter chapel. Due to the electrical work not getting fully finished, we were not able to do the whole room in drywall, but pretty close. They also finished a layer of flooring in the winter chapel.

A handful of team members made signs about the free cook-out to post along the road, reminding people about what was happening. Others started setting up for the cook-out, which included setting games, a face painting/craft station, and of course the grill.

After lunch, small groups had a chance to walk up to the local store to get a soda or a snack. Then we headed to the beach along the bay. The group gathered in their small groups. They used this beach time to share with one another where they saw God in each other this week. This included qualities or things they did that touched them or made a difference. When the group arrived on Saturday they were given a stone and asked to keep the stone in their pocket during the week. Last night each student gave their stone to their small group leader who was to choose a name for them. The name was to symbolize who the person was from he leaders perspective. The students were to do the same for their leaders.

As the groups went around their circles sharing where they had seen God in each other, the leader shared his or her stone for each person. After this personal, spiritual, and emotional time, the team had about 20-30 minutes on the beach.

Then it was back to work. We had to finish getting ready for the cook-out and set up the stations. At about 5pm the first few people arrived, and they slowly started to come in. We had 100s of hot dogs and hamburgers, but 100s did not show up. Despite that the team had a blast spending time with those who did, especially the children. Speaking of children, we brought with us shirts and onesies decorated by children who attended Peakland’s Easter Egg Hunt back in March. One little girl put her shirt on right away and wore it the whole time. A member of Peakland made quilts for infants. We handed those out as well. One grandmother was extremely grateful to take one and share it with her new grandchild.

And the puppets! Four youth came up with three or so skits and practiced them throughout the day. Then they preformed them at different times through the evening. And they were at hit! At one point they lead the crowd that had gathered in singing “Jesus Loves Me.”

Before the cook-out was over we presented to Paul, the leader of the church, a small gift. We took a scrap piece of drywall and Linda drew a cross and flame on it, wrote the name of the church and date of the trip, and then everyone wrote a short message to them and signed their names. They hug it up in the winter chapel right away.

Paul shared that in the time following Hurricane Sandy very little work had been done at the church, and while hundreds of volunteers with Habitat for Humanity came through their church doors, very, very little work had been done on the church. Most of the volunteers came to work on homes. Paul, with some passion, expressed how more was done on and for the church in this one week than any other since Sandy.

After cleaning up the cook-out and putting it all away in the U-haul, we played a few rounds of charades in our small groups. Then we gathered in one large circle and we went around the circle sharing where we had seen God this week, it was a great time of sharing. Very moving!

We then went down the road in Breezy Point to a 9/11 memorial that was built there. A huge number of Breezy Point residents were tragically killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack. Standing there is a cross, made with two beams from the Twin Towers.

It was about 9:30tonight when we said good-bye to Breezy Point. We crossed the bridge back into Brooklyn and volunteered for cleaning duties, so that in the morning we have less to do and can roll out on time. In the morning we will spend a few hours at the Bronx Zoo before heading back to Lynchburg, brining this mission trip to an end.

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New York Mission: Day 6

Thursday started off a little slow. After getting back from The Lion King late last night, everyone was really tired, which made our devotion/quiet time this morning interesting. Everyone loved the show last night, and got to spend a little bit of time in Times Square for shopping and pictures.

The morning also brought rain. After stopping at Lowes to pick up some flowers and other needed tools, the group drove into Breezy Point. Dashing through the rain, the groups got started on their tasks for the day.

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Three of the small groups went to work on finishing the sheet rock in the winter chapel, and taping and compounding the Sheetrock that was already up. These three groups turned out to be all women. The whole week this room and the work done in it was dominated by a male presence. As the group was getting started this morning, one of the Habitat workers (a woman) said she needed some guys to do something. Both Duane and I said, these girls can handle it. And they totally did! By the end of the day, I overheard the Habitat woman say to her supervisor that he needed to find more work for the girls because they were knocking it out!

The other three groups focused on the outside of he church, where the cook-out will be on Friday. There was weed-eating, weed pulling, and flower painting. But the outside work quickly came to a halt when thundered rolled. The outside crew moved inside and we started moving pews from a section of the summer chapel to another part of the room. This part of the floor had not been cleaned yet. The pews were stacked one on top of another. After moving about a dozen of them, a group started sweeping and then cleaning the floor. After various layers of dirt were removed, sections of mold was discovered. This part of the floor was located to the right of the front doors, where apparently there was a surge of water.

Upon of the discovery of mold, two brave individuals – a college student and an adult – set out to tackle the mold. Using a mold kit that Big Tom (with Habitat for Humanity) bought, they began the process. At one point David, one of the high school students, came into the room and it wasn’t long before he put on a hazmat suit, goggles, and gloves, and got down on the floor to scrub. Shortly later, two more joined in to tackle this common enemy.

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Meanwhile, the rain left, and he sun came out. And along with the outing of the sun, the youth and adults headed back out into the world, as if they were leaving the ark. They cleared out brush. They weed eated some more. They planted more flowers. They trimmed tree branches. And they hauled more debris and trash to the dumpster.

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Despite the rain, it was a very productive day. And we learned tonight in the debriefing/worship from Willy, our mission leader with the Center for Short Term Missions, that our presence has made an impact on the Habitat for Humanity leaders, like Big Tom, who hasn’t worked with other volunteer groups willingly in three months. And on the church members, including Dylan who owns a billards hall in Brooklyn. Dylan opened up a whole area of his business for us tonight for two and a half hours. The group got to play pool and ping-pong, and eat real New York pizza for dinner!

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Each morning this week the team members spend some time in quiet for devotions and prayer. Afterwards, they gather in their small groups to discuss their devotion. In the evenings the team gathers again in their small groups to talk about their challenges and inspirations from the day. They also share where they saw God during the day.

Everyday this week I have seen God in each youth on this trip. They have willingly tackled each task presented them, never with complaint, and have done an excellent job. Big Tom went on and on this afternoon about the group and how awesome they did. All you parents, grandparents, and Peaklanders should be very proud.

Guest Post: Park View Community Mission

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Lee Ann Powers, a candidate for ministry on the deacon track and a student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Lee Ann lives and worships in Lynchburg, Virginia.

What is Park View Community Mission (PVCM) on Memorial Ave /Wadsworth St in Lynchburg? Please read and become a part of God’s love and shalom.

Park View’s mission is to offer help to people for their present life, offer hope for a better life and offer Christ for eternal life.

A relationship with Jesus, as the parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates, is defined not by being a neighbor in the passive sense but by finding ways to cross boundaries and to be a neighbor to the impoverished and broken in ways that will enhance their success. It’s about working to make practical improvements in the lives of individuals, families and communities.

PVCM is following Jesus in the most basic way – by loving and caring for the economically disadvantaged, the excluded, the outcast, the unwashed and the unwanted. These ‘unwanted’ are men and women with drug and alcohol addictions; without homes or stable housing; non-English speaking immigrants; the unemployed and those working several low-income paying jobs; the elderly on fixed incomes; multi-generational families raising kids whose parents are no longer in their life due to jail, death or desertion; and those who have just made bad choices in their lives. These are not statistics but real people who are a part of our community and are struggling daily just to survive.

PVCM strives to model hospitality, compassion, love, forgiveness, the power of acceptance and a faith without conventional church walls. For struggling households, PVCM is an extended household that comes together for worship and meals. For kids from dysfunctional homes and drug infested neighborhoods, PVCM is a sanctuary and a place to learn alternatives so they can grow and thrive. PVCM is hearing the cries of those suffering in our community just as we hear the Word of the Lord as a summons to make the world better by making known more fully the Gospel as Good News for our community.

The early Christians defined themselves by a faith that aligned them with the sick, the hungry, the excluded, and the broken, moving across every ethnic and cultural barrier to bring healing and hope. In the book of Acts we read that when the church shared its life and possessions, thus demonstrating that God’s Spirit was in their midst, the result was dramatic: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The early church grew dramatically because its members reached out to others in love and compassion. The costly demands of the Gospel were related to their understanding of a merciful God. The church shaped by the Spirit must always extend itself in sharing and caring beyond its ‘membership.’

The church and its belief in God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and a new world provide the basis for people to believe that things can change in both their personal life and within their community. PVCM’s presence and spiritual commitment to the community makes it a true leader for this change. It provides the support people need to keep going, the inspiration for courage that is essential to moving forward, and the structure through which to accomplish it.

PVCM is not about ‘having or being a ministry’ so much as it is a community of people who worship and read scripture together, who share in the hope of the Gospel and who share joys, tragedies and resources in Christ. There is ‘one Lord’ and we are all ‘one people’ celebrating the Gospel in this broken and divided world. Reconciliation, as well as forgiveness and grace, are a gift from God. As recipients of God’s grace, PVCM strives to promote hope and healing, and to patiently nurture reconciliation by being incarnational within the community it is blessed to be a part of.

Shalom (peace) is God putting back together a broken people and a broken world. Embody Christ and be personally transformed by helping PVCM offer shalom to individuals and the community by:

  • offering help for the present life (food, hot meals, clothes, funds, tangible goods; yourself thru servantship, leadership),
  • offering hope for a better life (love, acceptance, grace and mercy) and
  • offering Christ for eternal life (the Gospel in word and deed).

To learn more about the Park View Community Mission, click here.

Youth in Service #6: Make it Relational

Here’s my final tip: Make it Relational. I attended a mission training a few years ago and the leader of that training said quite simply, and yet profoundly, mission (service) is relationship. At the center of all that LebCamp is is building relationships. This means it is less about the work being done and more about the people. When it’s about the people, youth tend to not care what the work is, because the focus is on the people.

Kendra Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, in their book The Godbearing Life, point out that most of us don’t remember the Sunday school lessons of our adolescents, but we remember the people who taught us. Because we were in relationship with them. Get to know the youth who are engaged in your service projects. Learn what interests them. Welcome their questions. Welcome their suggestions. Don’t shut the door with, “We’ve always done it this way.” That is the number one way to ensure that youth will not get involved.

We are transformed by relationships. Our mission/service projects are transformed by relationships. Youth are transformed by relationships. Our community is transformed by relationships.

Youth in Service #4: Youth Leaders

The idea of equipping goes beyond just giving them the right set of tools and materials to build a deck.  It includes equipping them for leadership.  That is the next tip: Youth Leaders.  An important part of LebCamp is the youth leadership.  For every crew of about 5 youth and 2 adults, there is one Crew Leader and that is one of the older youth campers.  A junior or senior in high school, usually.  These are students who show evidence of leadership skills, who have been leaders in other avenues, are mature, respectful, etc.

The Crew Leaders organize their crews to get the goals of the week accomplished.  They work with the adults and the skilled handymen on making a priority list and making sure they have the needed materials/tools for the next day.  In addition, each youth on the crew has a “job” each day.  One day you might be the breakmaster and be responsible for the gateroade for your group, the next day you might be the devotion leader and lead the lunch time devotion, and the next day you might be responsible for the water cooler.  The Crew Leader (a youth) is responsible for making all this happen.

In addition, I have a committee – for lack of a better word – who assists me with the bulk of the planning.  That “committee” is made up of only youth.  This is what I do:  Before each meeting, I make an agenda.  In the meeting, I give them the agenda and let them lead the meeting.  Sometimes I don’t even attend, I leave the room.  Then, they tell me what decisions they made, I ask questions, and we split up who is going to work with whom on what.  This has been the most effective way to get it done.

Each evening during LebCamp I and another adult sit down with the Crew Leaders and talk to them about how things are going.  We encourage them in their role, we equip them with recommendations and ideas, we engage them.  Nothing about this is from the top down.  We are not telling them how to do their job, we are asking them how their job is going, what their concerns are, and what questions they have.  This will lead us to the next tip . . . . .

Walking in the Streets of Costa Rica

As we were walking through downtown San Jose, Costa Rica today I noticed an old man I have seen often. In the seven years or so that I’ve been coming to Costa Rica this man has sat in the same spot. It’s almost a cubby hole of a spot. He sits on the side of the street wedged between the bricks of a building and its brick column. He is always dressed in a dark red shirt that looks like it has seen better days. The pants he wears are holely and torn, his shoes beat up.

He sits in his place in the world doing what he loves: painting. He uses small brushes, a sampling of colors, and whatever he can find as a suitable canvas. He is a fixture in these streets and I found a little bit of joy rising in me when I saw him today.

I walked over to watch him paint. He looked at me and gave me his unmistakable toothless grin. He showed me what he was working on and then the three paintings he had completed so far today. For about $6 I purchased one of these paintings. It is not the best painting. It is not the best canvas. There is nothing special about the house that he painted. Yet there is a sense that this man with the toothless grin whose studio is the streets of San Jose, is connected to a higher power; a greater joy; a God who loves him for who he is.

This is where I caught a glimpse of God today.

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