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Young Harvey Helpers

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 00:00
When a group at Fairfield UMC gathered to assemble 52 cleaning buckets for Harvey flood victims, even the youngsters wanted to lend a hand. “It was a family affair. We had three generations working together that day,” shares Rev. Richard Hayduck. Having been in Houston during Tropical Storm Allison, we know what it is like to have a river running down your street and were happy to be a part of the recovery – from afar.”
 
Member Jane Phillips brought her Labor Day houseguests and three grandchildren to help and they were done in less than two hours. “They left a fun ranch to do this and were perfectly happy to be helping others, in fact they made a game out of filling the cleaning buckets,” says Jane. “My granddaughter and I helped distribute clothes at the hotel where 900 evacuees were staying.”
 
Rev. Collin Taylor, pastor of Grace UMC Heights was thankful his church escaped the rising water and knew his congregation and community would be eager to help others as fast as possible. The church posted on Next Door and Facebook and reached out to several mom groups and organized a response immediately.
 
“We’ve done three sessions to assemble flood buckets and since over half our congregation is young families, we had many children involved,” shares Collin. “My seven- and four-year-old’s are still talking about it, and my 20-month-old son even helped take things out of the buckets when we weren’t looking.” Pastor Taylor felt it was important to get the youngsters involved to teach the importance of helping others with this clean-up process in their homes.
 
“Putting these buckets together is an easy and tangible way they can be involved, but since so many children assisted we had to have a church member audit the contents before we sent them out, to make sure they had the right elements.”
 
Before the epic August rains had cleared out, young members of St Luke’s UMC Houston were already thinking of others. When six-year-old Ava Wood heard the call for help on TV, she wanted to go rescue people. She immediately dropped to her knees and fervently asked God "to save all the people." When leaving for church Ava came out of her room with a full plastic cup of coins and sat in church anxiously waiting for the time when she could make her contribution. “I felt chagrined,” admits her mom, “that while I had always given, it had never been with such joy.”
 
St. Luke’s member Parker Broach also approached the great need with great enthusiasm. Parker, 11, helped stuff the family van full of towels, blankets and other items and set out to deliver everything to the city’s central shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center. With strong wind gusts rocking the van, the family was forced to turn around and go home. The following morning Parker wanted to deliver the collected items and stay and help people at the shelter, so organizers allowed him to help set up the kid zone. Parker sorted and cleaned toys, set up a library, and created an arts and crafts space. Parker and mom, Jamie, facilitated games like four square, red light, green light, basketball, and statues. As Jamie said, “This opportunity was perfect for a young volunteer and provided much needed physical activity for kids and a break for their parents.” Since that day, Parker has not stopped volunteering. He has helped to muck houses, collected and sorted more donations, and volunteered at the Gethsemane UMC campus by helping set up the mercy closet and sorting donations there. St. Luke’s teen Ava Swietzer shares her story here on video.
 
When roads were passable, youth from FUMC Pearland went out with several volunteer teams to help with demo and cleanup for homes in Pearland.
 
“Help with work teams was a very sad, but humbling experience,” says 18-year-old high school senior Madison Lloyd. “Volunteering is such a blessing to me and makes me thankful that I was able to help others in need.”
 
Thanks to her Hurricane clean-up efforts, 12-year-old Tara Woeste, member of FUMC Friendswood, is now known as a carpet cutting ninja. She also helped host a bake sale that raised $1,000 for a family that lost everything. Says Tara, “God wants others to see Him in us. That’s why we have been working to clean out flooded homes and make meals.” When school was cancelled, her 15-year-old brother Trevor, joined the sheetrock removal brigade and shared his youthful energy with elderly homeowners. “It’s always good to help people in times of need,” he says. “Harvey caused so much destruction, so my family wanted to help make flood victims’ lives better.”
 
When McKinney Memorial UMC member Carol Johnson told her son-in-law about church members that flooded in the La Marque area, he gathered a group of students from College of the Mainland students to lend a hand. “This was a good way to teach young people to give back to the community,” shares Greg Benefield, academic advisor at the college, “and they gave their all for at least eight hours as we visited several homes in need. Everyone was exhausted but felt rewarded and appreciated, and grateful they were not in a flooded situation themselves.”
 
FUMC Brenham youth helped in the widespread aftermath of Harvey by bringing school supplies to Summer Creek High School in Humble, to help replace all the supplies lost when Kingwood High School flooded. They also prayed for all the students, teachers, administrators, custodial staff, nutrition staff, bus drivers, and parents as they working together, to make their school year the best it can be.
 
“Camp Harvey”
Since the church escaped major flooding damage, Westbury UMC quickly organized work groups to help the community and discovered a very practical need the church could fill. After learning that the local elementary school would postpone the student start date, Westbury stepped up and organized a free day camp called Camp Harvey serving 70 kids a day during the two-week hiatus. “From morning until afternoon, the children enjoyed activities such as guitar lessons, crafts and music which helped take their minds off of flooding for a while and gave their parents time to organize a plan to put their residences back together.”














 

Interfaith Prayer Vigil

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:00
Bering Memorial United Methodist Church will be hosting an Interfaith Prayer Vigil to pray for and stand in solidarity with our immigrant neighbors who are impacted by SB4 and the revocation of DACA ("Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Judicatory and other faith leaders, along with members of Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other faith traditions will lead and participate in the prayer vigil.  The pray vigil will be followed by education and advocacy breakout sessions for immigrants and those seeking to support them.
 
Breakout sessions will include:
  • “Know your Rights” for immigrants, including how immigrants can care for themselves and their families in the event of deportation;
  • Information for congregations and other community members about how we can support our immigrant neighbors during this difficult time;
  • Tools for advocating with Congress to protect DACA recipients.
 
We will have simultaneous interpretation for Spanish speakers during the Vigil. Spanish interpretation will also be provided in the breakout education and advocacy sessions.
 
This will be a safe space. Please plan to attend and invite your immigrant friends and neighbors

Interfaith Prayer Vigil
Supporting Our Immigrant Neighbors
Tuesday, October 10
7:00 – 9:00 PM
 
Location: Bering Memorial United Methodist Church
1440 Harold Street
Houston, Texas 77006
(713) 526-1017

Bishop Jones: Being the Church - A Wesleyan Perspective

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 00:00

I want to talk openly with you about what is happening in our denomination, but I also want you to ask questions. We will be coming together as one to discuss the future of the UMC Saturday, September 23, 2017 at St. Luke’s UMC The Story from 10 a.m. through noon (snacks will be provided). Join us in person or see the live stream on this page at www.txcumc.org/bishoplivevideo.

 

Bishop Scott Jones

Houston Churches Go Flat Out with Flood Relief

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00
By Sam Hodges, United Methodist News Service 
Photos by Kathleen Barry

These days, as the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell drives the streets of his native Houston, he sees mounds of flooded debris outside homes in low-income, middle-class and wealthy neighborhoods. “I’m here to tell you, all three trash loads look just the same,” said Caldwell, pastor of Houston’s Windsor Village United Methodist Church. “Harvey has been an equal opportunity destroyer.”



More than two weeks after the record rains that accompanied Hurricane Harvey in its tropical storm phase, United Methodists in Houston are still busy with basic relief work, including handing out cleaning supplies, mucking out houses and providing day care for children whose public schools aren’t yet ready to reopen.

Texas Conference Bishop Scott Jones did a live Facebook video on September 12, saying how proud he was of the United Methodist response. He also encouraged relief workers to pace themselves.  “Find time for emotional support,” he said. “Find time for Sabbath. Find time to connect with family and friends. This is not going to be something that goes quickly.” But there’s an urgency felt by the Chapelwood United Methodist Church teams helping to clean out flooded homes in Houston, their city. The volunteers are wearing masks already, and they want to pull out wet Sheetrock and other materials before the homes get even more toxic. “There are safety issues … The window is about to close,” said Dennis Crowe.

Earlier this week, Crowe led a Chapelwood crew working at the home of Dorothy Baker, 92. The teams go where needed, but she’s a fellow church member, and had to be evacuated by boat from the house where she’s lived for more than four decades. Crowe’s team used crowbars and power tools to pull out ruined Sheetrock. They also carefully packed dishes and other items for storage in the garage or second floor. “We’re packing people’s things, their keepsakes,” said Robbie Lowrey. “And you know every single thing has a story. … It’s very emotional.”

Frank Richey joined packing and hauling out boxes. He said he felt obliged to be there, given that his house escaped damage. But he also noted that he’d heard a strong sermon at Chapelwood on Sunday, on the necessity for Christians to respond to the Harvey crisis. “Sort of gave me a kick in the tail,” he said.  

A couple of streets away, another Chapelwood team worked at the home of Dan Cho. Cho said he built the home 38 years ago ago, carefully siting it three feet higher than the city required. The home had never flooded, and didn’t after Harvey until the release of water from a threatened reservoir nearby, Cho said. He didn’t have flood insurance and now, living on a fixed income, he’s doubtful he can afford to rebuild. Of the volunteers from Chapelwood and other groups that have come to help him, Cho said: “That’s the good news. They’ve been trying to comfort me.”

Indeed, Crowe said offering emotional support is as important as pulling out Sheetrock. That includes praying with affected families. “Prayer is all over this,” said Rita Stuckey, a Chapelwood member and niece by marriage of flood victim Baker. Chapelwood even has “safety care teams” who show up to support volunteers mucking out houses. Mary Fuller and Suzanne Musgrove were making the rounds on Sept. 11, offering cold wash cloths and popsicles.

“We’re also here to make contact with the homeowner and make sure they know the resources we have available at Chapelwood,” Fuller said. “We have legal assistance, FEMA questions that can be answered, insurance support, tax support.” When the floods came, Windsor Village United Methodist immediately turned itself into an emergency overnight shelter. “That’s the Christian thing to. It’s the Wesleyan thing to do. It was a slam dunk for us,” Caldwell said. The church’s shelter phase has passed, but it continues to operate a distribution center for flood victims in need.

“What they needed initially was food and water,” said Sandra Short, a leader of the church’s volunteers. “Afterward, clothing and personal hygiene items. Later on, as they could get back in their houses, they needed cleaning supplies.” Short has worked at the church all but one day since the floods hit. “Missed one day because I have a new grandchild,” she said. “I had my `Nana’ day on Friday.’”

For Windsor Village, as for Chapelwood, providing emotional and spiritual support to victims has been a priority. “We were able to love on them and make them feel that, even though they were going through a difficult time, we were with them,” said Rhonda Robertson, volunteer coordinator.

Houston’s Westbury United Methodist Church is another that has sent teams to muck out houses. It too is distributing supplies to victims. But when Houston public schools closed because of the flooding, Westbury also provided supervised care for children. “We threw together what we call Camp Harvey, because it’s impossible to take care of your house when there are kids around,” said the Rev. Danny Yang, pastor.

Yang knows, since he too was flooded out, and depended on 13-year-old church member and Camp Harvey volunteer Zamora Contreras to look after his baby daughter.
Most Houston schools resumed this week, but Kolter Elementary, a neighbor of Westbury, is still out due to flood damage. So Camp Harvey continues.
Katy Sabayrac, director of family ministries for Westbury, acknowledged worrying about whether there would be enough volunteers. So far, there have been.
“Every day, I’m like, `All right, we can make it today,’” she said.

Volunteers from Westbury, Chapelwood and Windsor Village all noted the support they’d received from out-of-town churches, and even from out of state. Two young women from Chicago used airline passes to get to Windsor Village, presenting the church with suitcases full of supplies.

Windsor Village also received for flood relief the Sunday offering of a Florida church that later was in Hurricane Irma’s path. Caldwell said he would be checking on whether that church is now in need. If it is? “We’re going to send that offering back to them, with some interest.”

Sam Hodges, a writer for United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org
 

A Mega Methodist

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00
He’s helped with fundraising, built wheelchair ramps, served as chair of Finance, chair of Trustees, and now serves as chair of the Church Leadership Committee (CLC) of Jacksonville UMC. By day, Tim McRae is the managing partner of a local car dealership. In his spare time he can be found stretching his leadership muscles in a variety of ways. “I find church service to be enlightening and I wish more people would give it a try,” says this longtime Jacksonville UMC volunteer. “Volunteering is really not as time consuming as people may think,” he adds, “and I don’t think they realize the sense of fulfillment they are missing.”
 
Being a longtime leader gives Tim a bird’s eye view on the church timeline and a glimpse at what lies ahead. “Every assignment I have tackled has been a bit of a stretch out of my comfort zone,” he admits, “but very rewarding just the same, and a good exercise in being selfless.” Tim has been instrumental in several additions to the campus of Jacksonville UMC and is grateful that the church is blessed with property to keep expanding as the community grows. As CLC chair, Tim interacts with the pastor, committees and the leaders of the “Go Team” that represent church values to Go, Gather, Grow and Give. 
 
“My favorite part, honestly, is working with such exceptional people at the church,” Tim says. “I am awed by them and aspire to be more like them. I like to be around my fellow leaders and hear their input because these relationships inspire me to be better and do more.”
 
Although he thoroughly enjoys working with the adults, Tim gets more animated about working with the youngsters. He loved teaching kindergarten Sunday school, and is thankful his children grew up in the nurturing environment of Jacksonville UMC.
 
“Our ‘Mini-Methodist program and after school program draw over 100 children,” Tim shares, “so many that the organizers had to split off the sixth and seventh graders and start a ‘Middle Methodist’ group on another day.”
 
Tim says that his community has really come together over the Harvey relief effort. “Jacksonville UMC opened our facility up for refugees escaping Hurricane Katrina years ago, and we will be doing the same for Harvey. We are helping people from all walks of life in our midst,” he says.
 
One important role he is playing is trying to raise funds for Harvey through a local car dealership. “The people of God really comes together when there is a crisis. We continue to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” 
 

Campus Ministry’s ‘Advent’

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00
It is no easy task to welcome 9,000+ students to campus in a matter of days each August. Rev. Julius Wardley, campus minister at Texas Southern University’s Wesley Foundation compares the Back-to-School season as the “Advent” of campus ministry.  Julius says, “In much the same way that local churches prepare for the arrival of Jesus during the holiday season, our Wesley student leaders prepare each summer for the arrival of students  -- to show them God’s presence and love as we help with move-in and Welcome Week.” Spiritual training initiatives teach student leaders to be others-focused. See leaders and students in action in this video:

 

Leadership development is one of the strengths of TSU’s campus ministry program, as evidenced by the number of leaders engaged in intensive training prior to the start of school. “Each August,” shares Julius, “our leaders prepare for the new semester by reconnecting with God and one another to form strong social bonds.” After training, he encourages the interns to facilitate a retreat, and other student trainings, to practice their new skills.
 
This year, trained leaders and new leaders are reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Julius adds, “A great deal of our time is spent discussing and practicing relationship building since that is crucial to the Christian journey.” Training also includes self-management and talking about the Wesley Foundation vision.
 
“We try to define what compassion and leadership looks like,” Julius shares, “as a leader, we can’t do alone. Our training helps students know how to pick a leadership team, mobilize, keep and empower them.”
 
As part of the campus “Advent” experience, Wesley Foundation leaders had planned an annual kickoff event including a concert headlined by the Source worship band from First UMC Houston. Their grand plans, however, were shut down when the city went into crisis mode with Hurricane Harvey.
 
A TSU Wesley Master Plan provides focus for the next leadership opportunities throughout semester. “We are serious about developing compassionate, community focused Christian leaders,” Julius adds. “We have planned weekly and monthly sessions to connect and study discipleship materials as well as practice them in support of a food bank, clothes closet, and interaction with many of Houston’s homeless.” No doubt, the students will also be helping with flood relief for months to come.
 
Students will also look forward to the fellowship opportunities such as the wing eating contest during Monday Night football, open microphone night and guys/girls nights out.
 

Filling a Void

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00
When the members of Kosse First United Methodist Church learned there was no choir program for the local high school students, Kosse FUMC pastor, Dr. Rita Sims, asked if the church could offer a Choir Club. Groesbeck High School Principal Keri Allen was excited to work with the church to bring back this missing musical element. This spring, pastor Rita worked with Kristen Curry, coordinator of the after-school program called ACE to incorporate this option for both middle and high school students.
 
“We had as many as 11 students in the club,” Rita shares, “and we are offering this opportunity to students who would enjoy singing uplifting contemporary-style songs with soundtracks as accompaniment.”
 
Earlier this year, three Choir Club members entered the high school's Groesbeck's Got Talent Show. It was a shot in the arm for the students and brought so much joy to the community.
 
“In addition to singing solos for the talent show,” Rita adds, “they also performed as a trio.” Student Kiara Rose shares how much she loved choir and promises to be back. Her friend Wyndie Shields is also counting the days. “"I can hardly wait for Choir Club so start again," Wyndie says.

Kosse FUMC members also invest in the young in a number of other ways. For the last four years, the church has been offering a fun alternative for local children on Halloween. Rita says, “Halloween is just around the corner and we look forward to the 50 children each year that come by car, trailer or foot to receive candy, bracelets, flashlights or toys with Christian messages. Our members often dress up and set the scene for them with festive decorations.”
 
In addition, the Kosse church has added a children's element to its annual October Bazaar, which draws hundreds of people from near and far. The Bazaar is held on the first Saturday of October and includes a barbecue lunch, bake sale, country store, crafts, garage sale items, and live and silent auctions. Children enjoy an assortment of games as their parents and grandparents shop or work at the Bazaar. The money from the Bazaar provides for a $500 scholarship for a Groesbeck High School senior who lives in Kosse. Adds Rita, “Additional funds also go to the Community Center, Fire Department, Mexia State School, church camp scholarships and many other worthy causes.” 
Community Bible Studies
Kosse FUMC also draws students and adults into spiritual discussions in places around town. The church is offering a study on the bestseller, The Shack, which addresses God’s role in the area of suffering. 
 
Rita says, “We are announcing the upcoming study through flyers around town, notices in local newspapers, radio stations and television stations and a Facebook ad.  Our previous invitational blitzes have brought at least four students from outside of the church to previous studies, so we hope the community will feel welcome.” To attract more attendees, leaders have chosen a Sunday afternoon time slot and a brief five-week window for the study.
 
“We love offering opportunities that attract people of all ages both inside and outside of the church.”
 

Harvey God Moments

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00
By Maggie Hillery, United Methodist News Service

The desire to make sure Hurricane Harvey relief teams had enough water last week provided timely help for the thirsty town of Beaumont, Texas, where floodwaters shut down the water system.

What happened goes past coincidence into “Oh. This is one of those God moments," said the Rev. Scott Moore, the director of missional excellence for the Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Moore recounted some of the “God moments” that enabled his relief-effort to get water to Beaumont to be accomplished.
“God moment No. 1”

A phone call from a friend in West Texas began what would be three days of Moore and his colleagues watching as obstacle after obstacle went away to enable the pallets of water to be loaded Sept. 1 onto Army Reserve Blackhawk helicopters bound for Beaumont.

Moore’s friend, E. C. Ice is a licensed local pastor who has roots in Conroe. But Ice was in Hamlin, more than 400 miles northwest of Moore’s location at the Mission Center, the newest depot in the UMCOR relief network.

“He (Moore) originally said he wanted to load a 16-foot trailer with water and bring it to me,” Moore wrote in a Facebook account that was shared by Houston Area Bishop Scott Jones on his own Facebook page. “I thought it would be good to have some on hand to send out with our volunteer teams, so I told E.C. to bring the water. “He called me Wednesday (Aug. 30) and said that his water drive had gotten out of hand, and he now needed an 18-wheeler to deliver the water. Not wanting to discourage him, I told him to bring the truck. Thursday afternoon he brought in a truck with 20 pallets of water (roughly 700 cases, 50,000 pounds).

“That same afternoon, an entire troop of Boy Scouts showed up at the Mission Center to volunteer. We had no idea they were coming. We didn't even know how they knew who or where we were. But, never ones to turn away good help, we put them to work. The kids verified hygiene kits while some of the adults helped unload the water.”

“God moment No. 2”
“I fretted all Thursday night wondering what I would do with 20 pallets of water taking up space in the warehouse,” Moore said in his post. On the morning of Sept. 1, he learned the water system in Beaumont, about 120 miles away, was down and 115,000 people were without drinking water.

Moore said he knew getting from Conroe to Beaumont would be tough because major highways were closed. He had a volunteer driver, so he began a search for a truck big enough to haul enough water to make a difference. No luck.

Moore then considered a commercial trucking company. Again, no luck.

Then Moore learned Beaumont had announced a location and time for water distribution, but cancelled because FEMA could not figure a way into Beaumont.
At that point, Moore said, he realized the only way to get that water to Beaumont was by helicopter.

“But, where am I, a lowly Methodist pastor going to get a helicopter?” he asked.

“God moment No.3”
“As I reached the end of my waterborne sanity, who should walk into the Mission Center but the Boy Scout leader from Thursday,” Moore recalled. The Scout leader asked if Moore still had the water and Moore responded by asking if he knew anyone who needed it.

The Scout leader explained the boys were working with a Roman Catholic church that had been asked to find water to put on Army Reserve Blackhawk helicopters to fly into Beaumont.

“’You think they could have some of yours?’" Moore said the Scout leader asked.

Thirty minutes later, a flatbed 18-wheeler arrived at the Mission Center. Fourteen pallets of water were loaded onto the truck for the North Houston Regional Airport in Conroe, then transferred to the helicopters.

As of Sept. 5, Moore said the Texas Conference had handed out about 2,900 cleaning kits, 1,500 hygiene kits and 50,000 pounds of water. Two Emergency Response Trailers are also in the Houston area. As of Sept. 4, water had been restored to most of Beaumont. Moore said the conference also has on site two full-time workers, one part-time worker, one disaster director who is mobile, and a conference staff member and district staff member on loan during disaster. “Right now, our greatest need is restocking our cleaning kits,” Moore said. “We are meeting the needs as efficiently as we can,” Moore said. “There are more needs than anyone has resources. With the full weight of all governmental agencies and non-profit response organizations there will still be unmet needs.  This disaster is larger than anything anyone has ever responded to before.”

Oh, and, yes, there was “God moment No. 4.”
Moore explained that some of the people they had met contacted them for a flight on a Commemorative Air Force DC-3 on Sept. 4.

“We were able to fly cleaning kits and hygiene kits in to Orange, Texas, which was otherwise not accessible,” Moore said. “The way that so many partners have come together and shared resources is amazing.” 

Moore said that in 2005 the Tzu Chi Taiwanese Buddhist Foundation donated a generator after Hurricane Rita in Beaumont. 
“Yesterday, I was able to return the favor through the generosity of United Methodists and provide much-needed cleaning kits and hygiene kits back to Tzu Chi for distribution is some areas they were working in,” Moore said.

“It was amazing to see God's love and generosity come full circle. God is good.”

Hillery is a contributor to United Methodist News Service. News media contact: Vicki Brown at 615-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org
 

Healing and Restoring

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00
Rev. Marvin Hood walked across the uneven floorboards of his church, and stepped outside onto the small rectangle of the front porch. Then he turned, pulled the door shut, and locked it one last time. The aging United Methodist building had served his small congregation well, but it was time to move on to the next stage of ministry. Newgate Fellowship was leaving the suburbs behind to move into their new facility located on a seven-acre campus in the heart of Newgate’s mission field -- the city of Houston.
 
Heal and Restore
Newgate is ready to embrace their new facility and all of the opportunities that come with it, but their mission of Restorative Justice remains the same: To gently heal and restore those who are falling through the cracks of society because of incarceration and drug addiction.
 
As a former inmate, Marvin knows how overwhelmingly difficult it is for offenders to re-enter society when they have completed their sentences. Newgate is committed to “obscure the lines” that keep former inmates from becoming productive members of their communities.

To do this, his church provides practical needs such as bus tokens, assistance in finding work and housing, as well as a food pantry. Marvin is excited that Newgate’s new campus will not only place the ministry in the heart of the community it serves, but will also allow the church to expand their services to more fully become a re-entry point for former inmates. Newgate looks forward to offering GED classes, a computer lab, and Al-Anon meetings, as well as workshops for career development. Marvin envisions that in five to seven years, once the church has established roots in the community, Newgate will be ready to move on to the next stage of ministry by providing temporary, low-income housing for former offenders.
 
Restorative Justice for Every Congregation
But ministry to offenders, former offenders, and their families is only one part of Restorative Justice. Newgate serves correctional professionals and crime victims as well. The diversity of this three-pronged approach offers a wide range of opportunities for congregations across Texas to be part of God’s work in Restorative Justice in a way that is a good fit for their particular church. Marvin points out that while some churches might be better equipped to help offenders with the process of re-entry, another church might be better suited to help in other ways such as take a potluck meal into the prison to serve correctional officers as they begin their shift.
 
Marvin is eager to assist Texas UMC congregations in joining the work of Restorative Justice because he knows God has the power to change lives. “Not everyone who goes to prison is a write off. When I went to prison, I thought my life was over, but when Jesus came into my life and spoke to me about what he wanted me to do, I was hard-pressed to do it,” Marvin said.  “I won't turn back. I want to see people become part of the social fabric in a contributive way, as productive citizens. I want people to know, you can stop here and we will help you turn your life around.”
 

Healing From Harvey

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00
By Sam Hodges, United Methodist News Service
Photos by Kathleen Barry

On the first two Sundays in September, members of Lake Houston UMC set up folding chairs and held worship outside on the driveway. Flood damage from Hurricane Harvey has put their sanctuary out of commission for the foreseeable future.

Some at the September 10 service also lost their homes, including Christine and Gary Jordan. “The worst part of this is seeing everything you ever had on the side of the road,” says Gary. Flood-related woes abound across southeast Texas, and in the worst-hit areas, small mountain ranges of soggy insulation, carpeting and mementoes have formed street-side, near uninhabitable homes.

But at the outdoor service, when the Rev. Frank Coats asked church members to share any personal concerns, three people called out at once: “Florida!”
“Florida,” echoed the Lake Houston UMC pastor. “I’m so proud of you for saying that.”

As Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida and Georgia, United Methodists who survived Hurricane Harvey’s ruinous rains have been praying for their neighbors to the east in what’s shaping us as an infamous hurricane season.

“You take a few deep breaths, you read some scripture and you keep going,” said the Rev. Alicia Coltzer Besser, superintendent of the Texas Conference’s Southeast District. The Texas Conference alone is responding to 75 churches with partial or major damage.  

Though Houston grabbed most of the media attention, some of the blue-collar towns in Alicia’s district had -- pound for pound -- more devastation. About 80 percent of the families at the FUMC Vidor, Texas, were forced from their homes. Rev. John Mooney is living with his wife and two small children in a donated camper on the church parking lot, because they, too, were flooded out. The church continued to be the church, however, serving as a crucial overnight shelter, despite losing water, power, and an operational sewage system. Additionally, a steady stream of residents with flood recovery induced injuries filed into the church’s gym to take advantage of free tetanus shots.

“We had people sleeping in the pews,” said Whitney Cappen, an active flood relief volunteer that works in children’s ministry at the church. “I’ve learned lessons from this. Those pews aren’t just made for us to sit in. They’re made for us to reach out and help our community.”

FUMC Vidor is transitioning its gym into a place where volunteer work crews can stay.

The Woodcrest UMC in Lumberton, Texas, housed 350 at one point, as well as pet dogs, cats, birds, ferrets and even a guinea pig and a fish. Rev. Charles Jordan worked with leaders of other local churches in organizing to meet the sudden need. For those sleeping on cots, volunteers cooked meals, filled prescriptions, washed dirty laundry and walked the dogs. Some said it was like a cruise ship without the views, some said.

At the FUMC Orange, a few miles away, Rev. Keith Tilley was among those flooded out. He didn’t mince words, saying, “It looks like my house vomited on the front lawn. And every house out here is like that.” But on Saturday, he was at his church, making sure a work crew from the FUMC Carthage, could get in to take showers and prepare for an overnight stay. The Carthage team showed up as the sun was setting, after cleaning out the ruined home of an elderly member of FUMC Orange.
“It was hard, and it was hard emotionally,” shares Tonia Crittenden, one of the Carthage volunteers, “to tell this sweet little lady, `You’ve got to throw this in the trash.’”
Everywhere in southeast Texas, there are stories of survival and endurance.

Mike Toups is the building supervisor at Wesley UMC in Beaumont, Texas, but he and his wife, Tammy, are living with their five dogs in the church’s scouting building for the near future. With the floodwaters rising, they were evacuated from their home by game wardens in an airboat. They escaped with their clothes, their dogs and a 50-pound sack of dog food, but are still missing two horses.

Rose Burnett, 84, is another southeast Texan displaced by the flooding.  Even though the whole street is gutted, she smiled as she took her place with others gathering to worship on the driveway at Lake Houston UMC. For those facing Hurricane Irma’s wrath, this Harvey refugee would recommend resuming church life as soon as possible. And it’s fine with her if it has to be outdoors.

 “We need this,” Rose says, gesturing at small groups of her fellow church members exchanging handshakes and hugs in bright September sunshine. “We need the fellowship and the love of each other.”

Sam Hodges, a writer for United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas.
 

Recovery Through Grace

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 00:00
Care Ministry at Grace Fellowship Katy is a safe place where it is okay not to be okay. As the Care Pastor since 2003, Rev. Cindi Lomax, has seen lives changed in the Recovery Through Grace program, even those who struggle with dual addictions of chemical/alcohol abuse along with sexual addiction. This ministry has attracted hundreds of people over the years because it addresses real problems with confidentiality and a customized recovery plan.
 
As a former critical care nurse, Cindi instinctively set up the ministry to facilitate a unique care plan for each individual. “We also match them with a wounded-but-healed ‘super leader’ that has been there and can walk alongside them,” she adds. Associate Care Pastor Nic Hoover is a wounded-but-healed mentor for others struggling with alcoholism and other issues. “Years ago, when I was feeling inadequate in my role as a husband, I virtually crawled into a bottle and soon realized I could not get free of alcohol’s grip by myself,” shares Nic. “I came to the Care Ministry and found the strength I needed to be the man, husband, father, and warrior God intended for me to be.”
 
Cindi later hired Nic to help counsel the men and women that seek help with marriage, grief, finances, additions and divorce. “We are both children of divorce and know that so many of these needs overlap,” explains Nic.  “I often encourage men to participate in Marriage Matters and get their wife cheering them on as they deal with any other addictions.” According to Nic, other people may be in a really dark place and need a 30-day rehab or detox facility in their care plan, with the church focusing on after care.
 
Cindi says, “We know isolation is deadly to anyone who suffers from addiction, and that walking through recovery with others is crucial, so Recovery Through Grace claims II Cor. 1:3-4 as our care scripture, “…that we are called to comfort others with the same comfort that we ourselves have received in our own time of troubles by The Lord Jesus.
 
The Care Ministry excels in building a support team for individuals, using any combination of support such as:
  1. Family and friend support assessment
  2. Faith-based counseling and referrals
  3. Psychiatrist evaluation
  4. Stephen Minister support
  5. Weekly Recovery Care ministry support with accountability and transparency for their specific addiction
  6. Intensive referrals
  7. Adjunct ministry referrals such as Financial Peace, Marriage Matters, Freedom and Healing
  8. Prayer partnership providing 1:1 personalized prayer coverage 
Lessons Learned
If other churches want to start a recovery ministry, Cindi and Nic recommend soundproofing the counseling room, allowing people to refer to themselves using initials, and keeping the drama and personal details to a minimum in a group setting. “We work to stay focused on the Bible so others don’t feed on the details of the addiction and thus allow Satan to get a foothold,” shares Cindi.
 
The Recovery Through Grace ministry has a strong pull to the community. In fact, Grace Fellowship has the reputation in the Katy, Texas as being the “Ben Taub Hospital of emotional care.” Everyone from court employees to area residents refer people in crisis to the church.
 
“A lot of our people don’t have a church home, but when they get a DWI or suffer a crisis they will come to the church for help. We are now tracking that ‘care evangelism’ and reminding people that God cares about their hearts and can work through the crisis with them,” Notes Cindi. Additionally, up to 50 percent of the participants of Divorce Care come from outside the church..
 
Nic knows the power of having someone walk the journey with you during hard times. “People just want to be accepted in an atmosphere of trust,” he says, “so I assure those that I counsel that I have walked this road as well and I am there to do life with them.” Authenticity has brought healing to many through Grace Fellowship’s multiple care ministry outlets. “Wounded individuals and families are grateful when I tell them we are just people who want to link arms with them to get healthy and find the Lord,” adds Cindi.
 

Candidacy Summit - Now Offered Twice Per Year!

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 00:00
Candidacy Summit will now be offered twice per year. Save the dates for the next events scheduled for 2018:

Winter
January 12-13, 2018
Lakeview · Palestine, TX

Summer
August 3-4, 2018
Camp Allen · Navasota, TX

See Flyer 

For more information: contact Deann Saxton, BOM Candidacy Manager at dsaxton@txcumc.org or at 713-921-9383

 

Third Sunday Native American Worship September 17:  Jim Cochran

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 00:00
We welcome you at St. Mark's UMC, Houston (Patterson) on September 17, 2017 at 4 pm to hear Jim Cochran (Cherokee) talk about "Getting to the other side of the storm".  He will share the Mark 4:35 story about Jesus calming the waters and taking his disciples safely through.  
 
If you were fortunate enough to be there last year when Jim preached, you know that he is a bible scholar and a very good speaker.  You will be glad to hear Jim speak this time as well.
 
Also, come and hear Shelby Bradley(Mattaponi/Rappahannock) share words of wisdom with us and please stay with us for potluck afterward.  
 
Date:  September 17, 2017
Time: 4:00pm
Location:
St. Marks United Methodist Church
1615 Patterson St., Houston, Tx.
(One block south of I-10 & west of I-45
Close to I-10 and Shepherd Dr.)
Potluck and fellowship follow the service

Opportunity to Serve: 
Conroe UMCOR Mission Trip to assemble or check Disaster Kits - meet at St. Mark's at 600 Pecore at 8:45 am September 16.  We will break for lunch and you can brown bag it or go with a group to Subway.  We will return by 6 pm.  If you want to meet us at the Mission Center, please be there before 10 am at 3765 N Loop 336 East, Conroe, Tx  77301.   
 
Please call Rose - 713-504-0855 - if you would like to participate or have questions.  
 

Harvey Update - Bishop Jones Via Facebook Live

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 00:00

Bishop Jones offers the latest information on Harvey relief efforts in a video via Facebook Live at: 

https://www.facebook.com/TexasAnnualConference/videos/10155169008261715/

Learn more about how you can volunteer or donate at: http://www.txcumc.org/harvey
 

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Matagorda Harvey Video

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 00:00
Bishop Scott Jones traveled the flood damaged areas of the Texas Conference, worshiping and speaking at a Sunday service at Matagorda First United Methodist Church on September 3. With phrases like “We love you” and “Thank you,” Bishop Jones encouraged his members to stay strong and work together to offer relief after the disaster. “I am proud of the way our United Methodist Churches across the conference are serving in the community to muck and gut houses and churches, and show compassion to people affected,” he said.

 
The United Methodist News Service offers this exclusive look at Bishop Scott Jones' September 3 message along with images of how United Methodists are working together to offer relief after the disaster.
View more at umc.org/videos

Transcript:
(Locator: Matagorda, Texas)
(People sing hymns inside church)

Bishop Scott Jones, Texas Annual Conference: “I am grateful to be worshipping with you all this morning. And I want you to know on behalf of all of the churches in the Texas Annual Conference, to know that we love you, that we are praying for you and that we are going to continue praying for you.
The United Methodist Church is a connection of many, many churches all over the country, and all over the world, and as your bishop, part of my job is to hear where the needs are and where the resources are, and try to bring all those together. And I’m also just excited that you all have already been the hands and feet of Christ in this community. To see what’s going on in your fellowship hall, to hear about providing help to families through a food pantry, I want to say thank you for what you’ve been doing, and to recognize that this recovery from Hurricane Harvey is not going to be a quick fix.

(Scenes of flooded areas)
We know when you have a devastation factor to this effect, it just gets huge, and it goes on for a long time. So we’re committed to being the hands and feet of Christ wherever we’re needed.

A pastor of Chapelwood United Methodist Church launched the Chapelwood Navy. And in his community the streets were flooded, people were marooned, 911 was overwhelmed, and so The United Methodist Church got some boats together and went out and rescued people with the pastor, John Stephens, leading the group. We went to see the neighborhood where he and others had been wading in sometimes chest-deep water to get to homes and rescue people.

Those stories have been happening all over south Texas. Mary Lou and I were in Beaumont yesterday. They’ve not had drinking water in parts there and so there was a church in west Houston, Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, that had more bottled water than they needed. So we drove to Beaumont and Nederland to deliver water and supplies there. Then I found that one church had too many flood buckets and they needed them in Winnie, Texas, yesterday so that was our last run yesterday.
I’m playing a very small part in this. You all are the hands and feet of Christ in this community, and I just want to say thank you. And to make the pledge that in fact we’re going to be in this for the long haul.”

Tag:
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Donations can be made at www.umcor.org for U.S. Disaster Response, #901670.
This video was produced by the United Methodist News Service based at United Methodist Communications. Special thanks to Producer Andrew Jensen, Production assistant Caleb Watson and Texas Annual Conference communications Director Shannon Martin. Media contact is Tim Tanton, United Methodist News Service, at 615-742-5470.
 

Texas Strong Music Video

Sat, 09/09/2017 - 00:00


 

Disaster Volunteer Team Registration

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 00:00
To register a team to serve in the Texas Conference Hurricane Harvey Relief efforts, please fill in information on the form at http://www.txcumc.org/disastervolunteerteamreg

Please note that most of the work at this time includes mucking out and gutting of homes. This work is dirty and conditions may be hazardous, so please bring appropriate protective gear for all team members including respirators, tyvec suits, gloves, eye protection, etc.

Members must be over the age of 18 and have proof of Safe Sanctuary Certification from your local church (contact your local church office for more information).

 

No TAC Benefits Drafts for September 2017

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 00:00

Dear Clergy,
 
Please be sure that your church treasurer or finance secretary is aware of the following announcement.  Thanks so much! No TAC Benefits Drafts for September 2017
As we are all too well aware, Hurricane Harvey has had a devastating impact on the churches, pastors, retirees and members of the Texas Annual Conference, as well as our friends, neighbors, communities and sister annual conferences.  The rebuilding process will be lengthy and challenging for all concerned.  In order to assist with immediate TAC recovery efforts, the TAC Board of Pensions and Group Health Benefits Committee have approved waiving all church/clergy benefit drafts for the month of September 2017. 
 
The following September 2017 Benefits drafts will not be processed (approximately $1.2 Million in total benefit contributions will be waived):
  1. Active Clergy Group Health Benefits draft
  2. Retired Clergy Group Health Benefits draft
  3. Active Clergy Pension Benefits draft
 
The waiver of these September benefit drafts will provide immediate financial relief to those churches and active and retired clergy directly impacted by the storm. 
 
To assist with the disaster recovery efforts, we are requesting that churches and clergy NOT directly impacted by the storm donate the amount they would have been drafted for their September benefit contributions to the recovery process.  To make a donation, go to http://www.txcumc.org/floodrelief and contribute to the TAC Flood Relief fund or UMCOR’s Domestic Disaster Response Advance #901670.
 
Our thoughts and prayers are with all who have experienced great loss in the past few days, but our faith and trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ remains stronger and more devoted than ever as He walks with us through the rebuilding process.
 
Grace and peace,

Rev. Gail Ford Smith,
Director, Center for Clergy Excellence

Revitup! November 13-15, 2017

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 00:00
Revitup is a unique opportunity for young clergy aged 25-39 to strengthen personal, financial and leadership skills which can improve your life and sustain your ministry.
revitup! will be held from November 13-15, 2017, in Pensacola, Florida. Learn More and Register

The TAC will reimburse the registration fee and hotel (2 nights) cost for any clergy and their spouses who did not attend the TAC Clergy Benefits Academy in September 2014. Please make all your own Registration and Hotel Reservation arrangements.

After the event, please send a copy of your Registration and Hotel receipts and a copy of your Continuing Education Certificate to Barbara Kilby, Benefits Office, Texas Annual Conference, 5215 Main St. Houston, TX 77002 for reimbursement.
 

Church Hosts Flood Bucket Assembly

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 00:00
First UMC Marshall hosted a flood bucket assembly on Saturday, preparing more than 150 flood buckets to assist neighbors who have been affected by Harvey.
See story by Marshall News Messenger

 

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