Sunday, June 18, 2017

History of the Methodist Church in Cambodia (MCC)

1980: Following the defeat of the Khmer Rouge, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) began relief efforts in Cambodia. In 1983, the United Methodist Indochinese Caucus was established by the GBGM to provide fellowship among expatriates from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, many of whom expressed a desire to share their Christian faith with the people of their home countries.

1990: The National Assembly of Cambodia officially recognized the right of Christians to worship within Cambodia. That same year, plans were already in place on the part of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) to officially begin mission work in Cambodia--in the areas of community rehabilitation, education, health care, economic reform and of course, evangelization.

1990: Kong Vutty, a choir director of the Cambodia Methodist congregation in Stockton, California, visited Cambodia and established financial support for the Tek Thla Methodist congregation—a congregation that was formed mainly among Cambodians who managed to hide from the Khmer Rouge while remaining in the country.

The same year, a Christian Cambodian woman by the name of Lonn Tep from the United Methodist Church in Modesto, California , returned to her village of Phum Phnov and evangelized among her family and the people in the village. This eventually resulted in the birth of the Methodist Church not only in Phum Phnov but also in other villages in the province of Svay Rieng.

1990: A congregation that was started in Kampong Cham established a relationship with the United Methodist Church in France.
1991: The Korean Methodist Church began mission work in Cambodia.
1992: The Cambodian United Methodist Church in Paris, France  opened two congregations in the province of Kampong Thom...

1992: Samuel Von, a United Methodist Cambodian pastor from the California-Nevada Conference brought the funds from Centenary United Methodist Church to build the church facility in Phum Phnov.


1994: Rev. Kean Ung, a Cambodian pastor in Switzerland, returned to Cambodia and organized a Methodist Congregation in Ta Kdol, near the Capital city of Phnom Penh.

1996: The Methodist Church in Singapore appointed its first missionary to Cambodia:Mrs. Annabella Lim Poh Eng.

1998: The World Federation of Chinese Methodist Churches sent its first missionaries: Rev. Jessica Tiong Yien and Ms. Joyce Siew Sin Choo.

1996: A two-day mission consultation was held in Singapore among Korean, Singapore, Chinese and United Methodist Church representatives to work towards mission cooperation in Cambodia.

1997: Representative of the Korean, Singaporean, and The United Methodist Church mission boards, including  Connexio, the UMC mission board in Switzerland and France, discussed collaborative mission in Cambodia. Cambodian Methodists were among the delegates.

In the same year, a Coordinating Board for all Methodist Mission in Cambodia was organized.

1998: The first joint Pastors’ school was held in Phnom Penh  with over 100 lay Khmer (native Cambodian) pastors in attendance.

2000: The opening service for the first entering class at the Cambodian Methodist Bible School was held.

The same year, the Cambodian government recognized the registration of the Cambodia Christian Methodist Association.

2001: The first hymnal and worship book for the Methodist Mission in Cambodia was dedicated.

2002: The bishops of the various agencies met in Zurich, Switzerland and signed a document committing the work of the agencies toward one Methodist Church in Cambodia

2003: The first ordination service of the Mission was held. Ten Khmer pastors were ordained deacons.

2008: The Methodist work became the Methodist Mission in Cambodia which merged the work of all the agencies.

2009: The first Annual Meeting of the Methodist Mission in Cambodia was held.

2010: All the district superintendents appointed by  the bishop were Khmer.


"Faithful to our Wesleyan heritage, we are committed to a Holistic ministry that embraces both personal conversion to discipleship In Christ and to Social transformation.  It encompasses all human relationships—with the neighbor, with nature, and with God.  We have ministries in health care, education, community development, leadership development, and livelihood development.  We have missionaries from Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the USA, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Korea, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

"We give glory to God for what God has done and continues to do among the people of Cambodia!"

--Samuel Om, GBGM Missionary to Cambodia

Sam, Caroline, and Syvanny Om
CLICK HERE to read a post I wrote in 2014 when Sam was going to Cambodia and I was going to Main Street! 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Aldersgate Day

OK, maybe it's not the greatest costume. But I sure had fun pretending to be John Wesley for our Aldersgate Day celebration on Wednesday, May 24. Here's what John said: 
Good evening. I am John Wesley, priest in the Church of England, fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, and by God’s grace, founder of the People Called Methodist. 

Do not ask how I am come to be among you. Indeed, I do not know myself.  I have been dead for two and a quarter centuries. How I am here I do not know, but why I am here is to share my story with you.

My story begins with a little boy, 6 years old, asleep in a four-poster bed with curtains around it. The boy awoke to what he thought was sunlight. The light on the other side of the curtains was as bright as day. He peered out through the curtains and saw streaks of fire blazing across the ceiling.

He ran to the bedroom door and opened it, but alas, the entire rest of the house was on fire. He ran to the window, but alas, his room was on the second floor, and he was too small to jump so far.

But thanks be to God, someone on the ground looked up and saw the boy’s frightened face in the window. The men stood, one on top of the other, and the man on top pulled me from the house just as the roof came crashing down. One second more, and the boy would have perished in the flames.

Of course, that little boy was me. Later on my mother said to me, “John, you are ‘a brand plucked from the burning.’ God has saved you for a special purpose.”  I never forgot those words.

I went to Oxford University to study for the priesthood. While there, I met frequently with several of my fellows to pray, study the Bible, and do good works together. Other students laughed at our organized, methodical approach to our faith, and so to make fun of us, they called us “Methodists.”

After I was ordained, I thought perhaps my purpose was to go to America and preach the gospel to the Indians. So I traveled with General James Oglethorpe to the colony of Georgia.

And my mission to the Indians was a resounding…FAILURE. No one was converted.  No church was planted. I made the colonists so angry that I had to slip away under cover of darkness – and travel dejected back to England.

And at this point I was lower than I had ever been. I doubted my call to ministry. I doubted whether I was even a Christian!  On the way back from Georgia, I wrote in my journal,

“I went to America to convert the Indians. But O! Who shall convert me?”  

Back in England, I was moping along – discouraged, depressed, not sure what to preach, not even sure I was saved.

And then—on the 24th of May—this very day—on May 24, 1738, something happened. I went to a meeting with the Moravians. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? They make lovely cookies!

In my day the Moravians were known for teaching a personal, evangelical faith. I joined them at a meeting on Aldersgate Street. Aldersgate—named after an old gate in the ancient Roman wall around London.

I went to the meeting on Aldersgate Street, and something happened.  Here is how I described it in my journal:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter to nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed; I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sin, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

At this point I must pause in my story and ask you a question: Have you felt your heart strangely warmed? Have you had a personal experience of the love of God? Has your life been changed by a personal encounter with the living God?

Mine was. After my Aldersgate experience, I began to preach the gospel with excitement, fervency, and power.

In the year 1739, my friend George Whitefield urged me to come to Bristol, and join him in preaching outdoors, to those in the streets and the fields. I was shocked! Preaching outdoors! The very idea! And yet—as I wrote in my journal:

Saturday, March 31—In the evening I reached Bristol and met Mr. Whitefield. I could scarcely reconcile myself to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; I had been all my life so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.

Monday, April 2.—At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a field adjoining the city, to about three thousand people.

As time went by my companions and I preached in the streets, in open fields, in front of factories, at the mouths of coal mines. At times 20,000 people would gather round to hear the gospel message of New Birth – “you can be born again!”

Once I went to my hometown of Epworth, to preach in my home church. A large number of people came to the church to hear me preach. But alas, the priest of the church put chains on the door and locked me out.

So I went out to the graveyard beside the church, where my father is buried. His grave is my property, so I stood on my father’s tomb and preached the gospel to around one thousand people.

As more and more people responded to the message of salvation through faith I organized them into societies for mutual support and further instruction.  All the early Methodists met every week in small groups of 12, to study, pray, and help each other live the Christian life.  I taught them 3 simple rules: (1) Do no harm, (2) Do good, (3) Stay in love with God—by using the Means of Grace—prayer, fasting, worship, reading the Scriptures, and Holy Communion.

By the time I died, there were 72,000 Methodists in Great Britain, and another 57,000 in America. And I am told that in your day the People called Methodist number around 70 million around the world.

However--numbers are not everything.  Near the end of my life, I published a tract entitled, “Thoughts upon Methodism,” in which I wrote:

“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.”

Dear friends, I must ask you: Has this happened? Have my fears been realized? Are the Methodists of today “a dead sect?”

Have your hearts grown cold?

My brothers and sisters, I pray that you will study my life and the lives of the early Methodists – not so that you can repeat the things we did – but so that you can recover the spirit and power of the Methodist movement. Ask God to show you why he raised up this movement, and how he wants to use you today.  My friends, I beg you—do not let the fire go out. Rediscover the power and purpose of your Methodist heritage.  Be transformed by the power of God, so that you, by the power of God, may transform the world.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Relational Giving Ideas for a Less Commercial Christmas

In my sermon today on "A Charlie Brown Christmas," I made the point that it IS possible to have a less commercialized Christmas. Here are some ideas for what The Advent Conspiracy calls "Relational Giving," collected from various sources:

Dinner for Grandparents
My dad is 94 and my stepmother is 88. My dad's grandchildren collect pictures of all the family and have a calendar made for him and my step-mother. They include everyone's birthday plus on the first day of the month they list who will bring them supper one night that month. They divide everyone into 12 groups. My sister took her time and had my dad and stepmother invite 12 friends and she fixed supper for all of them. That way they were able to entertain once again around their own table.

Photo Book
I stole my mom’s photo albums (don’t worry I gave them back), got pictures from my grandparents and scanned all of them, over 2000 pictures, into my computer.  I made a photo book with the best 400. I wrote them a letter telling them how much I appreciated them going to all my soccer games, being scout leaders, taking me to national parks, teaching me to drive, helping me with homework, guiding me through life but most of all showing me how to have a relationship with Jesus.  I will never forget watching them read that letter and look through that book.

Gifts for the Homeless
My husband gave me a nice surprise last Christmas. He had visited his family in Ohio alone because I couldn't get off work. But he came home early on Christmas morning and he and his family had packed 30 Ziploc bags with gifts for my friends on the street. We drove downtown and gave out bags and told them it was a gift from Jesus. Many of the homeless were thankful that day.

Family Trip
A few years ago we decided that our three kids didn't need more stuff. So, I really thought about what they did need and that was more time together as a family. In lieu of gifts for the kids we take a small two or three day vacation around Christmas. It can be as simple as renting a cabin and sledding or playing board games for a few days or taking in Christmas sights within a car trip of our home. Now instead of making a Christmas list they ask, "Where are we going this year?"

Scripture for the Year
We put everyone's names in a basket and each of us draws one out and this becomes the person you give a scripture to. You pray and ask the Lord to give you a specific scripture for this person that will speak what the Lord wants to speak to them. It has been amazing over the years to hear the scriptures read aloud by the person and to see how it speaks to their spirit, many times in ways you would never imagine! 

On the night or day that we celebrate Christmas together we start with the youngest person first (yes we include EVERYONE no matter the age, even if mom or dad have to help) and whoever had picked that person’s name gives the scripture to them and it gets read out loud to everyone. It's a great way to keep the focus on the Lord and give Him opportunity to speak a word to you for the coming year. 
The fun part is how you present it. We've painted ornaments and put the scripture on it … given it on paper written or typed out so it can be put somewhere to be seen all year …made it into a magnet, or a bookmark, or even a frame... the possibilities are only as limited as your imagination and creativity will let you go! Oh and something that I started doing a few years back was writing down the reference in a book that is kept for the family to bring out each year. (Oh and I've also scrapbooked them, for those of you who like to do that!) 

We never intended for this to become a tradition in our family but God did. It all began one Christmas over 15 years ago when we all had little to no money and we were trying to give something that costs nothing and it has turned out to be one of the things that we look forward to each year and has become a tradition for our family ever since. Hopefully you will like the idea and want to adopt it as your family tradition as well. It costs you nothing but a little time in prayer and as much creativity as you can muster! 

Give the gift of experience. The Gift Weblog suggests, “There’s nothing like giving someone the gift of experience, it is something they will always remember.” Sample gifts of experience: sky diving, scuba lessons, hot-air balloon rides, cooking school, lunch with a hero, etc.

Time or Skill
Give the gift of time or skill. Brad has given music lessons. He has colleagues who have given bike tune-ups and wine advice. What skills do you have? Can you help somebody set up a blog? Plant a garden? Learn to change the oil in their car?

The Real St. Nick
Our first Re-thunk Christmas, I was terribly afraid that my children wouldn't get to experience the MAGIC of Christmas. The Christmas mornings that my parents helped me to experience when our living room was completely transformed, waking Mom and Dad with "come see what Santa left!!!" and how did Santa know how much we wanted those bicycles? But the magic was there... more magically than ever... this idea put the magic BACK in Christmas for me as an adult. 

At the beginning of the Advent season, I wrapped a BIG open box and put it in the living room. My children (then 2 & 5, now 6 & 9) were to carefully to think about what toys they didn't need anymore. They cleaned them up, and put them in the box to give to Santa. "Santa has a lot of children to give gifts to, let's see if we can help by sharing the gifts we don't need." They really got into it. If they were hesitant to give an item, I reminded them that if it was too hard to give it away, they could take it out again. They put so much thought into what they still needed, and what they thought would be better enjoyed by someone else... and into what might be considered "junk" that no one would want. On Christmas Eve, we sealed the box and put a note on it, "For the children who have nothing."  

That night, Santa came to my children. All of the "just what I wanted!" things. The living room transformed. And when the children woke me up Christmas morning, running into the room with enthusiastic giggles, I didn't hear "come see what Santa left!!"  I heard, "Come See! Come See! He took it! Santa took our gifts to the children!! The box is gone!" They hadn't noticed their stockings full or the specially wrapped gifts. They were thrilled with the magic of the Real St. Nicholas, whose legend we tell every year:  A priest who sneaked to give gifts to those who were without gifts. THAT's Santa Magic.  

Memories for Grandfather
The most wonderful gift I have ever given (it’s still talked about years later) cost me almost nothing. I spent a few months contacting friends and family members and asked them to send me memories and old pictures of my grandfather. Then I wrote one memory (or printed one picture) on each of 365 business card sized pieces of card stock. I folded each in half and secured it with a bit of tape, then placed them all in a big jar I decorated. Every morning for the next year, my grandfather would take out a paper, open it, and see what other people cherished in him. He loved it.

Coupon Book
We have four kids and are trying to "rethink" Christmas this year for Advent Conspiracy.  We usually will do 4 or 5 gifts per kid.  This year, they each get one gift on Christmas and then I thought it would be fun to give a coupon book...personalized for each child.  Each one will have a coupon to redeem each month.  It may be "breakfast in bed" or "go out for a milkshake w/mom" or "hit a bucket of golf balls w/dad."  You can go real simple or get more detailed.  The key is that they get to redeem only one/month.  This spreads out your cost over time.

The Gift of Staying in Touch
I have 2 good friends who live on the other side of the country.  Over the years we have lost touch just from getting busy.  Last year I mailed each of them a mug and some tea bags that I had.  I enclosed a card saying that every 2 months, on the anniversary date of their birthday (the 8th and the 26th of the month) I would call and we would catch up.  It has been wonderful.  I mark it on my calendar and despite needing to change the date or time occasionally, I am back in touch with both close friends.  My one friend told me it was her favorite gift she received last year.

Christmas Letters
Write a personal letter to your children and grandchildren letting them know what you think of each of them. Recognize their gifts, talents, and character qualities. Even considering sharing what you see as God's working in their lives. I have done this for 27 years and it has become the highlight of every Christmas as everyone waits to receive their letter from dad and grandpa. After death these letters will still be read over again and again. The influence we can have will always be there in their lives.

Special Ornaments
One Christmas growing up, my mom presented each of us three kids with a special ornament.  Each one represented an aspect of our God-given character.
Laura: Star-shaped ornament, representing my ability to reflect the light of God to those around me.
Emily: Heart-shaped ornament, representing her tender and giving heart.
Brian: Shepherd ornament, representing his ability to guide and shepherd people.
I don't remember many of the gifts given at Christmas, but I sure remember this one!

Telephone Book Club
I live 10 hours away from my sister.  We are both very busy with our jobs and our children, but we share a passion for reading and being able to discuss what we're reading with someone else.  Last year, I wrapped two copies of the same book and gave them to my sister with a note describing our newly formed book club.  It consists of only the two of us. We read one book together each month and we take turns choosing the book.  The first Sunday night of each month (after our kids go to bed) we have a designated phone time to discuss the book we just finished.

Organizing Photos
My mother in-law has boxes and boxes of photos (in no order, nor in albums - just thrown in boxes). We purchased a photo organization box for around $20 and we'll be giving her a gift certificate for our time to help her organize the photos. Not only will it be productive, but an activity where we can reminisce about the past and spend time with my mother in-law

Monday, May 9, 2016

"In the Meantime"

Here's my sermon for Ascension Sunday, May 8 (also Mother's Day):

Yesterday Lorie and I were at the drug store buying Mother’s Day cards for our moms. We were pushing through all the other last minute shoppers, when Lorie found a beautiful well-crafted card that had only three copies left. I said, “Perfect. Buy all three: One for your mom, one for mine, and one for me to give to you.”

Looking around the greeting card aisle, I noticed there were tons of Mother’s Day cards. There were graduation cards, because that’s happening this time of year. There were even wedding and anniversary cards, because a lot of people get married in May.

But I didn’t notice any “Ascension Day” cards! This is a special day that’s only celebrated in the church. It hasn’t been commercialized in the least. There is no “Ascension Bunny” who comes down from heaven to deliver chocolate eggs. I guess this is one holiday that’s all ours.

Look with me at Acts 1, verses 1-11:

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit.During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.
Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
-          Acts 1:1-11, New Living Translation
Today, on the last Sunday of the Easter season, we celebrate the fact that the risen Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples, and then he was lifted up into heaven before their very eyes.

But what does that mean to you and me? Jesus gets to fly like Superman. How does that help us?

What difference does the ascension make to our ordinary, everyday lives? Three things …

#1- Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father interceding for us

 “Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
                        --Romans 8:34, New International Version

That means that for you to talk to God
-you don’t have to go through a priest
-you don’t have to go through a saint
-you don’t have to go through a pastor like me,

You can go directly to God through the Son, Jesus Christ! 

The story is told of a union soldier during the civil war, sitting outside the white house. A little boy comes up to him and says, “What’s the matter soldier?” The soldier says, “I’ve been wounded and discharged, and they won’t pay me my pension.” The little boy says, “Come with me.”  And he takes the wounded soldier into the White House, past all the guards, right into the president’s office, and there sits Abraham Lincoln … and the boy says, “Dad, this soldier needs your help!”

That’s the power you have in addressing the God of the universe. The ascension means that Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for you.

#2- Jesus can be everywhere

When Jesus was walking the earth in the flesh, he could only be in one place at a time. Now that Jesus has moved into the eternal realm, he is no longer limited by time or space.

Think of a puddle of water that gathers in a low spot in your yard. As long as it’s a puddle it can only be in one place. But when it evaporates, it’s taken up into the clouds, and then it can cover the earth in the form of rain.

Jesus ascended into heaven so that he could cover the earth in the form of the Holy Spirit. In John 16, he says, “…It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
                        --John 16:7 New International Version

The ascension means that Jesus can be everywhere.

#3- Jesus is coming back.

 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
 --Acts 1:11, New Living Translation

Jesus is coming back to put things right:
-          No more war
-          No more suffering
-          No more death or sorrow or crying or pain , for “God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

The ascension means that Jesus is coming back.

So there are three things the ascension means to you and me. BUT—there’s one more thing. As we remember and celebrate Jesus ascending into heaven, I have one big question:


Why does he get to go to heaven, and we have to stay down here?

The Bible and Christian tradition tell us that the purpose of our existence is to be in relationship with God. Couldn’t we do that better if he’d just take us on up?

Why did Jesus leave us on earth? He makes that incredibly clear in Acts 1:8—

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
                                                --Acts 1:8, New International Version

Jesus is coming back – but in the meantime, we have work to do:

There’s a world out there drowning in sorrow—and they need to know the One who said, “Peace I give to you.”

There’s a world out there drowning in hatred—and they need to know the One who said, “Love your enemies and bless those who curse you.”

There’s a world out there full of starving people and sick people and forgotten people who need to experience FROM US the one who said, “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”

Jesus is coming back – but IN THE MEANTIME, he’s given us a MISSION:

-          Be my witnesses
-          Preach the gospel
-          Share the good news
-          Make disciples

That’s our mission. The question is, “What’s our Vision?”

If you’ve been here the last couple of Sundays, or if you’ve read our Newsletter, you know that we at Main Street are currently in a Vision Process. And it’s important to understand the difference between Mission and Vision.

Our MISSION was given to us by Jesus. He says it five different times in all four Gospels and Acts.[1] The mission never changes. It is the same for every church, at every place, in every time.

Our VISION, on the other hand, is a picture of God’s future for our church. Our vision becomes clear when we understand how God is calling our church to make disciples in this place, at this time. I think of Jeremiah 29:11, where God says, “I know the plans I have for you.” When we begin to understand those plans, we get a picture of the future to which God is calling us. That picture of the future is our VISION.


-          Our Mission is to be witnesses, to share the good news, to make disciples. That is always the same, and it will never change.

-          Our Vision is a picture of how God is calling us to be witnesses in this particular place at this particular time

You know, what Main Street did in 1837, is not what Main Street was doing in 1937. And what Main Street did in 1937 is not what we’re going to be doing in 2037 (which, by the way, is only 21 years away!).

The mission is always the same, but the way we carry it out changes. And what we at Main Street are doing right now is saying, “God, show us YOUR vision for how you want us to carry out the mission next.”

So, how do we figure that out? How do we discern God’s vision for us?

Here’s how you find your vision. It works for churches, and it works for individuals. You take your two hands. With one hand, you get a firm grip on who you are—your gifts, talents, strengths, abilities, experiences, resources—everything you have to offer the world—everything that makes you, you.

With your other hand, get a firm grip on the needs of the world—especially the ones in your own backyard. What’s going on out there? What are the needs that tug at your heart and keep you awake at night? You know, experts are telling us that our area, the Piedmont Triad, is the number one area in the country for food insecurity. Apparently, we’ve got a lot of neighbors who need food. I also think of all the school kids who need mentoring, tutoring, and supplies. And there are plenty of other needs as well.

So, with one hand you get a grip on who you are. With the other hand you get a grip on the needs of the world. And then you bring your hands together in prayer. And you ask God to show you the intersections between the needs of the world and what you have to offer. And your vision—or better said, God’s vision for you—will emerge.

The Main Street Vision Team is divided into two groups who are studying each of the two “hands.” Later this month, the internal team—the team that’s studying who we are—will be sending out a survey that you can take online, or on paper if you don’t have internet access. Please take ten minutes and fill it out. You’ll notice that it’s not a “wish list” survey that asks for all the things you wish the church would do. That’s not what we’re looking for. We’re trying to discern GOD’S VISION for the future of our church. This survey is about getting a grip on who we are as a congregation.
So let me quickly retrace this rambling journey on which I’ve taken you this morning. (How did we get from Mother’s Day to an online survey?) Today is Ascension Sunday, and the ascension of Jesus means three things:

1. Jesus is interceding for us.
2. Jesus can be everywhere.
3. Jesus is coming back. 

But IN THE MEANTIME – we have work to do! Jesus has given us a

“Be my witnesses”

And because we at Main Street are committed to that, we’re praying to receive God’s

A picture of God’s Future

Let’s close by praying a prayer that the Vision Team is asking us to pray every day at 7:00 am. Set your alarm clock, set a reminder on your phone, or write yourself a note, and let’s all join together every day saying,

“Lord, help us to be all that you want us to be. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

[1] See Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Celebration Sunday: Stories of Life Change

These "snippets" of notes and testimonies were shared last week as part of our Celebration Sunday. 

I would like to thank each one who participated in sending Christmas cards to shut-ins. I think I have enjoyed this gift from my fellow church members as much as anything else in my life.
               -Thurman and Ruth Hinson
Thank you for the wonderful prayer shawl given to my wife Melody. I can’t tell you what a comfort it has been to her as she undergoes treatments.
-Jack Johnston
WOW! 50 units of blood were collected at the Blood Drive, and our goal was only 39 units!
-Eloise Anderson and Libby Bond
I am very grateful for your cards, flowers, food, calls and visits during my hospitalization and recovery. To say that our church family is a caring congregation is an understatement.
               -Henrietta Barrett
We had made two trips to Florida in two weeks—one to see mother, and one for her funeral.  It meant so much to us for you to share your love through a meal.
               -A Bereavement Meal recipient
Thank you so much for Gavin's prayer shawl.  He’s been sleeping with it at night.  Your prayers will keep him strong.
-The Hills

We had a member facing hardship who had received an eviction notice.  We were able to bring her rent up to date and keep her in her home.
               -A UMW Circle
My daughter was leaving for college. My husband’s dad was declining rapidly. My life was chaotic. But Tim and I found that, rather than adding to our stress, Disciple Bible Study helped us through it.
               -Sandra Hemphill
Disciple Bible Study is habit forming. During my Disciple studies, I learned to read the Bible not just to understand the words, but to live in those words.
-Chadwick Stamper
Seventy plus years ago we were called to serve and protect our great country; we proudly answered the call.  Seventy years later God has called the "Never Forget Ministry" to encourage us. Your gifts of cards, banquets, concerts, and more give us something to look forward to.  Your love makes us walk a little taller in our senior years.
-Harold & Faye Redding
The goal of children’s ministry is to help children learn about God and put their faith in action. We have around 175 children involved across all events, with 40% of them being guests and visitors.
               -The Children’s Council
Sometimes we have said that our youth choir is not about singing, but about fellowship.  We do outreach in the community, and mission projects on our trips to the beach. We build each other up in Christian love. Oh, and we sing too!
               -The Alpha and Omega Youth Choir
Our music ministries include 15 different groups. Our mission is to facilitate worship that both honors God and builds up the church so that the church can go out into the world and share the good news.
               -Main Street music ministries
At the awards ceremony at Piney Grove, every one of the Main Street Preschool kids got their reading and math award.  Also, several received a good citizenship award.  This preschool is not only turning out children with strong academics but also teaching them to be good people.
-The Sammons family
Last year we had a preschool family that suddenly became homeless. When we learned of the situation, we bought the children clothing and immediate supplies.  The mom is now happy in her new home and was extremely thankful for a preschool that was able to help them.
-JoAnn Clifton, Preschool Director

The incredible people at Bethany Café get there bright and early to prepare a special meal. They offer a three-course meal served in stages so that we all receive royal treatment. This program has changed our lives and the lives of many in our community.
-The Lorenz Family
As one who helps prepare and serve the food, nothing touches your heart more than to know you are feeding people physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
               - A Bethany Café Volunteer
We’ve had many classes where we were brought to tears by sharing stories of serving the least, the last and the lost.  The most wonderful gift we‘ve received is knowing that God's love became real and life-changing to others.
-The Seafarers Sunday School Class
The giant Advent wreath on your church property helped to beautify our town. Thank you.
-Kernersville Community Appearance Commission
We had one individual who really did not want to deal with multiple sclerosis, but was dragged to our support group.  After some time, this person decided to ride with our “Bike MS” team.   Last year this individual trained hard and rode 35 miles.  Our group helped this person understand that you can live a full life despite living with MS.   
               -Multiple Sclerosis Support Group
If our group had to rent a rehearsal space, we probably would not be able to exist.
               -Heart of the Triad Chorus
We are so grateful to Main Street for making it possible for Lidia's children to have school clothes.  They simply would not have had the required school uniforms without your help. Your generous gift also allowed each child to get casual clothes and shoes.
- Vickie Sigmon, Open Arms Community, Winston-Salem
Each winter New Story Church opens its doors to the homeless of Winston-Salem. And every Wednesday, Main Street brings an amazing meal to feed our hungry guests. But it doesn’t stop there, because your folks stay around to serve the meal with grace and kindness.   
-Pastor Steve Smith, New Story Church
Rick was living on the streets of East Winston.  He had a drug problem.  His family had little to do with him. Rick began coming to feedings at Rupert Bell Park, and he started asking questions about Jesus. Rick discovered he had cancer while living on the streets. We prayed that Rick would get off the streets.  He is now in his own apartment.  He has gained weight and looks good. Now Rick comes to church every chance he gets and he calls me his pastor. 
               -Carol Fulton, Children of Zion Ministries
 Main Street is changing the lives of prisoners through Kairos Prison Ministry. The prayer strips, the monetary support, and yes, the cookies. They call us the Kernersville Crowd, and many times they have told us that if it wasn’t for your support, this ministry would have ceased to function long ago.
               -Don Stutts
 You guys have done big work in Egbe, Nigeria over the past year, touching many, many lives. Egbe Hospital aims to care for every patient with the compassion of Jesus Christ.  People walk for as long as three days to reach the hospital, making this place the center of one of the largest evangelistic movements in western Africa! Thank you for allowing us to be here, sharing in this with you.
               -Nick and Katie Riddle
 We are seeing lives changed through Bible teaching in the Ukraine and central Asia. Last weekend we ran a two day camp for children from refugee families. They played games, had plenty of food, and heard the gospel.          
               -Esther Mueller
 Redeemed Girl Ministries has traveled across the country to eight college campuses. We’ve seen 518 young women commit their lives to Christ! I wish each of you could have been there to hear the stories of changed lives on each campus.
               -Emily Wilburn
We received this note from a woman who listens to Trans World Radio: “Through your radio programs, I have learned to praise God in every situation, and to be a person with firm faith. May God bless you all at Trans World Radio!“
               -Grant and Jenna Hodgins
After serving 9 years in the Domincan Republic, God began a new church and I became the founding pastor.  Now we have four services a week.
-Connie DeLeo
We are on a team of 4 missionary families working among an unreached people group in Mozambique. When our teammates first came to this area there were no Christian believers. Today we are hosting Bible studies and seeing lives changed through Christ.
               -Daryl and Leah Burnette
And there you have just a few of the ways that God is changing lives through you. And this is just a taste. I’m sure that for every story we read there are at least 5 others that could be told.

Not to us, Lord, not to us
But to your name be the glory! 
       Psalm 115:1