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Inspired to Serve

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The idea behind the Winter Relief Center came to Dana and Sally Perkins during a Gereral Conference 2011 session. (Photo courtesy of Mark Crosby)

Dana and Sally Perkins of New Beginnings FMC in Butler, Pennsylvania, couldn’t stop thinking about winter weather as they left a general conference session on a warm day in July 2011. They didn’t know the details, but they knew God gave them an idea to do something about homelessness in their community.

They wondered: “How are we to do this as a little church with no extra funds?” But their faith in a mighty God was magnified. Within a couple of weeks, the determined couple had about 30 volunteers and $400.

With a lot of heart but not much money, church members reached out to area agencies. They kept coming back empty-handed until they met Amanda Feltenberger, director of service integration and quality management for Butler County Human Services. Feltenberger made calls and connected them with the Grace Youth and Family Foundation.

On Dec. 1, 2011, the Winter Relief Center opened for the first time. With limited funding, it could only open when the temperature was below a certain level. That winter, the center served 15 individuals over 18 nights with a total of 37 stays. For the 2012–13 season, the temperature threshold was raised, allowing for more open nights and more people off the streets. During that season, the center served 57 individuals over 80 nights with a total of 131 stays.

The center was still not open enough to satisfy the need. For the 2013–14 season, the committee decided to open fulltime from Nov. 16, 2013, to March 31, 2014. The Winter Relief Center served 84 individuals over 133 nights with a total of 629 stays.

This ministry continues to grow because of partnerships with other churches and businesses. God used general conference to reveal a plan to serve a community, and His followers continue to obey His call.

Mark Crosby is the assistant pastor of New Beginnings FMC in the Pittsburgh Conference.

This article originally appeared in the September edition of Light & Life Magazine, a publication of the Free Methodist Church. You can view the entire magazine here.



Global Connections

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Free Methodist bishops and their spouses traveled from around the  world to attend General Conference 2011. (Photo courtesy of Michael         J. Metts)

At General Conference 2011, I saw a strikingly beautiful woman walking down the sidewalk. I greeted her and learned she was from Kenya, where her passion was reaching out to widows and orphans.

“Oh,” I exclaimed, “our church’s Christmas offering was for Kenyan widows.”

“That was you?” she responded, surprising me that we had been the only church to do this.

I was further amazed to discover she was Neddy Dingili, the Kenyan bishop’s wife. What a joy it was to hear firsthand about the offering our church had sent and how much it meant to this servant of God.

Not long after, our church received a sizable donation that included a portion for a world mission work of my choice. Within days, Dingili, my new Facebook friend, messaged me about a critical need. A widow needed surgery. Could we reach out to her?

In God’s perfect timing, the money had already been given.

Our local Women’s Ministries International group now sponsors this same widow. I knew that this sponsorship would be easily doable if each lady would contribute $3 or $4 at every monthly meeting. Instead, offerings are such that Dingili has been able to help other widows as well.

One lady was able to pay school fees for her daughter. Girls in Kenya often do not have this chance, and Christian widows, who refuse to become the property of their dead husbands’ brothers, often struggle just to eat and put a roof over their heads.

Would I have connected with Dingili on Facebook had I not met her at general conference? Possibly. But I believe that encounter was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit to give direction and purpose from a personal relationship begun that afternoon on the sidewalk at Roberts Wesleyan College.

Lois Huff attends the New South Conference’s Murphy (North Carolina) FMC where her husband, Tim Huff, is the pastor.

This article originally appeared in the September edition of Light & Life Magazine, a publication of the Free Methodist Church. You can view the entire magazine here.

 



Churches on Mission for GC15

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Photo of Vine FMC mission trip members by Donna Gallaher

You don’t have to be a megachurch to send a significant number of people on a mission trip.

The Keystone Annual Conference recently honored two local churches for signing up many of their worshippers for General Conference 2015 mission trips that will run from July 8–16, 2015.

“We’re to be glocal, doing ministry globally as well as locally,” said Mitch Pierce, superintendent of the Genesis and Keystone conferences.

Vine

Pastor Joe Muir of the Vine FMC in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, was concerned his congregation wasn’t giving enough for missions. He decided the Vine should join other Keystone churches supporting ministry in Hungary. He challenged his church last fall to increase its missions giving to 5 percent of its budget.

“We pledged $1,500 to start this thing out. Our people responded with $1,800,” Muir said.

Then the congregation learned about the GC15 mission trips.


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Welcome to the World of Paradox

For the next 8 Thursdays, we will be posting a series originally posted by Mark Oestreicher, longtime youth ministry guru and partner with The Youth Cartel.

If you have a preteen or a young teen living in your home, you gain a whole new appreciation for the concept of paradox. These wonderful kids completely embody every meaning of the word. In so many areas, they seem to be both one thing, as well as the polar opposite! (This can be quite maddening, and paradoxically, quite exciting!) It’s all about transition, baby.

Here’s a list of a few you might notice:


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General Conferences to Remember

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llm-sep14_history1Since the early years of Free Methodism, general conferences have played a key role in shaping the doctrine, structure and direction of the church. General conferences have been held every four years since 1862 except for three five-year and two six-year interludes. Here are a few important moments at past general conferences:

1862 

The denomination’s first general conference convenes Oct. 8–15 in St. Charles, Illinois, and then adjourns to meet again Nov. 4–6 in Buffalo, New York.

llm-sep14_history21882

Legislation creates the General Missionary Board to separate “foreign missions” from “home missions.”

1890

Delegates support simplicity in dress on principle of freeing resources to help the poor, but they warn against an “unscriptural spirit of judging … for things that are not clearly contrary to the Word of God.”

1955

llm-sep14_history3The general conference lifts the ban on choirs in public worship. It also allows the use of musical instruments by a majority vote of the local church. (General Conference 1943 approved instrumental music on a two-thirds vote of the local church.)

1974

Women are granted ordination as elders, more than eight decades after B.T. Roberts first pushed for their full ministerial status.

1995

The entry level for church membership changes to focus primarily on repentance, faith and baptism.

2011

Delegates approve a resolution inviting “every Free Methodist and every Free Methodist Church” to “pray and fast for the purposes of seeking God and pursuing God’s will,” “challenge each other to increased time for personal and corporate involvement in the Word of God,” “ask God and each other what it is God wants us to start doing and what it is God wants us to stop doing” and seriously consider the question: “What will we do as a result of what God is saying to us?”

Sources: “A Future With a History” by David L. McKenna (Light & Life Communications, 1997); “The ‘Free’-ing of Methodism” (fmcusa.org/uniquelyfm/history); “Five Resolutions from GC11” (fmchr.ch/gc11resolutions); “From Age to Age a Living Witness” by Leslie R. Marston (Light & Life Press, 1960).

This article originally appeared in the September edition of Light & Life Magazine, a publication of the Free Methodist Church. You can view the entire magazine here.

 



A Calling of Skilled Delegates

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First and foremost, General Conference 2015 is a gift from God and praise to God. It is all about focusing on God, not on our personal desires for the church. Where does God want His people to go? What vision can we cast for the future mission of our church? How can we best put our people to work for His purpose? How do we manage the denomination and its resources to the best of our ability?

While our bishops have the responsibility of guiding us into prayer, worship, vision casting and inspired service, there is also a great need to ensure that the business and structure of the church are aligned with what God is calling us to do. Here is where our delegates to GC15 have a responsibility to read, study, discuss and act on behalf of the church.

Christians who have the gift of administration are well-suited to represent the church at this gathering of leaders every four years. In between, the Free Methodist Church – USA Board of Administration is tasked with carrying out the responsibilities assigned to it by the general conference.

Choosing wise and gifted delegates is a call that God has given to every church in the FMCUSA. These people will have the responsibility of prayerfully choosing our bishops as well as the Board of Administration that will serve the church through to our next general conference in 2019. They will also have to come to agreement on key issues facing the church over the next four years.

Delegates need to have a broad understanding of the church throughout the United States and the world. They also need to have the wisdom to see who are the best seasoned leaders — as well as the best future leaders — for where God is calling us as a people to go and serve.

Hal Conklin is the chairman of the FMCUSA Board of Administration.

This article originally appeared in the September edition of Light & Life Magazine, a publication of the Free Methodist Church. You can view the entire magazine here.



A Great Gathering with Kingdom Purpose

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llm-sep14_featureOne of the grandest gatherings of Free Methodists in history will take place in Florida in 2015. It certainly will not be the biggest. I have attended some very large Free Methodist events in other countries. It will not even represent the largest body of Free Methodists to host a conference. There are far more Free Methodists in other countries.

But it may just be one of the most significant and diversely represented events in our 155-year history. July 13–16 in Orlando, Florida, is when and where we will host the 37th General Conference of the Free Methodist Church – USA.

Some of you reading this have attended more general conferences than the seven that I have had the privilege of attending. Others reading this are not sure what a general conference is and may not have heard of the Free Methodist Church though this article appears in our denomination’s  magazine. Whether you have attended a dozen or none, you may want to put this on your calendar and come. The fact that every Free Methodist is invited is one of the many reasons this conference holds great significance. General Conference 2015 is for everyone who loves God, loves people and desires to see more and better disciples in this world.

We will be gathering to worship God, celebrate what He has done and is doing in our ministry family, look forward together, resource both clergy and lay members to better serve God and reach the world, be inspired by incredible stories of transformation, meet and network with like-minded people, better understand our beliefs and commitments in this rapidly changing world, and transact some family business in the process.

Sounds like a lot? It is. Sounds like it is for more than a few elected leaders to enjoy? It is. In fact, it is our hope that at least one person from every Free Methodist church in the United States attends, and it is our hope that all leaders attend.

Why? 


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General Conference 2015

Let’s Meet at GC15

Other than a one-day visit in the 1990s to see relatives, I had never attended a general conference until 2011 despite being a Free Methodist for most of my life. I assumed general conference mainly consisted of boring business meetings.

As a new denominational employee, I expected to be busy during General Conference 2011, but I didn’t expect to have my perspective changed. I was moved by the worship. The speakers challenged me to think and act beyond my comfort zone. I met people from other countries, and one man shared how terrorists had targeted him because of his faith. Even the business meetings were fascinating. During those meetings, I learned of Free Methodists who are making profound differences in their communities.

I returned home with a new outlook. I began to weigh local church board discussions in light of the priorities and strategies discussed at general conference. I wished I had not been the only person from my congregation to experience this life-altering event.


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Boundaries and Decisions

For the next 8 Thursdays, we will be posting a series originally posted by Mark Oestreicher, longtime youth ministry guru and partner with The Youth Cartel.

This research-proven truth may surprise you: Parents are still the number one influence in the lives of their teenagers. Many parents assume that with adolescence, the peer group takes the top influencer slot; or media; or something or someone else.

Here’s another fact that may surprise you even more: Young teens still want and need boundaries. Maybe you’re not surprised by the thought that they need boundaries; but the fact that they want them seems counter-intuitive to their regular spoken and unspoken demands for independence. Of course, unless uttered in sarcasm, you’ll never actually hear your student say, “Please, Mom, I want less freedom!”


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Groups for All Ages

Children’s Ministries

kidZone returns on Wednesday, September 3, but if you hear someone talking about Rescue 911, do not be alarmed. That’s just our theme for the opening month as we discuss Jesus and His rescue mission on the planet Earth.  We meet every Wednesday. The action begins in the fellowship hall at 6:30 and ends at 7:45 p.m.

 

Youth Ministries


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