First United Methodist Church

Service Times

9am Contemporary | 11am Traditional

Naivasha, Kenya – Tuesday – Habari Asubuhi – Good morning!

On Tuesday we met with the Sanctuary Shakers and Karagita Lemonade Life Groups in a joint meeting. The small narrow church in one of Naivasha’s largest slums was filled with joy, laugher, and praise. Together we sang, prayed and shared letters and stories of prayer partners. For me, it was truly a ‘seeing is believing’ moment. Three years ago when I visited, this had been one of the toughest locations to visit – but today, it was one of my best days.

I witnessed complete transformation in the OVCs. 3 years ago they could barely look up to speak their name and share their story with us. Today they proudly stood, introduced them themselves, warmly welcomed us, and presented reports by the chair person and group treasurer. These OVCs now have purpose and direction. They plan to continue meeting with each other even after graduation.

I also had the opportunity to meet Bernard, the youth our family has partnered with for this program cycle. We have been praying for each other and exchanging letters. He asked so many questions about my boys and my husband and I learned more about his extended family and life circumstances. We have truly grown to know and care for each other over these years. My heart is full!

We spent the afternoon visiting OVC businesses. First stop was a delicious lunch at Lilly’s Café (photo). Lilly is one of the program’s graduating OVCs. She runs a successful restaurant and employees three other youth from her neighborhood. We stopped at Stephen’s vegetable stand (photo), Pauline’s clothing stand, Nancy’s Salon (photo) and finally, Lilly’s Salon (different Lilly). It was such a special treat to have a few of the group leaders spend the whole day with us as we visited around town.

What a joy to celebrate these great successes of the Lemonade Life and Shakers groups. They are definitely making lemonade from the lemons dealt to them while they shake up their community!  ~ Loran VanWormer

Naivasha, Kenya – Monday – Hope, Direction and Love

Today was a day of 1000 little hands.  Each time we arrived at one of the neighborhoods to visit with one of the Panua entrepreneurs, we were greeted by the wonderful smiling children of the village. They are so polite! As they reached up to take our hand they’d say “How are you?” with their native accent. The common answer is always, “I am fine!”  So many children walking with us holding our hands, or, in my case, rubbing my hairy arms, too, as we walked!  Such beautiful, happy children who love having visitors.

Today we visited the KCC neighborhood and distributed sponsor letters to the Panua youth (see photo of Samson reading his letter).  We enjoyed making mosaic hearts with them all. It’s truly been a highlight for them to do this with us. I look forward to putting the full design together next week!

Each morning as we leave the hotel the same awesome young man wishes us off to have a great day. Today, I asked him to teach me the Kenyan handshake because I just could tell it was quite a bit different than ours.  Turns out that it’s a four position shake where the first position which starts up high means “How are you,” then “How is your wife?” (down low), then “How are your children?” (back to high), and lastly, “God bless you” (low). It’s a warming feeling in your heart because you are communicating without speaking. It comes from your touch and your heart.

It was a very hefty schedule today. We visited several Panua businesses – a street vendor, a marketvendor, two welding businesses, two hair salons, and a motorcycle repair business (look closely at the photo!).  All of these businesses are off to a great start. Seeing the sparkle in each person’s eyes was a great experience. You could see the pride of ownership and a genuine feeling of success. It’s wonderful to see how successful these entrepreneurs are becoming with very little investment of money, but a huge investment of hope, direction and LOVE.

The Panua project truly is making a huge difference in these people’s lives and the lives of those  around them.

David Alger

Cornerstone United Methodist Church

Naples Fl

Naivasha, Kenya – Sunday, A Day of Abundant of Joy

Today was a day full of God’s love and joy!  Our hearts are overflowing as we end our first Sunday here in Naivasha.  Normally, Sunday would have been “just” church, but today we were unbelievably blessed to be able to witness one of our 2013 graduates, George O., marry his beautiful Lilian during the service.  I don’t think I’ve ever attended church for 7 hours straight, but it was such a wonderful day of celebration, there was nowhere any of us would rather have been.

We arrived at church at ten, but starting times are very fluid here in Kenya.  We actually stood outside and played with the many small children for close to two hours while praise music drifted outside from the sanctuary.  The kids were fascinated by all of us, but Katheryn and Spencer were especially magnetic.  They played duck-duck-goose and Simon Says over and over, and had their hair played with and their heads petted for much of the day.

We were also thrilled to reconnect with Isaac, another Panua graduate (pictured here).  Isaac has become a successful photographer/videographer and was hired as the professional photographer for the wedding.  Isaac has also continued to give back to Panua, speaking to the current classes when asked.  It was such a treat for the team to see him!

Once the bride arrived, everyone moved inside for the wedding.  Like George, Lilian was orphaned at a young age, so they both understand the pain that the loss of both parents early on can cause.  George is a member of Trinity UMC in Naivasha, so the church paid Lilian’s aunt and uncle a dowry so that George could marry her.  Many tears of happiness were shed as the ceremony progressed.  Our mission team was brought up front to sit among George’s family, and Jensie was asked to come forward as George’s family to offer a prayer for the marriage.

Pastor Paul Matheri performed the wedding ceremony, and reminded George and Lilian that the marriage  license they signed was just a piece of paper the government requires.  The real wedding was blessed by God and witnessed by those who love them.  Pastor Moses gave the message.  The Scripture was John 2: 1-11, which tells the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee.  This story is commonly referred to as the “water in to wine” story, but Pastor Moses keyed on the fact that (verse 2), “both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding.”  Pastor Moses encouraged us all – long-time marrieds, getting marrieds, and not-yet-marrieds – to “invite Jesus” into our marriages and into our lives.  Invite Jesus.  Powerful.

The music of the day was remarkably varied:  two traditional hymns from the familiar Methodist hymnal (English first, then Swahili), a praise band, an incredibly talented choir, and some more contemporary tunes piped in over the sound system, like “God is Watching Us.”  There was dancing, swaying, hand-clapping, even some tribal chanting; we had it all going on!

A striking thing for me was the children – there were dozens of them under ten.  We all commented at how we couldn’t imagine dozens of children not only attending a wedding in Florida, but milling all over the sanctuary throughout, and being so well-behaved. It all seemed very normal and natural until you tried to picture the same thing happening back home. There were even parentless community children there treating it as a playdate with the members’ children.

During last night’s devotional, Laura handed out clothespins with one of the fruits of the spirit written on each.  The one I drew from the bag was “joy” – we were instructed to look for that particular fruit during the day today, either by displaying it ourselves, or noticing it in someone else.  Today it was not hard to find joy all around.  May God bless the marriage of George and Lilian.

Naivasha, Kenya: Thursday-Saturday

We are happy to be here!  After 30 hours travelling with 16 pieces of luggage checked (full of caps, gowns, diplomas, certificates and signs for graduates), these 8 weary team members were ecstatic to make it to Nairobi, then on to Naivasha for a hot meal, a warm shower and a cozy bed.

We spent our first full day visiting with current Panua youth from the Kabati and Kihoto neighborhoods, and we were able to meet some potential youth from the Viwandani neighborhood.  Their stories of what Panua means to them are incredibly touching.  They worked diligently on our Mosaic heart project and fully embraced cutting and gluing tile, which will be part of displays at the Panua office in Naivasha, our church in Winter Park and at Cornerstone UMC in Naples, FL.

The youth were extremely patient while each was called up to receive their sponsor letter, and returned to their seat to delve into the latest encouragement from their sponsor.  Our team was encouraged hearing all that Panua means to this group as they prepare for graduation.  We also watched the potential youth as they observed the current group and concluded that while Panua literally means “expand” in Swahili, it also means family, support, courage and love.

Panua Graduation Trip

For the next two weeks please pray for our team in Kenya, who is joined by Cornerstone UMC. The teams will be connecting, worshipping, and celebrating the graduation of 160 youth as they conclude their 3-year Panua program. This is our second graduating class, and we are excited for the next group that begins in January. Please pray for these young people in Naivasha, Kenya.

UMCOR Responds to Louisiana Floods

Donate Here


By Linda Unger*

Days of torrential rain inundated the state of Louisiana, beginning August 11. Flooding has impacted at least 40,000 homes, and about 30,000 people and 1,000 pets have been rescued from high water in homes and cars. At least 11 people are known to have died in the disaster.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) issued an emergency grant to the Louisiana Annual Conference, releasing 2,950 cleanup buckets to United Methodist churches in LaFayette and Baton Rouge, areas severely affected by the floods, for distribution to affected households.

UMCOR stands ready to release another 2,000 cleanup buckets to go to the most vulnerable places as identified by the Louisiana Conference, as more cleanup buckets are being assembled to meet more needs.

The state of Mississippi also was affected by flooding, and UMCOR has readied relief supplies to go there, when the water recedes.

Read the full article HERE.

Elevate Mission Trip

HEART (Hunger Education and Resource Training Institute) is an immersive Developing Nation Simulation in Lake Wales, Florida. This program gives students a chance to make a difference in the lives of needy families in Central Florida while having a ton of fun. They painted, re-roofed and helped set up a community garden. One of the leaders said, “I love experiencing out-of-the-box mission experiences with our youth! It opens their eyes and hearts to new ways to serve. And the surprising part is how we are blessed as we serve.”

England Day 8: The last couple of days in London

Our last couple of days in London were great!  We saw a lot of the tourist spots.  Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral.   We visited a few pubs and ate fish and chips!  Even picked up a few diamonds in Harrods.  Just kidding!  Surprisingly, the sales associates didn’t pay me much mind in my t-shirt and shorts.  Now we are back!  The kids flew home last night.  The dog has returned to the roost.  These days I’m going to bed on Florida time (Midnight) and waking up on England time (5 a.m.)!  Our trip of a life time has come to an end. 

And yet, our journey continues.  In my first blog I shared a quote from St. John of the Cross who said that if we want to come to a knowledge we know not – we have to go by a way we know not.  He also said that to come to be what we are not – we must go by a way in which we are not.  These past ten days Robyn and I went by a way we knew not.  As a result, we have come to possess a greater understanding of history, ourselves and our Wesleyan heritage.  In short, we have become different people.  Now the question is application.  How will we live out that new understanding in our everyday lives? 

One of the things that really stood out for me on our trip was that being the church is a marathon and not a sprint!  The Methodist movement is nearly 300 years old!  In England, we visited a number of churches that have been around for over a 1000 years!  That’s a long time!  And that is a lot of change!  When I think of all the ways our world has changed over the past 100 years, I can’t even fathom going through all the changes of a 1000 years!

Now clearly, age isn’t everything.  Being around a long time doesn’t mean the church is getting everything right.  At times the church has gotten things very wrong.  And yet there is something to be said about the way the church has continued to share Christ, ministering through wars and plagues and persecution.  In England I found something deeply moving about attending a worship service in a local church that has been meeting since the dark ages! 

On the way home, I was re-reading Genesis 13 and for the first time I noticed that 25 years expired between God’s original promise to Abraham and the arrival of Isaac.  That’s a long time!  At that point 25 years represented a quarter of Abraham’s life!  I wonder if Abraham ever decided to quit?  To set up the tent and leave it there?  To tell God he was tired of change?  Tired of the change in scenery, the change in community, and the change in routine.  I am sure he must have. 

And yet he persevered.  The question is: will we?  Will FUMC persevere through the changes that surely lie ahead in our society and therefore, in the church?  Will we choose to think long term in a short term world?  Are we willing to set priorities that ensure a ministry that presents Christ for the next 300 years?

I look forward to answering these questions with my church family.  And I am eager to share the journey with you!