First United Methodist Church

Green Tip!

As members of our vibrant family, we are uniquely privileged and tasked by God to be good stewards of the planet and care for our environment.  While small actions may often seem insignificant, as passionate seekers working together as a community of caring Christians our seemingly small faith actions can impact our world and make a difference and demonstrate our responsibility of loving our neighbor.

This summer when fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful at the grocery and at local Farmer’s Markets, try eating at least one meatless meal a week.  By using locally grown produce for your meatless meal you reduce the energy costs of food production including transporting goods to market, food processing and grocery store costs (www.epa.gov). Not only does eating more locally grown vegetables versus meat have a positive impact on the environment, it is also healthier.

The Health Ministry will be sponsoring several cooking classes in the fall on Cooking Healthy with Vegetables. Stay tuned for more information and dates!

Bringing JOY Through Music

Every Wednesday morning strains of ukuleles and singing come from our parlor into the courtyard.  For the past three years members of the First United Methodist JOY Uke Club, have gathered for weekly practice as a vibrant family.  The group is largely made up of church members but the JOY Uke Club is an inter-faith group including a member from another Methodist Churches.  The group sings hymns, 60’s folk songs, patriotic songs, military songs for the veterans in the audience, porch songs, and some contemporary music.  Several times each month, the group sings in various senior living communities and health care centers in the Winter Park area as part of our mission to bring joy to others through music and song.  Through song, the group shares the Word of God.  It is wonderful to behold individuals in the audience who appear not engaged, to all of sudden sit up and mouth the words when they hear “Amazing Grace”. Music touches their souls and takes them back to the happy times in their past.

This summer the JOY Uke Club assisted in teaching the ukulele to middle school age youth at the Winter Park Library.  Several times a year the group performs for gatherings in churches and other places in the community including First United Methodist of Winter Park. If you have a passion for singing and playing the ukulele and would like to join the group, contact Rev. Gary Rideout at [email protected].

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Psalm 98:4

Food & Hospitality Ministry: More Than Just Feeding Our Church Family

By Grady McClendon

The Food and Hospitality ministries at FUMCWP are so much more than just feeding people.  Their services also offer volunteer opportunities for a wide range of church family members’spiritual gifts and even generations!

They supply our church with a broad array of delicious meals, refreshments for receptions, and even the snacks for hundreds of Vacation Bible School children and volunteers.  They also prepare and staff our Sunday Coffee Fellowship, our Welcome Tables and the “Our House Tours” given once a quarter.

Our Food and Hospitality Ministry recently hosted The National Christian Hospitality Conference for church hospitality directors and administrators, which offered an extraordinary look at the scope of services our church and its Ministries can contribute.  For 200 visiting professionals, Randy and his corps of volunteers and church staff shared our amazing facilities, all anchored by our commitment to biblical hospitality.

One of the true gems of the Food and Hospitality Ministry is “Wednesday Night Live,” an evening of fun, faith and friendship featuring a sit-down dinner in our gym on Wednesday evenings during Fall, Winter, and Spring. About 100 people dine together weekly on multi-course meals, sharing fellowship with all ages, before adjourning to small groups and other activities.

Once again, these dinners require a team of dedicated volunteers, including the Kitchen Ministries team of cooks and servers!  Our church’s setup team provides set-ups and tear-downs for transforming our gym into a cozy dining room!

Kitchen Ministries is also involved in an amazing community outreach that provides delicious “home-cooked” lunches several times a year for Winter Park’s Police and Fire departments.  This is our way of thanking those professionals who “take care of us” on a regular basis! They were also involved this summer in providing healthy lunches to underprivileged Children enrolled in a summer Studio 150 dance camp funded by a grant from Florida Hospital.

As we bring our biblical hospitality more and more into our community, the more of your spiritual gifts are needed. If you would like to continue your path of discipleship by joining our team just contact Randy at [email protected].

Panua Trip, Blog 4: Teamwork

Today was the end of the mission trip as tomorrow we start our journey home.  I’ll sum up this last day and hit some highlights from along the way.

We saw little kids joy, thoughtful record keeping, teamwork, a flashback from day 1, and witnessed the face to face meeting of two prayer partners.

Walking to take a water filter to Loise at her hair salon/residence, we came across two little boys working on knocking dead limbs from a tree to get wood to burn.  They had a water bottle tied to many lengths of string and would sling the bottle up into the tree and pull it down, hoping to remove whatever was dead and collect it on the ground.  It was just a spur of the moment thing when we came back past the tree on the way back to the van.  Ben looked up and saw a large dead limb and instinctively jumped up and grabbed the limb.  It came crashing down and the stunned look on the boys faces quickly turned into the happiest faces and squeals of joy as they rushed towards the hunk of firewood.  Seems like a lot of things happen on these trips that aren’t on the agenda, that don’t even relate to what we came to see or do, but are little moments that stick with you.  Ben the beast!

Another time while meeting Rose at her place of business where she does hairdressing, she brought out her record book where she writes down every transaction by day, service rendered and price.  Nothing fancy, but meticulous and neat and a great way for her to look back and see what days are the busiest, what services are the most popular without having to guess. She is in a good location in town and uses this information to help determine her marketing.

In meeting with the DCK working group, without really realizing it, we opened up a discussion on the importance of teamwork.  Matt pointed out how our group back home worked together as separate businesses and that we had been working this way a long time.  We won’t say how long but I was much younger when the core of this group started working together.  This sparked a flood of questions when the introductions were over.  He pointed out how the business we were all in needed the different components that we each had to make us successful both together and individually.  You could see in the looks they gave each other when we pointed out for example that a two of them were taking training in electrical wiring, one was learning plumbing and another, masonry.  I think they realized how the possibility of working together could bring/raise the level of success and that once again that maybe they weren’t alone.  You see the concept of the working groups is that each one of the youth in the program coming in can feel alone in the struggles they are facing.  Once they hear each other’s stories they can start to relate and the bonds of a family begin to take shape. We related that teamwork is needed not only in business but in family dynamics, social interaction, or a number of other things.

To further that example, we visited Elsie in her newly opened snack shop, where she has a small hotel (small eating establishment) where a person can stop in and get hot snack, like some Chai tea and a pillow doughnut.  Think a beignet without any sugar.  In opening the hotel, she had one of her group that is learning furniture making, to make the four small tables, and benches to sit on.  The tables have a nice cleanable colorful top and benches have a padded fabric covering.  She is getting some white paint for the walls to brighten up the space and had hired another of her group to paint her sign, along with his phone number so he can get more business.

Remember James and his pep talk the first day?  Well, we met Nixon at his place of training in welding almost two thirds around the lake from Naivasha.  There we presented him with a water filter to be used he starts his business.  While meeting with him and the man training him, we noticed the welding machine they were using and realized it was supplied by James.  That tied a lot of things together for our group.

Finally, one of the group got to meet his families prayer partner, Vivian with her son and grandmother.  The instant bond and joy was overwhelming.  The grandmother was so thankful for what Panua meant to her and Vivian.  The little guys happiness was contagious.  I wish each and every prayer partner could meet and have that connection.  It’s not possible, for sure, but powerful when it does happen.  This is why the letter writing is so important.  I hear it each time I visit.  They cling to those letters, share them with each other, display them in their homes and look forward to receiving each one.  The language on their end might be hard for us to read sometimes, but the heartfelt thankfulness is always there along with their desire to see each one of us.  English is not their best language for sure but they are fluent in their tribal tongue, the national language (Swahili) and English, depending on how much schooling they have had.

I think that wraps this trip up for me.  I was asked last night at dinner if I think the trip had been successful.  We didn’t really do anything, except show our commitment to the youth in the program, pass on some of our concepts of togetherness and teamwork, encouraged them to save for the future, and delivered water filters that will serve them in many ways.  I got to see guys on this trip gain a better understanding of the program which they can bring back home and share.  I think as always, these trips shore up the staff here and remind them of our support for their work.

So, yeah, I think it was a successful trip.

-Larry Brown

Panua Trip, Blog 3: Clean Water

Today will start the meat of the trip.  We will travel to meet with the Sanctuary working group, encourage them, interact with them and collect any messages they might want to send back to their prayer partners.  Then we will visit some youth businesses that have been started and hopefully connect with some previous graduates.  We will be eating lunch with Lillian.  You will remember her video where she has opened her own small restaurant.  We have visited her twice since she has opened and she is doing very well.  In addition to her restaurant trade, she has begun catering events and has developed a good reputation.  We will be presenting her with a couple of water filters that have  been graciously donated by Kohler.  One of the trip participants and church members works for Kohler.  All of us on this trip work together in some capacity or other and while on a visit to the Kohler headquarters we noticed  a product that they have developed, the Kohler Clarity water filter.  It takes unclean water, filters it and provides clean drinking water in a resivour.  The company has a stewardship program where they offer this product in areas that are in need of clean drinking water across the world.  They have donated 100 of these filters and we are very grateful.  You can learn more if you google Kohler Clarity.

The water issue is always one that is of concern here.  We take for granted that when we turn the faucet handle that water will come out and we seldom worry about leaving the tap running.  Think about how much water you use on a daily basis, volume and what you use it for.  Now think about waking up and deciding where you will go to get water for the day.  You’ll have to account for cooking, washing the dishes, bathing, brushing your teeth, etc.  Now after getting the water and using it, you hope it is clean.  You hope you don’t get sick, because if you get sick, you can’t work. You don’t work, you don’t get paid, you don’t get paid, you don’t eat.  You don’t eat, you don’t get well. You can see the pattern.

Larry Brown

Mission Work at Reeves

Our vision of being a Vibrant Family is rooted in 3 key elements we value: worship, multigenerational connections, and service/mission. We continue to see and hear stories from our church family that demonstrate these 3 elements! One story we’d like to share in particular is recent mission work over at the Reeves Campus.

Over the past several weeks, the Reeves Campus has been alive with activity! The University Carillon UMC youth group, Converge, came by several days to clean, organize, paint, garden and help set up the Trinity Christian Academy (TCA) Preschool – which is set to open at Reeves this August!  Their lively spirit was contagious as they worked alongside each other to help be the hands and feet of Jesus. Each day a different group from this week-long camp came by and simply said “We’re here to help, what do you need?” What a great example of not only Christian community and service, but a huge testimony to the hearts of our United Methodist youth.

Our very own youth group Elevate followed the Converge team the next week by taking it a step farther! Elevate even stayed overnight at the Reeves Campus for a week-long mission to serve the community. The Elevate theme and mission for the week stemmed from the scripture found in Matthew 25; “When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Elevate brought new life to the Reeves Campus by tackling the large project of weeding and laying mulch on the campus during 90-degree days. Each day  Elevate broke into smaller groups; some going out to feed the homeless, others to bake and bring cookies to our first responders, while others headed to Clean the World and Rise Against Hunger.  They worked selflessly and passionately during the day before ending with a beautiful worship service led by Michael Leblanc, Director of Student Ministries.

When you look at these teens you see the future. The future of not only the United Methodist Church, but of our world; of what it could be if we truly strived each day to be the hands and feet of Jesus and love “the least of these.”

Why Vacation Bible School Matters

I was seven and we were in my backyard in Massachusetts. I was there with friends from church and friends from the neighborhood. I remember a few things from that time: first were the snacks. We had jog-o-juice and we had Goldfish. On one day, we had Hoodsies, an ice cream cup from the Northeast. All of this in the middle of the day! I remember knowing clearly that whoever organized this “school,” really didn’t know how much they exceeded my expectations when it came to snacks.

The second thing that I remembered was that my leaders were so cool. My sisters were a good bit older than me and they were my teachers, along with their friends. These high school students played with me and sang songs with me and generally made me feel like I was the coolest kid in town. These were the kids who were much too big and far too cool to be interested in me, but here they were, getting down on my level and making me feel welcomed. What’s even better is that when I saw them at church the weeks after Vacation Bible School, they said hello to me and let me know that we really were buddies.

And lastly, I remember hearing about Jesus. I grew up in the church so this wasn’t the first time I heard his name, but this was the first time his name became real in my life. I learned that Jesus loved me and would walk with me if I invited him into my life. I remember being told that whatever I did, Jesus would always care for me and be there for me.

This has of course, changed the trajectory of my life. I have leaned on Jesus in good times and in bad times. As a teenager, I knew I wanted to be a part of youth ministry, because that is where my VBS leaders came from. When I was in high school,  I knew I wanted to lead small groups, because I remembered how much it meant to me to be noticed by someone older, taller, and cooler. As an adult, I have felt a call in my life to serve Christ in my vocation, and that call can be clearly traced back to that summer afternoon.

This December, I turn 30. I can still, just as if it were yesterday, remember exactly the color of the sky, the taste of the jug-o-juice, and the sound of the name of Jesus that I experienced that day. To me, that is why Vacation Bible School matters. It is a lot of work and the lay and staff team of Children’s ministry have transformed our campus into a virtual theme park of experiences for these kids. All of this work is worth it. We are creating opportunities for children, youth and adults to experience Christ for the first, second, or thirtieth time.

This week, please pray for our team, both lay and staff, that they have opportunities to remember why this all matters. Pray that our children who are coming to experience Vacation Bible School would encounter Jesus in a real way. And pray that in 25 years, someone is telling the stories of Shipwrecked, 2018.

~ Michael LeBlanc, Director of Student Ministries

Studio 150 Dance Camp 2018

Studio 150 recently held 2 weeks of their annual Summer Dance Camp. This year was extra special as there were many new faces filled with passion and joy!  We were blessed with a grant from Healthy Central Florida to allow one free week of dance to children living in the Hannibal Square area. With help from our Diversity Team, we reached out to the Hannibal Square Heritage Center and 8 students were given a scholarship for the week.

During the camp, students experienced all forms of dance including acrobatics, ballet, contemporary, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop and tap. New friendships were formed between all students. The older dancers partnered with the younger students and truly became “big sisters” for the week. Studio 150 Director Laura Work said, “A couple of girls were even emotional and truly moved by the feeling of dance. It was a beautiful thing to witness.” Laura felt as the weeks went by they truly came to understand the purpose of these camps. “The best gift you are ever going to give someone is the permission to feel safe in their own skin; to feel worthy; to feel like they are enough.” (Hannah Brencher)

Our Studio 150 Ministry serves as a catalyst into our vibrant family and we are excited for years to come as we continue to offer the joy of dance to those in our community!

 

Panua Trip, Blog 2: Worship

“Today was worship.  Paul said it would be more of an American service….maybe an hour shorter!  I am always struck by the abandon with which they do church.  Worship is filled with activity, lots of singing, some from the hymnal, some from memory, but fully involved by everyone.  The children are such a big part of the service and while it seems uncontrolled, it is always the same format and there is a joy on their faces.  The youth provide a skit with dancing that is truly amazing.  This weeks skit was about poverty and how they are faced with not having money for school fees, not being able to pay the landlord, and how prayer can help them face life’s troubles.  

Rev. Paul Matheri’s message was about how ‘things’ in our lives can be obstacles to our living out our Christian faith. John Wesley said the world is his pulpit, after he was told he couldn’t go out and preach without being behind a pulpit.  Dr. Livingstone was used as an example when he had asked for assistance in the mission field and he got back questions about whether there would be roads there (among other things).  He replied that he didn’t want someone who was concerned about how easy it would be, but send him people who didn’t care about whether there would be roads, but only wanted to serve God.

The scripture was about King David and how he worshiped by singing and dancing when the Ark of the Covenant was being transported to Jerusalem, and how that was not what a king was supposed to do.  He didn’t let his position keep him from expressing his faith.  Former president Obama is in Kenya this week, and he is visiting his homeland while on this trip, something he was criticized here for last time when he didn’t go there.  Previously he didn’t go there as it wasn’t something a sitting president would be expected to do, but now he could do that since he no longer carried the weight of the office.  Paul said we shouldn’t worry about our station in life and how we are perceived but should be bold in our faith.  He raised Panua as an example of people serving God in ways that weren’t always clean and easy but that served God’s purpose.  I was feeling a bit sheepish then as I thought about how little effort it takes on our part to participate in Panua but how big an impact that effort has on people here.  So for me only, I want to thank all who contribute, no matter how small or large the effort may be.  And by the way, there are roads here, very few paved as we know them, but roads none the less.”

-Larry Brown

Panua Trip, Blog 1: Big Impressions

“The group made it to Naivasha and Naivasha made a big impression on this group.  This is the first time for the 4 guys with me and the thing they keep saying is that they had no idea….. Even though we who have been can describe what we see, what we feel, what we smell or eat or experience, there’s no way to really convey what this country is like.  No adequate way to help you understand how great the need is.  And yes, there is need everywhere, but this is where we have thrown our hat and this is where we need to do our best. I pray that our best is going to make a difference. 

Today we met with the Viwandani Heros working group.  After the usual very formal introductions, songs, and prayers Florence introduced James (a graduate from the first cycle).  He gave his story about perseverance and how he has become successful because of what Panua had taught him.  He went through several years of different directions in his life after graduation.  He had started farming which was fine and paying his bills, but he wanted more.  The money he made from his farming allowed him to take two courses, one in electrical wiring, and one mechanical engineering.  He put those two things together and now he builds and sells welding machines that are durable and have developed a reputation throughout town.  He offers a warranty and is dedicated to building a customer base that will rely on his special skills.  His point, which had all the youth paying attention was that “life is not for cry babies, get up and face it head on”!  Take what Panua offers and find for yourself what you can do that can make you different than others, and use it to improve your life and the lives around you.  James, you nailed it.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what we are doing with some donated water filters and how those can be used to improve lives as well.”

– Larry Brown