First United Methodist Church

Service Times

9am Contemporary | 11am Traditional

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