Change the World by Stopping Hunger Now!

Changing the world sounds like an impossible challenge. Lots of folks are so overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it, they don’t even try. As a 21st century Christian I am glad that people in prior generations did what they could to make things better for me. Here’s a hearty “Thanks!” to one and all. Now it’s our turn! Do we give up and give in to the status quo? Do we say it’s undoable and stop trying? Are we so jaded by an attitude of too little too late that we just stick to our agendas and lounge chairs, and couch potato ourselves into not caring about our world, much less our neighbors?

I love reading news accounts of teens and young people donating their savings, their time, and their lives in service to others. What if we all got on board the change train? What if we each allowed Jesus to use us to transform the world?

The United Methodist Church is going to have a “Change the World” weekend on May 18-19, 2013, or another date of their choosing. Thousands of United Methodists are going to rock the planet with efforts to make a difference in people’s lives!  Some churches will have yard sales where everything is free; community gardens will be built; money will be raised to fight malaria; single moms will get free child care; nursing homes will be visited; homeless people will be embraced and included; homes will be painted and repaired. These are just a few of the events, and your church – or YOU – can be included!

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This is where to sign up and get promo materials. There are sermons, bulletin inserts, t-shirts, and, best of all, plenty of great ideas!   You can also listen to the stories of others who are making a difference and add your personal narrative of what God has been doing with and through you!

South Carolina United Methodists are going to do their part! We will help Change the World through an effort via STOP HUNGER NOW. During our Annual Conference there will be a day devoted to providing 285,000 packs of meals for the hungry in Haiti and every dollar we raise over $72,000 will fight hunger in South Carolina. There are 6 meals per pack and cost 25 cents a meal or $1.50 a pack, enough to feed a whole family! Bishop Holston’s vision is for news helicopters to hover over Florence, SC and gasp at how United Methodists are making life-changing differences for people.

On June 11, 2013 thousands of United Methodists are going to converge on Florence and pack meals. There will be three shifts throughout the day, the last shift highlighting the work of our children and youth. You don’t want to miss the video of  Davis Crews, an eighth grader from Greenville and member of Advent UMC, who has a personal goal of packaging a million meals. So far, he’s up to 928,000! Every local church is encouraged to participate in a hunger related ministry either at annual conference or in their local community on June 11. Please send photos to hunger@umcsc.org by 2 p.m. June 11 so that we can see and celebrate those at the evening session of annual conference. We also need you to go to the link below and volunteer and/or sign up you and your church!

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Our most pressing need is people willing to help and contribute their time and resources. 285,000 meal packs will cost us $72,000, AND we need to raise $36,000 by May 1. Local churches and individuals can donate online at the above link, or checks can be sent to the South Carolina Annual Conference Treasurer marked “STOP HUNGER NOW” at PO Box 3787 Columbia, SC 29230. Let’s change the world and stop hunger now! God wants us to tell the message of Jesus’ love, and love isn’t love unless it’s given away.

I Miss My Mama

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One of the first serious books that I ever read was Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage. As a fifth-grader it came at a pivotal time in my life. I had issues with my self-worth that were awful. In the third grade I had encephalitis, an extremely dangerous illness. Statisticians say that 50% of its sufferers die and 80% have permanent brain damage. Whether the latter is true or not is up to you, but it did put me behind in school. Unfortunately I was also one of the youngest in my class with a birthday less than a week from the next grade’s cut-off.

To compound things, either due to encephalitis or not, I also had a difficult time saying a “th” sound and earned the ignominious nickname of “Fim” because of it. I do know that much of my memory before the age of eight is simply blocked out due to the high fever that I had. If it weren’t for my dear Aunt Florence tutoring me in the fifth grade I would never have caught up in school. She also re-taught me how to tell time and tie my shoes, abilities evidently erased by my illness. There were plenty of deficiencies I ingeniously compensated for until her tutoring. However, before you begin to think that I wasn’t that bright to begin with, don’t forget the Magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

But, it was The Red Badge of Courage that helped me turn the corner inside my own head. The book’s hero, Henry Fleming, was an anti-hero of sorts, a lad too young to have to face war and maiming. Henry Fleming was real. I could identify with him. He went through the stages of being scared, a deserting coward, cocksure in false bravado, gutsy under fire, and in the end became a wise veteran who knew that the golden sunlight of peace was a better goal than a red badge of combat. He had earned his stripes, so to speak. As for me, I still run the gamut of all these stages. At least Henry Fleming remains a model of someone who makes it to the finish line.

So are Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and every other saint I can think of. The most common characteristic besides faith in all the saints is a set-apart life, a sense of vocation unmitigated by divided loyalties. Saints are ordinary people who dare to do what God says. Because that is so rare is the reason we call these special people “saints.” How many saints are still among us? I better not name names, but in my mind many of you qualify. More than anyone my Mother was my hero. Wow, did she love! She lived it. She helped people, legally adopted an mentally-challenged African-American man into our family. I cannot begin to name the ways that she championed the Golden Rule. I miss her so much. Maybe it’s because I have a birthday coming in a week or so, or because of what she sacrificed for me to even be born at age 39 and the gestational diabetes that turned into the real thing which changed her life forever and caused her to die far too young.

Who’s your inspirational saint, and do you emulate them? Do you ever watch ABC’s TV show, “Extreme Makeover:Home Edition”? It’s my Sunday Night inspiration for the week in terms of doing something good for deserving people. The stories of the recipient families are amazing and touching. I am amazed at how whole communities want to say “Thank you!” to the saints in their midst. I also like the ways that the marvelous gifts of the Design Team are matched so perfectly with the families’ needs is a joy to witness. It’s a show that reminds me of a little bit of heaven on earth: the good guys actually finish first! It’s a good reminder before facing another week where our reality too often resembles a less than stellar outcome. The Design Team members are heroes for putting others before self.

This is our saintly mission, too. This is our race to run with Jesus as player/coach and the Holy Spirit as dynamic energizing cheerleader. God wants us to make it to the finish line and hear those long-awaited words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”