Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I wanted to share some of my “thanksgiving” with you. I hope that you are having a good week in spite of our current circumstances. After all, our thanksgiving is always mixed in with things that we don’t necessarily appreciate. This is part of the human condition, and the daily challenge that we all face. It’s not always easy to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 – NIV). The Apostle Paul may have learned “the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12 NIV), but it’s still a struggle for all of us.
Here are a couple of things I’m thankful for: My family (Wife, daughter, sister, nieces and nephews, and in-laws or in-loves as I would rather call them. I miss my parents very much, but I am thankful for the time I had with them.); a renewed fire for my faith and relationship with Christ; being back home in the mountains; that I am employed; escaped the chaos of the big city, especially the traffic; that I can hear well enough to function; my health; a new way to express myself through writing these devotionals; football; PlayStation; British Television; hamburgers; my mother in-laws sweet potato casserole; I guess food in general would save time and space; and probably a lot of things that I take for granted.
One of the things I DO NOT take for granted is another opportunity to be in full-time ministry. Before I came to Andrews, I had been out of full time ministry for about a year and a half. Sure there were opportunities to encourage and support my coworkers at FedEx, Chick Fil A, and Morgan Corp (Construction), but it wasn’t the same. I had to be very selective about what I said concerning spiritual things. I wasn’t afraid to say anything about God or my relationship with God, but that wasn’t the reason I was there. I was being paid for production, not for spiritual leadership. Plus, I wanted to be respectful of others beliefs and orientations. I was definitely out of my element. My gifts and talents didn’t fit that environment. But, I was thankful for the opportunity to gain a new perspective on life and relationships through that experience. The Lord also knew that I was somewhat burned out after 30 years of ministry, and needed a break to refocus and heal some old wounds.
My time in the wilderness of the unknown gave me a greater appreciation for ministry and my calling. I really wasn’t sure if I would ever get another opportunity to be in full time ministry. There was a huge hole in my soul. So when Pastor Mary called me on Christmas Eve of 2018, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. The fog was lifting, and my purpose was returning. So when I say that I am extremely thankful to the Lord and you (Andrews UMC) for giving me another opportunity to do what I love and to come back home to the mountains, it cannot be overstated. It has been a blessing to be a part of this community of faith and the Andrews community at large. THANK YOU!!!
The Apostle Paul always opens his letters with a greeting and thanksgiving. His letters are addressed to communities of faith that he has helped establish and serve as a minister of the Gospel. All of Paul’s letters have a different tone depending on the spiritual state of each church. The church at Philippi was probably his favorite. Here is his greeting to the Phlippians:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-8 NIV
Ditto. I feel the same way about you, Andrews UMC. I thank God for you. You are in my heart. It is my joy and privilege to be with you, and to serve in partnership for the sake of the Gospel in this community.
This has been a tough year in a lot of different ways, but it hasn’t stopped us from doing ministry. We are still active and ministry is ongoing. Here are a few examples:
- Worship services on YouTube and Facebook.
- Daily & weekly email devotions
- Weekly Youth Meetings and Sunday school on Zoom.
- Sponsorship of 2nd Grade class at Andrews Elementary (Amazon Cards and supplies)
- Breakfast & Lunch Program for students and families (Financial support & meal delivery.)
- Financial support for thanksgiving meals provided by middle school and high school programs.
- 2 lunches provided for the Middle school and Elementary school staff
Building Usage/Missions/Ministry to homeless & needy:
- Welcome Table take out and delivery
- Boy Scouts
- Red Cross Blood Drives
- Donations for Gabriel Mason’s continuing medical care.
- Health Screenings
- Athletic Training in the gym: Basketball, Volleyball, and other recreation.
- Operation Christmas Child-36 shoeboxes
- Partnership w/Cherokee County Ministerial Association for utility bills.
- Candy for Andrews annual trick or treat.
- Clothes donated
- Mattress provided for needy family
Picking up groceries and prescriptions for those who couldn’t shop because of COVID.
Our Ministry of Hospitality serves hundreds of people in our community daily by offering coffee, meals, laundry and shower facilities, recreation, and help getting food and other assistance from outside sources. Some just need to get out of the heat, cold, or rain for few moments to rest and recuperate. One couple who visits several times a week have told me that our church is a refuge for them to escape the drama and dangers of the drug community.
While we are not naïve to the fact that some may take advantage of or our hospitality, we know that our ministry efforts are not in vain. I have spent time with several within the homeless and needy community that are extremely grateful for our support and hospitality. So, I would like to pass on their thanks and thanksgiving to you who make it possible.
This hospitality extends to the young people and schools in our community. I listed a few things that we are doing above, but I’m most grateful for the opportunities to build relationships with students, school administrators, teachers, and coaches. Weekly I get to hang out and visit with students who come by to play ball in the gym, or walk up the hill to visit with the football team and listen to the AHS band rehearse.
Through your prayers, encouragement, financial giving, donations, and service, Andrews UMC is still making an impact on our community in spite of the pandemic. COVID may have closed some doors, but it has opened up others. You may not be with us in the flesh, but you are in spirit. Your support is what keeps us going, and we appreciate it so much.
Until we meet again, I hope that my message of thanksgiving to you today will be encouraging, uplifting, and hopeful. I will leave you with these encouraging words from the Apostle Paul.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV)
THANK YOU and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management