Spirit Alive: Are You Connected? Let Me Count the Ways

Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.
October 10, 2017

With Heart, Soul, and Mind:

When We Can Count on Each Other,

Our Generosity Makes a Lasting Difference

"The disciples decided they would send support to the brothers and sisters in Judea, with everyone contributing to this ministry according to each person's abundance."
Acts 11: 29
Friends, even though we depend on each other on a daily basis, it is often during times of crisis that we discover and come to appreciate just how important our neighbors...and even complete strangers...are to our collective well-being. It is then that we realize that we are deeply connected to each other in countless ways...both near and far.
The recent flooding in the Houston area, the hurricanes in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean, the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, and the countless fires in Oregon and throughout the West are simply reminders of how important it is for us to connect with each other in times of peril, grief, and tragedy. It is as if we somehow take turns with each other...sometimes being the giver, while other times being the recipient of gifts from others.
In the United Methodist Church, we do this on a regular basis. In addition to congregations being in ministry locally within their own communities in countless ways and providing support to the wider church through Apportionment giving, we collectively offer our resources in a variety of other ways as well. We give through prayer, through offering our time, treasure, and talent on a daily basis...through being present with others as listeners, caregivers, and servants...and when we share our material resources to provide support, whether that support comes in the form of money or as a flood/cleaning bucket or health kit. Each time we give, in all the ways we give, the giving counts!

Did you know that in 2017 over $100,000 has already been contributed to various Advance Projects and UMCOR efforts from churches in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference? And that over $50,000 has been collected through the various Special UMC Sundays, including Human Relations Day, UMCOR Sunday (formerly One Great Hour of Sharing), United Methodist Student Day, World Communion Sunday, Peace with Justice Sunday, and Native American Ministries Day. And all this giving counts as well!
One form of giving that often goes unnoticed within the annual conference are the contributions that are made by congregations to the annual conference's four "askings." For those of you who don't know what these "askings" support. Here's a quick crash course. We receive "askings" from local churches for:
  • Youth and Young Adult Ministry (which has received over $18,000 this year to help support the hiring of District Youth Coordinators, provide scholarships for young adults to attend training events, and financially support a retreat time for Youth Directors in the annual conference so they could gather in an ecumenical setting with others.)
  • Hispanic Ministry (which has received over $11,000 so far this year to help support our Hispanic ministries in Wilder, Hillsboro, and Salem. Without these funds, we would not be able to support our efforts to reach out to the growing Hispanic population in our area and create a United Methodist presence within these communities.)
  • Campus Ministry (which has received approximately $11,000 so far this year to help support the important campus ministry work taking place at University of Oregon, Boise State University, Idaho State University, Oregon State University, and Western Oregon University. These funds are a small, but important, part of what makes it possible for our campus ministries to touch the lives of students during a critical time of faith formation in their lives.)
  • The Vital Church Project (which has received over $15,000 in 2017 to support the VCP's work with church revitalization and new church starts.)
Each of these "askings" is extremely important to our life together, but they often go by unnoticed...and each one of them is undersupported financially.
If your congregation has already contributed to these important annual conference "askings," thank you! If not, please consider doing so. Your contributions to these ministries count....and make a difference in our collective ministry presence in Oregon and Idaho. In fact, we could not be present in the many ways  we are as an annual conference without your on-going support.
But in these difficult and challenging times, I want to invite you and your congregation to consider giving more than you already do to respond to the growing needs around us. Sometimes these needs seem so overwhelming that we can become frozen by all the demands. I feel this way myself at times. What difference can I really make? It all seems like just a drop in the bucket, so to speak. And yet when I read
about the amazing ways in which strangers have saved the lives of others they didn't even know...and when I hear about how people have extended themselves beyond what seems possible...my own sense of generosity and compassion grows. And I find myself asking: Am I doing all I can to make a difference in the world?
In fact, this is one of the central questions of our times...one we should all be asking ourselves....and each other. After all, when things truly count...each act of kindness, each contribution made, each gift given makes a difference...and each "drop in the bucket" suddenly ripples out into the world in a powerful way.
Praying for one another counts. Giving to each emerging crisis and natural disaster counts. Responding to the on-going needs associated with our various ministries counts. In fact, it all matters. And so...my prayer is that, as the disciples determined in the Early Church, we too might decide to send our support... in all its forms...to places far away "...with everyone contributing to this ministry according to each person's abundance." 
Let us walk in the light of God's love,
Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It seeks to identify where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.


Lowell Greathouse
Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org