It has been fun watching our United Methodist Men “ramp-up” their efforts in the South District. I have been a part of several meetings in the past year where the United Methodist Men (UMM) in our Conference have been making plans to start building ramps for people who qualify as being low-income. The UMM have affiliated with other groups who have a long history of building ramps, and who are sharing their experience with us. One of the parts of this plan that I like the best is that the ramps are modular and temporary. The necessary pieces will be cut at wood shops across our Conference and put together on-site. If a time comes when the ramp is no longer needed, it can be removed.
The meeting that I attended this week included our Conference UMM Chair, our South District UMM Chair, and several Presidents of UMM Chapters in the South District. Just in the South District we are planning to have three wood-shops (Sierra Vista, Green Valley, and Tucson). A temporary wood-shop in Sierra Vista has already been located. The first ramp could be built as soon as October. Once the first ramp is built, the goal is to build one hundred ramps in the following twelve months. For me, this is an exciting venture! This is a way to help people, and to build an easy avenue for other people to have a “hands-on” mission experience. This project is not limited to just a few locations. It is designed to cover our Conference.
I love this kind of planning and action! As Christians, we are not intended to just stay in a building. Jesus sends us out into the world to make a difference! At one of my churches in the past I came under extreme pressure to hire a full-time youth director. We were simply not in the financial position to even hire a part-time youth director. In response, I designed a concept where we would put together inter-generational small groups that would meet on a weekly basis with the sole purpose of transforming the world. Each small group would come up with their own plan, and then put it into action. The youth on the teams would be equal partners with the adults. On a monthly basis, the small groups would come together to share and celebrate. This is one of my plans (for sure, not the only one over the years!) that had to be filed under the category of “not supported by the church”. The plan never came to fruition.
I find myself still wondering about the need for this kind of small group. Sometimes it is hard—especially for those who are new to the church—to see how we are putting our Christian faith into action. It can appear that the “hands-on” part of the ministry is reserved to the pastors and a few select leaders. We need to make it clear that this is not the case! The power of the Christian movement is that we have Christians deployed all across the world (and occasionally, with astronauts, above the world!). We need to intentionally mentor people on how to put their Christian faith into action. Ironically, the same actions that are designed to transform the world tend to be used by God to transform our lives. It is one of my beliefs that in the “doing” of helping other people we grow the most.
How easy is your church making it for people to put their Christian faith into action? The possibilities are endless on how this can be done. Are there opportunities—and expectations—for people to share how they are making a difference in the world? We are in an interesting time when most people that I know are constantly carrying with them a camera and a video camera. It is easier than ever for us to have pictures and video footage to go along with our reports. When we share what we are doing to make a difference, we have an opportunity to encourage someone else to make a difference.
My take on non-Christians is that they believe that it is the action of going to worship services that make us a Christian. As a Christian, I don’t see it this way. For me, our worship services are like a pep-rally that help to prepare us to go back out into the world. It’s what we do when we are away from the safety of the church building that witnesses the most to who we are as a Christian.
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Health update: I met with my doctor on Monday. He said that my staghorn kidney stone is positioned at the bottom of my kidney in a way that he is having problems getting it out. On Wednesday, September 26, he wants to try using shock waves to see if this will break any of the remaining stone. It is expected that I will need another round of laser surgery. It is still possible that I will need a surgery where they put a hole in my back and go into the kidney. My kidney stent needs to stay for now. Prayers are appreciated as we continue the saga of trying to get rid of this stone!”