Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Leave Home?

Our mission team is again preparing to leave for Big Creek, Kentucky and Patti and I have announced our plans to travel to Liberia in January with the Farmer to Farmer mission team from our East Ohio Conference.  But both of these things raise questions with some people.  I haven’t heard it said out loud here at Trinity, but in other churches I have heard the questions, “Why should we leave home?”  “Why should we help people outside of our community?” And, “Why would we ever go to another country to help people there?” 

These questions used to make me a little angry because the answers seemed so obvious to me, but I grew to understand that these questions usually grow out of a fundamental misunderstanding, or lack of understanding, of several key scriptures.

In Mark 16:15, after his resurrection, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  Jesus didn’t say that his followers ought to preach to the people they knew, but to preach to everyone in all of God’s creation.  Likewise, when Jesus told his followers to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, he never specified any one location, but intended for them to understand that they were to care for the poor, wherever they could find them.  

In fact, the very last thing that Jesus said to his disciples, only seconds before he ascended  into heaven were these words recorded in Acts 1:8:  “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” In this context, Jerusalem is home, Judea is the local neighborhood, Samaria represents the foreigners next door or nearby, and the “ends of the earth” is just what it sounds like.  As disciples of Jesus Christ, our instructions have never been to focus only on the evangelization of our local neighborhood, but to reach out, in the name of Jesus, to everyone, everywhere.

There is yet another good reason to do the kind of things that we are doing.  In Acts 24:17, Paul testifies to Governor Felix that “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.”  While Paul had been planting churches in Asia, the people back “at home” in Jerusalem were enduring hard times.  And so, the mission churches took up offerings to help the people of Jerusalem as a way of caring for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and as a way to “share in their suffering.” 

Many of the people that we reach during our mission trips are fellow believers and by our gifts, and through our presence, we encourage them with the knowledge that God cares for them, that God cares about their hardship, that that they are not alone, and that someone cares enough to “share in their suffering.”

I know that there are sometimes other questions as well, such as, “Why don’t they help themselves, and, “Why don’t they leave and go someplace better?”  And the simple answer is that they can’t.  Mobility is a luxury that comes with a higher standard of living.  When things go bad in our American cities, the middle class can leave and buy homes in the suburbs, but the poor are stuck because they can’t afford to move, let alone look for work out of town, or out of state.  In much the same way, the people in the hills of Kentucky were once much better off.  When coal was king, it was easy to get a well-paying job, but when the coal ran out and the mines closed, it became difficult to make enough money just to live, let alone leave.  Many of their children go to school and leave, but that option is nearly impossible for many.

Similarly, the nation of Liberia is still pulling itself out of decades of civil war.  The war there lasted for so long that nearly everything we take for granted was destroyed.  After the war, roads were barely passable, there was no running water, no electricity, no telephones and even mail was not likely to get through.  Nearly every permanent building had been destroyed.  You may have heard the phrase, “bombed into the stone age.”  The civil war in Liberia quite literally reduced the people to living like the people of the stone-age, or the people of the Old Testament.  Farming had to be done entirely by hand.  Schools were closed for so long that the most well educated person in the village might have only a fourth grade education, and so they become the school teacher.  Less than a dozen doctors, in the entire nation of Liberia, have been to medical school.  There were no machines of any kind. No one had a job of any sort except to find a way to stay alive.

This is why our church has build hospitals and schools in Liberia.  And this is why our Farmer to Farmer mission began restoring tractors that we would consider to be “too small to be useful,” or even “antiques.”  Volunteers for Farmer to Farmer rebuilt and restored these old tractors and shipped them to Liberia where the church uses them to plant a field to help feed the people of the congregation and earn a small income.  We have also built a sewing center and shipped over several old treadle sewing machines (remember there is no electricity) so that local women can also make crafts and earn a little money for their families.

By doing these (and other) things, both in Kentucky and in Liberia, we are able to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ and do things for them that they could never do for themselves.  By doing these things we also encourage them, and help them to witness to the people around them about the good news of Jesus Christ.

But most importantly, by doing these things we are answering the call of Jesus Christ to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

That is why we leave home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Important Update on Bridges Out of Poverty

I spoke with Dr. Ken Price about registration this week.  As I had hoped, he and the other trainers will be bringing a few extra books with them.  This means that we will be able to accommodate a small number of registrations "at the door."  If you think you would like to come, but still haven't officially registered, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can order food.

Click here to go to the Facebook Event Page

We are surrounded by people struggling just to get by. Often the culture that they live in is radiacally different than the one that most of us understand.

Bridges out of Poverty is for anyone, businesses, schools, service providers, social agencies, churches an others whose daily work connects them to people, families, and children, who live in poverty.

Join us as we explore the causes of poverty and it's hidden rules as well as the impact that poverty has on our nation, our community, and every one of us.

Join us we we begin to understand poverty better so that we can take steps toward creating sustainable communities.

Join us as we learn strategies for building prosperous and healthy communities.

Join us as we learn how to really help, and not just apply temorary band-aids to a deep and systemic problem.

Bridges out of Poverty is a starting point where we can develop accurate mental models of poverty, the middle class, and wealth.

*Registration deadline is August 10, 2016 and is limited to the first 50 participants

**Cost is $25 which includes the Bridges Out of Poverty text, Lunch, and refreshments.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Upcoming Opportunities

Hi everyone!

This month, on August 27th we all have the opportunity to learn more about our neighbors who are struggling to make a life.  I hope that many of you will take advantage of the opportunity to join us at the Bridges Out of Poverty workshop.  If you were at church while I was away, you had a chance to meet Dr. Ken Price.  He is a dear friend, and is passionate about Jesus Christ, the mission of the church, and our need to reach out to the least and the lost.

I know that anyone who is interested in missions, or who meets with the Program Committee, the Trustees, Finance, Perry Helping Perry, or anyone who is a part of Trinity’s mission in our neighborhood and the Perry community will benefit from the information offered at this workshop.

Next month, Trinity Church will once again send a group to The Joy Center in Big Creek, Kentucky for a
week long work project.  Six members of our Trinity family have already told me that they are going or that they want to go and we have room for at least twice that many.  I will be contacting other churches and inviting their members to go along so if any of you are still interested, please let me know as soon as possible so we don’t give your “spot” to someone else. 

While we are in Kentucky we will be involved, as we were last year, with doing some small projects around the Joy Center itself, but also one larger construction project for a local person.  There are two different projects that we are considering and as soon as we know more about the people who are going with us, we will see which project best matches our skills and abilities.

Please consider joining our team.  We had a great time together last year and we not only did a lot of work, but we learned a lot about each other and grew together as fellow believers in Jesus Christ.  If you aren’t able to go with us, please consider making an offering to help defray the cost of our trip.  The official cost of the trip will be $350 per person plus the cost of fuel for the trip and our food for the week (which is not provided by the Joy Center).  Some of the people who will travel with us can afford to pay their own way, but some can’t.  Your contributions make it possible for them to go.  Thanks so much for all of your love and support.


Pastor John

***************IMPORTANT UPDATE**************

During our discussions with The Joy Center, in order to make it possible for more people to participate, we have negotiated a MUCH lower cost.  The official cost is now $10 per person, per night, plus our cost of food, gasoline, and materials for the project.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why Study Poverty?

We all think we know what poverty is.

Almost all of us are wrong.

In August, Trinity Church will host Dr. Ken Price as he presents a one day seminar called Bridges Out of Poverty.  I’m certain that many people think that this is unnecessary and until a few years ago, I was one of them.

We all think that we know what poverty is, what it means to be poor, and many of us think that we have to solution to how poor people can get back on their feet again.  We think that poor people just need to work harder, or sign up for this or that government program, or get more education, or stop making foolish choices. 

These thoughts are almost always wrong.

Poverty is much more complicated.  In fact, there are a great many forces that (unintentionally) work together to trap people in poverty and prevent very logical solutions from being successful.  These forces also prevent those people who are most in need from working harder, getting education, or doing many of the things that ought to lift them up to the next level.

As a church, both locally and nationally, we try to provide assistance to the poor but very often our best efforts are unsuccessful and we struggle to understand why.  We thought that we did all the right things, but the people didn’t come, or the help that we offered didn’t work when we thought that it should.

More often than not, the failure isn’t one of planning, or effort, or budgets but a much more fundamental failure to understand the complexity of the problem.  Moreover, these failures are not unique to the church but the same mistakes are often made by school systems, businesses, local, state and federal governments, and many others.

In order to be good stewards of our gifts, talents, abilities, time and money we should do our best to understand the problem before we set out to fix it.  And that is exactly why I invited Dr. Price to come here and why we are offering the Bridges Out of Poverty seminar.  This seminar was originally designed to teach school teachers so that they could better understand the students (and their families) that lived in poverty but it quickly grew beyond that.  It is regularly taught in businesses, social service agencies, charitable organizations, churches and other groups that work with, or seek to help, people in poverty.

I hope that you will join me, and Dr. Ken Price, on Saturday August 27th as we learn the hidden “rules” that govern the lives of the poor, why the poor can’t get the services that you take for granted, and many other ways in which our own culture and basic assumptions set us up for failure when we try to help.  This seminar is not free.  Participants will each get a course book, and we will be serving lunch, but if you would like to attend and the cost is a problem for you, please talk to me.  I don’t want anyone to miss this because they can’t afford it.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

There’s a Lot Going On

Well, summer is almost here.

Usually that means that things slow down a bit at church and we can catch up on things in the church office.  But last year that didn’t happen.  All the projects we saved and thought we’d do when things slowed down had to be squeezed in later, or not at all.  And this year is already looking busier than last year.

On June 4th we will be hosting an event called “Neighbor Helping Neighbor” in our large parking lot.  That event is designed to help people who are on the margins of our society, those who are homeless and those who are struggling just to get by.  A number of church groups and community social service organizations have committed to be a part of this event as well.  Volunteers will be needed to set up, tear down, clean up, as well as easier things like pass out flyers and serve hot dogs.  I hope that many Trinity folks will be present, not just to lend a hand but to show our community that we care, to meet people, and to invite them to worship with us.

On the evening of Thursday June 9th (I don’t know what time yet), we will have a special program with Rev. Ray Ake from our East Ohio Farmer to Farmer mission to Liberia.  Pastor Ray has been here before, but he will be bringing a special guest with him.  Rev. Chris Marshell is the District Superintendent of the St. Paul River District in Liberia where Farmer to Farmer visits.  This event was scheduled on short notice when I discovered that Rev. Marshell was in the area and was available to come visit.  I hope that many of you will be able to hear this exciting presentation.

And then on Sunday June 12th Dave Hartong, Patti, and I will leave for Lakeside for a week at Annual Conference.  There we will have lots of meetings but we will also learn about new mission opportunities for the next year and catch up on many of the things that have been happening around the conference.  “Catching up” might sound a little like gossip, and I confess that some of that happens, but its also discovering what God has been doing around the Annual Conference and around our global connection.

After we get back, things continue to happen.  On Saturday June 25th, Trinity will host Emergency Response Training and I am already expecting people from all over East Ohio to attend as well as several from our church and youth group.  On that same day, we will be hosting Jonah’s graduation party at the church parsonage so it will be a very busy day for me.

Please be sure to read your weekly church bulletins and watch out for announcements on Facebook and on the church webpage so that you don’t miss out on something important.  This is shaping up to be a very busy summer.

Have fun.  But be safe!


Pastor John

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Seven Spiritual Lessons from Running

Sometimes I run.

Not because something is chasing me, but simply because I am trying to lose a little weight and stay healthy.  I am not always successful.  I was recently sidelined for several months because of a knee injury.  And there have been several occasions when I just got lazy and didn’t do it for a year or two.  But there are several lessons that I have learned from running and exercising that can teach us something about the life of the church.

Routine is your friend – it helps our motivation if we have a routine.  I try to run on Tuesday and Thursday with a long run on Saturday.  Sometimes the weather changes my plans, but it’s just a little easier to make myself get out of bed and get my gear on when I know that today is my scheduled day.

If you want to grow in your spiritual life, routine is your friend.  This was the plan of John Wesley and the other early Methodists.  Growth doesn’t happen by accident or by occasional learning.  Growth happens when we commit to a routine of reading and study.  Likewise, the routine of offering the opportunity for study and for people to use their Spiritual gifts provides a door for people to learn and grow.

Goals are important – Ships won’t reach port and arrows won’t find the target if there isn’t a goal.  Your exercise goal might be to lose weight, to run a race, or something else, but almost everything you do depends on what your goals are.  Your exercise routine will be very different if your goal is to run a 3 mile race or a marathon.

Obviously, this is hard to do spiritually on a personal level because it’s hard to say, “This year I want to be more spiritual,” but you can decide to attend a Bible study or to go on a mission trip, read a new book, or read scripture for fifteen minutes each day.

This is much more apparent as a church body.  Without goals, churches often just spin their wheels and do the same things that they always did, even if those things stopped working a long time ago.  Having goals can push us to do new things, go in new directions, and have the courage to try.

You need a plan – Once you have a goal, then it’s easier to make a plan, but while the goal tells you where you want to be six months or a year from now, it’s the plan that tells you what you need to do this week.

Once you decide that you are going to go to Bible study, you need to decide which one or, if you decided to go on a mission trip, then decide what else you need to do to get you there.  You might need a passport, or vaccinations, or you might need to start fundraising.  No matter what it is, a plan can help you get from where you are, to where to want to be.

I’ve been in a lot of churches that set goals every year at Charge Conference because the bishop said we had to.  But once Charge Conference is over, everyone forgets what the goals were and nothing ever really gets done.  If you are going to make progress toward your goals, you need to break them into manageable pieces and make a plan that you can work on weekly or monthly.

You need to push – Doctors tell us that for any kind of exercise to be effective, you have to elevate your heart rate by a certain amount over your normal resting pulse.  The same is true for weightlifting.  You won’t lift heavier weights if you keep lifting the same weight over and over.  For your heart, lungs or other muscles to grow, you need to push yourself.

I’m convinced that people, and churches, are just like our muscles.  If we only do the things we’ve always done, our muscles get soft and we begin to lose muscle tone.  After a while, we discover that we can’t even manage to do the things that once were easy.  The only way to move forward is to push, to strain, to stretch ourselves and do things that are hard.  When we continually do things that are hard, we eventually discover that the hard things begin to get easier and the impossible things begin to be possible.

You can’t coast – This is related to the last one, but it’s scarier.  There have been many times when I got too busy, or the weather was cold, or I had some kind of injury, and I stopped running.  What I quickly remembered is that you can’t coast.  Staying put or standing pat doesn’t work.  If you aren’t pushing and getting better, you start going backward.  If I stop running for six weeks, when I start back up, I not only have lost six weeks of training, but it will take me almost six weeks just to get back to where I was when I stopped.

While I admit that church and our spiritual lives aren’t exactly like that, there are some very real parallels.  We occasionally get a little burnt out, but the reality is that when we drop out, when we stop pushing forward, a lot of things start sliding backward.  It’s a reminder that we should constantly be trying to get better, personally, as well as collectively.  Whenever we think we’re “good enough” we’ve probably already started losing ground somewhere.

It’s easier with a friend – Whether you run, diet, or lift weights, it’s easier to do with a friend.  There will always be days when you just don’t feel like getting out of bed, going to the gym, or putting on your running shoes, but knowing that your friend is waiting for you can give you the extra push you need to get going.

Your spiritual goals are the same.  If you join a Bible study with a friend, you know they are there and are expecting you.  Afterward, there is someone to talk to and you can help each other to understand the hard parts or, it might be a little less scary to go together to ask the pastor what it means.  If you are planning to go on a mission trip, you can compare notes on your progress and remind one another about your goals and deadlines.

At first, this sounds like something that wouldn’t apply to churches, but it does.  For many projects and goals, especially in a connectional church like ours, churches can work together toward their goals.  Finding enough people to form a mission team might take more than one church or, as we have found with the Perry Helping Perry food pantry, the needs in your community might be bigger than one, two, or even three, churches can handle alone.  Working together might still be the push that we need.

Sometimes you fail – We can fail for a lot of different reasons but everyone that failed did more than the people that stayed on the couch.  You might not go as fast as you wanted to, lift as much weight as you wanted to, or finished slower than you wanted to, but I guarantee that you achieved more than you would have if you hadn’t tried.  What’s more, your failure probably taught you something that will help you succeed the next time.

This is exactly the same for people, and for the church, as we strive to follow Jesus.  If you want to go to Bible study every week, but only manage to get there half the time, you still did something that moved you forward from the place that you once were.  Likewise, a church that doesn’t reach its goals, or doesn’t reach them as quickly as they had hoped, has still moved forward compared to the church that did nothing.

So whether you are walking, running, or growing in Christ, just remember that it's important to keep moving forward.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Goodbye to an Inspiration

Yesterday our Trinity family said goodbye to our friend Delmar Jarvis.  Delmar was 93 year old but was still attending regular worship services here until just the last few years.  Del had lived in a number of places but no matter where he was he found a church home and was there reliably, week in and week out.  More than that, Delmar often accepted leadership and here at Trinity he served as our treasurer for many years.

Everything that he did, he did with passion and commitment.

Delmar served, as many in his generation did, during WWII as a radioman in the United States Navy in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters.  He was frustrated in recent years that, after nearly seventy years, he had begun to forget Morse code.

But perhaps most impressive of all was the love that he had for his wife, Arlene, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Just two weeks ago, Delmar and Arlene celebrated their 75th (no, that's no typo, that's SEVENTY-FIVE) wedding anniversary.  Just knowing these two special people always reminded everyone that marriage can last a lifetime.

There is so much about Delmar Jarvis that made him both impressive and likable, from his infections smile, to the way that he made everyone feel special, and so many other things that there's no way to share it all here.

If you would like to read more about him, you can find his obituary, eulogy, and a few family memories by clicking here.

Goodbye my friend.

You will certainly be missed.