Monday, September 25, 2017

Still Awesome - Annual Quilt Raffle

Every year the Trinity United Methodist Women raffle off a a quilt to raise money for the many mission project that they support.  All this work is never for them.  I've never seen them buy anything for themselves except the occasional coffee or doughnut, and I'm pretty sure that those are all donated too.

But saying "Annual Quilt Raffle" sound ordinary.

And it rarely is.

This year is no exception.  Our friend, and longtime Trinity member, Goldie Bolitho recently stopped quilting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, and all the other "fiber arts" things that she loves for decades because her eyesight has made it impossible to continue.  But Goldie wanted her work to be a blessing to someone else and so she donated  her supplies (literally more than two truckloads of stuff) to Trinity's crafters and to our sewing and crafting friends at The Joy Center in Big Creek, Kentucky.  Among those things was almost an entire quilt, all of the quilt squares that were needed for one, and thus most of the hard, tedious, and incredibly artistic detail work.

And they were truly beautiful works of art.

They were so impressive, that Marilyn Ball put them all together into a finished quilt top, and all of our quilters (who meet here every Thursday morning - and you're invited to join them, hint, hint) pitched in to make a bottom, add the soft batting in the middle, and actually do the quilting that puts everything together.

And so what we end up with is yet another one-of-a-kind art project that will also do a great job of keeping you warm at night.  Hundreds of hours and untold amounts of love and passion poured into one beautiful quilt that you can use to keep warm in your bed or while you watch television on the sofa this winter.

And you can have a chance to make this beauty your own for only $1 per ticket or 6 for $5.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Who’s “Side” Are You On?

I read an article that included a statement that struck me as wrong, but which, the more I thought about it, bothered me even more.  The article was yet another story about the current clash of political ideas and in the story, one group (the name of the group is unimportant) claimed that they would win because, “God is on our side.”  It would be easy to point out how some of the group’s actions have been hurtful in ways that clearly do not reflect anything like godliness, but the more I thought about it, this is true of every single political and religious group on the planet.

We can never claim that God is on our side.

Why?

Because God doesn’t take sides.

We are either on God’s side, or we are not.

God is the creator, ruler, and final judge of all that is.  There is nothing we can do to persuade God to join our cause regardless of its goodness.  God does not stand with or against Republicans or Democrats. God does not join forces with churches, or synagogues, or mosques.  God does not play favorites with social movements. 

God is so much bigger than humanity, or anything that humanity perceives, that God’s very existence defines good and evil.  When we stand with God we join the forces of good and when our positions oppose God’s will we have, by definition, become agents of evil.

There are only two sides.

As followers of God and followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to abandon the idea that God will take our “side” or join our cause, and realize instead that we must join God’s side.  The positions of the Republican party sometimes align with God’s will and sometimes their positions stand against God’s will.  The same is true of the Democrat party, and the Libertarian party, and the Socialist party. The same is true of the United Methodist Church, and the Presbyterian Church, and the Catholic Church, a well as the Mormons, those of the Jewish faith, Muslims, and even ISIS.  The same is true of those advocating for, and against, LBGT rights, environmentalists, and every other group that encourage us to join their cause by claiming that God is on their side.

He isn’t.

God isn’t a “joiner.”  God doesn’t join our “sides.”

We either stand for good or we stand for evil.

We are either on God’s side, or we are not.

Our affiliation with a political party, or a social movement, or even a particular denomination or religion does not define us as godly.  We are only godly, we are only good, when we do the will of God.  Political parties, and social movements, and even churches and religions are only on God’s side when they do the will of God.  If we truly want to be on God’s side, we can stand with those groups when they are godly.

But we must stand against them when they are not.

Long ago, as the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, they had to make a choice.  They had to choose whether they were going to follow God or the gods of Egypt that they had left behind.  Joshua pressed them for an answer saying, “choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

In our modern world far removed from the children of Israel, and in a time when our political, social, and religious worlds are so polarized, perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider what Joshua might ask us today.  Would his words to us sound like this?

Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of the political parties, or the gods of the social movements, or the gods disguised as religion.  But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

There are only two sides.

We either stand for good or we stand for evil.

We are either on God’s side, or we are not.


Whose side are you on?



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Monday, June 19, 2017

Will YOU Join Our Mission?

The Trinity Church missions team has finalized the dates for our upcoming mission trip to The Joy Center in Big Creek, Kentucky. The Joy Center is an outreach center of the Red Bird Missionary Conference and is about 20 miles from the Red Bird Mission. At that location, the site of the Big Creek United Methodist Church, they provide early childhood education, a food pantry, playground, discount store, and many other things. 

We will be departing on Sunday August 27th and will return on Friday or Saturday September 1st or 2nd. 

 We are still discussing options and potential work projects with The Joy Center but typically these can range from helping to serve meals, to laying new floors, installing a new bathroom for a neighbor in need. We will spend one day on a “field trip” so that everyone can see and experience what goes on at the Red Bird Conference office and the Red Bird mission area. 

Volunteers from other churches are welcome to join us. No particular skills are required (our host promises that there is something that almost everyone can do) but being familiar with tools and basic construction might be helpful. Some of our “regular” volunteers are in their eighties, and many are younger, so we’re sure that there is a place for everyone that wants to come along. 

Interested persons should email us at missions@trinityperryheights.org

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Homeless People: Do They Really Need Help?


In one of the hobby forums that I visit, a member recently asked this question: Are homeless people scam artists, or do they really need help?  He went on to say that he was completely against giving handouts to people at freeway ramps because he felt that these people were “either dope addicts or scam artists who actually make a living doing this and put on a facade and play on people's emotions.”  He felt that homeless people were in that situation because of the choices that they made, and because they were too lazy to get off their butts and get a job.

While I am not an expert on homelessness, I have learned a lot in the last few years and have met a few of them as they came to the doors of our church looking for help.  So, what follows is a part of what I posted in reply.
--


For what it's worth, I come into contact with homeless people on a fairly regular basis and I have friends who minister to that population of people pretty much daily. The answer to your question "Are they scam artists or really need help?" is "Yes." There are some, for the most part a pretty small minority who are "gaming the system" but the majority really do need help. Quite a few "move through" homelessness and move on to a more stable life but many are trapped there for a variety of reasons. A frightening percentage is there because of mental illness of one sort or another, and they are very hard to help. Almost all types of residential treatment facilities have been closed so there simply is no "place" where they can receive the kind of care that they really need. Despite their illnesses, most of them are fiercely independent and don't want to move in with their adult children, relatives, or accept long-term charity. While some of us struggle to see the difference between begging and accepting the charity of their own family, for them the differences are important.

It's also important to remember that something like 2 out of 3 households in the United States are only two paychecks from homelessness so it doesn't always take a lot the completely shift someone's life onto an entirely different track. I've met folks who suddenly became homeless because of domestic abuse, house fires, divorce, death of a spouse or significant other, and abandonment. In many of these cases, they found themselves with no belongings, no identification, no money, no transportation, no vital medications, nothing. Some of them are eligible for VA benefits or welfare but in order to collect those benefits you have to have a permanent mailing address, which is the one thing that homeless people obviously *don't* have.

It really is heartbreaking.

This is real.

Many are disabled, but a great many of them work, often as day laborers, some at regular jobs, even in semi-skilled fields like concrete and various construction trades. Many are single, but there are also a whole lot of families with school age children.

I've met several people who were daily making a difficult choice.

Imagine:
It costs $45 per day for a cheap motel because you don't have enough money to pay for a month, or even a week at a time.
You work, but only make minimum wage (at best) so after taxes you get about $60 per day.
You can get some benefits if you can prove your identity, but through one circumstance or another (again, house fire, etc.) you don't have any.
You can go to the courthouse, get a copy of your birth certificate, and use that to get a new driver's license.
But the courthouse wants $65 to make you a copy and the BMV wants another $50.
Add to that the cost of the bus to courthouse, and basically losing a day's wages while you wait in line.

So, do you get your ID, sleep under the stars or under a bridge, skip eating for two days, and risk losing your job, or do you go to work and spend all your money on food and a place to sleep?

These are the choices that many homeless people have to make every day. I've met them, sat with them, and shared stories with them over coffee.

To prevent abuse, and those who are really good at "gaming the system," our church limits how much aid we can give one person and so our guidelines allow me to offer them a meal at a local restaurant, or a tank of gas, or a box of food (enough for a week or two), or one night's lodging. I've had many people tell me to my face, "I'll take the room for the night. I can stand being hungry, but I really need a place to sleep tonight."

I've also met people who needed a place to stay even though they told me that they had family (even parents) who lived in the same neighborhood as the motel where we put them up. I can only imagine what sort of emotional, drug, alcohol, or psychological problems led to them not being welcome in their own parent's home but it happens more often than you think.

So are there scammers? Sure.

Are most of them scammers? No, I don't think so.

Do they really need help? Yes.

But what they really need is for all of us to be more vocal to our elected representatives at all levels to create systems that don't trap people at the bottom, systems that make access to aid programs, many of which the homeless qualify for, easier, and to make access to basic identifying documents (like birth certificates) more affordable and accessible to people who are literally choosing between getting an ID and eating.

By all means, if you are unsure, then don't give money to panhandlers. The people next to the freeway are often, but not always, the people gaming the system. Unless you work with them, it's hard to know who's who. But there is a significant population of people who really need help.

If you want to be a part of the solution, I encourage you to volunteer at a food pantry, or a clothes closet, or any one of many church and civic organizations that work with the needy and the homeless.  If you make it a regular thing (and not just show up once) you will begin to build relationships with them. It takes time. They've been burnt by the government, by charities, and lots of people who want to use them for their own purposes. They've been taken advantage of so many times that they are slow to trust, but if you take the time to really get to know them, and they learn that you are there because you really care about them, they might just share their story with you.

And it'll probably break your heart.





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The Value of an Invitation


We get four or five things in the mail everyday.

Most of our mail is junk.

Almost all of the rest is bills.

Of course, we get letters from my mom who still writes on paper and uses stamps but the rest of our friends and family communicate electronically.

But once in a blue moon we receive an invitation.  Just a handful of envelopes arrive during the course of a year to invite us to baby showers, birthday parties, weddings, etc.  Many of those are migrating to electronic media as well, but even so, the number of invitations that we receive is relatively small.  I say this because in a mailbox, physical or electronic, that is filled with junk every single day, invitations are not only not junk, they are welcome, valuable, and often become the thing that gets opened first.

We like to be invited to things.

Even if we can’t attend, the invitation makes us feel valuable.  Someone thought of us, appreciated us, and took the time, effort, and expense to ask us to share a moment of time with them.  An invitation is a sign that tells the world that we are wanted.

Our church is no different.

Many of the people at Trinity came to church, sometimes decades ago, because someone invited them to come.  So why is it that we seem reluctant to invite others?

We shouldn’t be.

Thom Rainer spent four years researching unchurched people.  One of the things that surprised him as they compiled the results was that ninety six percent of unchurched people in the United States are at least “somewhat likely” to attend church if they are invited.  Think about that.  More than nine out of ten people would be interested in attending church, of only someone would take the time to ask them and make them feel wanted.

[Note: Thom Rainer’s entire article on www.ChurchCentral.com, “Survey finds many unchurched would come to church if invited”  is worth reading.]

What’s more, the people of Trinity Church are proving this to themselves and the results are increasingly obvious.  In the last few weeks, I’ve heard from several people (some of whom have recently become members) that they are here because they were invited.  I have been hearing this more and more often and I want to make sure that others notice. 

Recently, one family said that they came because of an invitation, from me, that I don’t even remember.  Another came a couple winters ago when I gave them one of those little business card invitations and invited them to our Christmas Eve service.  Another family was invited by Ruth and Gary Sturgill, another by Brett and Beth Huntsman, several by Ronnie and Cheryl Wendell, and another after our Easter invitation postcards were delivered to the surrounding neighborhoods were combined with personal invitations to many of our friends from Perry Helping Perry.  Just this week, Chris Jukich greeted someone at the door that she met, and invited, at our community breakfast on Saturday.  There are more examples that I know about, and even more that I am forgetting.

So here’s my point:

People tell me that they want Trinity Church to grow.  It can, and it is.  We are growing because the people at Trinity are reaching out and inviting their neighbors, friends, and family to join us.  Some, like Marla Armstrong and Jan Gash, are inviting people all the time.  In fact, many of you are doing it.  I apologize if I didn’t mention you by name. 

Thank you.

Trinity Church is a special place.  The people here aren’t perfect, but we are generous and friendly and have made this into a place where people can experience community, mercy, grace, and love. 
We have something to offer.  You are probably here because someone invited you and you found something that you liked.  I hope that you have been blessed because you belong here.  I believe that you have, because many of you have told me so.

I encourage you to do the same for someone else.

We are already growing because the people of Trinity Church understand the value and the importance of a simple invitation.

You can make a difference.

Help someone else to feel wanted and valued.

Help others to find a home where they can experience community, mercy, grace, and love. 

Join us in being “invitational.” Tell your neighbors, family, and friends about Trinity Church.

People need a place to belong.

Invite them.


There’s more than a 9 out of 10 chance that they’ll consider it.

Immigration and the Church


What should we do with immigrants?

What is the right thing to do?

Does the Bible offer any help or insight into this problem at all?

With all the press and politics surrounding the issue of immigration, regardless of our personal feelings, we often wonder what the Bible can tell us about how the church ought to approach the subject.  We might also simply wonder if the Bible has anything to say about immigration.

It does. 

The position of the Bible is clear and consistent through both the Old and New Testaments.
Its teaching begins early.  In Deuteronomy 26:4-6, Abraham is described as a “Wandering Aramean” and the people of Israel were commanded to remember it whenever they brought a sacrifice to the Tabernacle.

The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor.

God’s instruction to his people included this instruction so that even generations later, long after they had settled and built houses and cities in the Promised Land, they would remember who they used to be.  God built this into their regular system of worship so that his people would remember that their forefather was an immigrant and they themselves used to be a nation of immigrants, nomads, and wanderers.

Thousands of years later, the writer of Hebrews echoes that same message saying, 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. (Hebrews 11:12-14)

This reminds the people of God that all of us are only passing through this life and that we are fellow travelers as we pass between life and death.   This entire existence is only a temporary stopping point on grand journey through eternity.  Throughout scripture, we are reminded that in God’s eyes we are all foreigners and strangers.

In Hebrews 13:2, the instruction is even more specific saying, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

But in Ephesians 2:18-20, Paul challenges us in another way with these words:
18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

Here, Paul says that not only were all of us foreigners and strangers in the eyes of God, the thing that made us belong to each other wasn’t ever our citizenship in any particular nation.  Instead, what makes us citizens, what makes us belong, what gives us a home, regardless of where we were born, what language we speak, or where we live, is our faith in Jesus Christ.


When we grapple with scripture, we begin to understand the larger picture regarding immigration.  Certainly, there is room for differing opinions about the policies of the United States, or the State of Ohio.  But we realize that no matter what policies we support, those policies absolutely must include treating foreigners and strangers the way that we would hope to be treated if our positions were reversed.  We are called to remember that our forebearers, and all of us, were once wanderers, strangers, and foreigners.  As so, as we meet the people who carry those labels today, we are called, by God, to treat them with humility, hospitality, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and love.




Thursday, April 20, 2017

Trinity Says Goodbye to Arlene Jarvis

This week Trinity said goodbye to our dear friend Arlene Jarvis.  I guess it would be fair to describe her as and "old" friend both since many of us here had known her for a long time, and because she was 98 year old.

Two things always stood out for me.  First, whenever I visited, Arlene was always smiling.  In the last few years she was losing her memory, was physically capable of doing fewer things than she wanted to do, had to leave her home and move into an assisted living facility, the very things that make many people bitter and angry.  But that wasn't Arlene.  She met her problems with grace and offered a smile to her visitors almost every single time.  She charmed the staff at her nursing home, the hospice workers who visited her, and just about everyone else that knew her.



Second, Arlene and her husband Delmar reminded us that in a age when everything is temporary, and that marriage itself seems to be in trouble, two people really could love each other for a lifetime.  Before Delmar passed away last year (13 months ago), they celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary together.  Here you can see a picture they allowed me to take a year or two ago.just after their 74th anniversary.  A lifetime together and still in love.

I have been blessed to know them.

You can read Arlene's Eulogy and Obituary here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Proof


Sometimes we are witnesses to proof of God’s existence.

On Sunday (March 19th) I mentioned in both my message, and children’s message, that sometimes, when we pay attention, God provides evidence of his existence through answered prayers and miracles both large and small.  We are witnesses to many “everyday” miracles like the birth of a baby, sunrises, sunsets, and spring flowers but we also see and experience other things that are scarier, bigger, and sometimes simply impossible.  Our family all remembers the near miss that we had on interstate I-70 when a tractor trailer tire bounced across the median, missed our car by only a few feet, struck the cab of the tractor trailer we were passing and absolutely destroyed the left front wheel well like an explosion.  Only the sharp eye of our son Noah and the grace of God brought us home that day instead of to a helicopter trip to a hospital in Columbus.

As I said on Sunday, just in the ten or twelve years that I have been a pastor, I have met several people who ought to be dead, people of whom the doctors said, “We can’t explain why you are alive.” 

In our Johnsville church, our lay leader was a dairy farmer by named Jim McWilliams.  One Sunday morning we interrupted our worship service to lay hands on Jim and pray for his brother.  That week, Jim’s brother was as work and was asked to use a cutting torch to cut the stuck lid off of a 55 gallon steel drum.  The labels on the drum and its documentation assured everyone that the contents of the drum were inert. 

They weren’t.

Somehow, the documentation was all wrong and the contents of the drum, in reality, were highly volatile.  When Jim’s brother began to cut the lid off of the drum, it exploded and he was rushed to the hospital.  During the investigation they eventually found the lid of the drum.  It had been thrown by the explosion, went through the roof of the building and was found about a half-mile away.  The next week we heard that Jim’s brother, despite standing within inches of the explosion, received only bumps, bruises and minor burns to his face and hands.  When the doctors heard what had happened, both they, and the explosion investigators from OSHA said that they couldn’t understand why he wasn’t dead.

Many of you can tell the same kinds of stories and since that sermon, some of you have shared your stories with me. 

This is an invitation.

I would like to share your stories.  I can help you write them and edit them if necessary.  After they are written and edited, I will post them on my blog so that others can be blessed, uplifted, and have their faith reaffirmed through our collective, eyewitness testimony.

Please, even if you don’t think that you are a good writer, put your story on paper (or email) and share it with me.


And together, we’ll share it with the world.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Called Over the Top

Be Outrageous. Be stupid.
Jesus said so.
Your friends are supposed to think that you’re crazy.
Seriously.
If you were here, I mentioned this on Sunday, but it’s worth saying again.  In Matthew (5:38-48) Jesus makes a series of statements that often begin with “You have heard it said, but…” in which he tells his listeners that the conventional wisdom, the ordinary assumptions of daily life, were just plain wrong.  Everyone assumed that the best defense against violence was to fight back, taking an eye for an eye, but Jesus says that the only way to reduce violence is to refuse to participate in it, to “turn the other cheek.”
Most of us have heard that before, but that was just the beginning.  He also says that” if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”  This is extraordinary.  In our litigious, twenty-first century society most of us make two errors in reading this.  First, we incorrectly assume that Jesus means for us to give a shirt to someone who won a lawsuit, but that isn’t it at all.  Jesus said, “If anyonewants to sue you…” so his instruction is to do an end run around the legal system, call it a loss, and just give it to them.  Our second mistake comes from our relative wealth and our expectation of the same on the Biblical story.   But Jesus was talking to people who lived in an entirely different world, most of them probably only owned one coat.  And so, Jesus’ instruction to “hand over your coat” is not only one of generosity, but one that is over-the-top, crazy, and disturbingly generous.  This is generosity that expensive and costly, and not just giving that is comfortable and comes from our excess.
Jesus continues, saying “If anyone forces you to walk one mile, go with them two.”  And, while this seems relatively straightforward, most of us still don’t understand the root of his comment.  As I understand the history of it, under Roman occupation, one of the standing rules that the occupied nation lived under, was that if any Roman soldier asked, any citizen had to accompany them for one mile and carry their pack, or whatever else they demanded you to carry.  So remembering that most people really resented the presence of the Roman soldiers in the first place, Jesus is saying that you need treat your enemies and the people you despise, and here it is again, with…disturbing generosity.
Why should we do all this?
Jesus answered that by saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”  We are called to behave in these strange, unfamiliar, and unpopular ways because these are the things that God does.  This is how God behaves.  And if we have any desire to be associated with him, to be called “children of God” then we probably ought to act like God does.
But going this far still wasn’t enough.  Jesus pounds the point several more times to make sure that we really begin to understand just how crazy we’re supposed to be.  Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”  That’s pretty plain, but if you need a modern translation, here it is.
It doesn’t impress anyone that your love is “just as good” as the tax collectors, or that you are “just as loving” as everyone else.  Being “just like everyone else” means that you are no different than everyone else and that your faith is no better than their lack of faith.  The followers of Jesus Christ have been called to be different; we are called to a higher standard.  Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
So get out there.  Go out into your neighborhoods, and your places of business.  Be willing to take a loss.  Go out into the world and be extravagantly, disturbingly, generous even when it is costly to you.  Be so generous that people think you’re crazy.  Be nice.  But be so nice that everyone thinks that you must be crazy… or stupid… or both.  Be friendly and outgoing.  Be loving.  But your friendliness and your love should be so over the top that it gets people talking about you.
Be outrageous.
Be stupid.
Your friends are supposed to think that you’re crazy.
Remember our goal isn’t to blend in; our goal is to stand out.
Our goal isn’t to be “just like everyone else,” our goal… is to be perfect.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Five Countries, Three Continents



Wow.
As you probably know by now, Patti and I have returned from our mission trip to Liberia, Africa with the Farmer to Farmer mission team.  This was my first trip to Africa, and Patti’s second, having been to Kenya fifteen years ago.  But while both of us have considerable travel experience, there was a lot for us to learn and digest.  In the days and months ahead we will be sharing our stories in church and putting our photographs into some sort of presentation as we attempt to tell the story of what we did, what Farmer to Farmer is attempting to accomplish, and why we want to invite our friends to go with us on a future trip.
For now however, I just want to give you a really short outline of what we did.
Our trip to Harrisburg began with a trip to the airport in Cleveland on January 10th, where our team divided into two groups.  For reasons that I still don’t completely understand, the folks making our reservations found that the cheapest rates could only be purchased for groups of no more than four people.  So, although all of us met in Cleveland, three of us were heading toward Brussels, Belgium through Washington, DC, and four through Toronto, Canada.  Patti, Pryde Bass, and I left for Washington first and the others were supposed to leave five minutes before us.  But as we arrived in Washington (and cell service), we discovered that they had been delayed by poor weather in Toronto and would miss their connection to Brussels.  Even worse, once we arrived in Brussels (and a good internet connection) we found that they would arrive in Liberia almost a day and a half behind us.
Our flight to Brussels was uneventful and after several hours we boarded our flight to Monrovia, Liberia with a stop in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  The pilot announced that they hoped to make the stop in Freetown as short as possible but we soon discovered that wasn’t going to happen.  Apparently, the ticketing agents in Freetown forgot that although many people had deplaned, some of us were staying onboard for the trip to Monrovia.  As a result, they issued more tickets than there were seats.  What resulted was a really jam packed airplane, overstuffed luggage compartments, and I’m sure that I saw one or two passengers sitting in the jump seats that are reserved for the crew.
We arrived in Monrovia around 9:30 pm (January 11th), were picked up and swept through the VIP line and out to a waiting car (with air conditioning) while our hosts made sure that our passports were properly processed and collected our baggage.  The drive to Harrisburg took two hours and after traveling for a day and a half, I didn’t do well sitting in the back seat.  After about an hour and a half I had to ask the driver to pull over (in the middle of nowhere) so I could… um… get some air.
Eventually our team was reunited and we got to work.  While we were there we worked on improvements to the Farmer to Farmer guest house in Harrisburg to make future mission teams a little more comfortable, but we also did a great many things to help Saint John’s United Methodist Church and the people of Harrisburg.  Some of our group took steps to get a deed to the property on which we hope to build a new high school.  This is a big deal because this type of document can only be processed by the federal government and there are a great many steps (and necessary signatures) that are required.  Other members got the ball rolling with a United Methodist team (a part of the Liberian Annual Conference) that digs wells to restore a well at Saint John’s UM church, but also to repair three non-functioning wells in town for the people of Harrisburg, and to dig one more in the village of Painesville near Monrovia.  We also built room dividers, blackboards, bookshelves, and study tables for the public school, donated school supplies to Saint John’s preschool, to the Lutheran elementary school, and to the government (public) school, and donated medicine and supplies to the community health clinic.  There’s more to our story but these are the highlights.
Our return trip took about from Harrisburg, to Monrovia, to Brussels, to Toronto, to Cleveland, and then home.  Altogether to took about 36 hours, with around half of that flying and half just sitting in airports waiting.
In the end, although it sounds a little strange, what’s even greater than the things that we did was simply our presence there.  To a people who live far from the big city, in a country ruined by decades of civil war, to people who have less than most of us can even imagine, just being there is a reminder that they have not been forgotten, that people care, that the church cares, and that their lives matter to someone.  I had been told about this before we left and again after we arrived, but as we met people and made friends there, it was easy to see in their faces, and by their actions, that this was absolutely true.  Seeing that we were there, and just knowing that we cared enough to offer a little help, was enough to give people hope.
Again, wow.
Stay tuned.  We’ll be sharing more about our trip in the days ahead. 
Meanwhile, please pray and ask God if he is calling you to join us on our next trip (in a year or two).
Blessings,
Pastor John

Trinity Remembers Alan Lee Keller



Alan Lee Keller

May 29, 1960 - January 13, 2017 
Resided in North Fort Myers, FL

Alan L. Keller, 56, passed away at home in North Fort Myers, FL, surrounded by his family on January 13, 2017.


He was born on May 29, 1960 in Massillon to Arvine Keller and the late Dorothy (Yatsko) Keller.  Alan was a graduate of Perry High School, Akron University and Embry-Riddle University.


Alan loved to be the life of the party. He was kind, thoughtful, generous and caring. He had never met a stranger.  He thought of life as an adventure and loved to live it. He worked as a Technology Specialist for Delta Airlines for thirty – four years.


In addition to his father he is also survived by his sister, Cheryl (Richard) Feucht; three nephews, Scott (Revital) Feucht, Cory (Maggie) Feucht and Drew Feucht; and two grand-nephews, Camden and Owen.

Friends may call on Saturday, January 21, 2017 from 10:00am-11:00am at Trinity United Methodist Church where a funeral service will be held at 11:00am, Rev. Julia Wertz, officiating.  Burial will be in Union Lawn Cemetery.

Messages of condolence may be sent to the family at www.arnoldlynch.com

Alan has requested in-lieu of flowers that his friends and family should show love for your fellow man, give generously to those in need and live life to the fullest.