Friday, July 23, 2010

Family by Faith

John Bryant, Denver, NC

The last week of June I helped lead a middle school mission trip to Atlanta, Georgia. The youth had the opportunity to see life in a very urban setting, something many of them had never experienced growing up in Denver, North Carolina. They worked with some distinct populations, including the homeless and the elderly. I believe everyone on the trip was touched and changed in some way while there, myself especially.

Twice I connected with people I barely knew simply through matters of faith. The first was Samuel, who I met at one of the churches where we worked. As far as I could tell, he is not on staff there, just a member who volunteers his time. We talked about the church and the youth. He shared some fascinating insights about early Hebrew culture. As our conversation drew to a close, he called me “brother” and drew me into a bear hug. Now I’m fairly tall at 6’3” but Samuel enveloped me. I experienced an amazing feeling of acceptance from this man I had known for all of five minutes.

The second was Braden, one of the interns at the church where we stayed. I had talked with Braden a few times during the limited free time I had in the evenings but did not know much about him. The same day I met Samuel I ran into Braden shortly before lights out. He seemed edgy and distracted, a far cry from the easy-going student I had gotten to know. As we talked I discovered that his grandmother was in the hospital and the doctors had not given her much time. I asked if he would like to pray and we stood there in the hall as I offered a short prayer for his grandmother and his family. At this point the walls crumbled a bit and Braden released some of the emotions he had been carrying. We didn’t say anything else; no more words we needed. I hugged him and then moved on to get the youth ready for lights out.

Having both of those experiences in the same day really stood out to me. I probably won’t have another conversation with either Samuel or Braden. Yet we shared something that day. We had an honest connection as family. Not a family by blood, but one born of water.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Middle Schoolers on a Mission

Justin Bieber. Silly bands. Braces. Texting incessantly. Tween study Bibles. If you hadn't guessed by this point, I have spent alot of time with middle schoolers lately.

This past week I traveled with 65 middle schoolers to ReCreation Ministries in Asheville, NC where we participated in missions by sharing the love of Christ through home repair. We painted, dug septic lines, roofed, and grew closer as a group and to God as we washed each other's feet, had dance parties on the bus, and shared life with each other for a week.

As I returned and thought about our time there I was reminded of two verses:

The first provides a basic principle of how we should love:
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." - John 15:12

The second goes on to explain how God loved us:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

Throughout the trip we tried to show this universal love to the widow whose house we were working on, the staff at ReCreation, and all others that we encountered. And as we looked around to see how God was working in our lives, we continually witnessed God's universal and self-sacrificing love being revealed to us through these same people.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Joy of Water

John Bryant, Denver, NC

One of my responsibilities at Salem has been working with the day camp. During the summer, the church’s afterschool program becomes a day camp for children in the community. In order to gain more experience with children’s ministry, I lead a devotional one day a week for the day camp. With forty to fifty kids signed up, these devotionals require a fair amount of planning, finding something that will speak to the kids within the camp’s weekly themes. My first one followed a script that a previous intern developed after graduating from Duke, a devotional series that draws on the style of Godly Play. For the second devotional, however, I was on my own.

The weekly theme was Lake Week. I settled on a devotional about baptism. I quickly realized that there was more major concern waiting for me. Since the majority of the kids are not church members, I could not assume they were all Methodist. In fact, most aren’t meaning that not all of them have been baptized yet. So I need to ensure that my message, while staying true to the Methodist beliefs of Salem and myself, would not leave out those from other backgrounds.

I explained baptism in a general manner and then specifically with regards to the United Methodist Church concerning infants, noting that Methodists do baptize older children and adults as well. The focal point was that in the Bible water is often a sign of God’s love for us. So when we see a baptism, we recognize that as God loving us. As I concluded I splashed droplets of water over all the kids. Their screams of surprise and joy reminded me that God loves us in surprising ways. What better way to say thank you than with our joy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Body of Christ Broken For You

Jason O. Evans, Saint Matthews UMC, Greensboro, N.C.

It has been several weeks since my last post. Nevertheless, I continue to walk in God's grace by writing the latest events happening on my internship at St. Matthews. For the past two days in this arid and hot weather, Pastor A. Beverly and I have been serving Communion to the sick and shut-in all over the city of Greensboro, N.C. Yesterday, we served twenty-five people, including members and their families and caregivers.

Today we visited a UM minister who has advanced multiple sclerosis (MS) and his mother. Both are living with the minister's daughter in a nearby suburb. The UM minister also is a Duke Divinity graduate. It was good to talk with a fellow "Dukie." Although the minister's body was weak and wracked with pain at times, he was in good spirits. He gave we words of wisdom. I had the pleasure of serving him Communion.

We also visited a member who has a terminal illness. Since we last seen her, her condition is worsening. It is possible that she can transition at any moment. Pastor Beverly and I were greeted at the door by her live-in caregiver and we were escorted into the member's room. The woman, who recently woke up from a nap, was bedridden, weak and feeble. Pastor Beverly greeted her by kissing her on her forehead. Then Dr. Beverly stated the reason why we came. Dr. Beverly said that she intended for me, the summer intern, to serve the woman Communion, but she that she wasn't in the condition to receive it. The woman, with a quiet resilience, whispered, "Yes I can."

Pastor Beverly reached into our little basket for the Communion elements. I reached into the basket also for them to serve the caregiver. Pastor Beverly served the member, I served the caregiver. Then Dr. B. offered a powerful prayer. Then she kissed the woman's forehead again, and we left.

I realized on these visits with the sick and shut-in the powerful meaning of the broken Body of Christ in Communion. I realized that human bodies get weak, some are wracked with unforgiving conditions and diseases, bodies get old. However I am reminded of the the Last Supper scenes in the Gospels and the broken body of the Suffering Servant which Second Isaiah uttered (Isa. 53).

Christ's body is broken for us on Calvary and at the Table. The dying woman and the MS-strickened minister mustered strength to receive the body and blood of the crucified Lord. The dying woman realized that when she received the elements, she did it in obedience to her Lord. She and the minister know that they will see Him in peace and feast with Him and all of his saints at the table of his heavenly Banquet. May we all hope for the everlasting day when we all shall eat with the Lord at his table forever. Until then, let us meet Him at his table on earth during Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken for you. Take. Eat.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Terrible Car Wreck

Sometimes I think God creates situations in our lives just so that later we'll have a good story to tell. The drama surrounding the first time I preached a few weeks ago is certainly one of those stories.

As I approached the final turn before reaching Campbellton UMC, the church where I would be preaching for the first time in my life, traffic slowed to a crawl. I didn't really have time for this delay since it was getting close to the 11 o'clock hour. Earlier in the morning I helped serve communion at Peachtree Road UMC, and in good circuit preacher fashion I drove 40 minutes to Campbellton for their morning service. I inched forward in my car and eventually witnessed the hold up: numerous police directing traffic around six overturned vehicles which had recently been extinguished from flames.

Immediately I began to pray.

A few hours before, I had woken earlier than usual and prayed that God would work through me and despite me, and that feelings of inadequacy in my preaching would be met with the Holy Spirit. I further acknowledged that on my own I was completely incapable of changing people's lives in the congregation.

Looking at the wreckage in the intersection changed the focus of my prayers. "God, if people from this congregation are dead in this car wreck I cannot handle being the preacher in this church today. You know I haven't had training for this type of thing and there's a large chance I will say or do the wrong thing. I desperately need your help. Amen"

After my prayer and a long while of creeping through traffic I pulled into the parking lot and a leader from the church greeted me. I introduced myself and told him how sad it was that there had been such a tragic accident.

He laughed.

"All that? That's a scene from a new Zombie TV show they're filming today." I laughed a little bit too -- mainly in disbelief and in order to release some of my stress.

Once inside I tried to relax as I was introduced to various members of the congregation. One lady said, "Preacher? You're not the preacher today. We lined up someone else whose name is already in the bulletin." The man who was escorting me around looked a little uncomfortable and confused. I'm sure I looked similar.

I stepped back and let them handle this situation. Eventually the man told me there had been some miscommunication in the congregation they decided that I should go ahead and preach that day in lieu of a preach-off. At this point in the story I like to think that my first impression struck them so deeply that they decided to bump the other guy out. But realistically they knew it would be harder for me to get back out to their church, my whole family was there, and I was sixty years younger than the other preacher.

So we worshiped, God's Word was proclaimed, and ultimately He was glorified. And in the end I was simply thankful no one was dead.

Click below to download an mp3 recording of my sermon. Heads up - it is a low quality recording from my Blackberry, but I like the way it sounds similar to an old time Gospel hour on AM radio.

An Encounter with Christ - Luke 7:11-17

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Children's Wing

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God." - Mark 10:14

When I graduated 5th grade a funny thing happened at church: I could roam freely and not feel like I was confined to the "children's wing" of the building anymore.

Along with this new found freedom I moved from The New Adventure Bible to the Student's Life Application Bible, joined the youth group, began to go on local mission trips, participated in a small group bible study, and started the routine of regularly wearing deodorant. This is the ritual at many churches. Perhaps that is why I was so surprised to see families (parents and children of all ages) acting missionally together last week at one of Peachtree Road UMC's Family Fun Nights.

Family Fun Night sounds like it is a Wednesday night activity for families to come together and be entertained at the church rather than at Chuck E. Cheese. Yet it is far from this. At my first Family Fun Night I witnessed and joined in with 20+ families who were packing backpacks of school supplies for Atlanta City School children who would otherwise be without them in the fall.

Instead of having the kids play tag while the parents served, the kids served alongside with their parents (and we all played Bingo later). An assembly line was formed and the kids counted out and put one glue, one ruler, one pack of markers, one box of crayons, one pencil sharpener, and five pencils in each backpack. It wasn't hard and it wasn't complicated. These kids were participating in the body of Christ and being formed as disciples engaged in the transformation of the world.

Sometimes crazy stuff happens when you let kids out of the "children's wing."

What are some ways your church helps children participate in the life of the community?

A Frustrating Visit

Robert Flowers
Clemmons, NC

For the second time this past Wednesday, Rev. Roland Barnhardt and I took Emerson Zahn to see his wife, Alberta, at Bermuda Commons nursing-rehab center. Both in their late 80s, the two live in separate nursing facilities. Each week, however, someone in the church takes Emerson to see his wife. Since both Emerson and Alberta suffer from severe dementia, the conversations are usually scattered. Even so, Emerson insists on seeing and caring for his wife each week.

These visits bring to the table one area of ministry that is particularly challenging. When physical and mental disparities separate healthy relationships, where do we look for the work of God? Each new day is God’s gift, but what does this mean for those who are mentally unable to surface two related thoughts? When I observe the long and meaningful relationship still shared by Emerson and Alberta, God’s blessings and gifts are hard to miss. But, for some reason, frustration—either with my abilities or the situation in general—also manages to find its place. This frustration will never completely absolve, but I look forward to wrestling with it and learning from it over the next few weeks and years.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Jason Evans, St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C.

I preached twice today while Dr. Beverly was away at the Western NC Annual Conference. I delivered a sermon titled "It Doesn't Pay to Do Wrong;" the Lectionary text was 1 Kings 21:1-21a. Standing in the "sacred space" is a privilege and an honor. I wasn't as nervous like the first time I stood in St. Matthews pulpit. However, I did sweat bullets after I exited the pulpit.

The members of St. Matthews UMC were very encouraging and supportive. One of the members referred to me as "Reverend Jason." I had to smile because I haven't been licensed yet within my faith tradition which is Baptist. Moreover, another member came up to me after services and ask me to consider becoming a Methodist preacher. This was a sincere appeal for which I will consider in prayer. I responded by saying that I will go wherever God calls me, although I feel quite comfortable, despite my criticisms, being a Baptist.

This coming week is Vacation Bible School. I look forward to leading the "tweens" of St. Matthews in the Praise Party curriculum published by Abingdon Press. I'll let you all know how it goes. The peace of Christ be with you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Young Reminder

John Bryant, Denver N.C.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what is truly important. I know how easily I get into a groove of doing church work and allow my time to become my job rather than my calling. But God has a way of showing up and reminding me what I am missing.

Last Friday the children hosted a lemonade stand as a fundraiser. In addition to the lemonade, they also sold baked goods, tie-dyed T-shirts, Silly Bands (a collectable new to me but very popular in the church) and painted tiles. Although I was off on Friday, I went down to the church in order to get to know some of the children better.

I was their first customer, so I took the opportunity to browse the tables. I settled on a cup of lemonade, two muffins, and a shirt. As I went to pay, this tile caught my eye. Very familiar words leaped from the marble surface in magnificent gold as I heard the prayer of countless preachers in Goodson Chapel. “May the words of my mouth and thoughts and meditations of each and every heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord our rock and our redeemer” (Ps 19:14).

The tile is now on my desk at the church to remind me from where I draw my support. A valuable lesson from the hand of a child.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Preaching Time!

Jason Oliver Evans, St. Matthews UMC, Greensboro, N.C.

Last Trinity Sunday, I preached from John 16:12-15. The United Methodist tradition commemorates Trinity Sunday as Peace with Justice Sunday. The sermon was entitled "He Comes to Lead Us!" In the sermon, I talked about how Christ sent the Spirit to comfort, guide, and empower the disciples (that includes today's Christians!) to do the work of the ministry.

Much of the sermon was inspired by an event previously held last Thursday. St. Matthews UMC hosted a Faith and Immigration breakfast sponsored by the NC Council of Churches. I learned a lot about how faith communities are responding to the debate about immigration reform. I was inspired by the speakers.

The whole service was beautiful. When preaching time came, Rev. Beverly introduced me and petitioned the congregation to pray for me as I entered the sacred space to preach God's Word. I stepped into the sacred space with fear and trembling. Nevertheless, I knew that God has a Word for the people present within the sanctuary. I lost track for a moment when I preached from my manuscript. I excused myself for a quick moment then picked up where I left off. I felt the Spirit strengthening me and the nervousness began to wane.

After the service ended, the pastor and congregants encouraged me. I felt their love and appreciation every step after the doxology was sung. A friend also came to hear me and she affirmed the gift stirring within me. We had some refreshments which were prepared in the fellowship hall, then we went out to eat. I felt good that day!

On the second Sunday of June I will be preaching from the story of Ahab and Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-21a). The sermon will be entitled "It Doesn't Pay to Do Wrong."

Who are these men?

Jonathan Andersen, Atlanta, Ga.
Little Feet

At 3:00 last Wednesday my Field Education advisor, Thomas, and I found ourselves breathing quickly as we rushed from the parking lot to the newborn wing of Northside Hospital. A member of the church had been admitted in anticipation of giving birth at any moment. After asking around we found the hospital room she was supposed to be in and saw that it was empty. The nurse cleaning the room informed us that the lady had just gone into the operating room for a caesarean section and that the mother's parents would likely be in the waiting room down the way.

We kept our brisk pace and broke the threshold of the waiting room door while looking around to determine which couple in the room was the soon to be child's grandparents. After a moment of asking around we found the grandparents in the back corner and they immediately rose to greet us.

That is when I saw the look on their face.

Were these two well-dressed men from the hospital?

We informed them we were from their daughter's church.

Why were people from the church coming to talk to us during the middle of the surgery?

We informed them that we were there to celebrate the birth of their grandchild with the family.

Relief quickly washed upon their faces.

In the future I will try and be more aware of the level of importance that body language, demeanor, and approach can have in the midst of such situations. I now have a good set of questions to ask some of the ministers here about visiting those in need, and I'm looking forward to pastoral care classes which I will take one day at Duke Divinity. In the mean time, I am thankful for Field Education which is serving its purposes well as I learn valuable lessons and am able to share the love of Christ to those in the midst of joy and pain in Atlanta.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Prayers for the Sick

Arlecia D. Simmons, Durham, N.C.

This past week I had the opportunity to interact with all of the generations that make up Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church. One of my key duties this summer will be to share the teaching responsibilities of the Wednesday noonday Bible Study. This hour of prayer, praise, and teaching is followed by visitation with the deacons and prayer warriors. After this week’s service I ventured to Durham Regional Hospital with an associate minister, two deacons and Mrs. Joyce Turner, the wife of Dr. Turner. No Mt. Level members were hospitalized, so we visited with two people who were “friends” of the church.

Prior to entering the room of the first patient we all had to cleanse our hands and put on hospital gowns. We prayed after exchanging greetings with the family members present and the infirmed older woman. The minister anointed her head with oil while a deacon read James 5:14: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

It was on the next visit of the day that my teachable moment occurred. We walked into a room where the patient was unable to communicate with us and family members were not present. It was evident the man was in some kind of distress. Mrs. Turner summoned us to continue with prayer and the group looked to me to lead them. I pray often but was hesitant about praying in this moment. We gathered silently and held hands around the bed of the man who was too sick to acknowledge our presence.

Praying for the sick is one of the topics we had previously discussed in Dr. Turner’s The Holy Spirit and Ministry class, but I still wasn’t sure if I was praying the “right” prayer. Do we ever know if we’re praying the “right” prayer?

After evening Bible Study I was able to talk with Dr. Turner about my concern. He was more knowledgeable about the man's condition, and offered instruction on how to approach similar scenarios in the future. Pray the Scriptures,” he reminded me. This was the same advice Dr. Stephen Chapman, associate professor of Old Testament, gave us during his Old Testament lecture on the Psalms.

At the end of the day I had to make peace with the fact that God knows what to do with our petitions. I was also reminded that to be effective in ministry, we must meditate on the Scriptures day and night. If we are to pray the Scriptures then we must know the Scriptures. If we are unable to recall the words of the psalmists, as Chapman suggested, then we must rely on the Spirit to make intercession.

A Birthday Celebration

Robert Flowers, Clemmons, N.C.

On my first Sunday in Clemmons, NC, Centenary UMC threw a Pentecost party during the 11 o’clock service. As Rev. Barnhardt read aloud Acts 2, Nolan Hill, a talented artist in the youth, sketched the scene on a white board in front of the congregation. During the sermon, members in the right and left pews competed against each other in a balloon race. Meanwhile, the sound of toy harmonicas swept through the sanctuary. Finally, to top it all off, the members sang “Happy Birthday” as birthday cake was served after the service.

Unaccustomed to such a celebration, my initial thoughts were scattered. At first, I couldn’t understand how a full-blown birthday party fit into a church service. Isn’t church supposed to be quiet, where the congregation does not interact with those behind the alter? Second, I thought about my next 10 weeks. Would every Sunday be like this? What party am I going to throw when it is my turn to preach? In short, I “sneered” at this congregation, thinking that its members were “filled with new wine.”

Yet, as I listened to and re-read Acts 2, my doubt in the power of the Holy Spirit surfaced. Originally, I came into this setting ready to hear one language—the worship style I already understood. Now, having exposed my naivety, the Holy Spirit has transformed my discomfort into feelings of “awe.” Not only do these new feelings allow me to celebrate the different languages of worship, they create excitement—excitement for learning more about how I fit into the church’s mission.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tongues of Fire

John Bryant, Denver, N.C.

Like most field education students, my first Sunday at Salem United Methodist Church was Pentecost. I really appreciated how the church weaved several aspects of Pentecost into the service. The confirmation students officially joined the church on Sunday. Since we recognize Pentecost as the birth of the church, this makes a lot of sense. But I had not ever really stopped to consider putting the two elements together. I hope the youth recognized the significance of the timing but even if not, I found meaningful.

Part of the Pentecost service incorporated a dance by seven girls in the children and youth program at Salem. They had three banners, some ribbons, and two flags in the color of fire (red, orange, and yellow). The two flags were the most interesting part for me. At the end of the dance, two girls stood in the center aisle and waved the flags overhead. For a period of time the rippling of the flags was all you could hear. The routine gave me a real sense of the freedom and movement of fire which brought alive the story of Pentecost for me. The sight and sound of the flags rippling like tongues of fire above the heads of the congregation offered a glimpse of what that fateful day in Jerusalem might have looked like.

To all those students in field education placements this summer, to all those persons in their congregations, remember this. You can’t bottle the Holy Spirit or control it. It moves free like fire.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Jason Oliver Evans, Greensboro, N.C.

My first day (Pentecost Sunday) at St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Greensboro, NC was a definitely a learning experience. I arrived before the 8:30 a.m. contemporary service. I greeted the church groundskeeper Mr. Brown and waited for my supervisor, the Rev. Dr. Arnetta E. Beverly to arrive. Mr. Brown took on an impromptu tour of the facility. On the tour I met Sunday's liturgist Dr. Bergmann and host of other congregants.

Then Rev. Beverly arrived, greeted me with a hug, and escorted me and Dr. Bergmann to the Pastor's Study. We spoke briefly and prayed before we exited the study and proceeded to the sanctuary.

An acolyte joined us at the main door to the sanctuary. As service began the acolyte headed the procession of the pastor, the liturgist and me into the sanctuary. I walked beside Rev. Beverly as we headed first toward the altar (where she instructed me to bow) then into the pulpit.

At both services, Rev. Beverly introduced me as the summer intern. I gave a quick remark at each service. At the second service, Rev. Beverly invited me to pronounce the benediction. Then we sang a alternate version of the Doxology ("Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow"). That was an honor. I will be preaching on the joint service on Trinity Sunday.

St. Matthews UMC is a wondering place to learn and grow as a minister. I'm learning to appreciate liturgical traditions which are different from my own (I'm a Baptist). I hope to learn more as the days go by.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Sun is Still Rising

Jonathan Andersen, Atlanta, Ga.

Rising of the Sun

Psalm 113:3, "From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD's name is to be praised."

I sat under this stained glass window yesterday during my first time worshiping at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, GA. The image of the sun rising daily serves as a strong reminder to me of God's faithfulness to humanity and my need to praise God on a daily basis as well.

Throughout this summer I will preach from a pulpit for the first time, accompany middle schoolers on a mission trip, visit the sick in the hospital, teach the church about Twitter, serve the homeless of Atlanta, and much more. These opportunities for ministry seem exciting yet overwhelming to me at the same time. I know I cannot succeed in any of them by my own power and abilities. Fortunately, God the Father has sent the Holy Spirit who enables us to be powerful witnesses to the saving work of Jesus throughout the world (Acts 1:8). As the sun rises on this new experience in my life I ask for your prayers as I serve in this new place and continue to discern God's call upon my life. I'll be keeping you posted on how its going with some good stories, photographs, laughs, and tears along the way.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Gift of Pentecost

Arlecia D. Simmons, Durham, N.C.

Today as I began my field education placement I was reminded of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. At 7:35 a.m. I arrived at Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church and met Dr. William C. Turner,Jr., the pastor and DDS Associate Professor of the Practice of Homiletics. During the fall 2009 semester I enrolled in Dr. Turner’s The Holy Spirit and Ministry class, so our conversation naturally began by acknowledging the day as Pentecost Sunday. “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire,” Turner said reciting Acts 2:3. “Amen!” I responded, recognizing that I would need this same power to guide me during the next 10 weeks of service.

I served as lector during the first service and fellowshipped with members during the breakfast preceding Sunday School. After attending the 10:45 a.m. service I journeyed with the youth department to Frankie’s Fun Park. Those two experiences outside of the pulpit reminded me that “ministry” is always taking place. We are ministering and being ministered to when we listen to a senior talk about canning and pruning a tree to bear more fruit, or when we are present with a group of teenagers during a game of Laser Tag. During the trip I asked the young people about their hopes and dreams, and we discussed how they could accomplish their goals. One of the students prayed before we departed and another prayed upon our return. I was thankful that I could join in on those prayers and sense the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blessing the Bicycle

Luke Wetzel, Durham, N.C.

Probably my greatest privilege this week was to lead a group of people in blessing Charlie's bicycle. Charlie is a regular attendee at the three-times-weekly prayer service at Urban Ministries of Durham. The service is a remarkable gathering where people share the many blessings in their lives and those things for which the feel called to pray. Charlie has an joyful and infectious passion for God. He told the group that he had been praying for a bicycle for a couple weeks. Finally he got to spend a few hours working at the Durham Bicycle Cooperative and through his efforts received a mountain bike of his very own. After the service a group of us went out to the parking lot and prayed over his bicycle.

Here is something like what I said:

"This bicycle is a testament to prayer answered.

Almighty Father, through your providence Charlie has received this bicycle. We ask that you bless it, use it for the ministry that you have called Charlie to do. Help Charlie to keep it in good repair. Keep Charlie safe as he rides it. Guide and keep all of us on the roads and sidewalks of of our lives in service to you. We ask all these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen."

This may seem trivial, but I see it as anything but. Charlie's bicycle allows him significant mobility that he previously lacked. On his bicycle, Charlie is able to enjoy God's creation in a new way and go further to spread the hope that is within him for which he does not hesitate to share the reason.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Luke Wetzel, Durham, N.C.

On Sunday I got to attend Duke's commencement exercises. Yesterday, on my third day at Urban Ministries of Durham I attended a graduation of a different sort. Eleven people graduated from UMD's HOPE/BELIEVE recovery program. These men and women had completed a rigorous five months of residence, classes, support groups, and service in the Urban Ministries shelter. Each were making plans for jobs, housing, and clean and sober life outside of the shelter. Some of them already had jobs and housing lined up, others were in process, one woman expressed the desire to learn to play the saxophone. The ceremony was inspiring. It featured an address by Duke Divinity preaching professor, Dr. Charles Campbell. Dr. Campbell reminded the graduates of the remarkable witness that their sobriety is to the power of God to overcome addiction, not only to drugs and alcohol, but to consumerism, to violence, to busyness. Todd, Victor, Wilbert, Jack, Robert, Mike, Lamont, Bobby, Kenneth, Thornton, and Monique still have a ways to go. Addicts don't talk about being "recovered," but "recovering." For them and for all of us there are temptations and challenges daily.

You can read about the event in the Durham Herald-Sun here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Contributors, 2010

Jonathan Andersen, from Georgia, has just completed his first year of Divinity School and is serving at Peachtree Road UMC in Atlanta, Ga.

Luke Wetzel, from Kansas, has just completed his first year of Divinity School and is serving in one of our agency placements, Durham Urban Ministries.

Arlecia Simmons, from South Carolina, just completed her first year and is serving at Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. under the supervision of Dr. William C. Turner.

Robert Flowers, a pre-enrollment student from North Carolina will start at Duke Divinity School this fall and is serving at Centenary UMC in Clemmons, N.C.

John Bryant, from North Carolina, has just completed his second year and is serving at Salem UMC in Denver, N.C.