Church Provides School Supplies for Low-Income Families

By Linda Bivins

The Liberty Free Methodist Church, located in Liberty, N.Y., has been turning its attention to those outside the walls of the church. One way we reached out into the community this summer was to provide fully stocked backpacks for school children.

In today’s economy, many parents are unable to afford the school supplies their children need. Due to budget constraints, the schools can no longer provide many of the supplies they did in the past. That means many children are left without the tools they need to do well in school. It can also mean they can feel embarrassed and ashamed, or decide an education isn’t important to them.

The church stepped in to provide a practical expression of God’s love to some of these children and their families. God blessed our efforts from the start.

We received a donation: the entire inventory of a Christian bookstore that had closed two years ago. We also set up a booth selling these items at the Fourth of July street fair and started raising money. More importantly, we were able to advertise what the money was going to be used for and word of this ministry began to go out.

After the fair was over, we moved the remaining items to an empty room in the church. The congregation bought much of what was left, but usually insisted on donating money above the cost of their items.

Next, Walmart agreed that if the church would buy fifty backpacks, they would donate another fifty. We had gotten a supply list from the elementary school, and Walmart’s manager asked to see the list. She chose items that the store would donate in addition to the backpacks. Staples also provided fifty dollars in gift cards that could be used toward supplies.

We placed advertisements on the local newspaper which could be cut out, filled out, and sent to the church. There were two criteria for child to receive backpacks: they must have been in grades 3-6 with a low household income. Copies of the ad were made and the congregation went out and distributed them to various places such as public libraries and post offices.

Sign-up sheets were made available to the congregation, and people began coming to church loaded down with school supplies. Once everything was on hand, a small team met one evening and stocked the backpacks. Each backpack contained all the necessary school supplies, a New Testament, a tract, and a postcard with our church contact information and times of services. We prayed over each backpack.

Each person who sent in a request was contacted by phone. Once their eligibility was established they were told when and where to pick up the backpacks. Distribution was done at the church. Transportation was provided to anyone who needed it. When they arrived at the church they were greeted by the pastor and a few other church members who made them feel welcome.

When this ministry concluded, 102 backpacks had been given away.

Children from 65 families in thirteen different communities were the recipients. Most of the parents were quick to express their gratitude, and two of the families have since come to the church. The receipts from the store inventory and donations exceeded the costs by $28.27. Clearly, God knew exactly what He was doing!

Annual VBS Program Sees Growth

By Charlie Goff

August 22nd-26th the First Free Methodist Church of Sault Ste Marie, Mich. held their annual Vacation Bible School. 53 kids attended the five day VBS where they learned to shake up their lives to follow God’s words. Three quarters of attendees were from outside of the church, making VBS a great community outreach.

The kids were asked to bring food items for the church’s food pantry, which is open to the community. On Friday night the children made pizzas for their parents and there was a pizza party at the end of the last day.

Counting volunteers, there were 101 people in attendance, growth from the first VBS three years ago which drew 32 people at the final program. The youth ministry team hopes to have 75 kids next year and to continue to grow.

Church Hosts Benefit Concert

By Charlie Goff

On Friday, August 12th, the First Free Methodist Church of Sault Ste Marie, Mich. partnered with Smile FM and Jeremy Horn to put on a benefit concert for Christian Freedom International as part of Smile FM’s “Make A Difference” Tour.

Smile FM broadcast their AM show live form the CFI store in Sault Ste Marie that morning before moving to the FMC for the concert that evening. The concert was free to all with an offering taken to support CFI.

Learn more about the event by reading this article on CFI’s website.

Children Raise Money for Those Without Water

By Charlie Goff

On August 5 and 6, the First Free Methodist Church of Sault Ste Marie, Mich. sold water at local sidewalk sales to raise money for Clear Blue Water.

Kids of the church worked the table taking $.50 donations for cold water, raising $110.00 over two days to help a program they are really concerned about.

“I think it is really bad that people don’t have good water,” said Mattie Goff, age six. “I’m really sorry, so we did a water sale to help.”

Andy Mott, during junior firefighter training at the 2009 FASNY youth day in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Andy’s Story

By Barbara Witter with John and DiAnne Mott
 Andy Mott, during junior firefighter training at the 2009 FASNY youth day in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Andy Mott, during junior firefighter training at the 2009 FASNY youth day in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Most of us wonder what it’s like to hear God’s voice resound as thunder. But Andy Mott doesn’t wonder. He’s heard it, and those who where with him continue to tell of it.

Andy, 20, is the son of John and DiAnne Mott of Mayfield, N.Y. He is a member of the First Free Methodist Church of Gloversville, N.Y. pastored by New England Conference Superintendent Wil Sharpe.

Soon after Andy was born his parents knew something was “different” about him. His head was large for his age, and he wouldn’t sit up or talk. He didn’t walk until 19 months. After bouncing between diagnoses the Motts finally received one that made sense: autism.

Andy’s parents knew this life-changing news set him apart from others and meant an uncertain future. They decided that in order to survive, they would dwell on the positives.

At an early age Andy fixated on telephones. The Motts later realized that he hears phones before they ring and can hear the yellow traffic light change. Andy calls this extra sensitivity “long distance hearing.” He was also fascinated with clocks, fire extinguishers and emergency personnel.

Doctors told the Motts Andy probably wouldn’t have many friends. However, a few years ago about 250 people attended his Eagle Scout Court of Honor; his congenial personality has gained him countless friends.

Andy’s literal mindset has become a strength. He takes people at their word, stays focused on his goals, and is committed to his standards and beliefs. At a young age, Andy chose a total commitment to God from which he’s never wavered. His first sentence was, “I was put here to help others.”

Andy’s commitment to community, God and church gives him opportunities to display a powerful, childlike faith. His uninhibited testimony is the catalyst for “Andy’s Story.”

Andy serves as a staff member at Camp Russell, a Boy Scouts Camp near Old Forge, N.Y. One day he was assisting Corey, one of the older Scouts, in a cooking merit badge class. Corey walked among the groups of boys encouraging them to take their time and build good fires because they had a lot of cooking to do. Andy followed saying, “Hurry and build your fires because it’s going to rain.”

Corey kept saying, “It’s not going to rain. Take your time and build good fires.”

Andy continued to say the opposite until Corey retorted, “Andy, it’s not going to rain!”

Andy responded, “Yes, it is.”

“No, it’s not!”

“I know God and it’s going to rain.”

“You don’t know God.”

“I know God, and He knows me.”

“God doesn’t know you!”

According to witnesses, Andy stepped forward, raised his hands and said, “God, show Corey that You know me.”

Immediately, the blue sky rolled away as dark gray clouds blew in. Thunder roared and lightening cracked. Everyone stepped away from Andy. Then the rain poured!

The boys ran under a tarp and sat at picnic tables for almost 2 hours watching rivers of water wash beneath their feet. After the first 45 minutes one scout asked, “Andy, since you know God can you ask Him to stop now?”

Andy replied, “No, He’s not done yet.”

Corey shook his head as he stood beneath an umbrella stirring the only pot of food still cooking. Finally, he agreed. … Andy does know God.

From left to right: Mayfield, N.Y. Fire Dept. Chief Chris Mraz, Mayfield Fire Chaplain Andy Mott, and Rev. Alan Witter. The photo was taken at Gloversville FMC in Gloversville, N.Y. on the day Mott was commissioned as the Mayfield FD Chaplain.

From left to right: Mayfield, N.Y. Fire Dept. Chief Chris Mraz, Mayfield Fire Chaplain Andy Mott, and Rev. Alan Witter. The photo was taken at Gloversville FMC in Gloversville, N.Y. on the day Mott was commissioned as the Mayfield FD Chaplain.

Along with being an Eagle Scout, Andy’s interests in education, safety and God form his foundation for life. He bought a fire truck and teaches fire safety to children. His former pastor was a fire department chaplain and mentored Andy in chaplain duties. He was the youngest fire chaplain at this year’s NYSAFC (New York State Association of Fire Chaplains).

Wanting to pursue a Christian education as well as fire safety, Andy contacted his mother’s alma mater, Roberts Wesleyan College, and proposed a certification program in fire safety with fire extinguisher emphasis. He wanted to attend chapel and train to be a fire chaplain while doing most of his training in his own community, where he desires to serve.

After meeting with Andy, the college suggested an internship with the security department at the college. With his program approved, Andy completed his freshman year spending some time on campus, communicating online with his advisor, and participating in numerous mentorships around the state. He also completed his fire extinguisher maintenance course and passed the state test.

Andy works mornings at Wilde Fire Truck manufacturing plant servicing fire extinguishers when not at college. He loves being the Mayfield Fire Department Chaplain and visits other fire chaplains and funeral homes.

Andy enjoys being an usher and playing the trumpet at his church, helping with the food pantry, serving meals at the Salvation Army, and being assistant scout master for Mayfield Boy Scout Troop 53. Andy’s life is fully blessed.

This young man with autism has a story everyone should hear. Andy knows God, and God knows Andy. It’s no wonder his favorite worship song is “Awesome God.” He’s heard God thunder an acknowledgment of their relationship, and he is quick to tell others they can have this relationship too.

Santa Barbara FMC Members Share Their GC11 Experience

By Kelly Soifer
Members of Santa Barbara FMC who attended General Conference 2011 pose for a photo with the Board of Bishops.

Members of Santa Barbara FMC who attended General Conference 2011 pose for a photo with the Board of Bishops.

Several of us from Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara just returned from General Conference 2011 (GC11).

General Conference is a quadrennial conference (translation: held once every four years). This one was especially significant in that we also convened to celebrate the sesquicentennial (translation: 150th!) anniversary of the founding of the Free Methodist Church at the actual location where B.T. Roberts established our denomination.

I am rather new to Free Methodism; I started attending the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara in November 2008 and joined in August 2009. Therefore, I have never attended a General Conference.

I’ll be the first to tell you that the schedule included an intensive roster of meetings, some of which were run according to parliamentary procedure. Nevertheless, I found the entire conference compelling, thought provoking and deeply encouraging.

Most formative to our time was the theme — WHOLE: Gospel. World. Person — which was then fleshed out through various speakers, hearty musical worship and fascinating discussions. I believe Bishop Matt Thomas summarized its meaning best in his plenary message on July 16. We can only deliver the whole gospel to the whole world if we are whole persons.

Throughout GC11 we talked about how Jesus calls us to inner transformation. Then as our hearts and minds are changed, our lives will bear fruit and collectively, our churches will be agents of change in our communities and in our world. Broken lives, broken families, broken systems and broken creation will be changed by the restorative love of God, ministered through our hands and feet. Isn’t that compelling?

When people ask me, “How was General Conference?” I simply tell them, “What I realized is that I am part of a movement more than an institution!”

I left GC11 with a strong sense that God is on the move in and through the Free Methodist Church, both in the USA and throughout the world. In hindsight, I feel “GC” could also stand for “Groundbreaking Changes.” Glory to God!

To best capture a sense of this momentum, I asked those who were part of the Santa Barbara delegation to briefly share their impressions from GC11.

Pastor Denny Wayman:

I have always been proud of our Free Methodist family. Our rich tradition and relational theology is unparalleled in the larger Christian world.

However, there was a time when our focus was more on what we do not do than on what we do for Christ. This legalistic focus has changed.

During the same time we’ve taken dramatic steps to be a missional church at home just as we have been overseas. This systemic change has opened the door to do ministry in new and dynamic ways.

But this didn’t just happen during the five days in New York. It has taken several decades of dynamic and courageous leadership that has systematically changed our membership and discipleship process, expanded our expectations and creating a permission-giving culture.

I am very excited to see what God is going to do through the FMC in this next 150 years!

Mark Bates:

I always enjoy connecting with FMs from across the country, and celebrate in their joys and successes in growing the kingdom of God.

What I appreciated about this GC was our focus to answer questions and create solutions as a larger body, not just react and give input to suggestions given from various parts of the country.

Pastor Colleen Hurley-Bates:

This was my third GC and the openness and leading of the Holy Spirit was the strongest ever. It was such a confirmation of what God is doing through the FMC and how He wants to use His church to reach out to local and global communities with His love and truth.

I was very inspired to think through how we reach out to our neighbors and to encourage our people that we are truly filled up to go out and serve in Jesus’ name. That is what He tells us to do. I got that loud and clear at GC11.

Alyssa Canada:

I truly felt honored to have been invited to attend the 2011 General Conference. I felt encouraged and empowered as a young leader, knowing that I am part of a denomination that continues to fight for justice in our society, as well as seeing the importance of loving our neighbors and staying true to the Word.

It was fascinating to be able to sit in on how resolutions are created for our denomination.

Joshua Canada:

Free Methodists are a community of believers who take seriously the primary commandments to love God and one another.

As Jesus says in Luke 12:48, When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. We were reminded at GC11 that we have been inordinately blessed as believers, as Americans and especially as Free Methodists. God is asking us to move His kingdom forward in new and profound ways. May we offer the good news of the whole gospel of God, inviting those we meet to restoration and eternal hope.

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