Who Is My Neighbor?

Who Is My Neighbor? (Birthday Party for Jesus, The Baby Fold, and Evergreen)


‘Tis the season for birthday parties!  Well, people may call them Christmas parties, but Calvary’s KidVenture sponsored a Birthday Party for Jesus this past Wednesday (12/20).  Not only did they read the story of Jesus’ birth while the appropriate characters acted it out, but they also collected gifts for Jesus!  The gifts were in the form of making cards for the residents of Evergreen Assisted Living across from the church and bringing diapers for The Baby Fold’s Healthy Start Program.

Jesus’ babies need lots and lots of diapers, and people were very generous in bringing them to the party.  The cards for the Evergreen Residents will be given out when our volunteers go to Evergreen to operate Calvary’s Live Stream on Christmas Eve and celebrate worship with these precious people.  I love that our children learn not only the very powerful story of Jesus’ birth, but also that Jesus loves it when we celebrate Him by giving to others.

The Baby Fold’s Healthy Start Program serves McLean and Champaign County moms aged 22 and younger who are expecting their first baby.  Many of these young moms are considered ‘at risk’ because many don’t have the support system they need to answer important questions about how to take care of themselves during pregnancy and how to take care of their baby when he/she is born.

The following description is found on The Baby Fold’s website:  

“The Healthy Start program is totally voluntary, but requires commitment from the mother to invite a Family Support Worker into her home bi-weekly through the remainder of her pregnancy and weekly during the first nine months of her baby’s life. A feature of the program is “mom is the child’s first teacher,” and the Support Worker brings many interactive ideas to help mom and baby relate and bond. The Support Worker becomes a trusted friend, a tie to other community resources, and a resource on so many “what do I do” concerns. Not only does the Support Worker help the mother relate to her child, she helps the mother build a safe and economically viable environment for her family. At the end of the Healthy Start program, the family graduates, knowing they have the resources and knowledge to manage the stresses of life.”

As you have your Christmas celebrations this week, I pray that you will be overwhelmed with the presence of Jesus and that you might consider ways that others have been in ministry with/for you and ways that you might be in ministry with/for others in the coming year.  Praise God for the gift of Jesus!

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (Home Sweet Home Ministries and Safe Harbor)

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As I write this, I can hear the wind whipping around the corner of my office and I can see the branches of a pine tree being blown back and forth.  The thought of going outside for any reason makes me want to curl up in front of my fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate.  And I think of those who have no other choice…who have no warm office in which to work, who have no warm home in which to live…..who have no choice but to hope a shelter is open in the evening where they might get a warm meal and a cot on which to sleep and thaw out for a bit.

That’s why Calvary is a strong supporter of Home Sweet Home Ministries and a regular provider of meals for Safe Harbor…both agencies which offer shelter for the homeless.  I love Home Sweet Home’s vision statement:  ‘Our ministry is to be a place of refuge and renewal powered by Jesus Christ.’

In an effort to better understand the needs of our community and to most faithfully use the tithe that Calvary so graciously gives to glorify God, I did a very informal community needs assessment last summer.  One of the things I learned was that affordable housing is one of the biggest needs in Bloomington/Normal.  It is impossible to work a minimum wage job and provide housing for a family.  In fact, minimum wage jobs often don’t guarantee a 40 hour work week, so it’s nearly impossible to provide housing for one.  Work more jobs, you say?  If you are single, that might work (although when your employer calls you to work and you have to go to your other job, how long do you think they’ll keep you?).  However, with even one child, going to work and paying for childcare is cost prohibitive…and when you add the other living expenses…well, you get the idea.

Is there something we can do?  Yes!  I’m glad you asked!  Of course you can always just stop by one of our community shelters and offer to help in any way that they need (remember to ask what they need rather than what we think they need).  There are always financial needs for those places in town who provide shelters.  Although we certainly don’t have a homeless shelter, Calvary uses our Good Samaritan Fund to help with emergency needs (which sometimes include temporary housing or food).  Our Christmas Offering this year goes to the Good Samaritan Fund so that we might help folks who just need a boost.

Along with others in the community as well as our church, I am going to participate in Home Sweet Home Ministries’ ‘A Night in a Car’ on Feb. 2 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bloomington.  You can donate toward my ‘car’ or sign up to bring your car and spend the night yourself.

None of us likes to see someone suffer from homelessness…and it’s even more frustrating to see the problem and not know what to do about it.  As we celebrate Christmas this year, may we know that our God sees every single person and allows each of us to reach out to others in a variety of ways.  Maybe someone just needs your encouragement this year.  Maybe they need a coat.  Maybe they need a meal. There’s one thing that people of all ages and stages can do:  we can all pray.  Will you join me in praying for those who are cold today?

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (Gift Giving That Keeps Giving)

You may have already finished your Christmas shopping.  If so, congratulations for your organizational skills!  If not, there are ways to help others as you buy gifts for those people who have everything and really don’t want anything.  My parents got to that stage of their lives and were unable to use the ever-practical restaurant gift cards.  My solution?  I think I bought them a goat.  I can’t quite remember….maybe it was a llama.  How could I forget the specifics of such a gift?  They didn’t have to feed it (which made my dad happy)......I had given a goat (or llama) in their name to Heifer International to help families around the world earn a living. 

This year, I shopped at Crossroads Handcrafts of the World right here in Downtown Bloomington.  I chose gifts that were appropriate for the person for whom I was shopping, and also gave back to the persons who made them.  I love being able to support those who are trying so hard to support themselves!

Those are just 2 examples, both offering tangible support.  (I wish I would have thought to include a toy goat or llama in my gift to my parents…..that would have been a nice connecting gift.)  This was given through Heifer International, which offers many more options for helping people around the world.

I’m sure the many of you get many requests in the mail, e-mail, or by phone all the time for supporting particular charities.  It can get very overwhelming.  I can’t answer questions about all of them, but I can give you some ideas from the ones I do know about who help others while blessing your gift receiver.

  • Fair Trade stores everywhere…..even online.  Just search ‘fair trade’ and you’ll see the options.
  • United Methodist Committee on Relief:  if you’d like to help those affected by wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters, this might be of interest to you.
  • Local places like The Baby Fold, Home Sweet Home Mission, or any number of other places in our community who address human need.
  • United Methodist Missions:  go to UMCmission.org, then ‘give to mission’, then ‘search for projects’ and you’re certain to find that special project that connects to that special person in your life. 
  • Have a teacher gift to find?  How about purchasing a teacher or student school bag kit for the Midwest Mission Distribution Center in Chatham, IL?  http://midwestmissiondc.org/projects/projects

These are just a few suggestions and I know you could come up with your own list at least this long.  There’s no shame in shopping the ‘usual’ places, of course.  Those places also provide jobs.  However, if you have parents like mine were, or teacher gifts like I struggled with, or other kinds of conundrums, maybe the above suggestions will help as we help our neighbors throughout the world.

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (Redbird Mission)

Calvary’s Outreach Team has a practice of supporting local, national, and international ministries.  You’ve heard a lot about local and international ministries, but maybe not as much about our focus on our national focus on Redbird Mission.  Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky,  The needs are great in these isolated areas and we want to be a part of meeting the needs.
Redbird Mission tells their story better than I could, so check out the ways in which God is working through them by going to this site:  http://rbmission.org/about-us/

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (30 Hour Famine: Part 2)

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Last week you read about Calvary’s amazing youth who gave of their time, money, and desire to eat for 30 hours!!  Every year, hundreds of thousands of students throughout the world go without food for 30 hours in order to help those who are hungry.  Organized by World Vision, students not only go without food for 30 hours and raise money for hunger relief, but they also learn a lot about the devastating reality of world hunger, malnutrition, and food scarcity.  

This year, Calvary’s Junior High Youth raised $3,672 for Hunger Relief! 

Calvary’s youth were given a reflection sheet on which they shared the answer to 4 questions based upon their lessons throughout the event:

1-What was the most impactful part of your 30 hours?

2-How did God help you with your fear?

3-What are you hungry for spiritually?

4-Do you have any new thoughts about children in the developing world?

Some of the answers were given in last week’s Who Is My Neighbor article.  I know you’ll be blessed as you read those as well as this week’s.  God is so good!  

How did God help you with your fear?

When I went to the nursing home. I talked to a woman who was really open and she was sitting right there in the sitting room. I think God put her there to make me know that I can do this. It’s not scary.

There was not a specific fear that God helped me with but he helped me feel more comfortable serving others in Jesus’ name.

He helped me to get through it, he showed me that my fear would help me to get farther, then it’s not as much of a fear anymore.

He helped me see how lucky I am to have clean water and food. He made me less scared of the hunger by helping others at the food pantry.

God helped me by overcoming my fears and worries. Everything that I thought would make this experience terrible, didn’t come true. He sent a kind of peace over me after talking about my fears and worries.

Gave me so many other great things to focus on that got my mind off the hunger.

He led me through the past 30 hours and told me I was going to be ok and he told me that I should stay happy and thankful.

He provided me with amazing caregivers that reminded me that it really isn’t that hard and to just keep drinking.

God helped me by distracting me and making sure I knew I wasn’t alone.

I didn’t think that I could survive the whole 30 hours.

God helped me by reminding myself I could do it and by not giving up I would learn a lot.

My friends that helped me through.

He let me know that everything is okay and he would take care of me.

What are you hungry for spiritually?

I am hungry for a relationship with Christ. An everyday thing. Not something where I feel him on weekends like this but so I can feel him every day.

Spiritually, I am hungry for the ability to serve. I always WANT to serve, but I never think of it. I want God to help me actually follow through with my serving.

I think I always want to feel appreciated and to belong. I have also been straying from him and don’t feel as close to him, but I know it won’t matter to him and people have it was worse than me.

A strong relationship with God and I would like to get more involved in public service, it really impacted me in such a positive way and will also impact others positively as well.

Spiritually, I’m hungry to know God better. I know who he is and how he works, but I want a better relationship with him.

Peace of mind and knowing and COMPLETELY TRUSTING GOD with his plan with all of this.

I am spiritually hungry for acceptance. I want to be accepted for who I am.

Consistency. My faith seems to strengthen in bursts, when I wish to be more consistent with it.

I’m spiritually hungry for God. I desperately want to know I’m loved by God. I want to feel him.

For a message from God.

I want God to tell me something I should do to help someone else.

Courage to share His word.

A stronger relationship with God.

Do you have any new thoughts about children in the developing world?

I knew that we had it good and that they had it bad. But I didn’t realize that 30 million children under 5th grade can’t go to school. And that 5,000 children die every day from dirty water. Wow, what can I do to help them?

Yes! I feel more drawn to try to help them now, and now I think more of them now than I did before. Now, I have a better idea of how little they have in their lives.

I realize that what they have to deal with is extreme, and we are SO blessed. I feel for them a lot and want to help.

How their way of life is different and tough. I would like to do something to help those children in need.

I always knew that life was hard for children in the world and how lucky I am. Now I know how much more extreme it is. Everything is so hard for them, I wouldn’t be able to imagine it.

I want to help so much more than I already did before this and I want to know everything I can do.

I feel how they are now. I feel terrible about it. I feel as though it is unfair that I get to live my life while they live theirs.

I never realized how bad it truly is for them. If I could, I would do something to help them, but there’s so many, I can’t help them all.

My new thoughts are that they suffer a lot more than I assumed. They could die from starvation but I feel they handle it so well.

Yes, I now understand how hard it is for them.

Yes, I have a new respect for what they deal with and are happy but I complain all the time and I have everything.

I need to help them. I have so much and they have so little. Even the little things I need to learn to give.

They have it hard, while we have it easy as can be. They have to work for what they want, we don’t.

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (30 Hour Famine - Part 1)

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Every year, hundreds of thousands of students throughout the world go without food for 30 hours in order to help those who are hungry.  Organized by World Vision, students not only go without food for 30 hours and raise money for hunger relief, but they also learn a lot about the devastating reality of world hunger, malnutrition, and food scarcity.  

This year, Calvary’s Junior High Youth raised $3,672 for Hunger Relief!  I asked Trace Mitchell, who raised $840 on his own why he was so motivated to go to all that work to raise the money.  “I wanted to help people. When I saw the brochure and saw that $840 would feed 2 children for a whole year, I thought, ‘I could do this.’  It was really hard because it’s easy for me to talk to people.  The first day was the easiest then it got a little harder.  I went door and door starting at my house and the further I got away from my house, the more people made excuses not to help out.  I didn’t care how much people gave….I was happy with whatever they gave.”

Hannah Gaff, another participant in the 30 Hour Famine said, “It was cool because we got to experience what a lot of people have to do all of the time and it was connected with spiritual hunger.  We were able to realize how blessed we are.”

Calvary’s youth were given a reflection sheet on which they shared the answer to 4 questions based upon their lessons throughout the event:

1-What was the most impactful part of your 30 hours?
2-How did God help you with your fear?
3-What are you hungry for spiritually?
4-Do you have any new thoughts about children in the developing world?

Because these answers are so powerful, I’m going to expand this article to next week so that you can read their answers (without names attached).  

In answer to the first question, ‘What was the most impactful part of your 30 hours:’

When we went to the nursing home and to see the joy on their faces.  I usually don’t do things like that but I had the most fun.
Working at the food pantry.  Learning about how the pantry got started was very much a God moment, and just knowing that I helped a lot of people today made me feel like God was working in me.
The most impactful was probably Saturday night when we sang Good, Good Father and when we talked about physical hunger and spiritual hunger and it just kind of got real….and that doesn’t always happen.
The feeling of hunger...it really made me think of the kids and people who have to endure that every day.  I also was fueled by the hunger to work hard during the service project to give back.
The most impactful part of my 30 hours was the fact that when you’re learning about how other kids love their life, and being with your friends and God, you don’t realize how hungry you actually are.
Hearing everything the elderly had to say about life.  The fact about not just being hungry for food but mentally and spiritually hungry to things in life.
Helping the lady and other people get things done.  I also thought it was impactful when the lady told us her story on how the pantry opened up.
Not being on my phone helped me spend time with God and imagining if my life was like this all of the time. 
The most impactful part of these 30 hours is the hunger I’ve had and to think it’s constant for the people who don’t have food.
When we went to the Hope organization to wrap toys and gifts.
The most impactful part was probably learning about people who live like this everyday.
Talking to Laura and letting her pray over me.
Watching the videos.  It really opens your eyes to problems that people struggle with.

Next week, check in to read the rest of the students’ answers and hear how God changes our hearts in the midst of our helping others.

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (Food Packaging)


We take food for granted.  Rather than wondering if we will eat today, we choose from the many different options in our home or the plethora of restaurant choices we have in town.  So the people of Calvary are quick to take advantage of opportunities to help feed others and we had one such opportunity at November’s First Wednesday.

Illini Fighting Hunger, a ministry of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Illinois, provides the products that organizations can use to package meals for families wherever they may be needed.  This year, over 100 Calvary folks gathered in the gym to package meals which will be given to flood victims throughout the South.  A nutritious and delicious rice dish was packaged by a minimum of 7 people at each assembly table…..children, youth, and adults all working together.  We completed 2,955 packets, which will provide 17,730 meals for those who are putting their lives back together after the hurricanes earlier this fall.

As you can see in the pictures, it was such a joy to work together as ‘families’ not related by family, but by Jesus Christ.  Isn’t that what the church is all about?  If you’re interested in serving beside brothers and sisters in Christ in this church and/or others, there are plenty of opportunities and certainly plenty of need.  Just check out our website at www.connectwithcalvary.org and look for ways to serve under ‘Works’.  

Our neighbors are hungry.  Thank you for feeding them…one meal at a time.

Who Is My Neighbor? (Operation Christmas Child)

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“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”  Operation Christmas Child is in full swing and as usual, Calvary folks are enthusiastically leaning into that opportunity to serve children around the world.  This ministry of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization, seeks to provide children around the world with some small essentials as well as a small gift at Christmas.  This past Sunday was the first week the empty boxes were available for people to fill and 192 boxes were given out.  Last year, Calvary filled a total of 364 boxes.  Way to go, Calvary family!

You may remember reading about Lindsey Anderson in a February Who Is Your Neighbor article.  Lindsey is a part of the Calvary Family who is especially passionate about this ministry.  Quoting from that prior article, “I asked Lindsey why she was so passionate about this.  ‘I love to go to the Operation Christmas Child website and see the kids’ faces when they open their shoebox and the joy it gives them.’  But that’s not all that Lindsey does.  Taking a page from her local FCA chapter (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) who suggested that some of the recipients won’t know who Jesus is, Lindsey always writes a personal note to each recipient which she puts in the shoeboxes!

Those notes tell the recipients about Jesus and that Jesus loves them!  Of course she doesn’t know who will receive any of the boxes, but that doesn’t matter.  She puts love in each box and knows that the recipient will be the person God wants for that particular box.”  By the way, if you look at the pictures, you’ll know which one is Lindsey….she’s the one wearing the shoe box….which she bought from the Operation Christmas Child website.  
Organizers of this international ministry say, “A small shoebox can have a big impact. What goes into the box is fun, but what comes out of it is eternal. Be a part of changing children's lives all over the world in Jesus' Name through the power of a simple gift with Operation Christmas Child.”

Who is my neighbor?  Our neighbor is that child who opens that box and knows that they are loved.

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (KidVenture Flood Buckets)

The children (and their youth and adult partners) in KidVenture collected and packed 29 Flood/Cleaning Buckets on Wednesday night!  These children wanted to help those devastated by the recent hurricanes and one of the first things people need are supplies to clean and disinfect their now mold-covered homes.  A flurry of energy and enthusiasm filled the room as children from the ages of 4-11 worked together so that all the supplies were packed in a specific way in order to fit into the bucket.  As the hurricanes kept coming and coming, one of our Calvary members talked to her coworkers and they donated supplies.  Many of the buckets were donated by Lowes, through the coordination of one of these coworkers.  

In packing the buckets, another blessing took place as older children were engaged in helping younger children.  For instance, the 5th graders were paired to be buddies with the 4 year olds, the 4th graders with the Kindergarteners, etc.  This reinforced the concept that we all work together and help each other in the body of Christ.

After the buckets were filled, everyone in the room stretched out their arms and prayed a blessing over these supplies and those who would be using them.  What an incredible gift for these children to give to those who have been so ravaged with hurricanes.

These buckets will be taken to the United Methodist Midwest Mission Distribution in Chatham, IL, where they will then be distributed to those who need them.  If you’d like to learn more about that incredible ministry, check out the newsletters here.  This ministry is also supported financially by Calvary through your Outreach Team.  Thank you for your support!

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (Habitat for Humanity)

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It’s not always about a new house, is it?  This fall, Calvary partnered with Habitat for Humanity and with Luis Ortolaza and his wife, Evette Rios to rehab a Habitat House formerly occupied by someone who was able to ‘upgrade’ to a larger home!  What a wonderful way to be a part of the Habitat plan.  Louis and Evette are thrilled that they get to be homeowners and are going to be living on Fuller Court in Bloomington.  They are also very appreciative of the people who came from Calvary to help make their dream come true.

Calvary’s Habitat Team worked on 8 Saturdays in August, September and October, putting in 185 volunteer hours between 20 people.  There were 15 people who worked on the house and another 5 who provided refreshments for our hard-working house flippers.

Habitat For Humanity’s Mission is:  “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”  Those who apply for, qualify, and are chosen for a Habitat House must work alongside the Habitat onsite staff as well as volunteers in order to fulfill their end of the contract.  The family receives an affordable mortgage that they can manage and the community gains wonderful neighbors in these new homeowners!

What’s next?  The United Methodist Churches in Bloomington/Normal are coming together to do a ‘United Methodist’ Habitat Build in 2018.  While all of the UM churches in town participate in their own outreach ministries, the pastors thought it would be wonderful to unite in doing something very important.  The idea blossomed into a Habitat Build.  We look forward to working alongside our new and old friends at the other United Methodist Churches in town in 2018 as we help to make a difference for another family in Bloomington/Normal.

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About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (Las Vegas)


As I try to write this about the ways in which we may have reached out his week, I cannot get the mass shooting in Las Vegas out of my mind and heart.   Who is my neighbor?  This is the very end of Luke 10:25-37, the passage from which this section of The Daily Connection springs:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

At the time of this writing, we don't know much about the gunman or his motive.  But he was someone's brother.  He was someone's son.  He was literally someone's neighbor.  And he was a neighbor to all of us because he was one of God's people.  We may never know what caused this retired accountant and avid gambler to do what any of us would define as the unthinkable.  His family hurts, also.  Was there something that could have been done to have changed the tragectory of this man's life?  Was someone a neighbor to him when he needed it?

And of course those who died, who are injured, who are forever traumatized, who lost loved ones.....they are the ones our hearts run to when we hear of such a horrific tragedy.  There are stories upon stories of people running back in to help the injured, of off duty police officers, medical professionals, and others springing into action to do what they could to bring hope to this terrified crowd.  

And yet......in the midst of this kind of world.....we are called to be the love of Christ to those who are hurt.....in whatever form that hurt takes.  When we feel helpless, it's time for us to help.....help anyone......just be that neighbor......to your literal neighbors, to your friends, to your enemies.....to the homeless, to the rich, to the annoying person, to the sweetest person.  We all need a neighbor sometime.....find someone today to serve in even the smallest of ways.

Here is an excellent article that reflects this spirit as we hurt from the recent violence in Las Vegas and around the world:  http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/you-did-it-for-me-serving-others-in-times-of-tragedy

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (Against All Odds:  The Fight for a Black Middle Class)


In an enlightening documentary with Bob Herbert we learned these troubling statistics:  “Working hard has never been enough for Black Americans to flourish.  Nearly 40% of all Black children in America are poor.  The unemployment rate for Black Americans is twice that of White Americans.  For every dollar of wealth in the hands of every White family in America, the typical Black family has just a little more than a nickel.”

Many Calvary folks joined others in the community at Normal First United Methodist Church this week for a viewing of this documentary, Against All Odds:  The Fight for a Black Middle Class.”  Following the documentary, we heard the stories of three panel members who told us their stories of growing up as Black men and women and the challenges and obstacles they faced and still face.

This gathering was especially timely after a sermon series on racism and what it means to “.... Hate what is evil; cling to what is good,” and for us to “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:9b, 21).  As Christians, we aren’t called to simply love those who look like us, who act like us, who speak the same language, worship the same way, etc., etc.,  So then why are the above statistics so horribly shocking this long after the abolition of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s?  How, in 2017, can we still be talking about our neighbors’ color of skin as if it is a defining marker of some archaic class system?

This documentary can be found online and I would encourage you to watch it with your friends and families.  It does an exceptional job of describing the reasons that the White middle class is so much easier to maintain than the Black middle class is to even make an entry.

When you see a Black American who is poor, what’s your first thought?  What about a poor White American?  We often assume that the Black person just doesn’t want to work, hasn’t tried hard enough, has spent his/her money on drugs, etc.  Our first reaction to a poor White American is often much more compassionate.

If you are a White American, you may be asking yourself, “What does she want me to do about this?”  I’m glad you asked!  The biggest impact we might make today is to build relationships with those in the Black community.  We need to break down barriers that should never even exist in 2017.  If you are a person who works in Human Resources, if you have a qualified White person and an equally qualified Black person, who will you hire…..really…..not just in theory?

Here are just a few of the places that you can serve where you will find all races (including Caucasians) who could use a leg up in society…...how about giving just a couple of hours a week to volunteer at one of these:

  • The West Side Revitalization Project
  • Home Sweet Home Ministries
  • Safe Harbor
  • The YWCA or YMCA
  • Faith in Action
  • The Baby Fold

Do you want help connecting with any of these?  You can go to here and scroll through the list of in-church and outside the walls of Calvary ministries.  Find the one that interests you, click on it, and you’ll find someone to e-mail.  You can also just call the church and talk to me about it and I’ll get you connected!

We can fix it, but we CAN make a difference…..one relationship at a time. 

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor (5 & 2 Outreach)

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“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” …When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”  ~John 9:9,12-14 

On Wednesday night, Aug. 30th, a group of 30 high school youth and adult chaperones gathered in Calvary’s parking lot.  These youth split into groups, pooled their own money together, and began to pray about how God might use the money, and themselves, to build His Kingdom in our community that night. We call this ministry event 5 & 2 Outreach. John’s gospel records that it was the faith of a boy who was willing to give what he had to Jesus, not letting the seemingly impossible situation limit his faith. In the same way, in the face of such great need in our community, our youth gave what they had to Jesus and trusted that He would do a miracle.

Here is a list of some of the ways the youth impacted our community on the 30th:

  • Paid for multiple meals for families at restaurants.
  • Paid for people's gas. 
  • Bought flowers to take into Advocate Bromenn hospital and Evergreen nursing home where they spent their time getting to know the residents. 
  • Found out the needs of the local homeless shelter, and purchased those items for them. 
  • Contacted a few single moms from our church asked them if they had any grocery needs and supplied them (milk, bread, eggs, toilet paper, cereal, diapers, and more). 
  • Payed-it-forward at drive-thrus. 

Anyone can do this type of outreach and have a temporary impact in our world. Our goal, through the direction of the Holy Spirit, was to be the hands and feet of Jesus so that our money and presence might have an eternal impact in our community. Over the few years that the youth have done this they have helped at least two people give their hearts and lives to Jesus! 

About the Author
Michael Pitzer is the Director of Senior High Ministries at Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (UMCOR Relief)


At the writing of this article, Hurricane Irma, followed by the threat of Hurricane Jose is hitting the Caribbean hard.  We do not yet have information on how we as the United Methodist Church are responding, but you can be assured.....we will be there as soon as the hurricane has gone....if not before.

The following, in reverse date order, is the information from our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) website describing the ways in which you, people of the United Methodist Church, have and are responding to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. 

Wednesday, August 30

In the Rio Texas Annual Conference, Early Response Teams are at work. For teams interested in supporting the relief efforts there, please visit the conference webpage https://riotexas.org/harvey. Remember that relief teams come in with training and an invitation.

About 20 churches in the Texas Annual Conference are serving as shelters. It is too soon for Early Response Teams, though cleaning and hygiene kits are being distributed. More kits will be needed. Please go to http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies for more information about preparing kits.

In the Central Texas Conference, one ER Team will deploy this weekend; two more next week. As kits are distributed, more are needed. For those in the conference, please contact Sheryl Crumrine for more information sheryl@ctcumc.org. 

The people of the Louisiana Conference, already responding to massive flooding in 2016, are gearing up for Harvey’s anticipated arrival. They are building kits, putting ER Teams on alert, and enacting disaster plans and shelter preparation.

Tuesday, August 29

Severe flooding on interstate highways and roads caused UMCOR Sager Brown delivery of cleaning kits to be re-routed to Beaumont, Texas. 

UMCOR Sager Brown Depot attempted a delivery of 1,000 cleaning kits to Conroe, Texas to affiliate warehouse, the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church Mission Center. 

Monday, August 28

UMCOR disaster recovery grants for Hurricane Harvey were issued to Texas Annual Conference and the Rio Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. 

UMCOR Sager Brown prepared a load of 1,000 cleaning kits to be distributed in Texas.

Friday, August 25

In preparation for Hurricane Harvey, UMCOR contacted Conference Disaster Response Coordinators at the Texas Annual Conference, the Rio Texas Annual Conference, and the Louisiana Annual Conference.

Friends, when we ask, Who Is My Neighbor, our hearts are heavy for all of our neighbors whose lives have already been taken, devastated, or traumatized, and for all of those in the paths of the next storms.  Can you imagine just waiting.....waiting for the storms to hit, waiting for the help to come, waiting for the recovery efforts to begin.  And these are the best case scenarios......some are waiting to bury their dead.

Let us be in prayer for our neighbors.  Let us do what we can to reach out.  Remember that when we give to hurricane relief through UMCOR, 100% of the proceeds go to the needs of the victims:  administrative costs are covered through the weekly offerings of United Methodist Congregations around the world.  We are also collecting materials for cleaning/flood buckets (link above).

Praise God for the opportunity to pray for and otherwise support our brothers and sisters in need.

Who Is My Neighbor? (Interfaith Service)


So powerfully brought home was the image of my neighbor as not only persons who look differently than I, but also those who worship very differently.  Several Calvary folks joined people of many different faiths, cultures, and backgrounds at First Christian Church in Bloomington this past Monday (August 28) at:  Unity in the Community:  An Interfaith Service of Lament and Hope.  Prayer of lament were shared by pastors of different churches; a Jewish Peace Song was shared by a quartet from the Moses Montefiore Temple of Bloomington; an ecumenical choir sang about peace and unity; statements by faith leaders from several traditions were heard; a beautiful reflection was shared; and prayers of hope were offered.  

Along with Christian denominations, leadership and participation in the service included those from the Islamic Center, the Hindu Temple, and the Jewish Temple....all of Bloomington-Normal.  We stood together against bigotry of all kinds and celebrated the love that we can have for one another as we work together toward peace in our land.

The following letter was written prior to this event and published in The Pantagraph, signed by many Bloomington-Normal clergy (including Randy and Debbie):

"Spurred by our latest national tragedy in Charlottesville, we the undersigned faith leaders of Bloomington-Normal, representing our many traditions, abhor the loss of life, the dishonoring of the children of the Divine, the insults hurled and the wounds of history re-opened.  Events such as these inflict injury which damages our minds, bodies and spirits:  the totality of our humanity.  At times such as these, the faiths which sustain us separately come together to assure us that love remains the most powerful force in human existence, allowing no room for hatred, bigotry, discrimination and violence.

“Hatred is the poison of the spirit.  The resulting fear cuts us off from the holy, from goodness, beauty and ultimately, life.  It is love that truly confronts the corruptions of racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and discrimination of all forms.

“As faith leaders, we unite in commitment to stand up and speak out in nonviolent ways for love and justice.  We pray for the day when ‘all shall sit under their vine and fig tree, with none to make them afraid.’  (Micah 4:4)”

There is never an instance when racism is appropriate.  There is never a situation in which discrimination is a Christian act.  When we reach out to one another with a hand of love, we are recognizing the worth of that person.  Now that’s what defines the ways in which we treat our neighbors.  Will you join me in doing all that we can to live out Christ’s commandment to love one another…..with no exceptions?

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (Parkside Elementary)

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As children are going back to school and getting into their academic schedules again, the Promise Council of Parkside Elementary organized their annual "100 Caring Adults" morning for Tuesday, August 22.  Because we have a relationship with Parkside through the Backpack Ministry as well as a willingness to fill other needs as they arise, several Calvary folks went to the school early Tuesday morning to welcome the students and cheer them on toward a great year.  The intent is to let the students (and staff) know that they are not alone....that the community is supporting them all the way.

It was so much fun to encourage these children as they entered the school on their 2nd week of class.  While we didn't handed out food or provide shelter or medical care or tend to any other physical need, we helped to give these children what all of us need:  encouragement and support.  That's part of being the Body of Christ in the world. 

It was a rainy, cloudy day, but the Son was shining as we cheered for these children.  What difference could we all make it we just encouraged the children that we see everyday?  "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.'" Mathew 19:14.

About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Who Is My Neighbor? (Workcamp 2017 Part 3)


This week we bring you part 3, the final of “Who Is My Neighbor” from the Senior High Workcamp participants who went to Crossville, TN this year to share the love of Christ.  Here are more testimonies from the youth:

“This week my neighbor told us that she had been in a really dark place for months after her husband died. She said that she had been praying for light and that then we showed up. I just thought this was an awesome God moment since the theme for the week was “Light It Up”.”

“My neighbor cried when we left claiming that we are God’s little angels and the only thing missing were the wings. We impacted her on a new level.”

“When Danen Kane talked about his friend struggling and sang the song he wrote for her.”

“I saw the light of Christ this week in the joy of our neighbors when they saw we had finished work on their house.”

“I saw the light of Christ in all of the girls and their willingness to get to know each other and be open!”

”I found the light of Christ when I was talking to the neighbor. She was just so thankful and I just knew that Christ had a great plan for me and that I had really found him.” - Sydney Garrells

“I saw the light of Christ in my neighbor. She provided us with food even though she did not have a lot of money. She also willingly shared her story with us and was the best neighbor I ever had in my past 5 years.”

“I saw God this week in my injury. Out of all the possible injuries that could have occurred, a cleanly broken left pinkie toe is the least painful. I am thankful that I was not more seriously injured. Also, I thank you Lord for keeping me as safe as you did.”

“I saw the light of Christ in many places this week. First of all, I saw it in the faces of many of my peers. So many of the youth were simply on fire for God. One specific peer stuck by me all week and taught me what it meant to follow Christ wholeheartedly. She has such a big heart and loves every single person so dearly. This week Tasha showed me unending friendship and compassion. Tasha showed me what a Godly woman is and how exactly she should act. Tasha showed me what determination meant in all that she did and said. Tasha became a forever friend in simply a week and I’m so glad God blessed me with such a great companion.”

Who Is My Neighbor (Workcamp 2017 Part 2)

This week we bring you part 2 of “Who Is My Neighbor” from the Senior High Workcamp participants who went to Crossville, TN this year to share the love of Christ.  Here are more testimonies from the youth.

“This week the songs during program spoke to me in a different way. Also, the people I met showed me that I need to work harder to be a strong Christian.” - Spencer Hopt

“I really enjoyed meeting lots of new people. I feel like Christ really moved through the people and everybody on my crew was very social. I have always felt a little disconnected, but now I finally feel like I am connected :) I was really blessed with a great crew and workcamp.”

“I saw God this week in my neighbor. She went through a lot in only the one week we were there but her faith was steadfast.  However, when I truly saw the light of Christ, we were going around the circle talking about each other. I really needed to hear what she said to me and it really touched me. Her faith and her words really inspired me and were exactly what I needed this week.”

“I experienced God’s presence in our evening programs and our Calvary devos. When we would worship God with songs I could relate to a lot of lyrics and I felt as if the Lord was speaking to me and comforting me. At one of the programs we had a candle and we would light it for a prayer to symbolize God has been through the same thing and He will be with us through it all. That touched me because I realized that our God has lived out a tough life on earth and He can relate to us. He knows how tough things can be and He will never leave us alone in these situations. I also saw God in my neighbor because she and her nurse were always so kind to my crew and at the end of the week she would participate in devos and she shared what she had learned about God in her life, which was amazing.” - Tasha Schuckman

“I saw the light when all the hard work felt like no big deal because we were doing it for a good cause and we had a big support system for us. Everyone was so welcoming and accepting all week.”

“I could see the light of Christ through my neighbor. She was the sweetest person and her love for her family, us and God was so strong. She showed me how to love like God.” - Maddie Zook