Who Is My Neighbor?

Red Bird Mission (Faith and School)


Red Bird Christian School seeks to minister to the whole student in their journey with God through teaching truth, loving the individual, and holding students accountable as we encourage and empower them to be people of influence. Tofacilitate this growth, residential students participate in: daily devotions; weekly chapel services; Saturday leadership training; and two Bible Studies courses during their high school career.

Red Bird Mission (Community Store)


The Red Bird Community Store is able to sell good, used clothing and household items at low prices to residents thanks to generous donations from individuals, churches, and organizations. In addition to meeting the clothing needs for people in the area, the store aides the local economy by providing full-time jobs for community residents. In cooperation with the Community Outreach ministries, furniture, clothing, and household times are made available for people in crisis due to fire, floods, and personal situations.

Red Bird Mission (Grow Appalachia)


Grow Appalachia provides the basic skills and resources for families interested in growing a garden to provide food for their household, as well as chicken tractors for laying hens. This year the program is serving 55 families. Red Bird Mission is committed to improve life in the community by providing healthy food options for families. Grow Appalachia hosts a seasonal Farmer’s Market for those interested in selling what food they cannot eat themselves for income. Farmer’s Market is openSaturdays in July through mid August.

Red Bird Mission (Store)

Red Bird Mission has been marketing local crafts since the early 1960’s and continues to be a source of secondary income to mountain families today. Our crafts come from crafters from Berea to Harlan, London to Hazard. Our crafters are gifted artisans in woodworking, weaving, basket-making, toy making and corn shuck flower making to name a few. Visit our webpage and store at http://ow.ly/mSN930kYAXz

Who Is My Neighbor? (Habitat for Humanity - Part 2)

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Affordable housing is one of the greatest needs in Bloomington/Normal.  Calvary may not be able to resolve this problem on our own, but we can partner with others to make a difference…one family at a time.

That is just what we’re doing with other United Methodist Churches in Bloomington/Normal this spring/summer/fall.  We will be working together on a Habitat for Humanity ‘Beloved’ Build (see last week’s Who Is My Neighbor for an explanation of that designation).  The house we will build will be located at 806 S. Madison in Bloomington.  It is a narrow lot, so it will be a two story home.  

The home owners are Kia and Georgia Griffin.  This is the bio information provided by Habitat for Humanity:  

Kia is originally from Bloomington, moved away for a short time and has been
back for 18 years.    Kia has one daughter, Georgia and she is 8 years old.  
Kia is employed at Jack Lewis Jewelers and has worked there for 5 years.  . 
Kia enjoys listening to music, reading and horseback riding.  Georgia also enjoys ice skating, music, reading, and “Girls in the Game”.  Also, Georgia is in Girl Scouts and Kia is the Scout leader.
The family attends St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Bloomington.  
The family is very excited about the upcoming build season.   Kia says, “I love the idea of helping to build my own home, learning how it all comes together.   I couldn’t be more inspired by the program and by the volunteers who come to assist.   We are so thankful to God and to Habitat for this opportunity.”

In addition to those of you who will volunteer to help build this house on Saturdays, this year we will gather with our brothers and sisters from Wesley and Normal First United Methodist Churches to build the frames for the walls of this house.  This will take place on May 19th from 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. in one of the parking lots of our churches (we’ll let you know the location as soon as we have that information).  The great thing for wall builds is that there can be more people involved, younger folks can participate, and we can get to know brothers and sisters in the other churches.

If you are retired, there is a special opportunity for you to serve during the week.  Every Tuesday and Thursday, retirees meet at the Habitat ReStore at 7:30 a.m. where they are given projects from the various Habitat Builds in the area.  This is a great way to serve as well as meet other folks.

 Finally, there are volunteer opportunities at Habitat’s ReStore at 1402 W. Washington in Bloomington.  The ReStore not only provides lower priced used products for people in the area (not just Habitat folks), but the profits from the ReStore go back into the Habitat Builds to make it possible to purchase land for future houses. 

Habitat for Humanity:  a great way to love our neighbors!

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

Who Is My Neighbor (Habitat for Humanity: Part 1)


The Calvary Habitat for Humanity Team is taking this pledge:  

“I believe that every single one of us — regardless of who we are or where we come from — deserves a decent life.
Like Dr. King, I believe in a Beloved Community of justice, equal opportunity and love of my fellow human beings.
I want to help build a world that leaves no room for poverty, prejudice or violence.
I pledge to work together with my neighbors, side by side, to create strength, stability and self-reliance for all.
I ask others to join me — it’s up to us to make this a reality.”

This the pledge to build a Beloved Community with whom we will partner with
Habitat for Humanity and the other United Methodist Churches in Bloomington/Normal.  Habitat for Humanity explains ‘Beloved’ builds in this way, “Marking the 50th anniversaries of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the passage of the Fair Housing Act, Habitat for Humanity engages nationwide in the Beloved Community initiative throughout the year.  Building on King’s vision, the Beloved Community allows access, equality and opportunity for all.  The Beloved Community is fair, just and built on the love of God operating in the human heart…...The projects are part of Habitat’s commitment to meet The King Center’s MLK 50 Forward challenge to carry out 50 acts of kindness or service recognizing the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.”

While there will be other Habitat Builds in McLean County, the one with which the Bloomington/Normal United Methodist Churches participates has been chosen as the ‘Beloved Community’ Build!

We will be partnering with Normal First UMC and Bloomington Wesley UMC as well as any of the other UM churches in town not already involved in a Habitat build.  Although each of the churches will be assigned a Saturday for which we are responsible, our intention is to mix it up so that we can get to know our brothers and sisters in these other churches.

Even if you have worked with Habitat in the past, we need you to sign up again because we want to get a fresh, accurate list.  Someone from Calvary’s Habitat group will be at a kiosk in the Atrium on Sunday, March 18 and 25.  If you are unable to sign up at those times, just call the church office or sign up here and we’ll get you connected!

More details in next week’s Who Is Your Neighbor article…...stay tuned.

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

Who Is My Neighbor (40 Days of Prayer - Week 3)

Our 40 Days of Prayer series has been such a blessing as we’ve gathered in small group Bible Studies to learn how to pray in newer, perhaps deeper ways.  We took this even further on March’s First Wednesday as we were given the opportunity to use 10 prayer stations as well as the labyrinth that continues to be set up in G004 (off of the gym) through Sunday, March 11.  It was a joy to watch people of all ages engage in these together and listen to the voice of God in various hands on experiences.

We aren’t even half-way through this series, so if you haven’t yet had a chance to be involved, please explore our website for materials and jump in at any time.  Participating in studies, discussions, and experiences of prayer is always fruitful…communicating with the Lord of the Universe is the most important act in which we can engage.

Another opportunity for powerful prayer will take place this Sunday, March 11th at 3:00 p.m. in the Worship Center.  Sometimes, the people Jesus points out as our neighbors are literally in our neighborhood!  Living in the Bloomington/Normal area means that we have many, many wonderful employers and a few very large ones.  We are grateful for each of them…..large or small.  Just as we would pray for those around the globe who are in a time of change and uncertainty, so we are called to pray for those in our own communities in that same situation.  
McLean County is a very transient area as folks move in and out due to jobs, school, family, etc.  However, we find ourselves at a time right now when those who may have seen themselves as having put down roots in B/N are finding themselves at a certain or possible relocation or even job loss.  This brings, of course, much stress on employers, employees, families, and companies and/or organizations that are secondarily rocked by these changes.

Our neighbors are in Buliisa.  Our neighbors are in Haiti.  Our neighbors are the homeless in Bloomington/Normal.  Our neighbors are children.  Our neighbors are elderly.  And our neighbors are those we know….now and anytime…..who need our prayers.  Many of them live in Bloomington/Normal right now.  May they know that they are loved, supported in prayer, and in the strong arms of Jesus.

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

Who Is My Neighbor?


As we continue our 40 Days of Prayer Series throughout Lent, I am reminded of the Scripture from which this column is named.  In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus answers the question, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  As he often did, Jesus answered the question with a question.  Ultimately, he helps his listeners to think about who we consider to be our neighbors.  While Lent is a time for self-examination, we can’t look at ourselves without examining how we are responding to the needs around us.

The first week in our study/prayer journal was ‘The Purpose of Prayer.’  Isn’t that obvious?  The purpose of prayer is to get what we want from God, right?  OK…..maybe that’s not the purpose.  However, do we pray as if that’s the case?  How often do we pray that God will give us the opportunities to make a difference in the world….even in the midst of our chaos? 

I would like for us to do something that won’t cause us to leave our houses, make any special trips, or cost us a dime.  I would like for us to spend time in prayer specifically praying for the following:

1-The homeless in Bloomington/Normal and the agencies that serve them.

2-Those who have to eat ‘cheap’ rather than nutritious food and ministries who attempt to alleviate this problem.

3-Those who live in substandard housing because they can’t afford anything better and they can’t risk upsetting their landlords.  Pray for landlords to be faithful and for more affordable housing to be made available.

This is just a beginning, but I think you can see where I’m going.  The purpose of prayer isn’t only to ask for our needs to be met…...we also have a responsibility to our neighbors. 

May we look for the power of God to be unleashed in our world as the prayers of God’s people abound.


Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC. 

Who Is My Neighbor? (Lightened By The Light - Week 4)

This past Sunday, Randy preached a sermon using Micah 6:1-8 as his text.  He asked, “What does God want from us?”  That question was this generation’s version of the question being asked by the people of Israel in the Micah passage.  What does God ‘require’ of us?  That answer is very simple:  “....to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

As a homework assignment, we were asked to practice mercy as we sought opportunities to care for and about others.  Randy suggested that we give you some ideas in this article….not just for this week, but for every week.  Of course in addition to the ideas listed below, you might read through former articles in this series to get ideas.  For some of this, mercy comes very easily and we see opportunities everywhere we look.  For others of us, we have to be very intentional about seeking out these opportunities and even more intentional about following through with actually fulfilling those acts.  Either way, God calls us to love mercy…..not because we ‘have to’, but because we are people of God with the heart of God.

So…here we go.  Feel free to add to this list and if you’ve experienced mercy from others in ways not listed here, please pass those stories along to me and/or others.

Let’s do the obvious ones first:

  • Visit someone in prison or jail.  Even if you don’t know anyone in this situation, call first and ask if there is someone who doesn’t get visitors.  We have Bibles at church if you’d like to take one to leave, or just spend time with the person without preaching ‘at’ them.
  • Visit a nursing home.  Randy mentioned this at one of the services Sunday.  Ask at the desk who might not have visitors or who is really down that particular day.  Whether they are communicative or not, you will be a blessing to them.
  • Call or stop by Home Sweet Home or Safe Harbor to see how you might be of help.  Try to offer an opportunity to sit down with a resident to just be a friend to them rather than a person who will judge them or look down on them.
  • Offer to care for a friend’s children for a few hours so your friend can get out of the house, go on a date, or just do nothing for a change.
  • Prepare a meal and take it to someone who has just gotten home from the hospital, or has had a baby or has lost a loved one or has just moved or…just anyone!
  • Bake some cookies and take them to a neighbor, the fire station, the police officer with the radar gun, etc.
  • Let someone go in front of you at the store (especially if they have a crying or fussy child).
  • Help someone carry their groceries to their car (only if you don’t look like you’re going to steal them!).
  • Help a neighbor (who knows you) carry their groceries into the house.
  • Sit in the middle of the row at church so that someone else can sit on the end.
  • Smile at the parents of a screaming child to let them know it’s OK.
  • Pay for someone’s meal or for the person behind you at a toll booth or fast food, etc.

There are so many more ideas…hopefully this gave you enough to whet your appetite.  If we would follow the words of the prophet Micah to act justly, love mercy and to walk kindly with our God, how might our world be blessed?

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

Who Is My Neighbor (Red Bird Mission)


Our God is so amazing…..I’m sure you already know that, but let me give you another illustration of God’s hand at work.

Calvary’s Outreach team has identified several ministries to support in three categories:  Local, National, and International.  (A summary of those are in last week’s Who Is My Neighbor.)  These ministries were brought to our attention by you…..the body of Christ at Calvary.

We have two international ministries about which Calvary is passionate:  Buliisa and Haiti.  We also have many local ministries with whom Calvary folks have a special place in their hearts.

The missing piece was national ministry…..something outside of our immediate area, but still in the US.  Workcamp is one of those ministries….our youth sponsor that trip yearly and many adults and youth reach out to others in a particular region.  However, we wanted to partner with a ministry that was close enough that all ages could participate and anyone could easily drive there in a day.  I knew about Red Bird Mission, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky and the important services they provide the people in that area.  We began financially supporting that ministry and wanted to fulfill our commitment to not just give money to ministries, but to also give of our time in volunteering.  We had not yet found anyone to run with this because they were already committed to other outreach ministries.  Until…

Sandy and Gary Dickson read about Red Bird Mission in a Who Is Your Neighbor article and the fire in their hearts was immediately lit.  God worked in them and within 6 weeks, they were on their way to Kentucky with the following items that were needed:

   5 sheet sets
   5 blankets
   3 fleece throws
   1 throw pillow
   2 crocheted baby blankets
   3 crocheted scarves
   1 pair gloves

   10 sheet sets
   2 flat sheets
   8 assorted pillow cases
   3 bed quilts (1 was handmade)
   1 fleece throw
   1 bag of stocking caps, gloves, scarf)
   1 bag of small stuffed toys
   6 pair nearly new shoes
   1 pair men’s work boots

Thanks to a quick turnaround from all of you, the Dicksons had a full load of items that the staff at Red Bird had identified as immediate needs.  Thank you church!  And thank you all for listening to God’s call on your life.  We never know when God will nudge us and say, “Look….over there. That’s your neighbor.”

(Read more about this ministry at www.rbmission.org)

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

Who Is My Neighbor? (Safe Harbor)

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Sometimes we have the time to plan ahead for ministry support outside of our church.  And then there are those times when we hear about a need and a response is needed immediately.  The latter was the case during the bitter cold that we had after Christmas.  One of our Calvary family heard from the Safe Harbor staff that the number of people coming there for a warm place to sleep was far beyond what they usually serve.  They were in desperate need of blankets and socks.  We put this need on Facebook and very quickly people were responding.  We don’t know how many folks took blankets and/or socks directly to Safe Harbor (there was no time to collect at Calvary and then deliver them), but we did have another of our Calvary family members who went to Walmart and purchased 27 blankets and 126 pair of socks on behalf of the church.  In addition, a local restaurant delivered 100 chicken dinners to Safe Harbor.

This is what happens when the people of God hear about a need.  Being in a warm house when it’s bitterly cold outside just makes us more keenly aware of how miserable it would be to be outside longer than the time it takes to walk to our car.

Thank you for continually responding to needs as they arise.  This is what it means to love our neighbor.

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

Who Is My Neighbor? (2017 in Review)


One of the things I enjoy about the end of one year and the beginning of the next are the various ‘Year in Review’ segments in the news.  Although there are plenty of things for which to be sad (deaths, wildfires, flooding), I love to remember the incredible blessings God has allowed us to witness.

There are many members of our Calvary family ministering to our community everyday in ways we don’t even know….and we celebrate their faithfulness to God!  There are also some things that we do as a church that we can easily identify…..and I want to make sure all of us see this full picture so that we can celebrate the faithfulness of our God.

Calvary tithes (gives 10% of our donations) to ministry beyond our walls.  In Matthew 25, we read these words of Jesus, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me,  was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  (For the full effect, read Matthew 25:31-46.)

The Outreach Team has the responsibility of determining where the funds go.  Rounded off to the nearest 100, here’s how your tithe was used in  2017:

The Baby Fold                    $11,000
Faith in Action                       5,000
Home Sweet Home Ministries         11,300
Habitat for Humanity                 10,000
Midwest Food Bank                 10,000
Buliisa Water Project                 10,000
Haiti Church Build and Missions         14,700
Elmira Sellu (Missionary in Sierra Leone)       2,500
Illini Fighting Hunger (food packaging)       2,900
Mom and Me Camp                   2,000
Flood Relief (UMCOR)               5,000
Operation Christmas Child               1,000
Linda Unger (missionary in Nairobi)          3,000
Red Bird Mission                    1,000
ISU Wesley Foundation               5,000
Bloomington Township Community Care       1,000
Calvary’s Good Samaritan Fund          1,500
Flood Bucket Supplies                  500
Suubi Works (Uganda)              3,500
Our Conference Our Kids              3,500
Parkside Elementary Special Olympics         950

The United Methodist Church requests 6 special offerings which help various people in need and Outreach also contributed $600 to each of those 6 areas.

In addition, the church proudly contributes to the General Church (the United Methodist Church as a whole) through a benevolence asking called the World Service Apportionment, which supports a plethora of ministries throughout the world. Through the World Service Fund, we join hands with United Methodists around the world to help those in need.
Of course, it’s not only financial support that we provide…..people volunteered in nearly all of the above ministries and donated food, clothing, and gifts to many of God’s people.

So…..Calvary’s year in review, in part says that God was very faithful to allow us to fulfill the instructions of Jesus written in Matthew 25.  Thank you for being a part of God’s work throughout the world in 2017!

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