The amount of "mission" work flowing from the hearts and hands of Warren County residents is astounding. The following is a partial sample of the financial, practical and prayerful support offered at:
Several students from First United Methodist Church have done international mission trips, to Kenya, Ecuador and other locations.
Nettie Swart, wife of parish associate John Swart, has assisted at the lay academy in Zimbabwe. Church member Maria Zurcher has been on Columbia missions twice. Rich and Mary Schall as well as other parishioners have been to several countries on misisions including Russia, Germany, Paraguay and especially Nicaragua. Rich is the Director of Western Pennsylvania - Nicaraugua Partnership and has travelled there several times expanding missions in that country.
First United Methodist Church gives an apportionment annually of $68,000 to Church World Service Board of Global Ministries that covers a variety of national and international interventions for those in need.
Special collections are taken regularly in time of crisis, like hurricanes, fires and floods. Regular appeals are addresses to the local congregation as they occur.
Money that goes to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) helps alleviate human suffering around the globe, according to UMCOR. Its work reaches people in more than 80 countries, including the U.S., providing humanitarian relief when war, conflict, or natural disaster disrupt life to such an extent that communities are unable to recover on their own. UMCOR "cooperates with other aid organizations to extend our reach, our most important partners are the people we serve. We are confident that successful solutions to emergency or chronic conditions begin with the affected population. UMCOR provides these survivors not only temporary relief but long-term education, training, and support."
One hundred percent of donations are spent on the projects donors specify, and none of it on overhead.
"When UMCOR donors give their time, money, and supplies, they join UMCOR as the hands and feet of Christ."
Imagine No Malaria was a mission emphasis for three years across all the United Methodist Churches of Western Pennsylvania. Parishioners' at Warren FUMC exceeded their goal of $23,000 for this important mission.
Malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, and can result in anemia, coma, and death if left untreated. Although malaria, a disease of poverty, is preventable, every year it kills 700,000 people, mostly children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UMCOR. United Methodists are part of a worldwide effort to eradicate this disease by the year 2015.
The Imagine No Malaria Program currently provides grants to UMC Health Boards and UMC-affiliated structures in Africa, providing medication to treat malaria, purchasing and delivering one insecticide-treated mosquito net, covering the expenses for an anti-malaria campaign in a local school, training traditional birth attendants in malaria prevention and treatment. $500 provides all the expenses for a one day community leader training for 35-40 attendees on malaria prevention. $4,000 purchases a year's worth of malaria laboratory test kits for all UMC clinics in Bo District, Sierra Leone. $5,000 supports a bed net distribution program targeting pregnant women and children in 20 communities in Liberia. $10,000 purchases anti-malarial medications for patients cared for in a rural hospital in Nigeria for one year. $20,000 underwrites a health board training for both annual conferences in Angola, to assist our church in developing a strategic community-based health and malaria prevention plan.
The local Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference also supports Michael B. Airgood of Kane, a United Methodist missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries serving as a church planter and youth ministry developer in Western Ukraine, based in the city of L'viv.
The United Methodist presence in L'viv and the surrounding areas is growing rapidly after having been introduced through student ministry. University-based work led to the formation of the L'viv United Methodist Church and to a new church start in a nearby village. Two missionaries were assisted by volunteers, but it became evident in mid-2011 that an additional missionary was needed to help with the expanding opportunities.
Michael, commissioned in the fall of 2011, has special responsibility in the areas of new church development; youth ministry, including teenagers; lay leadership training; and English-language outreach. He leads Sunday worship and preaches as needed. He speaks Ukrainian, Russian, and English. Airgood earned a bachelor of science degree in intercultural studies from Toccoa Falls College, Toccoa, Georgia, and is a licensed local pastor.
"I grew up in a Christian home, having attended a United Methodist church all of my life. I chose to follow Jesus when I was at a church camp at age 11," Michael says. "I felt called to be a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries when I was 12 years old. I knew I wanted to help people and make disciples of Jesus Christ."
Right out of college, he became an Individual Volunteer in Mission through Global Ministries, serving two months in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and 13 months in Ukraine, a year in L'viv and a month in Kiev. In the summer of 2010, Michael was a delegate from the Northeastern Jurisdiction to the United Methodist Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly in Berlin.
Phyllis Wright is excited about work she has done in Paraguay. The "mission experience to help beginners and advance women sewers was very gratifying." she said. "Just like women in the USA, to have a job skill gives confidence for their future. In this country there are very few jobs and daily life is difficult. Some women are the only support of their families so a steady income important."
During sewing instruction, the same pattern is used, Wright explained, "and their creativity is outstanding. Our team of four sewers from the Meadville and Venango areas were led by Loyce Faust of the Conneautville Valley Methodist Church. We worked in a sewing center at the Methodist Nimby training facility for Paraguay pastors and church leaders, (south of the capital - Asuncion) It is a life long mission of Mrs. Faust to provide sewing skills for the women. Each day there were four to six women returning and eager to learn how to operate sewing machines, read patterns, learn sewing techniques as they made tops, slacks, jackets, plus small home decorative items. Donations of fabric and sewing supplies were transported by the team to the center."
But it wasn't just about sewing.
We "learned what a deep faith the women have in God's work," Wright said, "which only strengthens our own faith."
For more information about the next trip, planned for July, call Wright at 726 1198. Other team members will be working on construction needs at the training center during the same time.
First United Methodist Church has sent an intergenerational mission team to "Pittsburgh Project" each summer for more than 20 years.
Through work crews which give more than 50,000 hours each year, the Pittsburgh Project provides free home repairs for homeowners who are elderly, poor, shut-in, widowed, disabled, or immobile, according to the Project. Most live in substandard conditions, and many are cited for building code violations, facing the possibility of eviction if repairs are not completed. Projects include exterior and interior painting, repairing damaged walls and ceilings, hanging drywall, installing new toilets, constructing wheelchair ramps, clearing debris, repointing loose bricks, fortifying retaining walls, replacing doors, floors, and windows, patching holes on rooftops, and many other smaller jobs. Crews repair more than 200 homes each year in neighborhoods throughout the city, as well as in neighboring urban boroughs.
This year, more than 35 plan to travel to Pittsburgh from First United Methodist. Fund-raising for the trip takes place throughout the school year.
Pittsburgh Project may have the largest impact on the FUM church family.
It's important to "start right, giving back to the community and helping people in Christian mission," explained Gary Kell. "We want them to grow up" knowing it's important to help.
First United Methodist has sent several teams to help with hurricane relief efforts in New Jersey, and another team is preparing to help in October.
Most recently, the church is supporting the evangelism training at Haggai Institute, "Training Leaders Globally to Impact their world locally."
"God has uniquely placed passionate Christian men and women into positions of leadership within their own communities all over the world. We only accept men and women, with proven influence and tra ck records, from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East," according to the Institute. "Haggai Institute training provides only culturally-relevant expertise in making Christ known, through word and action, even in the toughest places. Alumni call the experience 'life-changing.' They emerge focused, determined, supported, and equipped for evangelism. Individually, each impacts a field of influence only he or she can touch. Collectively, they impact almost every profession and field of ministry, in nearly every developing nation."
Over the last few years the local church has contributed $9,000 and just pledged another $12,000 over a four-year period for this unique evangelism training.
First United Methodist Church supports local organizations, including the Crary Home, The Crossing, Family Services, Salvation Army, Wesley Woods, Olmsted Manor Adult Retreat Center, the Ruth M. Smith Center, WASU, Sharing Place, House of Hope and the ministry program at the Warren County Jail. The church's donation to Family Services supports drug and alcohol counseling.
"There's such a great need for counseling in this area," said former pastor Dr. Jeffrey Sterling. "Mental health is a growing concern."
The Kane district is currently organizing a ramp building ministry. Modules for the ramps are pre-built, and a volunteer crew puts them together in one day. It is being modeled after one already operating in the Western Pennsylvania conference.
Giving is "part of a church's lifeblood ... its vitality" Sterling explained. "A church that doesn't is going to die. Jesus said 'I will bless you that you might be a blessing'."
"We think of outreach" in three ways, Kell added borrowing the phrase, "Prayers, Players and Payers": one, praying for people in need and for the teams that go on mission trips; two, going and doing, hands-on missions; and three, financial support of others and missions.
"That includes everybody in the church," Kell said. Everyone can participate in a significant way.
And, the personal satisfaction is unequaled.
"Until you've gone on a mission trip, you don't realize the satisfaction of helping others," Kell said.
Churches who would like to submit a round-up of their missions efforts may do so to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include photographs to enhance the story.