Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Susquehanna LINK, November issue


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Connecting Ministries - Sojourner Truth Ministries Celebrates 20 Years of Caring for Williamsport Neighbors

Photo courtesy of Angelique Labadie

Rev. Victoria Rebeck, Director of Connecting Ministries

A room full of Williamsport neighbors slogged through torrential rain on September 22 to the warm home of Sojourner Truth Ministries. They came to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this United Methodist ministry that serves the area’s most vulnerable.

While the mission, which meets in a former church building, offers a breadth of opportunities to the neighbors, it may be best known for its community lunch, offered six days a week. Food for the body—a hot meal, served family style—is served along with food for the soul, a time of prayer and an uplifting message. 

“Our guests can have a special meal with their families,” says Pat Bole, a long-time supporter of the ministry. “This is home for many people.”

Rev. Angelique Labadie-Cihanowyz, a Nazarene clergywoman, oversees the ministry in her role as executive director. An energetic, visionary leader, she is well known for her compassion. Children of all ages ran up to talk to her during the celebration.

“My takeaway from working here is that poverty is complex, with multifaceted barriers,” Rev. Labadie-Cihanowyz says. “And I have the honor and responsibility to find a way to connect with every single person who comes to us, to show the love of Christ and preach the Good News through actions and words.” 

In addition to the weekday meals, Sojourner Truth offers a number of compassionate and empowering ministries.

After-School Kids (ASK) meets twice a week to provide a safe place for children to receive nurturing, homework help, one-on-one attention, Bible lessons, and a meal. More programming is offered to children in the summer. Neighbors can stop by for emergency food packages, hygiene items, socks, gloves, hats, and blankets. A sewing group that met in the building created a large quilt depicting Noah’s ark, which now graces a wall at the center. A Bible study meets on Tuesday mornings.

Dinner Church gathers on Saturdays for an abbreviated worship service and a meal. 

“The goal is to make it feel like Thanksgiving dinner,” Rev. Labadie-Cihanowyz says. Visitors from other churches sit down at the table with the guests, engaging in conversation and getting to know each other. Building relationships and recognizing the guests’ dignity is as important as the meal.

“You can rely on these people,” says Paul, a regular luncheon guest whose story is featured on the organization’s website. Like many people, he needs to rely on the center to provide a meal every day, not just once or twice a month. “These are real people, real church,” he says. According to the website, Paul “came in for food, but received acceptance, help, love, and is being transformed by Jesus.”

Twenty years ago, a group of United Methodist clergy and laypeople felt called to start a meaningful ministry in Williamsport. They spent time walking around the city and praying. One of the walkers had a vision wheel with a center hub with spokes radiating out from it.

Sojourner Truth Ministries became that hub, and churches in the area became the spokes that assist the ministries. STM united the churches in shared ministry; together they were able to offer more than they would have individually.

On occasion they engage Hillside Catering, which hires some folks in the STM community.

“We’re not afraid to try new things,” Bole says. The board is dreaming of future ministries such as literacy classes for adults, rooms on Friday nights for Twelve Step groups, and perhaps serving as hub for gathering materials for Mission Central, the Mechanicsburg-based warehouse for medical supplies, flood recovery kits, and other missions materials.

Soon, House of Hope will open. This will provide a short-term, communal home for women coming out of homelessness. The women will also learn practical skills in budgeting to work toward sustainability 

As a United Methodist Ministry, STM welcomes donations and volunteer help. Visit the website, Facebook page or email to learn more about how you can be a part of this life-saving, relationship-building Beloved Community.

Growing Spiritual Transformational Leaders - Youth Ministry Listening Posts – What Did We Learn?

Youth attending Youth Rally at Lake Winola UMC

Kim Shockley, Coordinator for Pathways of Spiritual Leadership, Staff Liaison to the Young People’s Ministry Council

On October 22 and 23 I partnered with Kenda Dean and Trey Wince from Ministry Incubators to talk with youth workers from around the Susquehanna Conference. Considering that we met by Zoom, we had an energetic conversation that helped us to learn what is changing in youth ministry from the perspective of those who are leading.

All of the youth workers (paid and volunteer) were able to name young people who are recognizing God’s presence in their lives and have some sense of their giftedness and how God may want to use them daily. Even the pandemic has not stopped the movement of God through our young people!

There are several ways in which youth ministry and a local churches ability to impact young people is changing. Most of our youth workers have indicated that the number of students and adult volunteers has lessened. We all know this and recognize it in the participation of all church events. That doesn’t minimize the discouragement that our youth workers feel! In some ways, this lessening has been happening before the pandemic as families have fewer children and younger families struggle with the demands of raising children in our hectic society.

One of the most significant changes that many of our youth workers noticed is that their students are mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. One even suggested that there should be a social worker who comes to meetings to help keep an eye on the health of the students. Where are the support systems for helping our young people thrive in today’s world? Helping our youth workers practice a listening ear and a caring attitude is one of their best ways of doing ministry.

Youth at Spry UMC, York

Some of the more positive changes that our youth workers are noticing is that students love the opportunity to serve their communities – building sheds, serving meals – young people show up for these events more often and more consistently than they come to youth group meetings and worship. These event help youth workers to build relationships with their students and the students among each other. Adding a brief lesson and conversation to these events seems to work well! Just because we may not see these young people in worship on Sunday morning doesn’t mean that they aren’t actively being Jesus’ presence in the community!

Also, students will bring their friends when they are doing the kinds of activities that are helping them to develop as persons. One youth worker shared their emphasis on understanding personalities and giftedness as being a very positive experience for their teens.

In order for the Susquehanna Conference to offer youth ministries that thrive into the future, we all need to be praying for our youth workers and the young people they minister to. If you have a school in your community, then you have young people for which to pray!

 For those of you who have active prayer lives, consider this daily prayer:

“Holy God, watch over our young people. Keep them safe from the chaos of life during these strange times. (Name those young people whom you know!) I ask that Your Holy Spirit breathe inspiration into the lives of our youth workers, pastors, and church leaders (Name those you know) so that we can courageously make decisions that uplift our young people as leaders for today! Help me to see how I can be a positive influence on the life of a young person today. Amen.”

As you pray, listen for God’s message, and share it with your church leaders. Share it with me – or 407-276-5114. Every renewal of any kind always starts with prayer and recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit among us. Let’s continue the conversation as we look for ways to actively support our youth workers and our young people! 

Congratulations to our 2021 Class of Elders!

Left to right: Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, Rev. Daniel Wilt, Rev. Jason Schwartzman, Rev. David Layser, Rev. Kristopher Sledge, and Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi.

You can view the Ordination Service at

Daniel L. Wilt was born in Altoona, PA, attending Altoona High School, University of Valley Forge and Wesley Theological Seminary. He was recommended for ministry by Second Avenue UMC, Altoona. He currently serves as pastor at St Paul’s UMC in Lewisburg in the Lewisburg District. His favorite scripture is John 15:15. “My faith begins and ends in relationship; rituals, traditions, songs, services, buildings, and all that are insignificant if I don’t remember the relationship.” 

Jason M. Schwartzman was born in New York, New York; attending St Raymond High School (Bronx NY), Caldwell College, and United Theological Seminary. Jason is married to Michelle and father to Dante and Jahnavi. He was recommended for ministry by Aldersgate UMC in York. He currently serves as pastor at Grace UMC, Lemoyne in the Harrisburg District. His favorite scripture is John 10:10. “This verse is an inspiration and a challenge to each of us to embrace the full spectrum of human experience.”

David N. Layser was born in Harrisburg, PA., attending Hershey High School, Messiah College and Asbury Theological Seminary. David is married to Emily and father to Julia, Edison, Gideon, and Joel. He was recommended for ministry by Fishburn UMC in Hershey. He currently is pastor of Trinity UMC, Danville in the Lewisburg District. His favorite scripture is John 15:5 “It reminds me that the calling of discipleship and ministry—with all its adventures, demands, and challenges—is most basically an invitation to abide in an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus, from which the good fruit of the Kingdom naturally grows. When I am really living like this (and there are many times I am not!), the pressure is off, life is abundant, and ministry is good.” 

Kristopher R. Sledge was born in Lewisburg, PA, attending Selinsgrove High School, Messiah University and Wesley Theological Seminary. Kris is married to Hannah and father to Lydia. He was recommended for ministry by Christ Community Church in Selinsgrove. He currently serves as pastor at The Journey in the Harrisburg District. His favorite scripture is from Romans 8:31. “In the midst of one of the darkest experiences in my life, Romans 8:31 gave me the deep assurance that even in the midst of trauma, God was present, caring, and indeed for me!”

You Did It! Thank you for making Matching Monday a huge success

The Matching Monday Challenge is our most important appeal of the year. This year, the challenge was to raise $40,000 for Camp and Retreat Ministry. We are absolutely thrilled to celebrate you, and share that you have far surpassed that goal and have currently raised $49,000 for camps during this appeal!

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, we know that some of you are continuing Matching Monday in your own ways. Churches in the Scranton Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport Districts, did you know you’ve been challenged!? If you are a church in one of these districts, check with your district office to see how you can continue to raise financial support for these sacred spaces through the Challenge your districts have put out.

While the six weeks of the Matching Monday Challenge may be complete, you can always support Camp and Retreat Ministry. Your generosity in financial giving remains a need. Donate Anytime!

Click here and select “2021 Camp Comeback Campaign” on the donation page. Any amount helps!

Do you prefer to donate with a check? Make an off-line donation by check payable to:

Susquehanna Conference
c/o Camp & Retreat Ministry
303 Mulberry Drive
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

Memo line: “Matching Monday”

Thank you for your support!

Hearts Strangely Warmed

“While the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” — John Wesley, May 24, 1738 

God calls us to tell our story so that others may come to know Jesus Christ. “Hearts Strangely Warmed” was created to share these stories about transformational encounters with the Living God.

Rev. Jason Schwartzman

I had been offered a chance to pastor a church while I was a youth director at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in York. I flatly refused. I wasn’t a pastor. I was a youth director and I loved everything about that job! I was happy there and had no interest in being a pastor at all! God was patient. 

Circumstances changed and soon my family discerned a call to be missionaries in India. I wanted to go there to help foster and build a deep sense of community and care. On September 12, 2011—24 hours before our plane left New York City—Michelle (my wife) and I were making a last run or two to CVS and some other places. We passed Otterbein United Methodist Church in York. I casually said to Michelle, “Now if I was ever asked to be the pastor of THAT church, I wouldn’t say no”. We finished our errands and boarded our plane the next afternoon. God was patient. 

I can fill pages about the incredible and wonderful experiences we had in India. The stories of those children are forever etched in my heart and in my mind. Their courage, their joy and their SENSE OF COMMUNITY changed my life. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was the one who was learning while I was in India. I was learning that sense of community that I longed for so deeply was very present in that village and at that school. And that’s what I longed to bring home to the United States. God was patient…and wise. 

Upon our arrival back in the US, the first few weeks were a blur! My daughter was born just a few weeks after we got back, there were a few places of employment that I would rather forget, but there was also a life-changing phone call. “Jason, I know you said no before…but I really think that this church would be a great match for you….” I sheepishly responded “Okay, which church…?” Wouldn’t you believe, it was Otterbein UMC in York? God was patient. God was wise. I couldn’t say no. I promised I wouldn’t say no! 

Once again, I could fill PAGES with the joy that was becoming the pastor of Otterbein Church in York (RIP). I saw the sense of community that I longed to experience actually come to fruition in so many tangible ways at Otterbein! The following appointments have been equally as rewarding: East End/Fairview UMCs in Altoona and now Grace UMC in Lemoyne. It has always been, and I imagine always will be, my goal to make the church a part of the community in deep and meaningful ways. We, the church —every church—exist for the people who have not yet walked into our doors and have not yet experienced a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. This work is worth giving my life to! God was patient, even when I wasn’t. God was wise, even when I wasn’t. 

I am honored to have been ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church. There are not enough pages in The LINK to thank the people that made this day possible. I am so filled with gratitude and awe of the tremendous churches I have had the privilege of serving, my incredible family who has supported every step of this journey, and of course the amazing grace of God, who was patient. 

Called to Love All God’s People

By Bishop Jane Allen Middleton (retired)

2021 Susquehanna Annual Conference, June 19, 2021. Juneteenth. (12:47-35:44)

Scriptures: 1 John 4:11-16, 19-21 and Luke 10:25-37

Love God with all your heart and mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. That is the commandment which Jesus gives us. He calls this the most important of all commandments. It sounds so simple but it isn’t because we humans, even we who are good church people, are very complex. 

The neighbors Jesus tells us to love refers to all people. So this commandment sounds quite simple, but [in addition to us being] really complex, this word neighbor is all-inclusive—everybody! Neighbors really does means all, and some of the neighbors we are called to love are not the ones we want to love at all.

Underlying all of scripture is the fundamental truth of the power of God’s love. God out of His infinite love created the world and all that is in it and called it good. Underlying all of theology is God’s unconditional love of all people. All means all people.

Who are these people? That troublesome neighbor? Yes. That difficult father-in-law, parent, child? Yes. The ‘never Trumper’ that drives you nuts or the ‘Trumper’ that drives you nuts? Yes. The homeless, unkempt one with the sign “Will work for food”? The arrogant millionaire? The person who is constantly rude, even cruel to you? Yes, yes, yes! All are God’s beloved.

Love is so very basic. Love that a child learns in the crib in a wondrous cycle of love. The mother gazes at her child and smiles. The baby smiles in return awakening profound love in the mother. She reaches for her precious child and the child giggles, the sound brings joy to the mother who in turn embraces the child in a warm embrace. It’s a cycle; love is given, love is received, love is returned.

This is the loving gaze that God gives to every human being. We can love because God first loved us. This is our source, and when we can reach into our hearts for that source our capacity to love grows and grows. That same love relationship happens between people, or it can. 

Mary Janecek was my classmate in third through sixth grades. Her family immigrated from Czechoslovakia when she was eight because of World War II. She really bugged me. The truth is, I was very jealous of her and I tried to make her life miserable, and it may be that she made mine miserable as well. Everything changed in the sixth grade. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember as if it were yesterday, that one day she invited me to her house after school. It was a beautiful spring day. We wandered in the woods near her house, picking beautiful wildflowers and rejoicing in the warmth and loveliness of the day, which was made more beautiful because we were enjoying friendship. Those years of hostility were obliterated by the glory of mutual friendship and yes, love. At the end of the school year my family moved away and I never saw her again, but I’ve never forgotten the wonder of that reconciliation and how it was so much more fun than being enemies.

How do we do this? What is expected of us? How do we love everyone?

When Jesus was asked who is my neighbor, who is the one I should love? He answered with a story. You probably know this story by heart. Perhaps not like the way I’m going to tell it, but this may be how Jesus would tell the story today...

A man was walking from Jerusalem to Jericho when suddenly a band of robbers attacked him and stole everything he had and left him half dead by the side of the road. 

The first to come by was a pastor. He may have been a United Methodist. He saw this poor man but the man looked almost dead, beyond help and he walked on by. The second to come along may have also been a pastor, maybe an evangelical or Roman Catholic who also saw the terrible state he was in and kept walking. 

And then a third came down the road. Who was he? We’re told he was a Samaritan. Today, perhaps a Hindu from India. Or Black. Or even an apparent recovering drug addict. Maybe he was Jewish, from Brooklyn. He was the ‘other’. And he immediately gave this wounded, suffering stranger his own garment, bound his wounds as best he could. And took him to a hospital telling them he would pay for everything and would check on him when he returned from his trip. 

Well, that’s not exactly what the bible says but you get the picture.

Over and over the stories Jesus tells reach across societal and prejudicial boundaries and the mighty are struck low and the lowly are lifted up. The heroes of his stories are the tax collector, the woman with an issue of blood, the poor widow, the leper, the Samaritan woman. He turns the values of the world upside down and challenges us to do so today. But it’s hard. We are so much a product of our prejudices and assumptions.

I’m reminded of a time when our grandson Anthony was about nine years old and we were spending the day in New York City. As we were walking down the street I saw a man I recognized. I said as we approached him, “I know that man.” It happened that the church which I pastored at the time had a ministry called Midnight Run. About once a month we would take a van into New York City, arriving about midnight, and we would spend the night distributing soup, beverages, bag lunches, clothing and blankets. This man was frequently one of the people we encountered. Truthfully, I was actually trying to impress my grandson, but as we walked by I said nothing and I assume he didn’t recognize me. Anthony said with a puzzled expression, “Why didn’t he say hello?” I felt a huge pang of guilt. Why didn’t I even say hello? He wasn’t my friend and [I’d treated him like] an object, as one-among-many receiving my benevolence at 62nd and Park. I didn’t love him.

The kind of love Jesus is calling for is a profound love in which the Christ in me sees the Christ in the other—every other.

The power of love Christ requires of us is its all-inclusiveness. The most impossible reality of that love is its all-inclusiveness. How can we love, knowing our own frailties? We cannot love in this radically inclusive way through our own power. Only by surrendering our will, our idiosyncracies, our dysfunction, and our prejudices to God can we even begin to love with radical inclusiveness. Perhaps—even most important—if we can accept with every part of our being that we ourselves are unconditionally loved by God, perhaps then we can truly love.

For those of us in the white majority, the commandment of Jesus to love becomes much more specific. And it is more of a challenge as we face the reality that this wondrous nation of many peoples is a nation of immigrants, except for native peoples and blacks who came as slaves, representing almost the entire human spectrum.

And we are called to love all, people of every race and creed. 

Love is a verb. It is a decision, a practice. Do it until you believe it. 

Jesus calls us to a better way, The way of truly seeing one another as sisters and brothers, the way of infinite love.

Jesus calls us to understand that when one suffers we all suffer. One hundred years ago, in Tulsa Oklahoma, racial hatred resulted in the deaths of some 300 people and the destruction of an entire community of people whose only crime was to be born black. Jack grew up in Tulsa and had never even heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

The horrendous acts of May 31 and June 1, 1921, not only destroyed a whole community but these acts destroyed the future for hundreds. This truth struck me profoundly because our parents come from there. When the massacre occurred, Jack’s father who was born in Tulsa was four. My father who was born in nearby Muskogee was seven. Our mothers were both three years old. None of them were children of college graduates, but in spite of poor beginnings they accomplished a lot in their lives. 

In contrast, many other three, four and seven year olds were also living in Tulsa at that same time. They were among approximately 13,000 people who lived in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa. It was a thriving community with many college graduates, doctors, pastors, teachers, financiers, as well as many large and small business owners. Their children could look forward to a very bright future. This community had only one very huge problem. The citizens of this very successful, thriving part of Tulsa were black.

The whole area of Greenwood was burned [by white rioters] overnight leaving some 10,000 people homeless. Details are still unknown but it is estimated that from 300 to 3000 were killed, wounded, or missing. Most of the area was destroyed by fire including over 600 businesses.

All of this was stolen by hatred. But more than that, those three, four, and seven-year-olds, along with hundreds of other surviving children, lost their future.

In her book Caste, Isabel Wilkerson compares the 400 years of blacks in the United States to the caste systems in India and Nazi Germany. She writes that the creation of a caste system happens when one group stigmatizes another and dehumanizes them in order to justify a system of perpetual domination. A caste system, according to Wilkerson sets the presumed supremacy of one group against the presumed inferiority of other groups on the basis of ancestry and often immutable traits. 

Jesus invites us to live into a beloved community which destroys these systems and replaces them with justice and love.

Howard Thurman, the great African American scholar and pastor of Boston School of Theology, said, “When I have lost harmony with another, my whole life is thrown out of tune. God tends to be remote and far away when a desert and sea appear between me and another. I draw close to God as I draw close to my fellow people. The great incentive remains ever alert; I cannot be at peace without God, and I cannot be truly aware of God if I am not at peace with my fellow people.”

The words of first John remind us that the source of this love is God in Christ Jesus. We can’t do this by our own power but by God’s gift. It’s a wondrous circle of love. “If we love each other, God remains perfect in us.” (1 John 4:12) Only by God’s grace can we even hope to live a life of love. The proof of our capacity to love is in our relationships with the near one and the far one, with those closest to us as well as those who are unlike us, our opposites. “If anyone says I love God and hates their brother or sister he or she is a liar.” (1 John 4:20)We must love with every fiber of our being. We must love because God first loved us. How can we do this? By allowing the Christ in me, to recognize the Christ in you.

All things are possible through Jesus Christ who loves us. With this love in our hearts, anything is possible.

Can we be God’s beloved community? May it be so.

Connecting With Your Community

By Doug Hoy, SUSUMC Disaster Response Coordinator

Growing up, I spent many hours watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and learning life lessons that have formed who I am today. Fred Rogers was a pastor and, through his ministry and television show, he emphasized the importance of kindness, community, and friendship.

He once said, “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

When we think of disasters, what comes to mind? Hurricanes…Flooding…Wildfires…Earthquakes? Have we considered the homeless, the hungry, single parents, seniors, or that forgotten population between 18 and twenty-something? While the needs of survivors of the former certainly should occupy our thoughts, prayers, and actions, the latter also suffer. They are our neighbors and friends. They live in our communities. They have needs!

And, while it is not about the numbers, research confirms this. Fifty seven percent of Americans surveyed indicated they only know some of their neighbors. Sixty nine percent of 13 to 25 year olds say they have three or four meaningful interactions within a day. Forty percent say they have no one to talk to and that no one really knows them well.

Our younger population is suffering as well. One in four young people say they have one or fewer adults in their lives they can turn to if they need to talk. Twenty-four percent of young people indicated they have no adult mentors and feel like their life has no meaning or purpose. 

In a world so fraught over the impact of a pandemic, troubled by social and political discord, and divided by racial and social injustice, there are people in our communities who are hurting, lonely, and in search of someone who cares. They want to connect, talk, and find meaning and purpose in their lives.

Philippians 4:19 says, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” This verse reveals that our God is an abundantly loving, caring, and giving. When we keep our eyes focused on Him, He will work in our lives and communities and give us opportunities to meet every need. He will supply us with the ability to be a caring, Christian presence to someone in need. And, according to the numbers, all we need to do is reach out.

So, who are those people in our neighborhoods? And, how can we identify their needs?

The Disaster Response Ministry offers the Connecting Neighbors program, which provides church leaders, laity, and congregations with ideas about how to do mission in our own back yards. Equipping Vital Congregations offers the Mission Insite program that can help congregations identify those areas of need within our community. Using these resources will help us to learn more about our communities. Through these programs, we can discover new, tangible ministry areas where we can connect and engage with them.

As your congregation works to identify opportunities and develop a plan, consider Mister Rogers’ advice. 

“What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”

Ephesians 4 tells us we have all been equipped “for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Everyone has something they can contribute. And, by keeping our focus on God, prayerfully considering the needs of our community, and acting on the opportunities He provides, we can meet the needs of our neighbors and build the kingdom of God.

For additional information on these programs:

Connecting Neighbors – Visit the Disaster Response Ministry webpage at and click on the Connecting Neighbors Training link under Resources.

Mission Insite – Visit the Equipping Vital Congregations webpage at

Contact Doug Hoy at 717-766-7441, ext. 3402 or email

Your Neighbors Need Your Help

By Doug Hoy, SUSUMC Disaster Response Coordinator

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2

Since recent hurricanes and storms passed through the east coast, your neighbors and friends have been working to address the destruction that has been left behind. Many are cleaning out flooded, wet basements, removing debris from their properties, and making necessary repairs to their walls and roofs. And, they need your help.

In Galatians 6, we are called to share one another’s burdens. And, as you can imagine, recovering from a disaster can be accompanied by some very heavy burdens. Are you called to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus? Do you have the gifts to be a caring, Christian presence in the lives of those who are struggling to address their disaster needs? In scripture, Jesus offers rest to those who labor and are burdened. Can you carry your neighbor’s burdens and provide them with an opportunity for respite? Matthew 11:28-30 also tells us that we are to take up the yoke of Jesus, one that is easy and light. Consider becoming yoked with Jesus and one another to lighten the load of your neighbors. And, as you do, know you will “fulfill the law of Christ.”

The Disaster Response Ministry has been awarded an UMCOR Solidarity Grant to assist in the disaster relief efforts taking place within the Annual Conference. In addition to the need for volunteers, there is also a need for local coordinators to assist with organizing the effort and working with other organizations to provide for community needs.

Williamsport District

The community of Knoxville (Tioga County) is struggling to recover from flooding left behind by Hurricane Henri. Many households have reported some kind of damage and indicated they have a need for help. The Knoxville UMC sustained a flooded basement that damaged everything and the church was without gas and electric service for some time.

York District

Communities throughout York County are working to recover from Tropical Storm Fred and Hurricane Ida. Efforts to provide assistance to nearly 500 households are ongoing. Work includes mucking out basements, clearing outside debris, assessing and tarping roofs, mitigating mold, removing drywall, and beginning the rebuilding process.

If you are interested in helping your neighbors in their time of need, please contact the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, Douglas Hoy, at or call 717-766-7441, ext. 3402.

Missionary Covenant Support

By Rebecca (Becky) Parsons, Missionary Serving as Mission Advocate in the NEJ

Churches are learning so much about who they are as Christ’s disciples in these 20 months into living in a pandemic: grief sharing, community connections, healthy relationships, technology, and how the holy spirit calls us even deeper into connection with one another in new ways.

One connection point in the United Methodist Church is to our 220 Missionaries in 60 countries. Local churches and individuals covenant with a missionary; covenants are statements of relationship and financial commitment: mutual care and witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ calls us to love one another in our local community and around the world. The around-the-world part is made possible by the work of missionaries serving in the local communities all over the world.

Covenants take what we treasure most: compassion, justice and peace and transform it into acts of love in missions, where we can join into the activity of the holy spirit through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.

What do you treasure most? How are you sharing it?

You treasure your time? Have you spent some of that time in prayer for Rev. Andrew Lee as Andrew coordinates the church activities of the UMC in Cambodia.

Or have you covenanted with Temba Nkomozepi at Mujila Falls Zambia, where it is so remote that it takes the ‘call to serve unto the ends of the Earth’ past that! Temba is an agriculturalist who attended Africa University—a world class university sponsored by a portion of every apportionment dollar you send to the global church.

Have you and your church been on a virtual Volunteer in Mission journey with Nan McCurdy and Miguel Mairena? Nothing will separate us from the love of God who calls us to love one another, and you don’t even have to leave your home to build relationships with people in Christian communities and learn how the holy spirit is transforming lives. Gather a group and visit your favorite missionary and the community they serve!

This year, your church can make a covenant with, pray for, and support our 220 missionaries serving in 60 countries sharing the good news, inviting all to warm themselves in the light of Christ, and transforming the world for the ‘Kin-dom’ of God. This advent season, as we prepare for Jesus coming into the world, consider inviting families, your congregation, or individuals to support a missionary. You’ll be glad you did.

The Conference Secretary of Global Ministries or I can help you navigate choosing a missionary. Contact me, Rebecca Parsons, Missionary Serving as Mission Advocate with the Northeastern Jourisdiction at 540-314-7911 or

May God’s peace strengthen you on this journey of love.