Mission Trips and Faith

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BY ANNA STEWART FAIRCLOTH |

It was March of 2011 and I was on a bus with my youth group from Friedberg Moravian Church. We were headed for a mission weekend in Tennessee to help repair houses. We slept in a church on cots and played cards for hours when we got back from our worksite. At the time of this trip, I was certain God had sent me because this lady really needed help with her house. But looking back, I can see God sent me on this trip also because he knew I needed friends. I came back from that trip with a bus full of friends who pushed me to be better and kept me coming back to church every Sunday. Since then, I have gone on numerous mission trips that have led me all around the world. I’ve learned that God can use anybody to change the world. All you have to do is say yes!

God always reaches out his hand. He’s just waiting for you to grab it.

The Lord has taught me so many valuable lessons through mission work. I was on a plane from Addis Ababa to Mombasa when I realized that I was literally going to Africa. No joke. I knew the Lord was calling me to Kenya, but why? I think sometimes Jesus puts us in situations so that we are forced to rely on him. I was scared, a little homesick, and really wanted Chick-fil-a after eating airplane food for two days. I prayed to him for comfort and to bring me peace so that I knew I was meant for this. And that’s when I felt I tap on my arm. My neighbor had been sitting beside me silently the whole trip until we hit some turbulence. He shyly asked if he could hold my hand. It was his first time flying and he was scared. I smiled and reached out my hand. I think God does the same thing to us. Leaving your comfort zone can be scary, but God always reaches out his hand. He’s just waiting for you to grab it.

Image: Anna singing and dancing with one of the children at Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Anna singing and dancing with one of the children at Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Another lesson I have learned from my experience with missions: anything can be a moment for ministry. I used to think going on mission trips looked like evangelizing to everyone I met and bringing them to Jesus. Don’t get me wrong; we should be doing this too! But ministry also looks like sorting beans, blowing up balloons and making them into animals, and painting houses. When we humbly serve God’s children, we are reflecting Christ out into the world.

The Lord created us to be in community and family with one another. He didn’t just stop after Adam. He recognized loneliness and knew we weren’t meant to live that way. I have often heard people ask, “Why don’t you just send them the money you would spend on getting there to them?” The Great Commission tells us to go to the ends of the Earth for our brothers and sisters. Go into all the nations and baptize them into one nation, God’s kingdom. We can’t do that just by sending a check and signing our name on a card. My first mission trip to Tennessee made me want to start a relationship with Jesus. Not because of the work we did but because of the people who were there. They loved me like Jesus does, just as I am.

Image: In the Dominican Republic: Anna celebrating a little boy's successful surgery. He had just received surgery for a cleft pallet. | Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

In the Dominican Republic: Anna celebrating a little boy’s successful surgery. He had just received surgery for a cleft pallet. | Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28: 16-20, ESV

This world needs a revival and it starts with you! How are you responding to the Great Commission? Are you living out your God-given responsibility to share the Gospel with every nation and tribe? Be the generation that fulfills the Great Commission. Put your trust in him and be spontaneous for God. All you have to do is go!

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image: Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya: Anna and one of the children after a church service. They became fast best friends!

Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya: Anna and one of the children after a church service. They became fast best friends!

Anna Stewart Faircloth is an intern at the Board of World Mission for the summer of 2018 and is a member of Friedberg Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC. She attends Liberty University and is studying Youth Ministry with a minor in Camp and Outdoor Leadership as well as a minor in Family and Child Development.

 

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Total Commitment

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BY JUSTIN RABBACH |

The Church as a Community of Service: Jesus Christ came not to be served but to serve. From this, His Church receives its mission and its power for its service, to which each of its members is called. We believe that the Lord has called us particularly to mission service among the peoples of the world. In this, and in all other forms of service both at home and abroad, to which the Lord commits us, He expects us to confess Him and witness to His love in unselfish service. (The Ground of the Unity)

“If you want things done right, do it yourself.” That is a common phrase, and I admit describes how, at times, I have a hard time completely handing off projects. This is true when I have a particular vision and a particular way I think something should be done. Still, in my experience, this phrase usually is a reflection of not allotting ample time to adequately prepare the people I am asking to help me. And not a reflection of their ability to complete a task to my satisfaction. In these instances then, this phrase becomes an excuse. I have to do it all, if I want it done in time. Or, maybe I just don’t want to invest the time to help prepare someone with less experience, as in the short term that would be more work.

Do you ever experience this feeling? Or, do you ever witness this attitude in the church? Has someone taken on a role in the church, and then held onto it forever? Does that help the next person in line? More importantly, does that fit into the value of discipleship held strongly within the church?

As I begin work in a new role in the church (Executive Director of Board of World Mission), I find myself reflecting on those who have come before me, and how grateful I am for the ways they have helped prepare me. There actions remind me that we aren’t expected to take part in the great co-mission (note the “co” part of that) without God, and without one another!

In college, I led my first international mission team to Nicaragua. I had called up a bunch of camp friends to see if they would join me in doing some hurricane relief work, and when they all said yes, I was on the hook to actually make it happen! Well, we did, and it was a great trip, and I was invited to speak about it in several different Moravian Congregations. One of those congregations was Lake Auburn Moravian Church in Minnesota. As I got ready to give my message, I must admit that it was going to be one of “Look at the new thing that is happening! Look at the example these young adults are setting, and collectively you, as the church, should come get on board with this whole mission work thing!”

Well, it turns out the person introducing me that day was Rev. Lorenz Adam, who had not only served as a missionary in Central America for many years, but had been the Pastor at my church since I was born, and had baptized me. My parents still had some of his old missionary barrels (basically the equivalent of moving boxes for missionaries back in the day) stored in a building on their farm! On top of that, Lorenz chose that day to present, as a gift to the congregation, a somewhat famous painting (in Moravian circles) of David Zeisberger preaching as a missionary to the Native Americans in Ohio during the 1700s.

Image of David Zeisberger

Image of David Zeisberger. Public domain image via Ohio Historical Society/Wikipedia.

Talk about being hit over the head with irony. I was going to speak about the “new thing” I was helping to start, following a presentation clearly demonstrating the long history of the thing I was about to claim to have started.

I had to change my message (and my thinking) on the fly that day, and it stays changed to this day when I speak on missions. Instead of looking for support of the new thing that is about me, I work hard to remember that it is about God’s story, and the deep honor it is to be a part of it.

Come full circle, and at an event organized by the Board of World Mission in 2016 to help engage young adults in mission, I was able to be the one making the introduction of another speaker. At this event where I was trying to live out the call to help disciple to those who come after us, I was able to introduce a very special woman who came before me: Nora Adam.

For all the ways we worked to try and make the event relevant to young adults, to incorporate technology and up-to-the-minute breakthroughs in group facilitation theory, the most powerful moment was a simple speech by the wife of the pastor Lorenz I mentioned earlier. Nora was given free reign to share whatever story was on her heart, and she choose to speak on the theme of “total commitment.”

To speak with authority on this topic, you cannot have anyone guessing if you yourself were totally committed. She spoke with authority by speaking of the way she lived her faith, shared her love, and lived a life filled with hope.

Watch her presentation yourself, and see how powerful her words are, shared from a lifetime of experience.

My prayer for you, and for me, is that as we undertake God’s mission for us, we can take it on with total commitment. That and may our commitment be a witness to others, as we invite them to join in as well!


Questions? Comments? Contact Justin at Justin@MoravianMission.org

Image of Justin Rabbach

Photo via Justin Rabbach

Justin Rabbach is the Executive Director of the Board of World Mission of the Moravian Church in North America. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife Jessie, and dog Lambeau. Justin has spent the last decade immersed in Moravian Mission work through the BWM, starting as a short -term volunteer, Antioch servant, Director of Mission Engagement, and now Executive Director. He is excited to help carry forward the work of so many who have come before him. 


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Do This… In Remembrance of Me

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BY DAVID HOLSTON |

Note: David Holston is the Executive Director of Sunnyside Ministry, a ministry partner of the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

This past Sunday we celebrated communion in my congregation. It was in memory of the martyrdom of John Hus, the spiritual forefather of the Moravian Church. There, for a brief period, we all gathered at the table together. When we partook of the bread and the cup, the officiant says three times during the service: “Do this… in remembrance of me”.

Do this… in remembrance of me

This phrase resonated with me this past weekend as I thought about all I am through the grace of Jesus Christ. First, I remember that through the crucified Christ I am saved. This is a very important thing to remember. But as I thought more about this, I was led to the many lessons taught by Christ. I must say that I am often drawn to the passages about how we treat others. It is related to my daily life and my thinking.

Picture of communion

Take a few minutes and think about the last time you took communion. In the Moravian Church we practice an open communion; if you are a communing member of any church you are welcome at our table. What resonates with you when you take communion?

In the 1970’s there was a Coca-Cola commercial with all sorts of people gathered in lines singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony!” Imagine a world where we all held hands and sang songs and shared a Coca-Cola. Sadly, today it feels unlikely to happen. Someone would be offended by the person standing beside them; others would make fun of the one standing a few feet away. Some might even say, “this person is too sick to stand near me!” In reality, we know people are not always singing on mountain tops or in perfect harmony. Sadly, harmony does not exist in some cases between communing Christians. We can’t always agree to come to the same table. If we always did, there would be little to no hunger in this or any community.

Sunnyside Ministry

Sunnyside Ministry

In the last six days, we have had four people shot just a few blocks from two Moravian Churches and Sunnyside Ministry. At Sunnyside Ministry, the other day alone, we saw two females who have just escaped domestic violence. Additionally, Sunnyside has provided groceries for over a hundred families.

I believe that the change starts at this table, the one in most churches inscribed with the words: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

We ask “were does it end?” We say “someone needs to fix this!” We wonder “when are things going to get better?” I believe that the change starts at this table, the one in most churches inscribed with the words: “Do this in remembrance of me.” It starts with us, the Christian community when we reach out to everyone, both those who seem to have it all and those who we have called “the least, the lost, the last.”

Consider the original mission statement of the Salem Tavern:

“Whereas it is the duty of the Board of Directors of the Congregation to supervise, with a watchful eye, the tavern, and it is their ardent desire that the guests who come here (who are of very different dispositions and customs, yea, even occasionally enemies and spies) may be served by our Brothers and Sisters thus, by their correct conduct, without words, testify to Jesus’ death, and in their difficult office and calling, be an honor to the Lord and Congregation.”

Can we, create a table where all are welcomed, even our enemies? We can. Will it be easy? I think that it would be easier than we think, but only if we do this in remembrance of Christ.


Questions? Comments? Contact David Holston at David@SunnysideMinistry.org or call (336) 724-7558 ext. 103

David Holston

David Holston is the Executive Director of Sunnyside Ministry. Sunnyside Ministry is a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, and emergency financial assistance to families in crisis. All funding for our assistance programs comes from donations and grants. In 2014, Sunnyside Ministry provided $1,883,040 worth of services to families in crisis situations. Grocery orders were provided to 17,634 people and clothing to 15,483 individuals. To learn more about Sunnyside Ministry, subscribe to their email newsletter here.

Ending Poverty In All Its Forms

Sunnyside Ministry BY DAVID HOLSTON |

“Our Lord Jesus entered into this world’s misery to bear it and to overcome it. We seek to follow Him in serving His brothers and sisters. Like the love of Jesus, this service knows no bounds. Therefore we pray the Lord ever anew to point out to us the way to reach our neighbors, opening our hearts and hands to them in their need.”
Ground of the Unity, #9

We live in a world of great opportunity, where you can enjoy a long and happy life. We also live in a world where the idea of a long and happy life to some is merely a dream.

I think a lot about the word “poverty.” Merriam-Webster provides this as a simple definition of poverty: “the state of being poor, a lack of something.” A lack of something. What is it that people are lacking? It should be easy to see and to bring an end to material poverty. People need something; we just give it to them and we have fixed the problem. It should be that simple. People are homeless; give them a home and the problem goes away. Right?

This world would be a different place if it were that easy to end poverty. After World War II, the World Bank worked on poverty alleviation in third world countries, but without much success. They asked over 60,000 people about poverty, and the results were published in a three-volume collection entitled “Voices of the Poor.” Here are some of the responses:

“Poverty is like living in jail, living under bondage, waiting to be free.” — Jamaica

“Poverty is lack of freedom, enslaved by crushing daily burden, by depression and fear of what the future will bring.” — Georgia

“If you want to do something and have no power to do it, it is talauchi (poverty).” — Nigeria

“A better life for me is to be healthy, peaceful and live in love without hunger. Love is more than anything. Money has no value in the absence of love.” — a poor older woman in Ethiopia

“When one is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior.” — a woman from Uganda

“For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.” — a blind woman from Tiraspol, Moldova(1)

reception

Sunnyside Ministry

Notice that none of these people described poverty as simply the lack of food, housing or money. They describe poverty as “the lack of something” bigger, in most cases — a sense of power over one’s own life. A sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency enables people to repair and improve their lives and that of their families. The phrase “a hand up, not a hand out” has been used by different non-profits for decades, so long that the original source seems to be lost. And while this rolls off the tongue, it is a difficult message to put into practice. But it is what we must do if we truly believe that part of our mission is to improve the lives of others.

A lack of something.

Do we see the poverty that is in our neighborhoods, offices, schools and yes, even our churches? You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in my office; our salaries enough for our employees to live on. You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in our neighborhood; it is full of nice homes. You may say to yourself there is no poverty in our church; we are a good church with nice families and everyone is well off.

I had a distant cousin that passed away in the 1990s. She was nearly 100 years old and still lived alone. She lived for decades as a widow after her husband was killed in a farming accident. She did not drive. Other cousins took her to church, to the grocery store. She was not wealthy, but had income from land leased to other farmers. She gardened and canned vegetables she grew. Now I realize that she suffered from social or isolation poverty. When I was about 10 years old, I mowed her small yard, which didn’t take long. She would sit and visit with me, asking about vacation or school, and this made her very happy. These conversations were a source of poverty alleviation for her, as they filled that “lack of something.”

“I like money and nice things, but it’s not money that makes me happy. It’s people,” says one woman in the World Bank survey. She’s not alone: research has found that social integration is more important for well-being than income, and also decreases poverty. Loneliness, conversely, can be deadly: one study found it did more damage to health than smoking.(2)

My cousin lived a long life. As I think of her, I remember a woman alone, in a house with a parlor never used. If more people had taken the time to visit her, how would her life have been different? If I stopped by and visited her more often, how would our lives have been different? Would those later years have been less of a struggle? What could I have learned from her? Is that not a part of what church is or should be — caring for others, seeking to find and fill the need that is lacking?

First we must examine our own poverties, whatever they are: hunger, poor health, addiction, loneliness, mental health or illness and so on. Then we look to move ourselves out of the poverty that grips us, by seeking the help of our own congregations, our fellow Jesus followers. We as the people of Christ, who are the Church of Christ, must welcome, uplift and empower each other out of our own poverties. And then as a church through the command of Christ in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sunnyside Ministry has a financial literacy program called Gaining Control. I recently asked one of the graduates what they got out of this program. She responded, “You all gave me back my self-esteem, and made me feel like I could really change my life. I wish that I could do that class all over again, it made me feel so good.” I like to think that our work helped her regain her innate sense of self-worth and equipped her with skills to take control of her life and move herself and her family out of poverty.

I believe that what will bring an end to poverty is simply this: empowering people to greater self-confidence and greater self-sufficiency, so that they are able to be independent of assistance. And through this improved sense of self, they are able to enter into rewarding relationship with their neighbors, enact change in their neighborhoods and beyond and live without the stress that accompanies any type of poverty.

Taking care of each other in our poverties is what Christ calls us to do. When we lift each other out of our individual poverties, we open our lives to the rewards offered in the Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Questions? Or want to learn more about Sunnyside Ministry or possibly volunteer? Contact David Holston at david(AT)sunnysideministry.org.

David Holston is the Director of Sunnyside Ministry under the Moravian Church of America, Southern Province 


(1) Listen to the Voices. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/0,,contentMDK:20612465~menuPK:336998~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:336992~isCURL:Y,00.html

(2) With a little help from my friends. (2015, June 6). Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21653680-poverty-about-who-you-know-much-what-you-earn-little-help-my

Images via Sunnyside Ministry.

 

Time to Be Bold – Part Two

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In my last post, I declare that it’s time to be bold again, and I end with the question:

“How do we as the church best respond in these uncertain times to ensure that God’s grace is known far and wide through our witness and action?”

How indeed. I told you to stay tuned, then I hit the publish button and took a deep breath, because here’s the thing, folks: I have no idea.

Okay, that’s not quite true. As someone who has spent my life helping others do what they do better, and who feels a deep sense of call to my beloved Moravian Church, I have plenty of ideas. And, if you know me at all, you know I am certainly not shy about sharing my opinions. But they are just that. Mine. It is not up to me to tell you how we go about being the church in the future. This is not an individual activity, and no one individual, regardless of his or her dedication, brilliance, charisma, or position, has all the answers.

So let me tell you what I DO know:

  • The river has moved, people. Consider the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras, built to withstand river-that-moveddeadly hurricanes. When Hurricane Mitch came along in 1998, it dumped 75 inches of rain in less than four days and destroyed 150 bridges, but it could not destroy the Choluteca. But take a closer look at that photo. The bridge survived the storm, but the storm moved the river! Similarly, the institutional church is strong and has weathered many storms over the centuries, but the river has moved. While the temptation is great to try and redirect the massive river back under that bridge, the work set before us is to build a new bridge.
  • The Church is facing an adaptive challenge. There are two types of challenges that leaders in any field have to address:
    • Technical challenges are situations we’ve encountered numerous times and require quick fixes, problem solving, or consultation with experts. Examples of this include going to a mechanic when your car breaks down or visiting the dentist to fix a broken tooth.
    • Adaptive challenges are situations that present new dilemmas and uncharted territory. Adaptive challenges require not the predefined answers of experts, but the hard work of discernment by those most affected by the problem. Examples include solving world hunger or reforming public education.

There is no road map for the journey we are on. We’ll have to learn new ways of thinking and doing, use our imaginations, and discern solutions with each other, the ones most affected by these uncertain, complex times.

  • With great challenge comes great possibility. We know the river has moved and we know that
    first-fruits-or-erstlingsbild

    Count Zinzendorf ‘s bold vision of of the Renewed Moravian Church, as captured by 18th century artist John Valentine Haidt in the painting “First Fruits.”

    what we face is a complex, adaptive challenge. But our history as Moravians proves that we can rise to the occasion. While persecution, exile, and the sorry state of the human condition immobilized and frightened many of their day, our early Moravian brothers and sisters discovered opportunity and even beauty in those constraints. These bold followers of Jesus blazed forward, undeterred, as they expressed spirituality in community, welcomed women into ministry, embraced diversity, and sacrificed nearly everything for their mission. Over the years, though, we modern-day Moravians have grown slowly complacent in our comfortable sanctuaries. We are keepers of our great heritage, but what about the boldness? How do we take the constraints we face today, such as declining membership, shrinking resources, or competing values, and create opportunities to share faith, love, and hope with the world? Settling in and doing what we’ve always done will not solve the challenges we face. Now is the time to demonstrate creativity, openness, flexibility, and yes, boldness.

  • Transformative leadership is required. Transformative leaders focus on motivation and formation, and they do it out of a deep sense of call. I’m not just talking about clergy. We all must be transformative as we encourage one another. Transformative leaders create environments that enable people to survive and thrive through change. When we nurture the giftedness and possibilities of people and invite them to be part of the solutions we seek, it is only then that our organizational culture begins to adjust and adapt. Interested in knowing more about what transformative leadership looks like? Consider being part of the next Moravian Leadership experience. We need you!
  • We have to do this together. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, tells us how we are to live as the community that is the church. We are to live with each other like Christ – being relational, forgiving, patient, loving, and gentle. And before we can do that, we have to know we are holy, chosen, and dearly beloved by God (3:12).

We must love each other, even when we disagree about many things. As I write this, the PCUSA is holding its 222nd General Assembly (similar to our Synod) in Portland, Oregon. Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian minister and author, reflected on Facebook about his experience there:

“One of the most difficult, but essential and transformational, aspects of meetings like General Assembly is when friends and colleagues passionately disagree with one another, the vote is taken, and we choose to remain friends and colleagues. While some might see this as a lack of integrity, selling out or even, “dining with the devil,” I see this as the living expression of mutual forbearance, the body faithfully discerning the will of God, and ultimately, why I choose to claim my seat at the table that Christ has prepared.”

Let’s continue to sit together at Christ’s table even as we face forces that would tear us apart.

  • We have to know WHY we’re doing it. We get so overwhelmed by life and its accompanying challenges it is very easy to forget why we are here, in this place, together. Christ and Him crucified remain our confession of faith. What else can we do but respond to this gift of grace with our faith in God, our love for God and our neighbor, and our hope in this life and the next?

During the 2012 Moses Lectures at Moravian Theological Seminary, Peter Vogt, co-pastor of the Moravian Congregation of Herrnhut (yes, THAT Herrnhut) reminded us that “we . . . are called to live as a community that is faithful to the message of God’s love, as given to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” He concludes by saying that

“our concern about the identity of what it means to be Moravian should not be guided by the fear of loss…or by the focus on preserving our historical heritage, but rather by the desire to become what God is calling us to be.”

Indeed. Let’s embrace these beautiful constraints we face as a Church today and, together, determine what God is calling us to be, then do it and be it. Amen.

 

References:

Heifetz, Ronald A., and Martin Linsky. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 2002. Print.

McFayden, Kenneth J. Strategic Leadership for a Change: Facing Our Losses, Finding Our Future. Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2009. Print.

Morgan, Adam, and Mark Barden. A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015. Print. (View more on this idea here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfVJpEnh7wCJJoO5tS3EYZg)

Nelson, Gary V. Rev. Dr., and Peter M. Dickens. Leading in DisOrienting Times Navigating Church and Organizational Change. Ashland: Christian Board Of Pub Tcp, 2015. Print.

Vogt, Peter. “How Moravian Are the Moravians? The Paradox of Moravian Identity.” The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church. Volume 19, Issue 3 (Winter 2013-14): 3-20. Moravian Theological Seminary. Center for Moravian Studies. Web. 24 June 2016. https://issuu.com/moravianseminary/docs/hinge_19.3 .

 

Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Below, Ruth and her family celebrate daughter Jessy’s graduation from Appalachian State University in May 2015. 

jess grad 

 

Stop Hunger Now at Moravia

Moravia Moravian Church and friends work with Stop Hunger Now to prepare over 20,000 meals for vulnerable people.
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On January 9 nearly 60 people gathered in the Hearthside Room at Moravia Moravian Church in Summerfield, NC to put together food packets for people who are hungry. The process was simple. You put on a hairnets and gloves and start assembling packages of food. The food was soy, dried vegetables, rice and nutrient packets. These were taken to the scales line where the weight was inspected and food was added or taken out to meet the requirements. Then the packages were heat sealed, counted and packed into boxes and taken to the truck. In just 3 hours we assembled 20,304 meals. It was easy and fun and meaningful.

Here’s what it looks like:

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The people work, the music plays, (and some dance), and every time we assemble 1000 meals, the Gong Rings. Please consider having your own assembly party. All you have to do is get 50+ friends, contact Stop Hunger Now, and pay 29 cents a meal. For 10,000 meals that would be $2900. It’s a good project for RCCs too.

Carol Foltz, Interim Pastor Moravia Moravian Church, Summerfield, NC.

 

 

Improving Your Congregation’s Website: Include the “Vitals” on the Front Page

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Today, looking for a new church often means starting online. Gone are the days of flipping through the phone book or driving around town searching for a new church home. Your future members start (and often finish) their search on their computer or smartphone.

Whether on Facebook or the broader Web, a visit to your online presence has the potential to make a lasting impression on a newcomer. A well-designed, well-maintained, welcoming page is only part of the equation, though. To interest church seekers, your online presence also needs to provide certain pieces of information right up front, without requiring visitors to search or click deeper into your site.

When discussing congregational websites, I always advocate for including what I like to call the “vital stats” on your site’s home page. These pieces of information, presented in an easily accessible way, will help answer your visitors’ questions and let them know how to find you or find out more about your congregation.

Here are some suggestions on what your web presence should offer on first glance:

• Your church’s name and logo (if you have one)
• Your address – It may seem like a no-brainer, but be sure your street address is easily viewable without searching. If visitors need to hunt for your address on your website, they may be less willing to hunt for your physical location. It’s also easy to add information from Google Maps or MapQuest that provide directions from wherever your visitors are (see link: https://support.google.com/maps/answer/3544418?hl=en).
• A photo of your church building — I typically advise limiting the number of church building photos on your site; remember, your congregation is more about the people in it than the building itself. In this case, however, being able to recognize your church building once they follow the directions to get there can be helpful.
• Meeting times – Be sure to list your Sunday worship times, so your visitors know when you gather. Consider including other regular events, too, like Bible Studies, youth group meetings, Sunday School, Men’s/Women’s Fellowship times, etc.
• Contact information – Provide a phone number and/or general e-mail address…and be sure that someone is answering the phone or checking e-mail. Including office hours can be helpful, too, as it lets your visitors know when they can expect a response from you.
• A welcome statement – offer a brief welcome that shares what’s special about your congregation and what a new visitor will expect when they join you for worship.

Keep in mind that many searches for locations today occur on smartphones. How does your site read on a smartphone? More and more templates available for websites created through WordPress, Weebly, Wix and others are designed to work well on a phone – just be sure the “vitals” show up on the mobile version, too, especially the location and times.

As you review your home page or Facebook presence, give some thought to the impression you want to leave with your visitor. Think through what your visitors need to know and make it possible to get to the “important stuff” easily. Because with so many options, making it easier to find you, contact you, visit you and know what to expect can make your congregation’s initial impression a positive one.

Special thanks to guest blogger Mike Riess, Executive Director of the Interprovincial Board of Communication of the Moravian Church in North America & Editor of The Moravian.