Thursday, July 26, 2018

What Do We Do at St. Mark – In Tough Times?

Come with me to that story called Acts.

As Paul and Silas finish their third missionary journey, The Spirit leads Paul to go to Jerusalem. But Paul knows it’s dangerous there. Lots of people want to destroy the believers. On their way to Jerusalem, they stop in Ephesus. Paul calls the believers together and says in part,
You know how I lived among you, serving the Lord with humility and tears…
I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message, teaching you in the open…
Now I know that none of you…
Will ever see me again…
Keep watch over the flock to shepherd the church
Of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son
…savage wolves will come.
Support the weak…
Remember Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (20:17-38)
These are Paul’s last words to them. They feel his dread of going to Jerusalem.
What do the believers do in this tough, tough time?
Paul kneels down with them and they pray
They are all weeping
They embrace Paul and kiss him
They accompany him to the ship he will take.
So in our life together, how do we support each other in tough times?
Praying – weeping-embracing-accompanying

Look at accompanying. It’s simply…
walking with another
listening with loving openness

We accompany because God in Jesus walked with us and talked with us and told us we are his own – so we would walk with a person in tough times – and tell them they are His own. We accompany – because we were first accompanied.
So - what are examples of accompanying in tough times?

1. Barnabas accompanied Paul and young Mark on that first missionary journey. Mark deserted them, and they went on. At the beginning of the second missionary journey Barnabas insisted that Mark come. Paul wouldn’t have it. They separated, and Barnabas accompanied Mark on their missionary journey. Did Barnabas’ accompanying save Mark for our faith? I thank God Barnabas did accompany him, because Mark went on to write a little book – our Gospel According to St. Mark.

2. On Wednesday I posted on Facebook that I would view Rebekah on Friday at Christensen’s funeral home. My childhood friend Lyle came from Iowa to accompany me. It was so healing. I was so grateful.

3. Finally, in the midst of the busyness Pastor Mark came to our home with a beautiful card on behalf of himself, Pr. Chad, staff, and our church council. He brought a beautiful art pole for our garden – something my wife Anne always wanted, and I didn’t even know – but in some spiritual way, St. Mark knew. How beautifully we were accompanied – by you.

What do we do together – in tough times?
Praying – weeping – embracing – accompanying
For the One – with the One – who first accompanied us.

 Pastor Chuck Olson

Take to Heart
The Ideal Spiritual Life Together-in Tough Times
Acts 20:36-38/July 22nd 2018

The Spirit

Moves Paul to go to Jerusalem – he knows the danger

He tells believers in Ephesus they will not see him again

They pray, weep, embrace – and accompany Paul to his ship

Accompanying – the key to caring

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Our Hands at Work

Have you seen the gold tee shirts that say, GOD’S WORK, OUR HANDS?  Let us tell you about the St. Mark Outreach Uniform Project.  This project is Our Hands at work.  After identifying the problem: Low-income parents struggling to afford required school uniforms, we searched for a solution. Based on thirty years’ experience in Atlanta’s inner city, Robert Lupton’s book, Toxic Charity, How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help discourages out right giving of needed items except in an emergency (example: hurricane or flood). He encourages helping in ways that preserve the dignity of the receiver.  For example: sell needed items at a minimal price or in exchange for work. There was our solution—sell uniforms at a price parents could afford.

With the help of funds from St. Mark’s Outreach budget, United Way of Rock River Valley, Alpine Kiwanis, Kiwanis Club of Rockford, and Thrivent Financial, we purchased navy and khaki uniform pants and light blue and navy polo shirts.
As a church, we sold uniforms at Beyer School for three years. The Uniform Co-op Store received the United Way 2017 Strong Neighborhood Award for its work there.  Beyer has transitioned from Elementary to Early Childhood Education, so we moved the uniform project to two schools in the Ellis Heights area which has been identified by United Way as an area of great need.  Ellis Elementary has 478 students and Lewis Lemon Elementary has 395 students. New pants will be sold for $4, new shirts for $3, and anything used for $1.  Uniform trade-ins are encouraged and receive $1 credit for each used piece. Only cash is accepted, and purchases are limited to two outfits per student.  All money received from the sale of uniforms is used to purchase more.

Selling uniforms has been hard work but an uplifting experience.  Parents have been very grateful to be able to afford new clothes for their children. The children have been excited to go shopping with their parents.  No one has asked for anything free. After their shopping is completed, we encourage students to each pick out a new toothbrush (donated by dentists who are St. Mark members). Wish you could see the jaunty walk of a student carrying new clothes that his parents purchased – no standing in line for a free give away! The Uniform Co-op Store is a Hand UP, not a Hand OUT.

The Uniform Co-op Store which has been a partnership from the beginning, stepped up a notch this year when another church came onboard. Two new lead volunteers who are members of First Free Rockford joined us and were able to access money from the Jeremiah Project available to First Free Rockford members who volunteer with a not-for-profit.  God’s Work is always full of surprises!                             

How can you lend a hand?
·         Donate new and used (no stains or tears) school uniforms.
·         Donate money so we can purchase uniforms.
·         Help sell uniforms on Registration Days August 6 and 7 and at Parent-Teacher Conferences.
·         Include teacher, students and their parents in your daily prayers.

~ Stella Schroeder and Maureen Hargrove, Uniform co-chairs

Ellis Elementary Lead Volunteers– Stella and Chuck Schroeder and Maureen and John Hargrove.  Lewis Lemon Lead Volunteers– Chuck and Vickie Allton and Jerry and Carolyn Norquist

Looking Back

Dear St. Mark friends, 2019 is a year I will never forget.   On January 13 of last year, my second granddaughter, Madlyn Olivia Hagen,...