Today I Saw God

Surprising Moments of Grace

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Have you ever been surprised by a moment of God's grace? Maybe you haven't been bopped over the head by a tidal wave of undeniable grace, but what about a precious moment? Living with our hearts and eyes open helps prepare the soul for an encounter. I had one recently. It happened so fast; I wasn't prepared. But it was definitely God's grace.

I've been volunteering at Hutchison Elementary School with the PALS program since it's inception nine years ago. (This program matches elementary students with adult mentors once a week.) Five years ago, I began meeting with a young boy named Josue. He was in the fourth grade at the time and is now a freshman at Herndon High School.

After Josue moved on to middle school, I began meeting with his sister, Emily, and his brother, Jonathan. Josue had told them all about "Miss Becky," and they wanted the chance to meet with me too.

Emily is just finishing fifth grade, and Jonathan is moving to third grade next year. I meet with Emily and Jonathan on the same day but at different times. I bring LEGOS, crafts, books, games and drawing supplies throughout the year. I spend 30 minutes with them, and we talk about their life, struggles and joys. Their life is very different from mine in many ways. I feel fortunate to have been with the same family for so many years.

Recently the kids told me their mom works at Potbelly Sandwich Shop in Herndon. In between my meetings with the kids, I have often gone to Potbelly to get a sandwich and read in a booth until it's time to go back to Hutchison. The other day I decided to ask about their mom. I was early so the lunch crowd had not yet arrived, and I was the only one in line.

As I ordered my sandwich, I glanced at each of the workers behind the counter to see if I could spot a family resemblance, but I could not. As my sandwich glided through the toaster, I had to ask, "Is there a Martha who works here?" The woman who was about to put lettuce, tomato and mayo on my sandwich looked up and smiled at me. The woman next to my sandwich maker nodded and said, "That is Martha."

I smiled and said hello. I told her that I meet with her kids each week at Hutchison. And then I experienced that precious grace moment I was talking about: her eyes opened wide, and she said, "You?! You are Miss Becky?!" The recognition in her eyes was priceless. Her English wasn't perfect but she told me her kids' favorite day of the week was Tuesday, the day they get to see Miss Becky.

My heart warmed with her unexpected blessing. Showing up at Hutchison, week after week for nine years could be called obedience. But this meeting, while I was thanking Martha for making me a sandwich, is where God touched us both by a surprising moment of grace.

Submitted by Becky Kendall.

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Waiting: Camp Hutchison

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I am one of two Serve Ministries' interns at Floris UMC this summer. I had the privilege of serving in this same position last summer and was overjoyed to learn that I would be able to return again this year.

My fellow serve intern, Mason, and I are in charge of planning and executing Camp Hutchison with the help of many amazing volunteers. Camp Hutchison is a summer camp that helps students retain reading and writing abilities often lost over the summer in a fun and creative environment. Because camp is only three short weeks, we spend the majority of our internships planning lessons, ordering supplies and coordinating with volunteers and contacts at Hutchison.

Although this is all very important work for the success of the camp, the true joy of our job comes during camp itself. Because of this, the wait for the start of camp (July 11) seemed very, very long. I couldn't wait to see my 85 little friends arrive on that first day, excited and ready to learn. I couldn't wait to watch the reptile show that I had scheduled. Or to watch the students make the shark hat craft that I had planned (and for which I had created about seven prototypes to find the "perfect model"). I was excited to begin our new physical activity section of camp and play soccer with the students at recess. There were so many incredible things to look forward to after the start of camp. I knew that in the midst of all the first day chaos, I would see God's love through our volunteers and the strides the students would make. I just couldn't wait.

I was anxious and eager to reap the rewards of all of our hard work. But now that camp has begun, I am truly grateful that I endured the wait. I am so thankful for all of the planning and time that was spent preparing for these three unbelievably special weeks. As I spend time with these students, I constantly realize that they need and deserve all of our time. Without the wait, the final product would not be what it is today. The Bible is full of verses proclaiming the value of patience and the importance of waiting on the Lord. Through Camp Hutchison, I have found that a little bit of patience and reliance on God results in incredible things.

Submitted by Lacy McCleskey

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Three Important Factors for Breaking Cycles of Poverty

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Recently, Floris UMC has announced through the Imagine Campaign a desire to break cycles of poverty. One of the questions that comes up regularly is this:

"How does a church break cycles of poverty?" I should mention that this question can sometimes be asked with a fair amount of sarcasm or apprehension. It's easy to become overwhelmed by the complex social and economic issues that plague the world thus making any action seem superfluous.

I do believe it's possible for a church to play a significant role in breaking cycles of poverty. Here is where I start:

Believing in Our Theology:
The entirety of Scripture tells of God's love for freedom and justice, as proclaimed by prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and the Good News of Jesus. We worship a God that freed slaves. We follow a Christ that healed the sick and fed the masses. Breaking cycles of poverty should be a part of who we are.

Knowing the Issues:
The Imagine Campaign has allowed us the opportunity to dig deeper into the issues that children and families in our community and in Sierra Leone face. With that information, we can seek ways to make tangible impacts.

Partnering with the Right People:
There are experts in the field dealing with many of the issues that we engage in as a congregation. As we seek to improve education for children in our community, we have partnered with Hutchison Elementary faculty to make an impact. In Sierra Leone, the village outreach programs will be done in partnership with NGOs that have led successful programs in the past.

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Why Would a Church Start an After-School Program?

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My sister and I went home to an empty house from 3 to 6 p.m. every day. We knew whom to call in case of emergency, but we were unsupervised until my mother came home from work. There were rules that we were told to follow. For example, we knew not to open the door for strangers. We actually followed them quite well. One time, a man from the gas company came to our house to read the meter. After not getting an answer to the doorbell, he left for the local pay phone and called my mother, "Ms. Case, could you please tell your girls it's safe to let me in. I know they are homethey are looking at me through the porch window."

Fortunately, we didn't get into too much trouble, but we did do our share of things that we shouldn't have. We rode our bikes on the bike paths and walked to the beach when we should have been doing our homework: harmless disobedience. But we would also climb onto the garage roof and jump into a pile of leaves or, better yet, peel off the roof tiles outside our bedroom windows and chuck them into the street like Frisbees. The truth is that if there had been an after-school program, it probably would have been a good place for us to be.

I guess that's why I'm so excited about the idea of an after-school program at Hutchison. An after-school program is a safe place during the hours of 3 to 6 p.m.the peak time for juvenile crime and victimization. After-school programs provide adult supervision to children who otherwise would be home alone. (And they even prevent risky behaviors like climbing onto roofs).

When I think about Floris UMC partnering with Hutchison Elementary to create an after-school program, I get excited about the possibilities. I imagine activities that will engage children and get them motivated to learn. I imagine instilling in these children a sense of worth and purpose. But most of all, I imagine adults stepping in to be a part of a child's life and making an impact that leaves a lasting impression.

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A Very Successful Clothing Drive by Jake McGlothin

Over a three-week period, we collected winter and fall clothing for the annual Hutchison Clothing Drive. In my conversations with staff at Hutchison, I discovered that many children and families get their winter and fall clothing through this event. This year, more than 30 volunteers assisted with the delivery, organizing, and sale of the clothing to families at Hutchison Elementary. It was truly amazing to see the hundreds of coats, shoes, and other clothing that was available to the families. Each year, proceeds from the clothing drive support Hutchison's emergency fund. We'll be sure to share with you how much money we collected once the figure is available.

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