Today I Saw God

eNote from Rev. Tom Berlin June 2, 2011

Last night the Disciple Bible Study group that I have been co-leading had its final session. We began the evening by sharing a great potluck dinner together. Looking around at the various tables, I could see how well people had come to know each other over the last year. They had studied the scripture, shared insights, wrestled with questions and encouraged one another. I have participated in two groups this year and have found it to be an essential part of my spiritual growth. Through the insights of other group members and the joy of their fellowship, Christ has been revealed to me in new ways. I have gained new insights about my faith and life. As I was driving home after our time together, I thought about all the small groups in our church where people have developed friendships and grown deeper in their faith. So much of the community that we seek when we join a church is found in groups like these. I am very grateful to all of the small group leaders who give their time to preparing for their weekly sessions, following up with group members, and encouraging our church to grow deeper in our faith in Christ.

Congregational Care

I was amazed at the response to our Congregational Care card on Sunday. We had about 50% of the volunteers that were needed in each area of Congregational Care prior to Memorial Day. I was hesitant to share this opportunity to serve on a holiday weekend, knowing that many of you would be out of town, but your response was fantastic. We are now have a sufficient number of volunteers in each area. There is still an opportunity for administrative coordination in some of the areas, including our Respite Volunteers who serve children with special needs. I want to thank everyone who provided ongoing care to our congregation in the form of meals, cards, errands, rides and other acts of compassion and kindness last year and to those who signed up for the year ahead. You make all the difference in the lives of those who can use an encouraging word or helping hand. If you wanted to volunteer but did not have a chance to do so, you can still sign uptoday.

Hutchison ANGEL Book Drive and Hygiene Kit Collections

Every spring Floris has a book drive for the students at Hutchison Elementary. The ANGEL (A Novel to Grow Excitement in Literature) book drive provides new or gently used books to students in grades K-6. In the past, each child received 2 – 3 books to take home over the summer. There are over 700 students at Hutchison, and so far we have not collected enough books to allow each student to receive one book. I want to encourage you to consider donating new or gently used books to the Hutchison kids. Your donation will bless these students throughout the summer. It is also a great opportunity to clean off your child's book shelves and be a blessing to another child at the same time. Collection bins will be on the second and third floors this Sunday.

We have also been collecting hygiene kits for the 5th and 6th grade students to use in their Health classes next year. We can use about 50 more kits. Find out moreabout our collections for Hutchison. Contact Jake McGlothinwith questions.

Thank You for your Generosity

In recent weeks, the Floris family has responded with generosity in the wake of our country's recent tornados and spring storms. As of today, we have collected over $15,400.00 to benefit theUnited Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). UMCOR is often one of the first organizations on the ground when disasters occur, and 100% of the funds collected will go to assist the victims of these violent storms.

This Week in Worship

Jesus saw that the Kingdom of God was breaking into the world, creating infinite opportunities for people to be transformed by God's love. Lives were going to be changed. In Matthew 9:35-38, he tells his disciples to pray for workers to assist in the harvest. This Sunday I will be talking about the difference people make when they answer Christ's call to join him in the work of the harvest. All of us have people in our lives who have had a huge impact on who we have become and who we were along the course of our journey. I am praying that Floris is a church that wants to bless others in our journey of faith. Scripture: Matthew 9:35-38.

In Christ,

– Tom

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Cuba Team June 1 Post 2

Today is our last day in Cuba. This morning we visited the United Methodist seminary and the church that is attached to it. There are around 55 students who will be graduating this year from seminary with another large class right behind them. The students come to classes for a month at a time, they live in dorms, share meals and take classes together. After the month they all return to their churches, where they are full pastors, and work until it is time for another class. The professors we met are excited to be teaching these students and see great hope for the church of Cuba as more and more pastors are being equipped for ministry.
The students are blessed with a small computer lab and library but the selection of books is quite low and the computers do not always work. In addition they are always working with the water filtration system so that students can remain healthy while in session. It is an interesting contrast in abundance of spirit and scarcity of things.
We were able to speak with the pastor of the church and were once again amazed at the stories he related. Last Saturday in worship there was in attendance a person who had been paralyzed since birth. During the service, when the pastor had asked for anyone who wanted to be touched by the Holy Spirit to come forward, this person raised his hand. The pastor came to him, reached out his hand and prayed for healing. I asked the pastor what he was feeling and thinking and he said, "I just asked God what he wanted me to do and he said, hold out your hand and tell him to stand up. So I did." The man stood up and walked and is still walking today. We are hearing all sorts of stories like this here in Cuba. It gives all of us much to think about and ponder over. It is as if we are living in the first century church and we are constantly amazed at the signs and wonders we are witnessing.
After the seminary we visited the Old Folks Home for United Methodists. This is a home that is completely reliant on charity for all of it's funding. The home is lovely and full of delightful older people who are grateful for a place to live and especially for the family of the church. A woman named Jilma asked us to be sure and tell our friends to pray for them. She is missing her sister who moved to the US 25 years ago and who she has not heard from for three years.
Our day ended in downtown Havana where we observed the ritual firing of the cannon over the harbor which has been happening for over 500 years. It was an interesting ending to the day and captured the great dichotomy between the vitality of the church and the pomp of the government presence in Cuba.
We are looking forward to returning home but of course we are filled with sadness at leaving our new friends here in Cuba.

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Cuba Team June 1 Post 1

Today is Sunday here in Pilon. Sunday means quite a bit of church attendance here in Cuba. This morning I was given the honor of teaching the adults of the church (about 40). Needless to say I was a bit nervous. Of course the Holy Spirit was alive and the lesson went well. We then all gathered together for worship. I'm sure as others have explained worship here is alive, loud, and spirited. What a way to start your day.

Having been here a week working, eating, being served and serving these people are truly our family. Brothers and sisters. How quickly and deeply we have bonded and tomorrow we leave. At the evening worship Barbara preached. Pastor Alcibiades convinced her to preach a second Sunday and basked in the "time off" grinning like the Cheshire Cat. The congregation responded so heartily to Barbara's message as it was translated as fast as our coordinator Alba could speak. Near the end of the service we were prayed for as a team. Surrounded by the congregation, hands laid on us by the pastor, prayers came streaming forth from not only the Pastor, but the people surrounding us as well. The experience was intense and hard to fully impart the feeling of love, connectedness, and power of the Spirit moving around us. Gloria Dios, Bendiciones, Te Bendiga, Spiritu Sanctu, just a few of the words to be heard in the circle of escalating voices swirling around us.

The day was incredible and caps a week here in Pilon. I will miss my new family. Warm faces everyday, smiles, hard work, spontaneous praise songs from Joel and Alexis. They are honest, and humble with integrity and a consistent recognition of God in the center of everything they and we do. It is easy to come here and see the lack of what we have in the U.S. but to realize that they lack nothing from God. I'm trying to internalize a great irony; the freedom that they actually have in Christ and my bondage to my northern VA way of life. If I carry a fraction of their trust and faith what a blessing that will be.

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Are we to Happily Ever After Yet?

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Has life sold you a bill of goods?

All the stories I read as a child ended this way

Happily Ever After

It doesn't look or feel this way right now.

I guess I'm no longer a child.

I can't close my eyes and wait for the happy ending.

And even if I could, the reality is:Happily ever after does NOT equal None of this ever happened

God seems to be doing something big. Something about what we are living through is what we are meant to take with us in the Happily Ever After.

What is God working in you in these days to ready you for "ever after"?

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Cuba Team May 28

I had the privilege to help in the kitchen. The ladies were very organized. They made huge meals. Working in very small kitchen everyone had an assigned task so it made the work flow very smooth. I also helped with the laundry. There is a small washer in the kitchen so it took hours to do laundry for ten people the clothes were hung on the clothes line to dry just like in the olden days. It was a joy to work with the ladies it allowed me to get to know them a little bit better.

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