Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Little Faith: Hope and Blessings from a Child

Rev. Meridith Whitaker, missionary, cares for children and families at the Canterbury Chapel United Methodist Church. Photo by Rachael Barnett.

As a part on the ministry in Eastern Oklahoma, I pastor a small 12-step church for people in recovery from drugs and alcohol. We always have a time in the service for what we call praises and concerns.

Sometime back, there were two young children who would walk to church every Sunday and every Sunday when I would ask for praises and concerns, the girl would raise her hand and ask us to pray for her daddy. He was in jail and she wanted him to come home.

Now, I knew her daddy. He was serving a life sentence for killing a man...he wasn't coming home, but every Sunday we would pray that her daddy would get out of jail and come home. One Sunday I was standing in the pulpit writing down some things I wanted to remember during the service when those two small children came in the door, escorted by their daddy. They sat on the right side of the church in the back.  

I kept my eye on him since I wasn't sure how he had gotten out of jail. As the worship began, tears rolled down the man's face.

At the end of the service he came up to me and said, "I need to talk to you Rev. Meri." I said okay and we stepped off to the side.

He said, "I got out of prison two weeks ago on a technicality. I came home and my wife didn't want me anymore. My friends don't want me around. I have been trying to get a job so that I can support my kids but nobody will have me. This morning I got up and I got down on my knees and I told God I just couldn't take it anymore. I was either going to go to church or I was going to kill myself.

“I decided that I would come to church with my kids and if that didn't work, I had the rest of the day to kill myself. I asked God to give me a little bit of faith...just a little bit of faith.

“When I walked in the door -- see that little girl over there?” He pointed to one of our little four-year-olds.

"Yes," I said.

“Well, she walked up to me, stuck her little hand out and said, ‘I'm really glad you’re here. But you look sad! I want to give you a present.’

"I want to show you what that little girl gave me," the father said. He held out his hand and slowly opened it and there in his hand was a little gold necklace with the word FAITH on it.

I believe that this is what United Methodist missionaries are sent to do. We are sent to give people just a little bit of faith. We are on the field because you, as United Methodists, have been faithful to give financially to keep us doing what God has called us to do.

I can't let this day go without saying thank you! Thank you for giving so that I could be a part of God's work. If your church would like to be in a special relationship with me, one that gives you a personal touch with the ministry and mission where I serve, the United Methodist Church has a program called Covenant Relationships that enables you to be a part.

To learn how your church can covenant with missionary Rev. Meridith Whitaker or any other of the hundreds of United Methodist missionaries, link to:

For a brief biography of Rev. Whitaker, a missionary of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, link to:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

World Means World

 Deputy General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson gave the closing message. She spoke of our week together and reminded us that God calls us to give of our whole selves, our imperfect, wounded, Spirit-filled selves to our work, using Ephesians 4:1-7 as a guide. (Photo by Felipe Castillo)

I am in Johannesburg, South Africa, attending the 12th Assembly of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women (WFMUCW). And "world," here, means world. And "Methodist" means all Methodist churches: United Methodist, Methodist, African Methodist Episcopal (AME), AME Zion, United Church of Canada, Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas, among others.

As Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala, United Methodist bishop for Mozambique and the first female United Methodist bishop in Africa, said this morning, "We are a diverse and complicated group of women." She also said, "We find common ground in the knowledge that we are bound by faith." So far, I agree with both statements.

A highly social and very full event, fellowship takes first priority, as it is not often women can gather in this manner just to be together and hear one another's voices. In fact, WFMUCW meets only once every five years. I am reminded here that taking the time to get to know one another is a very important part of working together on common goals, of understanding what goals need to be set and how to achieve them. Constructive fellowship, I'll call it. Ubuntu also applies. I am glad to be here.

Tara Barnes, staff editor for the Women’s Division, recently returned from the world assembly in South Africa. You can read more of Tara's blogs on the United Methodist Women's social network at

Learn more about the world community of Methodist Women at

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Great I Am

New missionaries of The United Methodist Church.
(Photo by Dan Randall, missionary)
May the Great I AM Hear You Deliver You
Protect You

May the Great I AM
Provide for You
Nourish You
Guide You and Lead You

May the Great I AM
Teach You
Train You
Transform You

May the Great I AM
Redeem You
Restore You
Rejoice over You

May the Great I AM
have all of your lives -
all of your faith, hope, and trust,
all of your doubt, anxieties, failures, and shortcomings
that you may know the Great I AM in ever deeper and fuller ways
because the Great I AM - the triune God - was, is,
and will be for you...forever.


Dan Randall, missionary, posted this prayer on his blog. He wrote the prayer for the 26 young adults who are being trained and are about to serve in communities throughout the United States and throughout the world through The United Methodist Church. (Photo by Dan Randall)

In the story of Israel's exodus and exile and relationship with God, "I AM" is the name given to Moses by God in the book of Exodus, and it is a name by which Jews and Christians continue to call on God today, as seen through the stories of the Old Testament.

For more on Dan's reflections, link to:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

These are the ones we are to avoid? Not according to Jesus

Global Ministries missionary Becky Harrell serves in Costa Rica.
Photo courtesy of Global Ministries Mission News.

05 agosto 2011
Just outside the gate and on the bottom step leading into the cathedral of downtown San Jose sits an elderly man who has a tag clipped to his shirt stating, “I have Parkinson’s.” Each time I enter the cathedral with a work or study team from the U.S. he is faithfully there, humbly holding out his hand for whatever you may wish to share with him. He has captured my attention and heart each time I pass so we speak (rather I speak and he nods).

A short time ago I made that same trip to downtown with a visiting work team and once again we entered the gates. But this time there were two policemen who were attempting to lift up this man and all his meager possessions. My first response was to intervene on his behalf. The police told me they were moving him as TV camera’s would soon be arriving and didn’t want him on the main steps. It was the national celebration of “La Negrita de las Angeles” and the faithful from throughout Costa Rica were making their pilgrimage to the national Basilica and on the way stopping here at the city cathedral. I suggested they allow him to stay where he is as this is his usual spot to greet all who enter, but the police saw it differently.

Suddenly two Costa Rican women, who witnessed what was happening, stopped the police and explained that this man was not bothering people, but was an elderly man with an illness and truly in need of help. Knowing these women would most likely have more sway over the police and me, we entered the cathedral.

Upon our exit I looked for the gentleman and found that indeed the police had been successful in moving him to a place where most wouldn’t observe him, and certainly out of the view of the TV's cameras. I walked over and held his hand and his joy continued to show from his eyes as if saying “It’s all right.”

The unworthy, the unclean, the sick, the addicts, those who don’t look like me? These are the ones we are to avoid? Not according to Jesus. What is it that we fear and why do we look away? Are we really fearful of being harmed or something being taken from us? All we have is from God. Do we not realize the power of a loving touch, the amazing force behind a nod or a smile? Do we truly believe that only we are worthy and the others deserve where they are because they have done evil? Really? So we just brush them aside, pass them by on the street, ignore their need? We are saved and they are not…nannynannybooboo! Not the God I know, not the Christ, not the Holy Spirit. Is it possible these encounters are an examination of our hearts? The reflection is sometimes difficult to see.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Acts 2:44

The next trip downtown to the cathedral I feel a hug is more in order for this man, a child of God who like anyone else is having a difficult time. And isn’t that how Jesus taught us to live, to help those around us and in doing so allow them to know Christ as well? One day we may be the one in need and how will we react when the faithful turn away?


“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” Acts 3:6-10

Becky Harrell, Missionary United Methodist Church-General Board of Global Ministries, Advance Code #15141Z. To support Becky-give Securely Online at Assignment: Latin American Biblical University, San Jose Costa Rica