January 12, 2021
Dear New McKendree Family,
You don’t need me to tell you that 2020 was a strange, tragic, and challenging year. And, although generally an optimistic, “glass half full” person, I’m not blind to the reality that, in many ways, 2021 has picked up right where 2020 left off. We’re still dealing with the COVID pandemic and our national climate seems to be growing more caustic by the day. None of that should really surprise us though. On the night he was arrested, Jesus warned his disciples (and us) that “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows,” and then in the same breath said, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When I think about Jesus’ warning/promise in light of our current situation, it seems to me that we as a church family have a choice. We can choose to focus on our world’s many trials and sorrows. In other words, join in with the bitter finger-pointing, blame game crowd. Or, we can choose to focus on the solution; our Savior who overcomes our world’s many trials and sorrows. My prayer is that we’ll continue to choose the latter; that we’ll rise above the caustic rhetoric, stay the course, and simply be the church…the courageous reflectors of Christ’s light and love. After all, just being the church served us well in 2020 and will continue to serve us well in the New Year ahead.
If you’re wondering what simply being the church looks like, allow me to offer a few examples from our 2020 “being the church in a pandemic” archives:
- ~ In July we launched our Care Portal ministry. To date, our 56 NMUMC Care Portal volunteers have served 40 Jackson families in need; a $8,940 financial impact.
- ~ During the height of the pandemic, our United Methodist Women made seven trips to the SEMO Food Bank and packed a total of 3,087 food boxes for distribution throughout Southeast Missouri.
- ~ Our NMUMC family hosted three mobile food pantries which serve over 500 Southeast Missouri families.
- ~ As part of our church family’s partnership with the JR2 School District, our participation in last year’s “Hope for Christmas” served 71 JR2 families.
- ~ During our October Coat Drive, our NMUMC family generously provided over 100 coats to our JR2 counselors and social workers for distribution to students in need.
- ~ Thanks to your ongoing financial support, NMUMC paid 100% of its 2020 Conference and District apportionments.
- ~ In July we began live streaming our South Campus worship service and, in October, a video recording of our High Street Sunday service. In spite of the pandemic’s constraints on in-person worship, our video worship ministry has provided us a fruitful worship alternative that reaches far beyond our Jackson community.
Those are just a few examples of us choosing to be the church even in the midst of 2020’s “many trials and sorrows.” But, the most courageous example of all is our church’s willingness to accept the challenge of hosting Breaking Bonds Ministry. While it would’ve been easy and safe to simply hunker down and hold on until the COVID storm passes, our New McKendree family is courageously stepping out in faith to take on something new; an addiction recovery ministry. Lord willing, our NMUMC Breaking Bonds Ministry will be up and running in February. God has blessed us and is using us to bless others in some new and exciting ways. That’s what it means to “be the church” in a world of trials and sorrows!
God only knows what 2021 holds, but whatever “trials and sorrows” the world throws at us, we’ll keep on focusing on the One who overcomes the world and faithfully be the church in spite of it. Remember…God’s got this, so keep on looking up, and keep on loving and caring for one another!
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Bryan Wendling
Pastor Bryan Wendling