Being of Service, Ecumenically

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, November 26, 2014

autumn road with leaves

Being of Service, Ecumenically

I am pleased to say that I was of service today. In a big way. In an ecumenical way.

Let me go back to the beginning. A little recap. Remember back a few weeks, when I met with Father Dennis and with several other religious leaders from the different houses of worship in Morton Grove. Father Dennis asked me whether I’d preach a sermon for this Interfaith, Ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve service. Of course, I said!

I love to preach! Absolutely love it. And with such a great text to preach from? Psalm 100 is an absolutely marvelous resource. You had better believe that I took advantage of the sermon helps and commentaries I had at my disposal.

Originally, when I first started blocking out my sermon about a week and a half ago, I had intended to preach on Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” I truly wanted to come up with a good sermon on that verse. But—as I prayed and did more and more research on this verse, I had some kind of problem. Grrr. I got nothing.

Maddening! Oooo! Here I was, on Monday morning, and I just could not write this sermon for Wednesday evening. Using Psalm 100, verse 5, that is.

On Monday morning, I finally started considering whether I might be coming at the sermon the wrong way. I read the Scripture text over again, with an open, receptive mind. And Psalm 100, verse 3, jumped out at me. “It is He who made us, and we are His; we are God’s people, and the sheep of His pasture.” Wow!! Bam!!

And the sermon almost wrote itself. Seriously. We are “All Sheep of God’s Pasture.”

I very much enjoyed preaching it, too. I hope and I pray that I was able to take the Word of God and transform it into a message that would reach hearts, trigger thoughts, and give glory to God.

God, thanks for giving me ears to hear Your voice, and a heart to continue following after You. Thanks for allowing me to serve you on the 50th anniversary of the Interfaith Ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve service here in Morton Grove.

Thanks be to God for God’s marvelous gifts to each of us, every day. Let us make each day a Thanksgiving day, and each meal a time to give thanks to God, the Shepherd of us all.

@chaplaineliza

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Helping, Serving—in the Short Term (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog –Friday, June 13, 2014

helping-the-poor-and-needy

Helping, Serving—in the Short Term (Feature Friday!)

I have a confession to make. I have never been on a short term mission trip. Not out of the country. Not in the United States (and there are plenty of places to minister here!).

But, I am fascinated by the short term mission experiences talked about by my new friend in South America, Rich Brown. The mission he helped found, IncaLink, has a tremendous outreach and ministry for groups from North America. Yes, IncaLink runs several kinds of mission outreaches in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. A primary way of ministry is touching the lives of youth in a number of ways—through youth job training and schooling, training youth in leadership skills, and bringing young people to South America in internship roles with IncaLink.

A companion ministry in IncaLink is very much linked with the work with youth: short term mission. When I hear short term mission, one thing that immediately leaps to my mind is groups of youth from various churches in North America, gearing up to go to some faraway place over spring break, or during summer vacation. IncaLink’s response? Yes! Certainly, that’s a part of their short term team mission and ministry! But that’s not all. Not by a long shot!

Any kind of team, of any description, can come to IncaLink and be sent out on a worthwhile ministry to one of IncaLink’s sites. (How awesome is that?) Not only youth groups, but teams of college young people, teams of men, or of women, groups of senior citizens, and other groups of just about any description are welcomed and put to good use. Doing service. Being kind. Seizing the opportunity that God offers to enter into relationship with God’s people.

When I spoke with Rich through Skype some days ago (I still think that technology is SO cool!), Rich told me that small group ministry is so important to IncaLink. Not only are they fully committed to providing God-inspired short term experiences, but a portion of the money that is paid to the mission helps fund further ministry. A portion of the money each short term team member pays into IncaLink is sent directly to the other ministries and outreaches that IncaLink provides for so many youth, children, women and men. I could tell how excited Rich was, as he told me about this “financial engine” that provides for so many wonderful things to be done in many locations.

Rich wanted to add that he would very much like young people—in college, in their twenties—to consider short term mission experiences. Internships, too. Longer than a week, he means! “Come and see,” he says. Come and see what worthwhile ministry is going on at the dump in Peru. Or the orphanage in Ecuador. Or women’s prison ministry, or ministry to seniors, or to special needs youth.

Come and see. Come for the love of God. Stay for the love of God’s people.

@chaplaineliza

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Showing Love to All God’s Children (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 28, 2014

men on a park bench - the Getty Collection

men on a park bench – the Getty Collection

Showing Love to All God’s Children (Feature Friday!)

I love the town where I live! Such an eclectic group of people. Such a diverse bunch of individuals. A little bit of everything—snooty, artsy, down-and-out, parents, families, empty-nesters, students, immigrants, salt of the earth. Just about all kinds are represented here.

Some of these various kinds of people cross paths at the large YMCA near downtown. Yes, many people are active members of the Y and use the pool, gym, weight room, activity classes, and its other services on a regular basis. However, about one hundred and twenty men (give or take—the number varies) live in the attached single-room residence. I love that the YMCA also serves as a place where guys can get a leg up, and have a safe, warm place to live at a reasonable monthly price. However, some of these men are living on the edge of not-quite-enough. Some are on government assistance because of health reasons. Some have lost their jobs and are on the downhill slide into extreme poverty. Some have other issues. Whatever the individual difficulty, by and large, the lives of many men who live in the residence at the YMCA are not cushy, posh and comfortable. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s where John’s Cupboard fits in. John’s Cupboard is a service of the YMCA specifically to benefit the men who live in the residence. With all the government belt-tightening, corporate cost-cutting, and lessening of social services, many of the guys in this building have real, material needs. The Cupboard provides canned chicken and tuna, Ramen noodles, canned soup and crackers. Those are its staples. Plus, additional food is provided through donations. Another important part of the Cupboard are the toiletries provided by the Y, ordered from American Hotel. These are handy since they come in small, individual-sized packages. Soap, shampoo, disposable razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes. All greatly appreciated.

Enter John Mroczka—men’s residence director at the Y. (Also the John of “John’s Cupboard.”) John has done a great number of jobs at the facility over the years, and will retire this summer with twenty-nine years of service at the Y. But how did John start the Cupboard? At first, it was some spare cans of food kept on a shelf in his office. The Cupboard has since enlarged in both number of items offered and in size. John hopes to enlarge what the Cupboard provides to new socks, too. Socks are always appreciated! For years, John has given a Christmas present of two pairs of socks and a coffee mug to each and every resident at the YMCA. He adds, “A few other employees and I solicit Y board members for additional things, gift cards for the residents.” John has the gifts of helps, discernment and service in abundance. He certainly shows it, too!

His kindness and compassion—tempered with a savvy eye and sharp nose for scams—make him uniquely qualified to do exactly what he’s been doing for years. Which is serving others, for the benefit of these men and their families, as well as for the glory of God as he understands God. Thanks for all you do, John! May God’s richest blessings rest on you, too.

@chaplaineliza

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