Taking our ministry to the streets

I don’t remember mission trips in my early childhood church life. Though at one point in time, I wanted to join the Peace Corp and so did my daughter…not really sure where that came from but many of us thought that was the road to take….especially if we were going to run away from home.

However, I do remember my own children helping and giving to charities through church and school here in Downers Grove but never in the same capacity as a mission trip out of the state or country.

Mission trips help to promote generations of strong disciples connected to churches while leading with God. I wish that I would have started a tradition in my own family. Though it is never too late; parents or even grandparents can can set an example and travel with their children growing closer together in God’s love.

First Congregational United Church of Christ of Downers Grove traveled over 1,000 miles to Houston Texas last month to help people in need and returned with a message never to ignore any of God’s people. We have the power to build A Beautiful City, a song by Hunter Parrish, presented by Dena Provenzano, Director of Youth Ministries at the Sunday service describing the trip.  Other mission workers were eager to share a summary of their participation in Texas.

Many of the youth that have attended mission trips in the past found this trip to be the most impactful; finding that just simple loving conversations with the underprivileged was how they could help the most.

Madison talked about one homeless lady who wanted a certain bag of chips and Gatorade so they went to buy her the food. Madison said that when they came back to give the lady the food, she could not believe that they did come back probably one of Madison’s most memorable experiences.

Luke enjoyed working at the food bank and was amazed at the number of meals they made which totaled about 5,000.

Faith sat next to a woman at Crosswords and despite all the women’s problems she asked Faith questions about her life, what she did and really listened to Faith’s answers.

Erin talks about Crosswords also for the homeless and she talks about one guy who was having a bad day. She was able to calm him down and it truly opened her eyes to what others go through. Erin is so fortunate for what she has and will never forget that experience.

Joe said just giving homeless people food was one of the most positive events in his life.

George talks about how anyone can be homeless at one time or another such as a linebacker he met who had played in the Rose Bowl. Vinny talks about how grateful  people were at the time for the little help that they could give. No matter what happens in life  …Madison says…… God will be there, no matter what.

Mady talks about bringing sack lunches to Rainbow house and it really opened her eyes on how she had food when so many children did not.

Pastor Scott Oberle, who also attended the trip, was amazed at the fantastic group of young adults that were like shining stars in the darkness and was proud that he could serve with this group.

After sharing this story with a friend who lives in the northern suburbs today, a guest speaker at her church; a young teen just returned from a mission trip in Houston, Texas. Imagine….he said the he never felt more embraced by the love of Christ and how Christ changes lives.

For more information about the music, arts, teaching, worship and mission programs you may want to experience, please click on First Congregational United Church of Christ in Downers Grove.

She still smiles

Even in the end, she would smile as I played Clair de Lune though she could not dance in the arms of my Dad now. Everyone at the nursing home was quiet; contemplating their own personal memories of  love in the moonlight that Claude Debussy’s classic piece offered.

In return, it was Moms high compliments to me and my talent. Perfecting this song over the years for her in every avenue; piano contests, recitals, recordings, restaurants and finally her final home before the everlasting journey. I am sure she would take the classical rendition with her as a  reminder. A reminder that I loved her. If there was ever a compliment from a somewhat subdued mother, it was for my piano mastery of Clair De Lune.

My father had passed away when I was twelve, Mom sold the company business that was almost bankrupt, and went to work as a secretary for 35 years; a single mother with a substantial savings and healthy 401 K.

Mom passed away before the last recession fall-out and she would never understand that today, the average number of years in one position was four years. 4.5 to be exact. During my first layoff, she was still alive and felt that it was my fault. I just didn’t produce and pursue enough. If one job didn’t pay the bills, why not three? She did not understand the world of corporate layoffs. Not her generation. I think about that far too often when I think of Mom.

As I slowly poured my coffee, it was the first Sunday I wanted to stay in bed rather than go to church. It was a the beginning of fall, still warm as the trees began their dramatic demonstration of magnificent color. My favorite time of year. I had volunteered to help record the broadcast service today and really couldn’t call in sick. It was church.

As I watched  from First Congregational United Church of Christ  classroom 504 where I could view the service in full regalia and play with the audio, the pastors message caught me off guard. Since my first visit  to this church two years ago, divine guidance was displayed through his messages. That’s how God works in all of us. But this was too good to be true

Bombarded by his divine Guidance….

His words made me sit up and take notice. And, of course,he talked about what I needed to hear; breaking the dreaded cycle of the treadmill; needing more in money, goods and not trusting that we have all that we need. The old tapes of Mom…clashing for a  moment…but quickly subsiding with a sigh of relief.  The pastors closing comment Let the Jones Win ended for me with tears beginning to surface. He did it again! Exactly what I needed.

But then something else happened.  Following the message was the offertory and music  by a guest pianist who played a beautiful arrangement. Almost in a state of physical shutdown as I recognized the song….Clair De Lune.

And now the tears tumbled into sobs as I immediately recognized that this was not a message from the pastor but my Mom who confirmed his message of hope. Mom knowing that I was living the life that God wanted for me; clearly sharing her enthusiasm.

It is not about an entire career at one company. Sometimes we develop right along with the company; forming a special bond though rare today.  How many workplaces we have visited to put food on the table is not really important.  But that we have done it!

Most, important, regardless of THE PLACE, we have the opportunity to share our faith with others; how we affect their lives is our greatest accomplishment and our reward.

I know I have done my best. Now, I just have to remember.

Come join us this week!

From Senior Pastor Scott Oberle

I have had so many people this year come to me feeling very discouraged. The nation seems divided. Politics are so ugly; front and center. So many people seem angry and choosing sides; friendships have been strained. “It’s hard for me to be on social media anymore.” one friend told me.

Any of this sound familiar? Perhaps, it all reminds us of how broken human relationships can become and how messy life together can be. But there is another truth. One which professes that light is greater than any darkness, hope more powerful than any despair, and that the love of God is more compelling and powerful than any hate or violence we might spill out upon one another.

There is Good News that you won’t find on any television news cast or twitter feed…. It is the news that Jesus Christ has come to bring us closer to God forever; that deeper more meaningful and life altering LIFE is available today in the resurrected Christ.

Come join us to reconnect with God and be with a community that believes that faith is more than a religion or an hour on Sunday, but a life that is changed in how we live and see the world around us because of the love of God in Christ.

EASTER SCHEDULE:

Maundy Thursday: March 29th -6pm Simple Supper provided by Congregational Care Ministries.

Maundy Thursday worship: 7:30pm

Good Friday Tenebrae worship service: 7:30pm

Easter Sunday 

6:00am Sunrise Service

9:00am Traditional Easter Service

10:47am Blended Contemporary Easter Service

Come Change the World with us! United in Love, Faith, Service and Community….United in Christ

First Congregational United Church of Christ of Downers Grove where no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here. If you are traveling or home bound, you can see all of our services online at uccfn.org