A People Of Courage!...

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been three weeks since our Church’s MCCI Consultation Weekend. It feels like so much has happened in just three weeks…and yet it also feels like it was just yesterday. It’s funny how life can do that to a person.

I do hope by now that most of you have had a chance to read the MCCI Report with Prescriptions that was presented to our church family on Sunday morning during our MCCI Consultation weekend. If you haven’t received or read the report, it is being included with another e-mail. For a hard copy you can stop by the church office. The document is an eight-page report divided into three sections; Strengths, Concerns, and Prescriptions.

The first section, “Strengths” is a fun section. It lists the top five qualities or strengths that the Consultation Team heard during their time at our church. If you’ve read the report, which strength was your favorite or the one that caught you by surprise? For me, the “strength” that surprised me, but is also my favorite, is the last one; Courage!

I hadn’t thought of this quality in regard to being a strength for our church family, but the more I reflect on it, I believe it’s accurate. It took courage for the men and women in the late 1800’s to decide to build a Methodist Church in a community that was in its infancy. It took courage for another group of men and women to decide to build what would have been considered a huge church building in the early 1900’s. In fact, when our sanctuary was built in 1906 it was the largest protestant sanctuary in South Dakota.

It took courage in the 30’s during very difficult times, for the leadership of our church to stand up and be bold when a group of people within the church questioned youth meeting and playing games in the church facility. These individuals felt that was an inappropriate activity for a place of worship. But the leadership arose and responded by saying, “Be it Resolved; We are committed…” They went on to say that this (our church) is exactly where youth should be in such troubling times.

It took Courage 50 years ago to add on an education wing, that now houses many ministries. It took Courage 20 years ago to start a feeding ministry called Love Feast. It took Courage a year ago for church leadership to agree to participate in the MCCI process. It will take Courage on Sunday, October 28th for our church to vote to accept the prescriptions (by a vote margin of 75% or higher) and then live into them and make them a reality. But I believe we are up to the challenge, because we are people of courage! The MCCI Consultation Team got it right, Courage is a strength of the people of Downtown Mitchell First UMC.

Next week I’ll write about the Concerns and Prescriptions. But again, if you haven’t read the report, I hope you will take a moment to do so. It really is good and important reading. As you read the report the question to ask is, “Are these God’s next steps for us as a church?”

Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

Be sure to join us for worship this Sunday. It’s Children’s Sunday and the children of the church will have a special “fishy” story to tell at both services; 8:30 and 11:00 am. Also, the drama group “Spoofed” from the High School will have a special presentation for us. It’s going to be a great Sunday!

Also, plan on joining us for worship on Sunday, October 28th. It’s the day we’ll have the Special Charge Conference vote on our MCCI Prescriptions. We will have one worship service at 10:15 am. Sunday School will begin at 9:15 this Sunday. The Special Charge Conference will take place immediately following worship!

Crystal Clear...

There’s a great little, often overlooked, story in the Bible that is really rather powerful. It’s a story I believe speaks to us as individual followers of Jesus, as well as to the church body, yet today. This short story speaks to the mission and motivation of Jesus and is found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s story of Jesus life.

What happens in this story is that John the Baptist sends a couple of his disciples to Jesus with a simple question; “Are you the messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Now remember, Jesus and John are related through their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth. Jesus could have taken great offense at this question. He could have “powered up” as they say, and responded with, “What, you dare question me? Doesn’t John remember what he said about me, ‘I am the lamb of God!’ What, isn’t he man enough to come himself to ask this question to my face? Get away from me! I don’t have time for this!”

That could have been Jesus response, but it wasn’t. Instead, how Jesus responded was to say, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” (Luke 7:22) This is a rather interesting list of “qualifiers” for John’s disciples to report back with concerning Jesus being the messiah, or not, until we read again what Jesus understood his mission to be. Remember, earlier when Jesus was in the synagogue and he was asked to read scripture and comment on it, Jesus read from Isaiah – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In this simple statement Jesus makes to John’s disciples, he is reflecting back to John the very purpose of why Jesus was here. No bravado, no exaggeration, no claiming of importance. Jesus doesn’t even claim that he’s the one doing it. He simply says, “Report back what you have seen and heard – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, etc.” In other words, Jesus was clear on who he was and why he was here. He didn’t let other things get in the way of his purpose.

We live in a very diverse time. There are many challenges in life and faith the confront us daily. In a way there are constantly people asking the question of us, “Are you really the church? Do you really reflect or represent God?” I believe now more than ever, even in the midst of the energy of how we sense God is at work in our midst, it is so important for us to be clear on our purpose. As disciples of Jesus our purpose is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the world. And as Downtown Mitchell First United Methodist Church a part of our “disciple making” is To Share the Love of Jesus with the next generation from the Heart of Downtown. This is who we are…this is what we are about…the is why we are here.

In the midst of all the distractions in our world, people more than ever need an anchor for life and living. I believe we, as the Church, have that anchor…that sense of purpose. In all that we do…in all that we are let’s remember why we are here. We’re sharing the Love of Jesus with the next generation from the heart of downtown. May others see these words lived out through our actions and our words.

Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

This Sunday is World Communion Sunday. Join us for worship at 8:30 and 11:00 am. Communion will be served at both services.

It's A New Day....

I am incredibly grateful for the technology and the conveniences that are at my disposal and used regularly in my daily life. Just the other day I was talking with a friend about how when we were kids and had our first cameras, one took pictures rather sparingly. When the film was finally all exposed then it was sent in to be developed and you might wait several weeks to get your pictures back. Of course, now most cell phones are also cameras and your only picture taking limit is the size of the memory card in the phone…plus, you can pretty much instantly see and share your pictures.

I remember when mom got her first microwave oven. It was an Amana RadarRange. If I remember right we all watched as she heated up a mug of water for some tea in just a matter of a minute. WOW!! I remember when a trip to Sioux Falls was a big deal. A trip to Rapid City was a REALLY big deal because it usually meant an overnight stay. Now a trip to Rapid City is common place. We do it all the time. I’ve gone out and come back home to Mitchell all in the same day.

We are used to getting things fast (fast food, Amazon Prime 3-day delivery, etc.) and we also expect things to be convenient and quick. When I was in seminary in the Chicago area a friend told me her idea of convenience was knowing that she could get up at 2 am and go to the local convenience store and get a loaf of bread and some milk. We do live in an instant culture and we do like things fast. Yet, I’ve learned that some things just can’t be rushed.

In my personal devotion time, just the other day I was reading in Matthew’s Gospel, what many of us know as the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Etc.”

What struck me as I read these words…these teachings of Jesus, is that these aren’t instant answers, these aren’t quick self-help solutions. In fact, for many of these teachings, it takes a lifetime of living out or living into these values for the full effect or reward to be realized. This is why we say that faith is a journey. It takes time, it takes persistence, it takes stumbling and getting back up, it takes moving forward step by step, and it takes continual learning and growing. Thus, part of the beauty of the journey…is the journey!

Our MCCI Weekend is now behind us. THANK YOU to everyone who prayed, participated, helped, organized, prayed some more, etc. It was a wonderful weekend. I feel the final report is accurate, insightful, and right on target. (Copies are available in the church office). The important question we have to ask now is not, “Do I like the prescriptions?” No, the question to ask is, “Are these God’s ‘next steps’ for our Church?”

But something to keep in mind, just like the beatitudes, the prescriptions are not a quick fix. They won’t be completed, if we accept them, in a month or two. Yes, there are dates and timelines for us to follow, built into the report. But the real intention of the report and the prescriptions are to help us grow, develop, improve, and to consider how to be the “church” for the day we are in and the days that are coming to us right here in Mitchell. These are interesting and exciting days to be in ministry. But we must keep in mind that transformation is rarely immediate. It takes time. And true transformation is always ongoing! But know this, together we can do this because I believe… This is Our Time!

Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

Join us Sunday at 10:00 am in the sanctuary for our Special Charge Conference. We will be voting on the proposed purchase of the Ackerman Property immediately to the north of our church facility.

Today is the Day...

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life!” That is a saying from years past that really captured my attention. I thought on those words, I repeated those words to myself, I shared them with others, and I wondered what exactly they meant for me? That simple saying spoke to me of possibilities and opportunities that were available to me regarding the direction of my life. In fact, those words still impact my life today. The message I hear for myself in those words is that tomorrow is not yet determined, but it can be greatly influenced by what I do today.

I was reminded of these words by another quote that has been shared and repeated in recent days. The quote is from Ernest Hemingway, but these words were spoken at the funeral service of Senator John McCain by former president Barack Obama. Following is the saying. “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today.”

Let those words linger in your heart and mind for just a moment. Those are powerful words. Those are true and inspiring words. Today is just one day…but today has the power to influence the moments, the decisions, and the directions that will be followed for the days to come.

For almost a year our church has been praying our Breakthrough Prayer. It’s a prayer that has been preparing us for our MCCI Consultation Weekend. A year ago, when the leadership of our church voted to participate in this process, it seemed like it was a long way off. Now it is almost here. In fact, as I write these words, the Consultation Team will be gathering at our church in exactly one week on Friday September 21. The team is already praying for our church that God’s presence and direction will be sensed through this upcoming weekend.

Now if we all need a reminder of what MCCI (Missional Church Consultation Initiative) is all about, it’s summed up best by saying, it is strategic planning intentionally involving God. So, next weekend is our time.

Two years ago, when I first came to Downtown Mitchell First UMC, one of the things I sensed and shared with people was that I believed the best days for the church are yet to come. Many of you believe this and I do too. I feel that our upcoming MCCI Consultation Weekend will truly help shape our church for the months and years to come. Our best days are yet to come!!

These words from Hemingway are so fitting for us as a church body; “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today.” This is our time! These are important days. That’s why it is so important that as many of our church family as possible participate in our Consultation Weekend.

I know many of you have been praying for this moment. Let’s continue to pray that God’s Spirit and Power will truly breakthrough in the work we do together as a part of our consultation weekend. God is present and God is at work in our midst!!! I’m excited to be on this journey with you!!

Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

MCCI Events for entire Church Family:

September 22 – Saturday Seminar – 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – All are welcome and invited.

September 23 – Sunday Worship – One service at 10:00 am – Prescriptions will be first presented. All are welcome and invited.

Wellness Check

Over all, I am really a very healthy person.  Yet, like everyone else here on planet earth, every so often I start to feel ill.  Maybe there’s a temperature, a headache, a queasy feeling, a pain where there usually isn’t one, etc.  After a few days to a week, whatever bug it was passes, I’m over it and life gets back to normal.  Yet, on occasion there are moments when the illness lingers on.  That’s when I get to the point of calling my health care provider and making an appointment.  
Once I arrive at the clinic, the usual happens; step on the scale, we’re going to take your blood pressure, etc., etc.  When the doctor comes in to see me, the individual usually looks at my chart, looks at my numbers, listens to my heart and lungs, and then usually listens to me.  My health care provider is good at asking questions and then listening to me, asking follow-up questions, and then listening some more.  At some point after the examination and the listening, this medical professional pulls out a pad and starts writing.  It’s a prescription with instructions or steps for me to follow to move toward greater health and wholeness.  
In recent weeks and months, we’ve been hearing about “prescriptions” that our church will receive as a part of our MCCI weekend coming up September 21, 22, 23.  Of course a question I hear every so often is, “What will our prescriptions be?”  My answer is, “I don’t know.  They haven’t been written yet.”  Every consultation team I’ve been a part of has produced different prescriptions that fit the church and ministry setting.  In fact, the “church” prescriptions are always a product of careful listening, just like in the doctor’s office.  
One of the main reasons the MCCI Consultation Team comes to the local church where the consultation is being held is to meet with people and listen.  They listen for strengths, concerns, and they listen for the hopes and dreams that people believe God has for their church.  This is why it is so important that as many of our church family as possible attend our Saturday gathering during our MCCI Weekend, September 22.  
During the Saturday Seminar we’ll hear about God Stories, some of which we’ve been hearing throughout the summer in our Splash Stories.  It will also be a time of hearing the report from the mystery worshippers and hearing other information about our community.  But most importantly, it will be a time of listening to you our church family and having you share your prayerful hopes and dreams for the future of our church.  This is truly what the MCCI Consultation Team looks and listens for when they are here with us.  This is part of what the Breakthrough Prayer is all about; God breaking through in our hearts and lives and in our hopes and dreams that we share relating to our church and the future.
Join us at the church on Saturday, September 22 from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm for our Saturday Seminar.  This will be an important time of helping shape our church for ministry, service, making disciples, and for moving in the direction God has for our future.  Also plan on joining us for worship on Sunday, September 23 at 10:00 am.  (There will be just one worship service.)  This is when we will receive our prescriptions and we want to do this as one worshipping family.  Please join us for this powerful God-filled weekend.  I’m praying for Breakthroughs with you!!
Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

Hey Everybody, remember this Sunday we go back to 2 service; 8:30 and 11:0 am.  Sunday School starts at 9:45.  Come join us!!!  It’s going to be a great day!

Give Me Eyes That I Might See...

So, how are your eyes doing?  I hope they’re just fine.  I’ll be honest, it’s time that I scheduled another eye exam.  Not that there are any problems…that I know of.  It’s just been awhile, and I want to keep my vision healthy and strong.  I know that it takes the outside perspective of another person, my doctor, to help bring to light any potential issues or needs that should be dealt with.  I’ve come to realize there are just some things my eyes cannot see without the help of an outside perspective.  
Another issue I’ve had to face in my life and ministry is that sometimes I see something so much that I really no longer see it.  Recently I was asked where something was at home.  My reply was, “I don’t know…I haven’t seen it.”  And yet when the item was found, there it was…in plain sight.  It had been there so long it was easy to overlook.  
This sense of not being able to see what is right in front of you is a reality that people, businesses, and even organizations have to deal with.  This is why some store owners hire “mystery shoppers” or unknown people to come to their store to shop.  Then these mystery shoppers tell of their experience, what they saw, heard, and felt, and the store owner then is able to decide if anything needs to be done different to make the shopping experience more helpful, attractive, meaningful, or enjoyable for the shoppers.  
Did you know that there are mystery worshippers??  This is something I first heard about 10 years ago or so.  It’s the same idea as what I’ve described above.  Unknown individuals come into a church setting to experience the facility and worship service.  They record their thoughts and observations, which are then shared with the pastors and leadership of the church.  It provides outside eyes to see what others who have been there for a while tend to overlook.  
As a part of the MCCI process that our church is involved with there will be Mystery Worshippers that come to our church.  These mystery worshippers will experience what all of us experienced at some point – that of what it’s like to be a first-time guest or visitor in our facility and in our worship service.  They will notice things that I don’t notice anymore because I’ve been here at Downtown Mitchell First UMC for over two years now.  
The goal of a mystery worshipper is not to make us look bad.  No, the goal is to point out what we’re doing well and then identify things / areas that we might overlook, that a first-time person is likely to notice.  The goal is to help us become even better at what we do.
To hear what our mystery worshippers have to say about us, as well as be a part of what the MCCI Consultation team shares with our church, I invite you to come to our church on September 22 for the Consultation Seminar Day.  It will last from 9 am – 3 pm.  Lunch will be provided.  It will be a great day of learning and sharing of hopes and dreams for our church for the future.  Your presence and thoughts can help shape the direction of our church.  
Serving Together,

Pastor Keith
Remember, we’re two weeks away from the beginning of the school year schedule.  On September 9 we go back to 2 worship service each Sunday – 8:30 & 11:00, with Sunday School at 9:45.  

A Closer Look

Some of you have noticed that it appears I wear two wrist watches.  Actually, one is my watch and the other is a Fitbit.  If you’re not sure what a Fitbit is, it’s a device a person wears that tracks walking steps, heart rate, sleep patterns, flights of stairs climbed, etc., etc.  All this information is sent to the Fitbit app on my phone or computer, which then helps me track what I’m doing to stay healthy.  It is interesting to track progress and trends in my health by looking at the information over a week’s or months’ time.  
Just the other day I visited my health care provider.  They were able to access other information and numbers (blood work, preventative health screenings, lifestyle choices, etc.) which gave a different perspective on my health.  She was able to look at information from previous years which gave insight into trends and patterns regarding my fitness and health.  It’s by looking at all this and other information, that my physician gains insight into my overall physical, mental, and emotional condition, and then make recommendations for what I can do to maintain or improve my health for the days and years to come.
In the same way that our health care providers look at different aspects of our lives to gain insight into our health and make informed decisions for the future, so it is with organizations and even churches.  This is why as a part of our MCCI process our leadership is in the midst of doing a “self-study.”  We are compiling information that will give our consulting team insight into who we are as a church body and help with making plans and decisions that can guide us into a stronger future
Information that is being asked for is; a brief history of our congregation that speaks of the strong points in the churches history as well as points of challenge and difficulty.  A description of our facility and all property owned or used by the church as a part of our ministry, a list of paid staff and their area of responsibility, how many hours a week they work, etc.  A listing of the pastors and program staff for the past 20 years, how long they stayed and reasons for leaving, what does our church’s organizational structure look like.
A brief report is being written concerning our church family; membership, number of yearly baptisms and confirmations, yearly attendance average, Sunday School participation averages, deaths, average age of those participating in the life of our congregation, etc.  We’re asked to gather information regarding those volunteering and serving in our various ministries, total receipts and expenditures for the current and past 20 years, stewardship campaigns utilized, apportionment payment, etc.
A description of the community in which we exist is asked for, including; brief history, population numbers and trends, income levels, education levels, diversity information, age patterns, etc.  We’re asked to consider what are our core values and beliefs.  Are there key theological, social issues, mission partnerships that guide us.  We’re asked to provide copies of several bulletins, budgets, information sharing pieces, etc.  
All this information provides the consultation team with an insight into who this church is and it helps guide them in considering how we can do what we do even more effectively for the future.  We’re doing all this to help us be more effective disciples and servants of God in this community.  Once this report is completed we’ll make copies available for our church family to see and read.  
Let’s all keep praying for God’s Spirit to be at work in and through this process.  The best days of our church are yet to come!!  Please plan to join us September 22 & 23 here at the church for our MCCI Consultation to be a part of this process.  A schedule of events is coming soon.  If you have questions, feel free to come visit with me.

Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

Be The Change You Want To See...

Mahatma Gandi is credited with saying the phrase, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  There are some who say he never spoke that phrase.  Whether he did or not, I don’t know.  It does sound like something he would have said, or at the very least he would have agreed with the intent.  One interpretation of what the phrase means is that if you want to bring about change in the world, it must first begin in yourself.  Change has to start somewhere.  It starts with just one person.  Recently I had the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of this phrase and actually live it out.  
On the north side of Mitchell there’s a street that is known as Cemetery Road.  It’s called that because the street runs east and west right beside the city cemetery.  The Bike Path also follows alongside Cemetery Road for a stretch.  This has become one of my favorite routes for walking our dog, Sophie.  Now there are two pedestrian crosswalks that cross Cemetery Road, so people can access and use the bike path safely.  What I’ve noticed recently is that very few drivers actually acknowledge the existence of the crosswalks.  Motorists generally don’t slow down.  A motorist actually stopping to allow a walker, biker, etc. to cross is very rare.  
In fact, just the other day if I hadn’t been paying attention to traffic, Sophie and I could have easily been hit by a pickup whose driver was more interested in the coffee in his hand than what was near-by or a potential hazard on the road.   My concern is that with school starting soon a child on a bicycle or walking might get hit.  That would be absolutely tragic.  
Anyway, just yesterday morning as I was driving to work, I noticed a pedestrian standing by the side of the road in the crosswalk, waiting to get across the street.  I’ll admit my first thought was, “Oh, I’ll just buzz right by.  He’s waited this long, a little more won’t hurt.  I’m in a hurry, I’d really rather not stop.”  But then I heard another little voice in my head, “Keith, it’s the crosswalk!  Remember how frustrated you get when no acknowledges you in that same spot?”
It was in that moment I heard those words spoken to me, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  So, yes, I slowed down and stopped and allowed the morning walker to cross the road.  It took all of 20 seconds.  He appreciated it and gave a wave of thanks.  No, the world didn’t instantly change.  But at least for one pedestrian on the bike path the world was a safer place and for one motorist, me, I realized that stopping didn’t slow me down that much in the course of my day.  This is the change I want to see happen right here in Mitchell.  It has to start somewhere.  I guess it can begin with me.  
What about you??  What’s the change you want to see in the world?  How are you going to reflect that change in your life?  How are you going to live into this new reality?  Whether these words were spoken by a great spiritual leader, I don’t know.  But there is great truth in them…Be the change you want to see in the world.
Serving Together,

Pastor Keith
Join us for worship this Sunday at 9:30 am or Wednesday at 6:00 pm.  It’s always good to come together as the people of God!!  Communion will be offered on both Sunday and Wednesday.   FOR OUR RADIO LISTENERS…Due to a broadcast conflict, our Sunday Service on KORN am will be broadcast at 9:30 am and not 11:00 am.  Please Spread The Word!!

Who's Fighting With You?

Who are the people that fight your battles with you?  No, I didn’t ask who fights your battles for you?  Who fights your battles with you?  This, I believe is an important question to know the answer to in your mind and heart because it can mean the difference between victory and defeat.  What got me reflecting on this question is that in my reading in the Bible, I came across the account of David’s mighty men.  
We all know about David.  He was a sheepherder that fought the giant, Goliath, and brought him down with a stone and a sling.  David soothed King Saul’s mind and spirit with his musical ability.  David was a great warrior and ended up being the greatest King Israel ever new.  He also wrote many of the Psalms.  David was a very gifted man.  Yet, in the midst of his greatness it’s important to remember that when David faced his greatest battles, he most likely wasn’t alone.  
In the Old Testament books of 1 Chronicles and 2 Samuel it tells about David’s Mighty Men.  These were the fierce warriors who were a part of his army and were likely a part of his personal security detail.  The Bible tells of the “exploits” of a few of these “mighty men” and the great deeds they accomplished in the midst of battle.  The stories tell of how heavy the spear was for a couple of them or how thick the shaft of the spear was.  It tells about the number of men killed by a single warrior in one day.  The story goes on sharing the greatness of these friends and warriors.  But again, what struck me was the fact that David had someone fighting close at hand with him when he went into battle.  So, again, I’ll ask the question.  Who fights the battle with you?
The truth is we all have battles we are fighting.  It might be the battle is an emotional, or spiritual, or relational issue and the battlefield is in your heart, soul, or mind.  The battle might be with a medical condition, an employment situation, a financial problem, a habitual or addiction issue.  There are just so many possible battles that we all can and do face in our lives.  But the wisdom from the Bible is that to ensure success and to defeat the enemies we come up against, it is important to have some “mighty friends” fighting the battles of life with you.  
Chances are if David hadn’t had his mighty warriors, he would have been overwhelmed, defeated, and possibly even killed in one of his many battles.  If that would have been the case, we would have likely never heard of David at all.  He would have simply slipped away into history.  But it was his trusted friends, his mighty warriors that helped bring victory and success in his life.  Yes, David was gifted, but his mighty warriors made the difference when the pressure was on.  
So, who fights the battle with me??  I have my ASK Prayer Team.  They are my prayer warriors who pray with me regularly.  (You can join us Tuesday mornings at 7:07 at the church.)  I have several friends I talk to when life gets difficult and they encourage me.  My spouse is a great source of strength and support!  I hope you have some mighty friends in your corner.  If not, please start developing those potential relationships.  We all need to have someone we know is there, helping us and fighting with us when life gets difficult.   

Serving Together,

Pastor Keith

How’s your “Prayer Walking” your community coming along.  Together we are #encouragingthesplash here in our community!!  Share your stories of “#encouragingthesplash with us!!

Hospitality = Everyone

One of the things we’ve tried to stress at our church is that we are all a part of the welcoming and greeting team here at Downtown Mitchell First United Methodist Church.  Every one of us can have an impact on whether people feel welcome here…or not feel so welcome.  I had an experience while on vacation that really drove this point home.

Many of you have heard me talk about Rocky Mountain National Park.  It’s where Nancy and I spent much of our vacation in late June.  It’s a place that both of us love.  The views, the scenery, the mountains, the hikes, the wildlife…I mean, what’s not to love!!! ☺  However, I did have an experience this summer in the park that made me feel not so welcome.  You see, I had a run in with the “Firewood Lady.”  
Now we all know that a big part of camping is the evening campfire…at least it is a big deal for the Nelson family.  The fire is something that we all look forward to.  Since we wanted to have a campfire I needed to get some firewood.  Fortunately, firewood was for sale at the campground where we stayed.  So, I drove over to the place where it appeared the firewood was being sold.  I stopped on the road to allow some firewood customers to get their haul to their vehicle.  Then I sat there for a moment trying to figure out where to park.  But before I could identify the proper parking spot, I heard these words, “Oh no…you can’t stop there.”  I told her I was waiting for people to cross the road and figure out where to park.  “Well, you can’t stop there!”  I pulled ahead and swung into a parking spot.
I approached the little shed that was obviously the point for the firewood sales.  A teenager was just finishing his purchase of a bundle of firewood.  He was awkwardly trying to pick it up.  The Firewood Lady said to him, “Well, you’ve got a handle staring right at you that you can use.”  OK…now it’s my turn.  I walk up and announce I’d like 2 bundles of firewood.  I pull a $50 out of my billfold and ask if she can break a 50-dollar bill.  She looks at me and says, “No! What do you think I am, a bank? Come back later, then maybe I can.”  
So, things just kept going from bad to worse.  My last encounter with her two nights later just took the cake.  I walked up to the shed on the wrong side of her truck.  She said, “Nope, can’t come that way.  You gotta come around the other side.”  AAAhhhhhhhh………  Fortunately, I did have a smaller bill to make my purchase!
This little encounter with the Firewood Lady sure pressed home the importance of everyone having a part to play in making people feel welcome.  The Firewood Lady (and I don’t know her story) could have been such a happy part of people’s day; selling them ice cream, firewood, etc.  But instead, from my experience and what I witnessed, she tended to be a bit unwelcoming.  I know I didn’t want to deal with her again!  
At Love Feast something Cindy Bierman says is so important and so true.  She always tells the workers, “Yours might be the only smile a person gets today.  So, remember…SMILE!”  Good advice at Love Feast!  Good Advice at worship!  Good advice for living!  We are each a part of the welcome team here.  Smile! ☺ 

Serving Together,
 Pastor Keith

P.S. Remember this Sunday, July 22, is our Worship in the Park Service.  Worship begins at 10:00 am at Hitchcock park – 201 E. Hanson, Mitchell, SD. We’ll be at the bandshell.  Bring a lawn chair. Bring a friend.  And remember, we’ll have a potluck following the service.  I hope you’ll join us!!