Monday, December 27, 2010

Reflecting on a Season of Conspiracy

Merry Christmas, CCUMC!
Over the last four weeks, we’ve wrestled with the question of whether and how Christmas can still make a difference – in our own lives as well as in the world. We’ve re-arranged schedules, struggled with our gift-giving, and made choices about how best to give in the way God gave.   I pray that our wrestling with the question sparked new life in how you celebrate this wonderful holy day.  I pray too that this will just be the beginning to how we reclaim Jesus’ birthday.
In addition to our individual practices of Advent Conspiracy, we also got busy as
a community bringing a sign of Christmas to our neighborhood.  I want to give great, great thanks to the many that shared time during the Advent season to
wrap and label ornaments, to wrap and label toys for Asian Health Services, to
carol in the streets (even in the rain!), and to visit elders, homebound and new
folks to the community.  Thank you!  Our goal was to have 20 people involved
each Sunday and to have folks from both worship services.  I give thanks that we
averaged 26 people participating each week!  Perhaps it is time to set a new goal!
As we move from Advent to Christmastide and on into the season of Epiphany,
my hope is that the spirit of Conspiracy will grow and that we will find new ways
to make God known, to welcome Jesus anew, and to be signs of God’s love, peace, hope, light and joy in the world.
Christmas Blessings,
Pastor Emily

Advent Conspiracy In Action

Both English and Chinese speaking congregations combined to wrap gifts for Asian Health Services, and create 200 ornaments for giveaway to local passersby in Chinatown.







Despite the rain, our street carolers brought the message of Christmas to the local streets …


… and also in front of the church building.


On the Sunday before Christmas, more caroling was done at convalescent homes in the Oakland and Alameda community.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Conspiracy–Love All

The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.  So, what happened?  What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a Savior has
somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will
take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose.  Is this what we really want out of Christmas?  What if Christmas became a world-changing event again? That's what we hope to do through Advent Conspiracy, a movement calling us to proclaim Christ in how we celebrate Christmas.

The concept behind Advent Conspiracy is simple...

Love All - TODAY!

When Jesus loved, he loved in ways never imagined. Though rich, he became poor to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. He played to the margins. By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join him in giving resources to those who need help the most. When Advent Conspiracy first began four churches challenged this simple concept to its congregations. The result raised more than a half million dollars to aid those in need. One less gift.  One unbelievable present in the name of Christ. For more information, be sure to visit www.AdventConspiracy.org.

Advent Conspiracy–Give More

The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.  So, what happened?  What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a Savior has
somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will
take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose.  Is this what we really want out of Christmas?  What if Christmas became a world-changing event again? That's what we hope to do through Advent Conspiracy, a movement calling us to proclaim Christ in how we celebrate Christmas.

The concept behind Advent Conspiracy is simple...

Give More

God’s gift to us was a relationship built on love.  So it’s no wonder why we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall.  Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom.  Time to write mom a letter. Time to take the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?

Advent Conspiracy–Spend Less

The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.  So, what happened?  What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a Savior has
somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will
take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose.  Is this what we really want out of Christmas?  What if Christmas became a world-changing event again? That's what we hope to do through Advent Conspiracy, a movement calling us to proclaim Christ in how we celebrate Christmas.

The concept behind Advent Conspiracy is simple...

Spend Less

Christmas has become a season of excess.  Consider this: America spends an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas.  That comes out to something roughly like $900 per household.  The invitation to spend less is not about being a Scrooge or loving our family and friends any less, but about intentionally considering how we use our resources to celebrate Christ’s birth, and to give in the way he gave: his presence.  So before you head out for the mall, consider these ideas:

  • Consider your core values and whether what you are buying reflects those values.
  • Consider drawing names and giving one less gift than last year (or two)!
  • Consider how your spending might contribute towards what the world needs.

Here’s an example of what one family did in spending less – A family agreed to not exchange presents and instead gave that money to a charity or cause of their own choosing.  On Christmas Day, the time around the tree was spent listening as each person described their gift and why that cause mattered to them.

Advent Conspiracy–Worship Fully

The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.  So, what happened?  What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a Savior has
somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will
take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose.  Is this what we really want out of Christmas?  What if Christmas became a world-changing event again? That's what we hope to do through Advent Conspiracy, a movement calling us to proclaim Christ in how we celebrate Christmas.

The concept behind Advent Conspiracy is simple...

Worship Fully

It starts with Jesus.  It ends with Jesus.  This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas.  It's a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It's a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath.  It's the party of the year.  Entering the story of Advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Practice of Giving is for the Giver

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.- Maya Angelou

Stewardship is a counter-cultural practice that is fundamental to a growing, vibrant discipleship. What do I mean? We live in a culture that celebrates wealth, that encourages accumulation, and that promotes ownership as an ideal. We work hard so that we can not only pay our bills, but enjoy the “nice” things in life – flat screen TV’s, well-made cars, regular trips abroad, and all sorts of gadgets. We work hard to ensure our own security as well as the security of our children and grand-children, and being secure is wholly tied up with how much money is in our savings, our stocks, and our IRA’s. We are afraid of giving for all sorts of reasons: that there is only so much to give, that if we give we will not have any
for ourselves, that others do not deserve our giving, etc. It is almost impossible not to be influenced by our culture in some way.

The practice of stewardship resists and opposes our culture head on. It draws our attention to God, our Source, rather than to ourselves. It invites us to rest in God’s abundance and generosity, trusting that indeed, we will have all we need. It celebrates the Kingdom of God and God’s dream – where all are welcomed and all have enough. It broadens our vision from ourselves to the possibility of wholeness for all of God’s people and creation. It inspires us with the affirmation that we are an incredible part of that vision. It encourages giving generously and extravagantly, just like God does. And it promotes service and the recognition that we are the managers, not the owners, of the hard-earned money we have, the 24 hours in our day, and the skills and gifts we bring. Stewardship – the practice of intentional, prayerful, grateful response to God’s gifting – enables a concrete way for us to live this out. At the end of the day, our giving – be it of our time, our prayers, our gifts, our witness or service – significantly shapes us and
molds us into the people we want to be, the people we are called to be, into the likeness of Christ.

In the old hymn, “Spirit of the Living God”, we invite God’s Spirit to melt us, mold us, fill us and use us. How does this happen? How does the Holy Spirit melt and mold, fill and use? Practicing stewardship in all its complexity and simplicity, is an every day we can live this prayer. When we loosen our own grip on “our” money, we live into trusting God and depending on God. When we share our time, we live into recognizing and affirming ourselves as vehicles for God working in the world. When we make use of our gifts and skills in ways that contribute to the good of the whole, we live into God’s kingdom here and now. That is the promise. That is the miracle. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Offering, Pledging, Tithing – What’s the Difference?

There are three words that often get mixed up when we talk about our financial giving in the church context: offering, pledging and tithing. The goal of this article is to clarify each and enable you to make intentional, prayerful decisions about your financial giving.

A tithe literally means one-tenth (1/10). Throughout the Hebrew Testament, the people of God were taught to give a tenth of their possessions to God. In an agricultural context, this meant that a tenth of the harvest and a tenth of all new livestock was given to God. The tithe was considered “God’s portion” and used to support the priests (who were the only tribe who did not receive any inheritance
lands), the widows, orphans and the poor in their midst, as well as to extend hospitality to the strangers amongst them. Today, when we talk about tithing, we mean the commitment of giving one-tenth or 10% of our income to God. There is much discussion as to whether this is of our gross or net income. As with all
matters of giving, you are invited to prayerfully make that decision with God.

A pledge is an estimate of giving, sometimes called “a statement of intent.” A pledge differs from a tithe in that it can be any amount or percentage of your income, including 10%. You could pledge, for example, $520 for the year ($10 / week) or $5,200 ($100 / week). Pledging involves planning ahead for your giving and enables you to make conscious choices about spending the money you have in ways that reflect your faith and values. At CCUMC, we encourage proportionate giving or basing your pledge amount on a percentage of your income. This enables each of us to keep tithing as a goal and practice raising our giving percentage each year. You can begin with 1% or 2.5% (which is the equivalent of pledging your first hours pay on a 40 hour work week.) If you are new to tithing or pledging, start with a percentage that fills you with joy, and keeps you conscious of God as the true source of your well-being. If we choose a percentage that is too low, the act becomes so effortless that it slips from our consciousness and becomes a habit rather than a practice.

Receiving your pledge or tithe allows the Board of Administration and Trustees (BOAT), the church’s governing board, to do for this faith community what you do for your household: plan wisely for the use of our resources in support of the mission and ministry to which God has called us. As such, we strongly urge you to return your Stewardship Response Card on Sunday, Nov. 21st.

So what of offerings? An offering should be distinguished from our pledge and our tithe. One way to think about it is as freewill giving, something given for a specific or general purpose over and above your pledge or tithe, something given out of your abundance. For example, you might write a check to UMCOR towards disaster relief one Sunday or decide to contribute $20 in cash just because. These are offerings over and above the pledge you have made. We do so as acts of thanksgiving and generosity.

Having distinguished between offering, pledging and tithing, you are encouraged to have intentional conversations as a family and with God about your giving. You should know that your pledge amount may be changed, increased or decreased at any time during the year, at any time as your financial circumstances change. This can be done simply by contacting a pastor and/or our Financial Coordinator,
Adrienne Fong. Finally, we also recognize that many families “split” their tithe or pledge – giving to multiple worthwhile, important organizations that do God’s work. For all the ways you give and all the places you give, thank you.

Please consider meditating on these words from an Episcopalian hymn:
A world in need now summons us to labor, love, and give; to make our life an offering to God that all may live; the Church of Christ is calling us to make the dream come true: a world redeemed by Christ-like love; all life in Christ made new.

Is Stewardship JUST About Money?

When a church leader says she is going to talk about stewardship the church automatically expects that the preacher is going to talk about giving and tithing. Unfortunately, we do a disservice to our churches when we think that stewardship and giving money are synonymous terms. Stewardship includes giving, but is not defined only by giving. Stewardship has a much broader definition that if properly understood would help us give more glory to God.

I like the stewardship definition given by Kenneth Boa in his book Conformed to His Image. Boa observes:

…. we own nothing, and we are not here on our business. As stewards, we manage the possessions of Another; as ambassadors, we manage the affairs of Another. The King owns everything, and we are on his business to serve and represent him in the world.

A steward, thus, is one who has been entrusted with something. Anything we have received from God we are expected to properly utilize, manage, and multiply. Stewardship (οἰκονόμος) is a criteria used to establish the effectiveness of God’s servants. God simply asks, was our use of the gift faithful or faithless?
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10 NIV) The goal of stewardship is to act in a way that is consistent with how God would act were God the one who was in possession of the same items.

What does God entrust to us with which we can be good stewards?
• Time
• Family
• Opportunities
• Money
• Relationships
• Resources
• Gifts
• Environment
• Employment
• Networks

This week, consider praying this personal stewardship prayer:

Loving God, I come to you in thanksgiving, knowing that all I am and all that I have is a gift from you. In faith and love, help me to do your will. I am listening, Lord God. Speak your words into the depth of my soul, that I may hear you clearly. I offer to you this day all the facets of my life, whether it be at home,
at work, or at school—to be patient, to be merciful, to be generous, to be holy. Give me the wisdom and insight to understand your will for me and the fervor to fulfill my good intentions. I offer my gifts of time, talent and possessions to you as a true act of faith, to reflect my love for you and my neighbor. Help me to reach out to others as you my God have reached out to me. Amen.

From: www.moneyhelpforchristians.com

Christian Stewardship – What is it?

When the word ‘Stewardship’ gets mentioned in church it is very easy to simply think…”Uh-oh, they want more money.” But is that really what stewardship is all about?

Christian Stewardship is actually a way of life in which we regard ourselves and our possessions as a trust from God to be used in God’s service. It begins with celebrating the generosity of God and experiencing deep gratitude for God’s love and faithfulness in our lives. It begins with understanding that all we are and all we have come from the loving hand of God. It begins with remembering that we are not the owners of our lives or our possessions, but the stewards or the care-takers. The true owner and source is God. We are reminded of this from the creation story in Genesis when Adam and Eve are given the land then called to “keep” and “till” it. We are reminded of it again by the Psalmist who prays, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24). And we are reminded of it again
through the life of Jesus and how he lived. Christian stewardship then is not just about money, but about everything God has given us: our time, our abilities, our possessions, our relationships, our money, our whole lives! Christian stewardship is our grateful and obedient response to God’s redeeming love, expressed by the use of ALL resources for the fulfillment of Christ’s mission in the world.

“But can you define it in one simple sentence?” Yes! In fact, several times over, take your pick:

Christian Stewardship is…
• Christianity in practice. It is creative and joyful living as a Child of God.
• The systematic giving of body, mind and spirit to God.
• Being responsible before God for all that I have and all that I am.
• The total discipline by which the people of God mobilize their God-given resources to carry out God’s purpose.
• A challenge and a privilege that affects the whole of our lives as Christians.
• The measure of faithfulness in carrying out given responsibilities.
• Waste-watching!
• The practicing of gratitude to God.
• Our complete and joyful obedience to God, who entrusts to us the management of life and possessions, that the world might be transformed.
• Everything I do after I say ‘Yes!” to God.

This week, consider praying this personal stewardship prayer:
Almighty God, your loving hand has given me all that I possess:
Grant me grace that I may love you with all that I have,
and be found faithful and acceptable stewards of Your bounty;
through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

(Adapted – in parts – from www.parishresources.org.uk)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday morning book study: The Heart of Christianity

*Do you struggle with finding words for your faith? Have you ever
wondered about the "truth" of the virgin birth? Is there only one way to read
the Bible? And why do Christians have such different understandings of the
"basics"...who's right? Together, we will explore these and many other
fresh questions of faith in the adult Sunday School class beginning October 31st.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

We welcome Rev. Joseph and Marilyn Chan to CCUMC!

imageRev. Joseph and Marilyn are missionaries with the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) of The United Methodist Church assigned to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, since 1998. Rev. Joseph has worked on evangelization and church growth and Marilyn in women's and music ministries. In January 2007, Rev. Joseph was assigned as District Superintendent of Kampong Cham, Kratie, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri and Mondol Kiri provinces. Natives of Cambodia, Joseph and Marilyn endured great hardships through Khmer Rouge eras and both escaped to Thailand in 1979. There, in a refugee camp, both converted from Buddhism to Christianity and became active in Bible studies, worship and faith sharing. Both also volunteered in the CARE feeding centers. The two have three children and are members of Central UMC in Stockton.

Here is some background on United Methodists in Cambodia from the General Board of Global Ministries website:

image“Our Work in Cambodia Cambodia represents a special mission situation because five branches of Methodism are involved: The United Methodist Church in the United States, the United Methodist Church in Switzerland and France , the Methodist Church in Singapore, the World Federation of Chinese Methodist Churches and The Korean Methodist Church. This international cooperation among Methodists is proving fruitful. In 1989, Cambodia had three Methodist churches. Today, there are more than 150 served by more than 20 Methodist and United Methodist missionaries, 10 ordained deacons, and 100 lay leaders. One of the main objectives is to empower Christian youth movement through employment, leadership and Bible study. Methodists also help eradicate landmines, combat malnourishment, assist people to find employment, and teach individuals to read.”

You might be wondering why are we learning about the United Methodist Church ’s mission in Cambodia . Here are some questions to help think about it:

- Where is Cambodia? Who are the Cambodians?
- What is Christianity like in Cambodia? How is it similar or different to Christianity here?
- What does it mean to do missions in Asia (and Cambodia in particular) as opposed to other parts of the world?
- What can I learn by the way others, like the people of Cambodia, relate to God and live out their faith?
- In what ways am I called to live out my faith by seeing and hearing about the missions work in Cambodia?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Small Groups Launching!

Dear CCUMC Community -

Happy Fall!  As the weather shifts to being cooler and the days shorter, I pray that each of you is well and finding the warmth and light of God to be with you.

I am writing to share with you that three (3) new small groups are being launched next week!

Our team of 12 committed discerners have been faithfully praying, planning and training for the launch.

During this "learning phase" of 8 weeks, we will be holding groups in Oakland, Castro Valley, and the South Bay.  They will meet weekly for an hour and a half with the intention of deepening our relationships with one another and strengthening our walk as disciples of Jesus.  If you have not heard from a facilitator yet and would like to participate, please be in touch immediately.  I would be more than happy to connect you with a group.

I also want to take this time to share a BIG "thank you" to our team of discerners.

Over the last 7 months, this team has gathered to vision, discern, pray, listen, plan, and prepare. 

May the Holy Spirit hold each in her gentleness as we move from talking to action.  Please pray for each facilitator and the rebirth of this ministry!

Peace,

Emily

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Asian Health Services Annual Gala Dinner

Over the years, CCUMC has participated in Asian Health Services projects, such as health kits and fundraisers.  In the past, CCUMC set aside money for AHS as imagea way to address the welfare and needs of the community.  This year, some folks from CCUMC attended the annual AHS banquet at the Marriott, where Ignatius Bau and Carl Chan were recognized for their contributions to AHS, the Chinatown community, and advocacy for immigrants.

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  The 2010 gala benefit was conducted by David Louie of ABC7 News, and the crowd was entertained by Broadway star Jose Llana.  Finally, a silent auction and raffle capped off the evening for the several hundred in attendance.  CCUMC looks forward to continuing to work with AHS in the future.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

YCVM project featured on UMTV

It’s truly amazing what God has done through CCUMC and YCVM.  Earlier this year, a video team came to the YCVM benefit dinner, and created a story for United Methodist TV.  On September 16th, it made the front page of www.umc.org!

http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=5259669&ct=8657793

Praise God for those on the ground in Kumi, Uganda, and Oakland, CA for responding to those in need.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Angel Island Pilgrimage

Some CCUMC folks are going to attend this Angel Island event organized by the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights.  Let Pastor Emily know if you would like to go.

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Pilgrimage to Angel Island
From the Whispers of the Past to the Cries of Today
Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Join us on the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Angel Island Immigration Station to

remember the experience of immigrants detained on Angel Island,

honor the congregations that advocated on their behalf, and

discern faithful responses to the immigrant struggle in America today.

Program:

11 am Program & Ceremony of Remembrance at the Immigration Station

12 noon Bring your own picnic lunch and seating

1 pm History talk, guided walk of detention center and exhibits.

SPONSORS : Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, Chinese Christian Union, Chinatown Community Development Corporation, Donaldina Cameron House, Franciscan Friars-Justice, Peace & the Integrity of Creation, Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (CLUE-CA), Presbyterian Church in Chinatown, Grace Urban Ministries, Holy Family Chinese Mission, St. Mary’s Schools and Center, Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco Interfaith Coalition on Immigration.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

3-day Class: An Overview of Bible and Theology for Lay People

Saturdays, October 2, 16, & 30, 2010
Dr. James Chuck, a retired pastor (and frequent guest-preacher at CCUMC), is offering a 3-Saturday class to anyone interested.  Please let Pastor Emily know no later than September 15th if you would like to attend 1, 2, or all 3 sessions.  All sessions will be held from 9:30am-1pm (lunch included) at Berkeley Chinese Community Church, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley.
image An Overview of Bible and Theology for Lay People provides a place where lay people from our various churches so that they can interact, learn and encourage one another.  Our focus on Bible and Theology will give us a common focus for our conversation.  Ideally, we would like people to come for all three sessions; but if they can only come for one or two, that too will be good. We anticipate a rich time of fellowship, sharing, and learning.
James Chuck, facilitator and presenter

Wesley House Grand Opening Celebration and Open House 9/26 noon-4pm

Two of CCUMC’s leaders, Derek Lang and Vince Wong, have served on the Wesley Foundation (UC Berkeley) board for several years, during which they were instrumental in realizing the Conference’s plan to establish student housing aimed at forming a spiritual community close to the campus.  After countless hours of work, The Wesley House & Campus Center is open this semester!

Everyone is invited to a Grand Opening Celebration and Open House!

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m.

Appetizers and beverages will be served.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2:00 p.m.

2398 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, California

www.WesleyHouseBerkeley.org             (510) 549-1244

Wesley’s mission is to create a spiritual community with Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors

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Update on the Ofumbi family

As some of you may remember, CCUMC sponsored the education of David Ofumbi, a pastor from Uganda.  David is a friend of Aeri, through the Reformed Theological Seminary in Kampala.  Through CCUMC’s financial support, David earned his Master of Divinity degree at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.  After the completion of his studies, he returned to Uganda.

Soon afterwards, David received financial support from other groups, and his family now resides in Pasadena, where David is studying towards a PhD at Fuller Theological Seminary.  His wife Anne is studying towards a Masters in sociology at USC.  They send their greetings to the entire CCUMC family!

Last year, the Ofumbi’s welcomed the birth of their second child, Taleesa.  She is getting big already!

 Mariners pics 027

Their first child, Tehilah, is now playing the role of big sister.  She is about to turn 3.

Mariners pics 021

Sunday, September 5, 2010

CCUMC logo t-shirts available

Back by popular demand is the 120th Anniversary t-shirt design, available in black.  Men’s, women’s and children’s t-shirts in several sizes are available.  See Ulander to purchase them.

IMG_0313 IMG_0314

Logo closeup:

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sunday School back in session soon

Next Sunday, Sept. 12th, we will launch a new season of Sunday School for all of us - children, youth AND adults. For the children and youth, we will be experimenting with new models of learning together. This will take place upstairs in the annex beginning promptly at 9:30 a.m. For adults, there will be two distinct opportunities:

Holy Reading @ 10:00 a.m. During this 35 minute session in the upstairs
chapel, participants will be invited to “listen” to the weekly scripture utilizing a
simple rhythm of reading, listening and sharing.

What IS “The Heart of Christianity”? @ 9:30 a.m. Many of us have trouble
talking about our faith – what it is, how it works, and what it means. Sometimes,
we rely on earlier teaching that no longer resonates with us yet have no
idea what the alternatives might be. In the book, “The Heart of Christianity,”
Marcus Borg tackles “the basics” of faith in challenging and fresh ways. This
9-class series will be engage Borg’s book and be taught by Pastor Emily beginning Oct. 24th. [Between Sept. 12th and Oct. 24th, there will be a regular lectionary study for adults that will meet in the annex “blue room” beginning at 9:30 a.m.]

As we begin this new season of Sunday School, please prayerfully consider the invitation to keep learning and growing through the ministry of Sunday School.

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A’s game – September 25th

CHURCH COMMUNITY DAY

Saturday, September 25 A's vs. Rangers @ 1:05 p.m.

Hi A's fans (or Texas Ranger fans)!

The Oakland Athletics are having a Church Community Day on September 25th.  Those interested in attending the A’s game on Sept. 25th should respond to Jason Ma - jm12273@yahoo.com or (510) 821-2722.

Oakland Athletics Logo

(from http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com)

The A's Annual Church Community Day is back! Discounted group tickets are available to all congregations, families and friends. Also, following the game, fans are invited to enjoy a postgame event featuring Donnie Moore with Radical Reality and A's player testimonials.

http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=10556895&c_id=oak

In addition, 10,000 fans in attendance will receive an Oakland A's Baseball Card Set presented by Topps.

Women’s Retreat in November: Holy Wholeness

To build strong spiritual relationships among women at CCUMC
and beyond, and be an inviting space for new friendships and connections.
To learn about, cultivate and nourish a "holy wholeness" within our
bodies, minds and spirit.
To introduce a Chinese Traditional Medicine perspective to "holy
wholeness" with special attention to food and nutrition.

Holy Wholeness:
Feeding the Body, Mind,& Spirit
CCUMC Retreat for Women
November 6, 7, 8 ~ 2010
2pm Saturday through lunch on Monday
Featuring Cynthia Eaton,
Certified Qigong Instructor
Mountain Retreat
936 Cypress Point Drive
Blue Lake Springs, Arnold, CA 95223
$75 for Sat/Sun
$90 for Sat/Sun/Mon
Includes lodging, meals, and program

Contact Leela Ma for more details.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Thanks for a Joyous StreetFest



Dear CCUMC Community -

First, a magnificent thank you for a wonderful, joy-filled Street Fest Open House held today!
Our choir brought their usual amazing energy and music to both the Pacific Renaissance stage as well as our in-house concert! We especially thank the leadereship of Yvonne as well as our special guests, Alice and Hyde.
Our community stepped up in every possible way to fling open our doors and invite a huge crowd in to share in new songs as well as our simple community meal. Thank you to each and everyone who pitched in in so many different ways - from greeting, to set-up, to grilling, to cleaning bathrooms, to serving lunch, to hosting children's activities and so much more. We worked hard to live out a sense of "open doors and open hearts"!
Special thanks to the planning committee: Derek, Leo, Yvonne, Helena, Ulander, Steve, Richard, Donna, Ben.
If you would like to share any feedback - about what worked well and what you might change to make this event work even better, please send an email to me.
Dear CCUMC Community -

Thanks for a Joyous StreetFest
First, a magnificent thank you for a wonderful, joy-filled Street Fest Open House held today!
Our choir brought their usual amazing energy and music to both the Pacific Renaissance stage as well as our in-house concert! We especially thank the leadereship of Yvonne as well as our special guests, Alice and Hyde.
Our community stepped up in every possible way to fling open our doors and invite a huge crowd in to share in new songs as well as our simple community meal. Thank you to each and everyone who pitched in in so many different ways - from greeting, to set-up, to grilling, to cleaning bathrooms, to serving lunch, to hosting children's activities and so much more. We worked hard to live out a sense of "open doors and open hearts"!
Special thanks to the planning committee: Derek, Leo, Yvonne, Helena, Ulander, Steve, Richard, Donna, Ben.
If you would like to share any feedback - about what worked well and what you might change to make this event work even better, please send an email to me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mission:Uganda! Thank you!

This past Sunday, we ended our series of 7 exploring missions, our faith, Uganda, and the ministry of YCVM.

All in all, we had a wonderful time:

We give thanks for the committed and heart-felt leadership of Jenny and Wendy - they truly stepped up and stepped out!

We give thanks for the steady accompaniment and mentoring of Becky.

We give thanks for each of you, faithful participants and co-explorers.

We give thanks for all that we learned, practiced, and sought to respond to.

We give thanks for our brothers and sisters in Uganda who continue to pray with and for us as they respond to their call to be in mission.

We give thanks for each and every sponsored child.

We give thanks for the work ahead of us - to discern and understand missions as who we are and that which we're called to as followers of Jesus, to discern next steps of our walk with YCVM, and to be faithful responders to the movement of God in the world.

In conclusion of the Sunday School, a Mission:Uganda! worship highlighted 3 testimonies from Jenny Wong, Wendy Lee, and Aeri Lee.

 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Message from Rev. Martin Odi

On Sunday, Aug. 1st, CCUMC wired $42,000 to YCVM. Of that amount, $40,000 was designated for building the first wing of the boarding school and $2,000 for the ministry to vulnerable orphans. Below is the response from Board member, Rev. Martin Odi, to an email from Becky regarding the transfer of funds.

Awesome! On behalf of YCVM I am so grateful to hear from you. And thank you for the wire made. Grace our treasurer or Silver will let us know when the funds arrive.

I am glad that we are on the same page, willing to learn and know each other well and build a relationship which is not based on money but on the blood of Jesus Christ. I hope Aeri has a brief profile of each of us. If not I will ask Grace and Silver to compile a few details about each of us in YCVM including the orphaned children so that as the [Sunday School] series go on you will be able to paint a picture of each of us.

Please, as a church family, do remember me in person as I travel in the Great Lakes region of Africa (7 countries) to teach the Good News of the Kingdom and train pastors and church leaders. Specifically I need more of God's love in me then I can love his people, I need to know Christ more and the power of his resurrection, I need to walk in His holiness, I need security in my travel, and home, and I need the hearts of those I teach to be receptive and willing to change.

I am so committed to praying for you all. I love you, and love you and love you.

"The Only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" Gal 5:6b NIV
Rev. Martin Odi

Summer Sunday School

Summer Sunday School Experience~
We would like to tell everyone about the wonderful Sunday School experience that we have had this past month.  We have not gone to Sunday School since we last taught (so long ago)!  Wendy & Jenny have given us a wonderful experience in learning about Uganda, their history and all the trials and tribulations they are living with day to day and how our church is working with YCVM.  We appreciate Jenny and Wendy's long hours of loving labor in thinking of all the different way to teach us and to keep the adults quiet and interested.  You two are the best and we are all very proud of you.  Keep up the good work, God has blessed us with you both.
Love and peace,
Ed & Arlene

Spiritual Help is On the Way

Spiritual Help is on the Way / Steve Chan-
A small group ministries discernment team has been meeting to discuss and discern the purpose, need and the how-to of launching a new small groups ministry at CCUMC for the last several months. This new ministry is to help build, strengthen, nurture and grow each of us in our spiritual lives. To walk with God, we need to talk to Him. To do his will, we need to know his Word. Participating in a regular small group is designed to help build and strengthen our relationship with God and also to help build and strength our relationship with one another.
At this time, we are targeting the launch of new small groups in October. The first cycle will invite participation for 2½ months (October – mid-December.) The second cycle will convene from January to through the end of February. Small groups will meet weekly during those times. You are invited to begin praying about your participation. We hope that you will consider, intentionally, being a part of this new ministry.
I personally decided to get involved with the discernment team because I realized that I was not walking with God and very probably hiding from Him. Moreover, I was definitely not growing spiritually. I recognized this when I noticed that attending church and Sunday school had become a habit. It was a good habit, but one that did not produce any positive or measurable results. I didn’t love God any more because of it and I certainly didn’t love my neighbor any more. I now know that worshipping God on Sunday is not enough to carry me through this long journey. I seem to be stuck in the same rest station. I go ahead a little bit but always end up back at the same rest station. I have come to the realization that I need to know his Word more deeply in order to walk with Him and to do his Will. I also realize that I need the help and support of others in this journey. So please join me and others in this new possibility!
If you have any questions or would like to know more, please connect with me, Charlie or Pastor Emily. A questionnaire will be distributed soon to get your input. Please keep an eye out for that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Benefit Dinner for Youth and Child Visionary Ministries (Uganda) Raises $15,000

(written by Becky Wong)

Bricks, Mortar, & Steel: Building a Hope and a Future

To the spirited rhythms of African music playing in the background, 250 dinner guests were “transported”  via song and story to the village of Kumi, Uganda, on a spring evening in April, 2010. They were attending the first major fundraiser to build a Primary Christian Boarding School in Uganda, sponsored by Chinese Community United Methodist Church of Oakland, CA.

The event was truly an evening of “East meets West”, for while attendees feasted on a sumptuous 9-course Chinese banquet held at Legendary Palace Restaurant, they learned words and songs in Ateso and Swahili, and heard stories from the Mission Team of 8 who travelled to Kumi last summer. Aeri Lee, team leader, shared how the unique partnership developed between Kumi and the small church in Chinatown, which felt called to respond to the needs of orphans in this Ugandan village. 

People were captivated by Peter Chu's accounts of the humble tools used to lay brick, mortar, and steel on the cement foundation. Smiles of glee spread on faces who sang of a “Biggy, Biggy God-O”, a familiar song of the YCVM praise band. And the response was enthusiastic as donations were collected to fund the building project. Altogether the dinner raised $15,000 towards the goal of $25,000 needed to finish one wing of the school. The “Little Church in Chinatown” has truly felt the hand of God moving in surprising and amazing ways. They continue to pray for the project to move ahead towards completion, praising and glorifying our “Biggy, Biggy God-O!”

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For more information on Youth and Child Visionary Ministries, visit www.ycvm.org

CHINATOWN SHOWS ITS GENEROSITY FOR QINGHAI EARTHQUAKE

http://calnevumc.org/news/detail/2100

(written by Peter Lau)
After receiving news about an April 14th earthquake in Qinghai, China, which took the lives of 2,220 people, injured over 11,000, and caused immeasurable damage, CCUMC’s Chinese-speaking Ministries Committee decided to take to the streets to raise funds for the relief effort in partnership with the American Red Cross. Sisters and brothers on English-speaking side were also invited to participate in this fundraising effort. I was impressed and touched by our two congregations working together with joyful heart and one mind.
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10 choir members, under the leadership of Yvonne, performed songs in front of the church to attract the attention of the general public Saturday and Sunday afternoon, May 1-2. We were so proud that our two great musicians were able to accompany us, and two able men helped set up the equipment. 8 pairs of brave sisters and brothers, including youths, were stationed at the four cornerimages of the crosswalk at 8th Street-Webster and 9th Street-Webster to ask for public support, while about 6 brothers and sisters faithfully carried posters up and down the streets to encourage people to give.  An American Red Cross emergency truck brought in by Burt, was parked in front of the church and was open for public viewing on Sunday afternoon.
imageThe people of Oakland Chinatown responded enthusiastically and monetarily. 7 buckets were filled on Saturday and an additional 7 buckets were brought in on Sunday. The amount of donations was $5,149.67! Additionally, two major donations amounting to $3,200.00, were made directly to UMCOR via CCUMC for specific reasons. Hence, the grand total of donations to date is $8,349.67! We praise the Lord for this opportunity to bear witness to God’s love for the people in Qinghai.image

Aeri’s weekend report

Monday, July 19, 2010image

Dear Community,

This past Saturday, I was invited to speak at a worship conference organized by a worship training ministry called, Streams of Worship Ministry Africa (SOWMA) which was founded by my former RTC music student and friend Bosco Andama. Bosco was only a teenager when I first met him in 1997, in high school and working for the RTC missionaries. When I next came to Uganda in 2001, he was enrolled as a music student at RTC, proving to be one of my most musically gifted students. Since graduation, he has steadily grown in his reputation as an extraordinarily gifted music teacher and worship team trainer all over Kampala, and Kenya where he was a missionary for 2 years. He currently works at his church in Kampala, and teaches at RTC, as well as heading up SOWAM, in working with area church leaders to train their worship teams.

image The day began with the gathering of the worship team that was to be the leaders of all of the worship sessions that were to intersperse the 2 main teaching sessions. I was asked to speak on ‘the role of music in worship’, addressing the common phenomena in many African worshippers to mistake music as worship itself, and on the other side of the spectrum, the tendency to make worship into religious entertainment, 2 situations that may not be so uncommon in the US as well.

image Along with me, the other speaker for the day was Emmanuel Candia (pronounced ‘Chandia), a wheel chair- bound (from childhood polio) lawyer, a long-time friend of Bosco, a self-taught Bible scholar with an impressive working knowledge of Biblical Greek, a passionate worship leader, a faithful man of God, and apparently a powerful speaker. He spoke on the topic of ‘bearing fruit’ as worshippers, as he reflected on the text of John 15 (“I am the vine, you are the branches….). I left RTC at 7am, and did not return until 11pm, thoroughly exhausted, but full of gratitude.

The lady kneeling in the front is May, Bosco’s wife, currently remaining with 2 weeks until her due date, to deliver a baby girl, to be named “Gracious”, who will be their third child. Imagine leading worship when you are 9 months pregnant! The rest of the worship team members come from various area churches and Bosco’s current and former students. Tomorrow evening, I plan to visit Bosco’s home in the suburbs of Kampala, where he lives with his family of 4, his in-laws, and 3 of his music students that he is currently housing (and discipling, from what I can gather).

 

image RTC music students are pressing on in their third week of intensive classes with me, already having to face exams next week. Pictured on the right are my second year students flashing a rare smile in my music theory class. I say ‘rare’ because most of the time they are frowning in concentration, or is it consternation?!? Modeste, the one whose foot is now completely healed is the skinny young man in the second row with a white shirt and grey checkers. I hope to teach you a song he composed when I get back.

The upcoming weekend looks as though it will be very full. Silver will likely travel from Kumi to see me, I will visit Veronica and Solomon, Anne Nyarangi’s younger siblings, I hope to make an appointment to interview Sylvia Achana, the lady who heads up UNEB (Ugandan National Education Board) to interview (it’s a homework assignment from Jenny, your fearless Sunday school teacher!) , and go shopping for all the requested items from friends in the US.

Then the following weekend, I’ll be heading back home. I look forward to seeing all of you soon.

Aeri

Aeri’s visit to Kumi, part 2

(part 2 of 2)

Kumi Part 2, July 12, 2010

image Dear community,

This is a continuation of my report on the trip to Kumi.

Due to my physical state, I had to go straight to Kumi Hotel. After 2 hours of rest, Rev. Odi, the chair of the YCVM board, who had himself just returned from teaching in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) yesterday, picked me up to go to the NorthEast Villa, which by the way was where our Kumi team from last year stayed. Uncle Burt will remember: “Where is the honey, Simon?” ”The honey is ovah”. The YCVM members had been waiting there since 12 noon for my arrival. Pictured above is Patrick Okore smiling with me. He is thrilled to report that he finished the final semester of his courses at the Makerere University School of Business. PTL! He is waiting for the results to come out in late October, which will allow him to graduate. He sends love and thanks to Valene and Dustin. Perhaps one of the members of the mission team from last year can tell you a small part of his amazing life story, particularly all of the gut-wrenching, and tempestuous efforts at trying to secure his school fees in order to get an education.

Our meeting began in the back yard of the villa (remember Valene’s b-day party?) with YCVM members praying and praising. Then Rev. Odi made his opening remarks, highlighting his hopes for the future of YCVM, which are, increased participation from the rest of the team members (other than Silver and Grace) in their involvement with the children, Silver’s marriage and further studies (in that order, but more about that later!), as well as development opportunities for the rest of the YCVM executive team members, even short courses or conferences that will help build their capacities for carrying out the vision and ministry of YCVM. I agree that staff training would greatly enhance and empower the running of YCVM as an organization. With the exception of Rev. Odi, who is very busy with his own ministry of traveling all over east and central Africa, in order to teach, train, and equip ministers (he works with an American based NGO called, Equipping Pastors International), and is involved with YCVM only in an advisory capacity, the rest of the members are sincere of heart and committed to the vision and ministry of YCVM, but have little experience or training in running a non-profit organization. He went on to read Pastor Emily’s letter to the group, at which point I got too sick to continue to keep my head up. I had to be driven back to my hotel.

Over that evening, while I was sick in my room, Rev. Odi went over the letter with the team once more. On Sunday morning, Rev. Odi had to preach in church, so we continued without him. I read the letter to them once more in the morning, going over and further explaining each point, and left my hard copy with the team. The two separate budget plans for the upcoming year, the $6,000 for the support of the children and other administrative costs, and the $40,000 for the school building will be worked on by the team in future meetings.

* However, the YCVM members request that the $6,000 be sent in 3 installments at the beginning of each school term: $2,000 on August 1st, 2010, $2,000 on January 1st, 2011, and the final $2,000 on April 1st, 2011.

*Patrick Olupot, the building engineer, who was present at the meeting, will work on the building budget, and send the disbursement plan later.

By the way, Patrick Olupot sends a special greeting to Peter Chu, saying with a big smile, “Send a big ‘hello’ to Peter. I liked working with him very much. He was my fellow engineer.”

Silver mentioned that the 20 plots of land the school building sits on actually is not big enough to include the 2 acres of grounds for sports and PE that is required by the government for primary schools. And that the lady who owns about an acre of land adjacent to the YCVM land recently approached Silver to try to sell the land. He did not give any response to the lady since he did not know whether he’d have the money, and also because it is not good negotiating technique to seem overly interested. But he says that if the building is completed, that might drive up the price, and that this might be a good time to start negotiating, before the building is finished. After some discussion from the group, it was agreed upon that they would negotiate with the owner and see if they can get a good price that will allow them both to finish the one wing of the primary school and purchase the land within the $40,000 budget. Otherwise, the first priority would be to finish the wing as per the direction of the letter.

Silver also shared with the team and myself a revised and concise version of the vision/mission/objectives of YCVM, and told me that they have a draft of the vision/mission/plans for the school that YCVM is building, which he hopes to finalize before I leave Uganda. We made a tentative plan for him to visit me in Kampala to bring the document, and also so that he can be video-taped for the UMTV. And he will also write out the words and meaning of the songs that Ben sent by then. He will also help me then to answer Jenny’s questions regarding Ugandan education.

He also reported on the YCVM assets, and all the new items received this time around: a keyboard (donated by Wendy), and stand, a projector for showing Christian, and other educational films (like the one on HIV/AIDS), 3 mics and cords, a headphone (now that I think about it, they might not know that it is also a mic?), one wireless mic and receiver, an extra AC adapter, and 2 small bags.

All of the outreach ministries of the band and the team during the past year were reported on as well. They tried to show the ‘Jesus film’ and the educational film on HIV/AIDS on their laptop at these events where there were hundreds and sometimes thousands gathered! Some of the members mentioned that the mission team from CCUMC would have enjoyed ministering with them… I think they were saying that they miss you guys.

Grace Among reported on agriculture and on the children.

*Of the 200 orange trees that had been planted, 196 survived and are growing. They plan on planting 100 more trees this year.

*They currently have 9 children in full sponsorship:

John Opolot, the brother of the girl who drowned in the YCVM well, is now at Mary Marquis Primary School, P3 (3rd grade) and doing well.

Shiela Kedi, is in Aciisa Primary school, P5 (5th grade). She has been able to stay in school without getting sick and having to drop out this year.

Grace Among (she is from Miroi, which is the village that Grace (YCVM)is from, and she (little Grace) changed her name to our Grace’s name (Among) because she wants to emulate her), is in Ngora Girls School, P6 (6th grade).

Martha Among, is in Ngora High School (where Grace teaches English, and is very academically prestigious, I might add), S1 (7th grade). She is the one that has developed a lump in her breast. The doctors have yet to determine whether it is cancerous or not. Please pray for her.

Jessca Among is also in Ngora High, S1 (7th grade). She was home with Typhoid and Malaria, but has now recovered and returned to school.

Stella Among is also in Ngora High, S1. She also had malaria, but has recovered and is back in school.

Raymond Okello, is also in Ngora High school, S3 (9th grade). Grace reports that he is academically excellent, receiving very high marks. (University material, maybe?)

Mary Accio, (you remember she was the one who was raped by a teacher when she was in P6) is now in Geresa High, S4

Aturuke Moses, will be finishing at St. Kizito technical School in Soroti with an advanced certificate in ‘Brick-laying & Concrete practice’ after this year.

Alice, who graduated with a diploma in early childhood education last year, has found a life mate and is now married.

Susan Achom (who everyone in the CCUMC team thought was ‘Suzanne’) has graduated from nursing school last year and has set up and works in her own little ‘drug shop’ (pharmacy) in Serere (a small town in western Tesoland).

Helen Attai, who was reinstated to sponsorship after a year, has again got into trouble with a boy, and was suspended from Ngora High. She now attends Kobwin High, S4. YCVM members, particularly Silver and Grace are still trying to counsel her, even though she is not officially being financially sponsored by YCVM.

Grace proposes that they continue the sponsorship of those 9 children for this coming year, especially in light of the budget of $6,000, and that they consider adding on more children next year, perhaps at some partial sponsorship with some of the financial responsibilities being covered by the guardians. No doubt that there is a LONG line of children in need…

It was interesting to note that the letter from Pastor Emily was treated like some kind of sacred scripture, being read over and over, words being interpreted and mulled over, and some of the fine points being debated… or maybe it was like some alien communication….

Speaking of which, Grace commented that when she read the part in the letter that said something to the effect that ‘reality in Uganda is something we can’t really know’ (I can’t remember the exact words Pastor Emily used), she wished that we could send ambassadors to one another to stay for a while, instead of just one day a year, more like for a month or so to see how reality is indeed on the ground every day for YCVM, or for CCUMC. To be sure, what I observe in my once yearly visits or even what the team observed for two weeks is not the typical ‘everyday’ reality for them. And for YCVM, none of whom had been to the US, they could not be expected to have any idea of life at CCUMC.

And yet, the miracle is that we have in fact made a connection, even, a deeply human and spiritual one in Christ. I have cried with Silver and Grace in prayer over the lives of the children, and over their own personal struggles and challenges. Our Kumi mission team members have shared ministry miracle moments and heard and empathized with all the heart-wrenching stories of the YCVM members. We were all deeply moved when they sang a very tearful song to bid us ‘good bye’ before we left Uganda. They broke out into instantaneous prayer over the Sunday school series that was to begin on Sunday the 11th. They prayed over it on Saturday night, when Rev. Odi read about it, and they prayed again, when I mentioned on Sunday morning that it was led by two high school girls named Wendy and Jenny. So, Wendy and Jenny, know that you have friends in Africa praying for you and your ministry by your names. And I know that they will continue praying for you. Prayer and fasting is a regularly (and really seriously, I might add) practiced spiritual discipline among YCVM members. For example, did you know that Silver had been fasting and praying for 7 days when God gave him the vision for YCVM? Did you know that each member of YCVM took turns fasting and praying for us the whole time the Kumi mission team was there? Did you know that while Silver called every few hours to check on my safe arrival back to Kampala, the YCVM members were in prayer? Wow, do these people know how to practice prayer!!

Finally, Pastor Emily, YCVM members send their love to you, and would like to extend their invitation to come and preach the Good News in Uganda. They are also thrilled that ‘Mama Becky’ is the mission coordinator, and that they get to write to her regularly. “She has a truly gentle and humble spirit. She is a mama to us” Grace says. In fact, they recalled each one of you by name and fondly remembered ministering together. It seems like I’ve run out of space.

So, until next time, Aeri

Aeri’s visit to Kumi

(Part 1 of 2)

 

Monday, July 12, 2010

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Posing with YCVM after our meeting on Sunday, from left to right:

Pastor Lawrence, Patrick Olupot (the building engineer), ‘uncle’ Emma, Grace Among, Patrick Okore (the tallest one in the back), Me (Aeri), Silver Omakenyi, and Okiria Francis

Dear beloved community,

As you are aware, I took a trip to see our dear YCVM friends in Kumi this past weekend. It was a physically arduous trip, though emotionally and spiritually uplifting one. Now that I am back safe and sound in Kampala, I will describe a little bit of the journey there.

I left RTC on foot at 6am on Saturday, my 2 bags in tow, while it was still pitch dark (Sunrise and Sunset being about at 7am and 7pm respectively, pretty much the whole year around, Uganda is, after all, smack dab on the equator). After a bumpy 45 minute matatu ride (a converted 7 passenger minibus that looks to be at least 30+ years past it’s serviceable age) crowded with 20 passengers (yes, one’s sense of personal space has long gone out the window when your daily commute involves being folded on top of strangers, knees digging into the front passengers), we arrived covered in dust, grit, and sweat into the taxi park in the Kampala city center, already bustling with traffic, pedestrians, bikers, beggars, street peddlers and hawkers, and shop owners criss-crossing one another in daredevil-ish speed and abandon. I then quickly headed for the bus park a couple blocks away, trying to find an opportune moment to dodge the oncoming traffic (which don’t stop for pedestrians, ever) while fending off an onslaught of rather aggressive solicitations from boda-boda drivers and other street vendors, and ignoring the usual cat-calls, “Hey, muzungu(white person or more literally ‘non-person’)!” “Hey, Chinese!” (my non-black-ness readily recognizable even in the semi-dark predawn), guarding my 2 bags with both my elbows against purse-snatchers and pick-pockets, and trying not to get too nauseous at the combined smells of the sewage which surrounds the taxi park, trash piles everywhere, human sweat, really strong BO, and noxious black fumes of carbon monoxide (no smog regulations on any auto vehicles here).

Once I am at the bus park, there are no signs for where to go, except for people calling you to ride their bus headed for various cities in Uganda. I find that the early bus to Soroti or Moroto or Karamoja (Kumi is one of the stops on the way) has left. They tell me that I must now get to the other bus park, another few blocks away, then catch the later bus. At that point, I chicken out of having to walk over there, and flag a boda-boda driver, who mananges with amazing skill, to weave through all the mayhem, sometimes coming within a fraction of an inch of the oncoming traffic, sometimes shoving off adjacent boda-boda drivers. Once at the other bus park, folks accost me to ride their buses, though there is actually only one bus headed for Karamoja (in the far north-east of the country), called the “Karamoja Promise”. I pay my fare, the conductor gives me my ticket receipt, and I take a seat on a window-side seat on a nearly empty bus.

The bus, which looks to me to be in better shape (relatively speaking, of course) than many others I’ve taken in the past, smells already of left-over sweat and vomit from the night’s passengers. I can see on the seats, dark stains of unknown origins, and the floor is littered with left-over food-scraps and animal feathers and feces. I open the window as far as I can, trying not to touch some slimy grime on the windowsill and handle because now the Sun has risen and it is starting to get hot. Passengers file in one by one, and we wait patiently until every seat on the bus is taken. There are no designated departure times. The bus leaves when it is filled. After another hour and 45 minutes, we slowly head out of now completely log-jammed Kampala, and it is truly sweltering in the bus. On its slow, traffic-jammed way out of the city, the bus picks up a few more passengers who flag it down on the road, who think nothing of standing the whole way upcountry. The seats are very cramped, even for my short stature. I don’t have much leg room, and my seat-mate and I are in full body contact on one side. My back is sore and my butt, even more so, and it’s only been about 2 hours. I steel myself for at least another 5 hours because I know it will take some time in Mbale, a big town about an hour before Kumi when there will be a large shift of off-boarding and reloading. I see mothers with nursing babies and small toddlers walk in. Having bought only one ticket, she sits with 2 of her smallest ones on her lap the whole way, and the older one is just floating around the aisle, being jostled around every which way and sitting on the floor when too tired.

Completely at the whim of the driver (I’ve never heard a passenger make a request for a stop), we make the occasional ‘pee’ stop (or not, which was the case on the way up to Kumi), or a ‘slow-down’ for the street food peddlers to run up to the slow moving bus and the quick, frantic purchases through the open windows, but we always stop to pick up an additional passenger no matter how packed the bus is. On the way to Kumi, I bought 3 small ‘gonjas’ (roasted bananas) from a street vendor and ate 1 of it before I started feeling a little sick. I felt worse and worse as the journey wore on, and by the time we got to Kumi, another 5 hours later, after having vomited out the ‘gonja’ I ate out the window, I could not keep my head up because everything seemed to be spinning.

And that was just the journey up to Kumi. As excruciating as the journey was for me, I tell it not in order to tell an ‘adventure story’, but to share a glimpse into the lives of Ugandans, and perhaps for only the minutest fraction of life, ponder what it must be like to be that child, peddling a basket of bananas for maybe a whole dollar for that entire basket, or that mother and 3 children traveling for 7-8 hours in a crowded, sweltering bus, and no diaper changes and no snacks! And those children, not complaining at all, but simply sitting with their mother with curiously blank faces. Or the old lady I sat next to on the way down, who at her age, with a hacking cough, sat by the window breathing in the visible dust (I was chewing grit between my teeth, and when I washed my hair that night, I had brown suds) and exhaust fumes the whole way, with her load of food stuffs she purchased in the up-country (because they are cheaper than in Kampala) to feed her many grand children that she has had to take on raising, her children having died of AIDS and malaria. On my way back to Kampala, when I got on the bus and sat next to her, I smelled something that smelled like rancid meat and really ripe feet combined. Having had nothing to eat for 2 days, I was a little delicate in constitution, and started to feel nauseous again. Knowing I’d have to sit there next to her for the next several hours (it ended up being 8 hours because the bus broke down on the way, but that is another long story), I struck up a conversation with her. I saw that the smell was coming from a brown plastic bag that contained some kind of long brown strips. Upon my asking, she told me they were smoked young bamboo stalks (It seemed fermented also, judging from the smell), and she mixed them with groundnuts (peanuts) to make sauce. She asked whether I’ve ever had them, and told me that they were delicious. I imagined similar things in my food culture like, kimchee or stinky tofu, things that taste great but smell absolutely foul, especially if you don’t eat them. I tried to breathe in the smell of the smoked bamboo as I imagined myself enjoying that sauce she was describing. Amazingly, it worked, and I was not so nauseous! I could have remained nauseated by the unknown and misunderstood smell, and perhaps even a little judgemental and certainly distanced from my neighbor. But a little information, a little imagination, a little effort, and a connection is made, and a chance for my inner transformation happens. Maybe an important lesson is to be learned here in our cross-cultural mission/ partnership.

And so I tell this story in hopes that it will help my community learn a little more of the environment and the life context of our YCVM friends in Kumi, to learn a little of their amazing resilience and fortitude, and that their joyous worship in the Lord is by no means flippant, their faith, one that comes with great testing, and their hope, hard-earned.

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Emma, Patrick, and Grace give God thanks in praise for our meeting again

I think this story has already gone on too long. So, I will follow with part 2, the meeting with YCVM.

Until then, to be continued…..

Aeri

More From Aeri, July 8th

Thursday, July 08, 2010

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Dear church family,

I am just learning the technicalities involved in inserting pictures into documents and attaching it in email and sending it via my blackberry. So consider this a test. Here I am standing proudly in front of my hand-washed clothes… haha.

By the way, yesterday, I had to take Modeste to a nearby clinic when I found him in his room with not only a swollen foot, but swollen lymph-nodes and a fever. They cleaned his wound and poured some kind of inky purple stuff on it. When I asked what is was, they couldn’t tell me. Anyhow, they gave him some antibiotics to take. He seems much better today and the swelling and the fever is down. Thanks be to God. However, Ndatwa Jean-Claude, another Rwandese student is sick with malaria. I’d appreciate your prayers for him as well…

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And this is Susan, who cooks all my meals for me at the guesthouse. She manages to churn out three meals a day using exactly what you see on the shelves for spices: salt, vinegar, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and cooking oil. She looks like a young girl, but she is mother to 2 teenage girls and one 5 year old boy. She also happens to be from the same tribe as David Ofumbi.

I have not remembered to take pictures while I’m teaching, but I will send some your way when I can manage it.

Aeri

Update from Aeri, July 6th

Update Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Dear beloved community,

Classes began since Monday, and though it’s only been 2 days, it feels like I’ve been teaching all day everyday for a while. I taught advanced music theory and musicianship on Monday morning, choir and group vocal training in the afternoon. This morning was Christian worship: history, theology, and practice, and in the afternoon, Intro to the history of western music. Each session lasts from 3-4 hours, so I end up teaching the whole day and spend the evenings marking papers, and preparing for the next day’s classes. I have to get up extra early if I have to do laundry before classes. Hand washing all your clothes takes longer than one would expect. And right now, I am itching all over, I think because I did not wash all the detergent out of the clothes in order to save water. Hmmmm… maybe I should use less detergent next time. I have to use an old-fashioned chalkboard for the lectures, so by the end of the day, I am covered white from head to toe in chalk dust. So it’s a cold water shower every night, the kind where you use a small plastic hand-basin full of water and pour cupfuls on yourself. Even as I am shivering from cold, I am gratefully aware of the fact that it is a luxury and a privilege to have water available for me to wash in the midst of this dry season.

I have 8 students who are in their second year of study and 7 in their first, all together 15 in all. They range in ages 19 – 30. My students tell me that there are 2 more that are yet to come. I have a number of Rwandese students, 1 from Burundi, 1 from Sudan, and of course a bunch from Uganda. It’s remarkable to me that the students who came last year from Rwanda with almost no English skills can now communicate in English with impressive fluency. One of my Rwandese students, Modeste Nzabonimpa, who is on a work scholarship, was locking up the practice rooms late last night as a part of his work duties, when he took a misstep and cut the side of his foot on a sharp rock. Having no resources to get to a hospital or even a clinic, he simply washed it and put some salt on the wound. When I saw him this morning, he was limping and the cut seemed to me more like a large gash of scooped-out flesh about ¾ inch wide all around and just as deep. He persisted and sat in class all day, and by the end of the day, his foot looked like a balloon. When I suggested that he should get to a hospital, all the other students (Modeste included) just shrugged and told me he’d be ok. Please pray for him. Needless to say, I am more than a little concerned.

It looks like I will be visiting our YCVM friends in Kumi this weekend. I will take a bus that leaves Kampala at 7am on Saturday morning, and come back late on Sunday night. Please pray for journey mercies. Out of all of the times that I’ve taken the bus to Kumi, I think there were more times when the bus broke down in the middle of the trip than not. I’m sure I’ll tell you all about the trip and our time together after I’m back.

During this morning’s worship class, as I was sharing the African-American gospel song, “Anointing, fall on me”, Modeste, my Rwandese student, sang it right back to me in Kinyarwanda (Rwandese language), and the whole class had a blessed time singing it in the 2 languages and discussing the meaning of the song. Surely enough the song became the prayer of my heart; that God’s Holy Spirit would indeed anoint me , to empower me to do God’s will, both at RTC as I teach, and in Kumi as I meet with YCVM.

Until next time,

Aeri

News From Aeri

Aeri Lee is currently in Uganda for the month of July, and will be sending updates on her mission trip to RTC, YCVM, and many other friends she knows in Uganda.  Below is the first of several communications from her.

 

July 1st, Thursday

Beloved church family,

I arrived safely in Uganda yesterday afternoon, as did all my luggage, thanks be to God, via a long 15 hour flight to sweltering, as in, 109 degrees Fahrenheit at 7pm, yet extravagantly opulent Dubai , then another 7 and a half hour flight to Entebbe via Addis Abbaba. Here I am, back in my old room at RTC with my mosquito net that is full of holes, my 2 shelves fashioned out of old vine stalk, my rickety desk and chair, a bed with slats that dig into by back all night long, and occasionally stepping on dead cockroaches and lizard droppings. Nevertheless, I am enjoying my own opulent surroundings, relatively and contextually speaking of course, enjoying the sweet, earthy smell in the air that never fails to greet me whenever I land in Uganda, getting used to the fine brown dust that settles on everything constantly, and enduring the barrage of mosquito bites that have already made their mark on all my extremities.

This morning, I am waiting for the electrician who was to come and fix the electricity on my side of the guesthouse building (there is none at the moment, I am writing on left-over juice in my computer battery), before heading out to town to take care of some errands : turn on cell phone service, exchange currency, and procure necessities like TP, candles, soap, and water, bracing myself for another set of exhilaratingly death-defying boda-boda (motorbike) rides through town, all before the afternoon Sun becomes too scorchingly hot, what with it being the dead of dry season and all.

Last night as I lay awake listening to the eardrum-rattling music of crickets, and the occasional thud of avocados falling onto the tin roof of the guesthouse, I was filled with a sense of grateful wonder at God bringing me here for the 13th time since that life-altering first experience of 1997. Thinking of the depth of human connections in which I was privileged to share here in Uganda, I can only sing along with the Psalmist: ‘Lord, who am I, that you should show such loving kindness?’ This weekend, I will be sharing at a worship conference that my Ugandan musician friend and former student, Bosco Andama will be holding in Kampala. I have no idea as yet what I will say, but as I await insight from the Lord, I expect to witness God at work once again in ways that always capture my imagination anew. So here I go once more, grateful at the chance to practice the always exciting, unexpected, and scary work of trusting in God. As always, I know that I am cocooned in the prayers of my community, without which none of this would be possible. Please excuse my Faulkneresque, stream-of-consciousness style of run-on sentences. I haven’t slept in more than 2 hour stretches for the last 3 days….

Love,

Aeri

Uganda Missions

CCUMC sends its worship director, Aeri Lee, as a missionary to Uganda.  Every summer Aeri teaches music at the Reformed Theological College in Kampala, Uganda.  She also makes a trip to visit Kumi, Uganda, where Youth and Child Visionary Ministries is based.

YCVM is supported by CCUMC through fundraising efforts.  The monies support orphans that are cared for by YCVM, and go towards the construction of a Christian boarding school in Kumi.  Read about YCVM’s ministry at the YCVM blog.

In the summer of 2009, a team from CCUMC traveled to Kumi for two weeks to join forces with YCVM and further their goals.  Find out more at the Kumi Konnect blog.

Farewell to Pastor Peter




June has been a month of transitions. We bid a fond farewell to Pastor Lau and his family after having served at CCUMC for 17 years! The joint worship service was very moving. An impromptu choir gathered to sing a special song (part of it was in the Malaysian language!), and Peter and Jasmine sang a duet to the congregation. The ladies of the UMW presented the Laus with a hand-stitched quilt, a memory book, and a special luncheon. Tears were shed, and many stepped forward to share their fondness and appreciation to the Lau Family. They will be missed.