Sunday, May 29, 2011

Catch Fire Week 5: Spread Wildly

For several years, I’ve walked by the Oasis Center on Harrison Street and I’d see groups of elementary school-aged children being escorted into their facilities for after-school tutoring.  I’d often peer in and feel a twinge inside me; wondering if there was something I could do to help.  I never acted on that twinge, partly because I’m already volunteering every week reading stories at Frank Mar Head Start and at neighborhood libraries.  I’ve always been drawn to the energy that emanates from groups of children.  And now, we have our own after-school program here at CCUMC -- the Homework Club!  I know that many of us are excited that God has literally dropped this opportunity into our laps.

CCUMC has opened its doors to 57 children, kindergarten through 5th grade, along with a staff of tutors and volunteers.  The CCUMC Homework Club will be operating Monday through Friday through June 17th. This entity has stoked new interest within our church to possibly have a summer program for the children of our community.

How does the Homework Club along with plans to institute a summer program fit into our Eastertide theme of Catching Fire in 50 Days?  How do we know that this program is “The One” that will be the force that touches our hearts and propels us to BE, GO and DO?  Can this be the fire that spreads wildly throughout the community?

Although I’ve been in the jewelry profession for more than 40 years, I feel God steering me towards working with children time and time again.  I’ve been a volunteer for “Books for a Wider Horizon” for 15 years.  And next week I’ll be going on a 3 day field trip with more than eighty 5th grade students as one of their chaperones.  I would have thought that these interactions with children would satisfy that twinge inside me, but it turns out this twinge is actually a spark!

Just last week, Pastor Emily asked if we’d be interested in being a part of a summer children’s ministry: volunteering to teach songs, Bible stories, and lead crafts.  Hmmmm…. Doesn’t this sound right up my alley?  I can feel this spark within me flaring up.  I’m planning on being involved with the CCUMC Homework Club.  And I’m planning to be involved in whatever program we’ll be developing for the summer.  Charlie challenged us last week with the question “Can Do?”  I’m responding, “Yes, we Can!”   I hope that this fire spreads wildly and touches you, too!

- Peggy Woon

Friday, May 27, 2011

Catch Fire Week 4: Fanning the Flame

We’ve been participating in the Movement of God’s Mission in the World guided by the book Catch Fire in 50 Days from our Annual Conference (The California-Nevada Annual Conference.) This week, we consider fanning the flameWhat CAN we do?

How did you respond to the tragic earthquake in Japan?  Were you out in Chinatown collecting donations along side our choir?  Did you pledge money through UMCOR or through a telethon?  Did you attend a fundraiser or purchase a CD or T-shirt that benefits the earthquake victims?   Did this earthquake serve as a wake-up call to us Californians to BE PREPARED?

What CAN we do? In the SFGate webpage “Make Your Own Preparedness Kit,” suggestions include:
  • Ready-to-eat canned meats/seafood, canned spaghetti, ravioli, chili, stew, tamales.  Other good choices are canned beans, fruits, vegetables.
  • Canned juices, milk, pudding cups, and ready-to-eat soups.
  • High energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix; foods that will not increase thirst.
  • Foods for infants, elderly, persons with special dietary needs
  • Comfort/stress foods: cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant coffee, tea bags.

It is recommended that you restock the food and water yearly.  When doing so, why not donate the rotated canned goods to the food bank?  Can do?  How else to fan the flame?  How about volunteering to help at Lake Merritt UNC’s monthly Food Pantry program?  Our participation has been a big help this year.

Another way to fan the flame would be to talk with some of our consummate volunteers.   In our midst, we have global volunteers Burt and Jane Yin working with the Red Cross, and Aeri Lee’s Uganad ministry.  Becky Wong and Rich Fong have many community projects needing helper.  Al Wong can always use and extra hand with maintenance projects within our own church.   Opportunities abound!  Articles will continue to appear in the Messenger  and announcements made on Sundays when new opportunities arise.

However, “Catch Fire in 50 days” is not merely a call to charity and service, but also to prepare ourselves for the receiving of the Holy Spirit.   We are called to BE Christian disciples.  Together we help each other SEE the blessings we have been given.   So that out of love, we DO what God wants us to do.

To really keep fanning the flame will take discipline and strength – the spiritual kind.   As the booklet states on the title page: Praying, Reading, Reflecting, Responding.  In response, CCUMC will be “serving a lot spiritual sustenance”.  Besides wonderfully uplifting worship services, Small Groups and Sunday School programs are on the menu. There will be new courses added for other liturgical seasons,  like S.O.U.P.  during Lent.  The spiritual food is here for everyone; and the flavor is really “out of this world”. Being spiritually energized is the needed preparation for each of us.  As a faith community, then, we CAN and WILL fan the flame and keep the fire alive.

- Charlie Ho

Aeri Lee travels to Uganda

Aeri departs for her annual teaching and ministry trip to Uganda on Wednesday, May 25th. She will be carrying with her our prayers and blessings as well as gifts for each YCVM orphan (journals) and questions that would help you learn more about Youth and Child Visionary Ministries

Sponsored child Sheila Kedi and YCVM Director Silver Omakenyi

Monday, May 16, 2011

Catch Fire Week 3: Shine Brightly

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. 
Let it shine.  Let it shine.  Let it shine.

This song is a childhood favorite that I learned in Sunday School.  It’s a favorite because it has three basic elements:  it’s easy to sing, has a catchy tune and it has movement!

“Hide it under a bushel, no!  I’m gonna let it shine.”  Singing this song taught us little children not to hide our “light,” represented by our finger which we proudly had sticking up and played at covering with our other hand.

What was it really teaching us?  I believe we are given many opportunities to keep our light out in the open and to let it shine brightly.  It’s so easy to hide our light, because we don’t want to be out of our comfort zone.  We have the power to live an abundant life, full of the many blessings and gifts that are freely given to us by our Lord.  But we must fully trust in the Lord who told us, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

My prayer is that we ask God for guidance over those uncomfortable moments, these challenges in our life, to not let Satan BLOW our light out, so that we can SHINE BRIGHTLY for all to see in this amazing life that is so abundant.

Just as “This Little Light” has three basic elements, “Shine Brightly” also has three basic elements:

BE heard with words God has given you,
GO out into the world so others can see God in you and
DO whatever, whenever to show God’s love.
 - Donna Chan Chu

Catch Fire Week 2: Keep it Burning

I am writing a sermon on Matthew 5:13-16 for my last requirement of the Conference Lay Ministers (CLayM) training. The sermon started out as a fire and brimstone exhortation for people to be the salt of the earth and to do good in the world. But our preaching teacher encouraged me to take another look at the second part of the passage where Jesus tells the disciples that they are the light of the world from the perspective of what motivates us to do good in the world. As I mulled over the passage, I was reminded that our call to act with compassion and justice comes from our own personal experience of God’s love rather than a response of duty and obligation.  In Wesleyan terms, it is that personal experience is a warming of the heart.

This week’s theme from Catch Fire in 50 Days is “Keep it Burning.”  In order to burn, a fire must receive oxygen and then it emanates that heat and light. In order for the fire to sustain itself, oxygen must be converted to heat and light;; otherwise, the fire will suffocate and go out. Similarly in our own faith journey, we receive the love of God and we must respond to the call by taking action; otherwise, our faith will stagnate and dim. I pray that our faith keep burning and that we shine brightly in the world.

How are you doing in the Catch Fire Challenge?
Have you been reading the daily devotionals?
What have you noticed, heard, learned? 

As the week begins anew, you are invited to re-commit to the challenge – to open up space in your own life, to be present, to read and reflect, and to invite the movement of the Spirit in your own life. 

- Derek Lang

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Today, we celebrate the ways in which death does not have the last word.
Today, we celebrate how nothing but nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Today, we celebrate how there is nothing so lost or so mangled as to be unredeemable.
Today, we celebrate that all the tombs of life are gateways to resurrection.
Today, we celebrate that there is life after death.
Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

As we begin this new season - Easter or the Great Fifty Days - I invite you to
post this affirmation somewhere visible as a daily reminder of all that we have
to celebrate!

We believe in an Easter God,
     who transforms darkness into light,
     hatred into tolerance,
     despair into hope.
We believe God
     is always working for good,
     changing every Good Friday nightmare into an Easter dream of new
We believe in the risen Christ,
     who befriends us on our roads of searching and worryM
     who touches us through song and silence, word and gestureM
     who calls us by name to enter the dance of life.
We believe in the Spirit,
     the hidden presence behind every resurrection,
     who beckons us to leave tomblike safety and trust the gracious
     invitation to live joyfully.
We believe the Spirit
     is always renewing the church
     and making us a people who practice kindness,
     encourage beauty and work for justice and freedom.
We believe we are an Easter people,
     a sign that with God all things are possible.

Catch Fire in 50 Days: Joining the Movement of God's Mission in the World...

Pastor Emily began last week writing about this booklet in The Messenger. This is a daily devotional resource developed by people, both clergy and laity, in our Annual Conference, for people in our Conference ² as spiritual preparation for the 163rd Annual Conference Session and beyond. As most of us know, our Annual Conference Session, made up of clergy and lay members, meets at the Sacramento Convention Center for Holy Conferencing. This year the five-day session will be Tuesday-Saturday, June 14-18, 2011.

The theme of Annual Conference this year is: BE who you are, SEE what you have, DO what matters to God.

Through Catch Fire in 50 Days, we will immerse ourselves in the story of the Church becoming a movement of grace transforming the world, and consider together what it means for us to do the same.

As we shared in our Small Group Ministry Tuesday evening, note the title again. Catch Fire in 50 Days. I shared that the title does not read, Catch the Fire in 50 Days, but Catch Fire … for each of us to catch on fire that God’s love and grace might set the world on Holy Spirit fire and that we Easter people might have Pentecost experiences often. Catch Fire in 50 Days is an opportunity for us to pray and prepare for that new day when we as a Church become a movement again.

The world needs the churches of the California-Nevada Annual Conference to be vital today, more vital tomorrow, and even more vital the day after. It is not about us. It is about God and the world God so loves.

With those things in mind, let’s participate in Catch Fire in 50 Days as a daily devotional, small group, and worship experience. If you would like a personal copy of Catch Fire in 50 Days, let me know. I still have a limited number on hand, but if the demand exceeeds what we have, we’ll seek and find the number we need.

Let’s catch fire as we open ourselves to God through these daily scriptural readings. Let’s pray that God would make us a movement again. It can start with a single heart igniting through a fresh encounter with Christ. Could that heart be yours?

- Burt Yin

Youth & Child Visionary Ministry News & Updates

On April 21st, the first term of the school year ended. YCVM welcomed home the children who had been away for a three week holiday. This week marks the end of that holiday. Let us lift the children and volunteers up in prayer for the time together and the upcoming school term. May each child experience the nearness of God and the strength of support from here and in Kumi.

On April 25th, the YCVM team handed over a person they described as a “thug” who had made the school premises his hiding place. The space was vandalized and misused by this person and the YCVM team caught and handed him over to the local police. The police are currently carrying out investigations. Let us lift up prayers for the ongoing safety of the buildings and the community as well as the ongoing construction.

On May 4th, CCUMC released the 3rd installment of funds for ongoing orphan care and school fees ($2,000). These funds are from regular and ongoing donations for this purpose from donors within CCUMC and beyond. This was per the letter of understanding we had sent with Aeri last year during her visit. That letter covered the period between June 2010 and June 2011. Through this support, YCVM cares for 11 orphans, covering the costs for all school fees, books and supplies, transportation, health care, and more. Let us celebrate this important ministry to the most vulnerable and the way they extend the mothering love of God in such concrete ways. Let us remember the 11 orphans regularly.

On May 25th, Aeri departs for Uganda. She will be there through mid-July. She is planning to spend at least a week with YCVM in Kumi this year. Let us lift her up in this time of preparation.
For more information about YCVM, visit

CCUMC Homework Club

We’ve experienced a miracle. It’s true! Last week, CCUMC was approached by a neighbor from Chinese Christian Truth Church to help out in an emergency situation. We responded by opening our doors to 57 children, kindergarten through 5th grade, on Thursday and Friday so that they would have a safe and positive place to go after school. On Sunday, the Board of Administration & Trustees (BOAT) discerned and voted to keep our doors open to these children through the remainder of the school year (till June 17th).  

Why is this a miracle, you ask? Because we have been longing to open wide our doors to the community just beyond our gates and put the gift of our buildings to good use…and God answered our prayers. And because we have been longing to connect with children, youth and young folks…and God answered our prayers. Monday through Friday for the next 5 weeks, you are invited to stop by between 3:00 and 5:30 p.m. to witness the miracle! CCUMC Homework Club is now in full swing. 

Great thanks to the prayerful discernment of BOAT on behalf of the whole church. Please keep us all in prayer as we walk by faith on this adventure. It’s not clear what might happen next, but we know that God is with us!

If you have any questions about the Homework Club, please do not hesitate to connect with Pastor Emily, Vince Wong, Steve Chan or other BOAT members.

P.S. Could this have anything to do with catching fire?