This winter has been cold and gloomy, I think most folks would agree. What we have seen and heard at Crosslines, here at the Parish House, is that there are people who are really struggling this winter. There has been a struggle to stay warm. There has been a struggle to feed families, especially with our children missing so many days of school. And there has been a struggle for many of our families to get where they have needed to go because of so much snow and ice. It has been a winter that many will not easily forget.
I have thought about and prayed a great deal this winter about the families that I know that struggle to eat well anyway. It has brought to me some dismal moments. Recently, I was reminded again that the prophet Isaiah was encouraging about helping us to find opportunities to help others eat. The words from Isaiah 58:10 have been a good reminder to me to look for those opportunities this winter:
". . . if you offer your food to the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday."
This is a simple promise that Isaiah makes-a promise that helps not only the recipient, but also the giver. Offering our food to the hungry and satisfying the needs of the afflicted has great impact on the lives of those in need. These simple acts might be all that is needed to bring a family out of a very difficult moment in their lives. We may never see the impact, but I trust that it is there.
The second benefit of this promise is that somehow through out actions, our lives can be lifted out of the darkness that might be shadowing us at the moment and cause our gloom or discouragement to be lifted into the light as at noonday. For me, in this deep and dreary winter, the promise that the darkness of discouragement will be as bright as noonday is a wonderful promise.
God provides us all kinds of opportunities to help others, especially when it comes to offering food. In the past few days a press release announcing the Feinstein Challenge hit my desk. Last year, I found out about the Feinstein challenge too late to be involved, so I was excited to realize that we are just in time to participate.
Alan Shawn Feinstein has been a businessman and philanthropist in Rhode Island for many years. He is passionate about community service and has tried to involve many communities in serving others. Feinstein was very involved in the establishment of the first public high school in Rhode Island with community service as a central focus.
In 1996, Feinstein originated the first challenge to help local organizations to raise money to fight hunger. Each year, the Feinstein Foundation matches a portion of the money raised during the March/ Feinstein Challenge. In 2012, the 15th year of the annual spring challenge raised $230, 664, 188 nationwide.
While the match is not dollar for dollar, the challenge does help in two distinct ways. First, the challenge raises the awareness of food insecurity in our nation and around the world. It is estimated that worldwide approximately 21,000 people die each day due to hunger related causes. Sadly, many of these are children. That is a death due to hunger about every 4 seconds. In the United States at least 11 percent of all households are at risk of hunger.
According to the Kids Count Data Center, which has statistics for the whole nation, slightly over 58 percent of the kids in Upshur County were approved for free or reduced lunch in 2011, the latest data reported on the Kids Count website. That figure represents quite a few families who live among us as our neighbors that are food insecure.
So what opportunity has God placed before us? We have the opportunity to take part in the Feinstein Challenge. Any donation that is made to Crosslines, Inc., during March and April marked with the words "Feinstein Challenge" will be eligible for money from the Feinstein Foundation. The donation will count in this challenge only if the memo on the check includes the words "Feinstein Challenge."
Non-perishable food items will also count toward this challenge. Each non-perishable food item that is collected during this time can be valued at one dollar and reported as part of the money donated.
Any amount is accepted, but I encourage all of us to be prayerful about what we might be able to offer to this challenge. I will report what this challenge raises for our neighbors.
To God alone be the glory!
On the parish calendar:
- Reminders: Prayerful Knitting meets Wednesdays at 2 p.m. at the Parish House, weather permitting. Knitters of any level from beginner to experienced are welcome! Crosslines is now open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Church Appreciation Day, on Saturday. West Virginia Wesleyan College is offering free passes to all who want one for the women's and men's basketball games vs. Glenville State. The women play at 2 p.m. and the men at 4 p.m. in Rockefeller Gym. Ask your pastor for a pass.
- Visit by children, youth from Burlington, Beckley, Saturday, March 1, WVWC. Parish churches will provide food and are asked to have their youth accompany our guests.
- Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, March 4, 57 p.m., First UMC. Adults $8, children 12 and under, $4. Proceeds benefit First UMC Chancel Choir.
- Ash Wednesday Service, March 5, 7 p.m., Chapel Hill UMC. Darrel Gooden, speaker
- Lenten Lunch Worship Series, Wednesday, March 12, First UMC. Worship following lunch at noon. Billie Scott Mick, speaker, Jim Knorr, special music. Freewill offering.
- Spaghetti Dinner, Friday, March 14, 4:307 p.m., Chapel Hill UMC. Fundraiser for 2014 mission trip. Cost: $10 for age 8 and up, $5 for children under 8, or a half portion
- UMW Spiritual Growth Retreat, April 34 and 56, Cedar Lakes
- Fish Fry Dinner, Friday, April 11, 4:307 p.m., Chapel Hill UMC. Fundraiser for 2014 mission trip. Cost: $10 for age 8 and up, $5 for children under 8, or a half portion
- Lay Servant Ministry Training (formerly Lay Academy), Saturday, April 12, Chapel Hill UMC. All lay speakers and any lay servant will benefit from attending. Further information available from Carolyn Nettles, Tim Kelley, or the District Office.
- Bishop's Confirmation Rally, Sat, April 12, 9 a.m.3 p.m., West Virginia Wesleyan.