Asbury United Methodist Church
Angel Tree is our opportunity to help Shelby County children who are in need have a wonderful Christmas and to show them Christ’s love. In December 2016, Asbury provided Christmas presents for 90 children in 29 families. Children who are recipients of Angel Tree gifts are from families who have applied for assistance through Shelby County Emergency Services and Oak Mountain Missions. Hundreds of individuals and families in our church provided each child 6 gifts – 3 needed items and 3 wish list items. Each gift for a child was represented by an angel on the tree, so we had 540 angels! Many volunteers also gave of their time to make this happen! The big day came on December 10th when the families came to pick up the gifts. Volunteers were on hand to receive warm hugs and load gifts into the cars. This of course was the most fun and really made our Christmas season. We were also able to provide food gift certificates for each family from church family contributions of over $4,600. The families were overwhelmed at your generosity. The thanks, tears of joy, and big smiles will be remembered all year.
Asbury Angels Food Ministry: (February 2016)
Most of you may have heard of Angel Food Ministry. Asbury became a distribution site for them over eight years ago. In recent years, the ministry has changed to One Harvest Ministry. However, One Harvest Ministry decided to close its doors in 2016. Asbury is currently looking for a new vendor for this ministry.
In the past, the ministry would work like this: Anyone can purchase boxes at wholesale prices from oneharvest.com and pick them up one Saturday a month at Asbury. From the beginning, we have used this as a way of supporting the local community by taking donations so that we can buy food boxes for a different ministry each month. We currently rotate among The Foundry, Oak Mountain Missions, Manna Ministries, Urban Ministry, and Leeds Welfare Cooperative. We also partner with Grace Klein Community to deliver food to about 200 needy families each month.
Many Asbury families take part in delivering the food boxes. By feeding these families and getting to know them, our hope is to spread the love of our Savior. Special relationships have resulted from getting to know the recipients. For example, one food recipient took in a mother suffering from cancer and her three young children last summer. The food was very helpful to this lady with the extra mouths to feed. Our relationship with this family resulted in one of the Asbury ladies Bible studies adopting these children for Christmas. Another recipient family is a grandmother raising five grandchildren. An Asbury UMW Circle adopted this family for Christmas. Both of these families were overwhelmed by the blessing.
This ministry is made possible by a monthly donation from Missions in Action and donations from Asbury members designated for the Asbury Angel or One Harvest Food Ministry. And of course the ministry would not be possible without all of the wonderful volunteers who help unload the truck and deliver boxes. They are truly serving as the Hands and Feet of Christ.
The ACT (Asbury Career Transition) ministry is intended to be a resource to church members and an outreach to the greater community around us. ACT provides spiritual, emotional and practical support in a confidential Christian atmosphere to individuals and their families who are affected by unexpected job layoffs and unemployment. This is accomplished through training that allows our participants to improve their job-hunting skills. A mentor is made available to each person to escort them through our program which includes resume writing, interviewing skills, networking and job-searching techniques. Founded in 2002, ACT has made adjustments over the years for changes in the economy, trends, and industries to best serve our participants.
We currently have over one hundred registered participants, which includes job seekers and volunteers. We meet twice a month, once to hear a speaker and once to share and receive individual assistance. The speakers are very informative and have different ideas and resources to assist our participants. Mentors try to determine if there is an obstacle that is keeping someone from getting a job and work with them to remove it. We also try to connect the dots between skills and possible jobs. The process is tailored to each individual seeking employment.
For example, one participant was a University of Alabama graduate with a degree in finance. He had been looking for a job for 2 years. He was very smart but had difficulty communicating. His mentor referred him for services, helped him fill out online employment applications, and prepared him for an interview for what seemed to be the perfect job. When he didn’t get the job, his mentor contacted the CEO, explained the situation, and asked for another interview. The CEO interviewed him and hired him on the spot! He is now thriving at this company! A lot of times, it just takes finding the right job for someone’s skills and strengths and supporting them until they are gainfully employed.
The impact of this ministry is far greater than the numbers alone. Many of our job-seekers are the family bread winner with a spouse or children who are dependent on them. Some of them have poor job hunting skills or problems in making a good impression with a potential employer. They are frequently depressed and are in need of spiritual and emotional support. While these are the issues we address, it is important to note that God is present in everything we do. As Christians, we seek to respond to those in need throughout our community and to exemplify Christ’s directive to love one another.
Asbury Food Pantry: (June 2016)
The Asbury Food Pantry was started due to the dream of several members of our Missions In Action Committee. There was a desire to serve those who were unable to provide enough food for their families due to financial hardships and responsibilities. We opened the Food Pantry in June 2011 with the vision to feed those who were hungry. We do not screen the families who come to our Food Pantry. It is our belief that there are families in our area who may fall through the cracks in being eligible for assistance, and we feel that Christ asks us to feed those who come without questions, just acceptance and love. On average, we give about 459 food items and serve 27 clients each week. Families may come every other week to receive food.
The people who visit the food pantry are individuals from various socio-economic backgrounds and live in the local community. Many of these families would go hungry without the help this ministry provides. One particular family had a death of one parent and then illness of the other parent. This situation was devastating emotionally and financially for this family. The pantry assisted them, not only with food, but with the love of Christ. Today, this family is on their feet again and no longer requires food from the pantry, but we remain brothers and sisters in Christ.
It takes many volunteers and donations to maintain the food pantry. You can help by donating monetarily (designate food pantry on your check), by donating non-perishable food items (specifically canned meats, peanut butter, jelly, pasta sauce, pasta, and canned pasta meals can be left on the food pantry table outside the CLC), or by volunteering on Wednesdays from 2:00-3:30 when people come to get their food. We truly appreciate the support of our congregation in ministering to the hungry in our community!
Asbury Giggles & Grace: (March 2016)
As we know, Asbury’s mission is to remain challenged and equipped to grow more disciples for Jesus Christ by continually growing in the five practices of:
- Radical Hospitality
- Passionate Worship
- Intentional Faith Development
- Risk-Taking Mission and Service
- Extravagant Generosity
Missions and service play a large role in our lives as a church family. Asbury is very involved in the community and we make sure that Giggles & Grace honors and practices this as well. It’s truly amazing how many people we help with our sale that is 100% based on volunteer efforts. God is totally at work with our sale from our volunteers, to our children’s ministry to the many organizations we help in our community! Profits from our bi-annual sale have allowed our Children’s Ministries to purchase the following items:
- Security Camera System in Children’s Wing and Nursery Wing
- Flat screen TV’s in all Children’s Sunday School Rooms
- Computerized Check-in System
- Nursery Furniture
- Murals in Children’s Wing and Nursery Wing
- Laptops for CASA Office
- Laptops for Children’s Ministry Office
- White Boards in all Children’s Sunday School Rooms
- Acolyte/Bible Bearer/ Crucifier Robes
- Summer Camp Scholarships
- Circle Rugs for Assembly Room
- Portable Bible Buck Store
- Redesign of Children’s Information Desk
- Redesign of Children’s Assembly Room Stage
During the week of the sale we also do a canned food drive which we use to stock our Food Pantry which donates to many families each week. This year we hit a record of consignors and shoppers giving 498 cans! Each sale we give a total of $6,000 worth of shopping vouchers to those in need. Applications can be found on our website; www.asburygigglesandgrace.com; or you can contact our church office to pick one up. We donate gently used unsold items after each sale to Oak Mountain Missions, Lovelady Center, Hannah Home, Jessie’s Place, and Valleydale Church Adoption organization.
One of many stories that was shared with me last year was a single mother who has 2 kids with special needs and doesn’t work so she can take care of her disabled mother. She was provided with lots of clothes and toys that were suitable for her children. She was very gracious and thankful. Another personal story from a few years ago was a woman who was disabled because of sickness. We helped her kids get some clothes and they did a fashion show for her with their clothes which made her heart so happy. She passed a way not long after that and one of her family members shared the story with us on how much it meant to her to be able to see her kids do that and be provided for.
Alabama Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of Darkness Walk: (October 2016)
In 2006, we lost our 18 year old son Matt to suicide. In the days following, we vowed to stay strong as a family, not to place blame and to rely on our faith. Not too long after Matt’s passing, a team was formed in Matt’s memory for the first walk in Alabama with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). We reluctantly attended and were surprised to find the walk very comforting.
We have continued to support AFSP. Alan Weeks served as the chairman of the Alabama chapter until recently and is also an officer on the national board based in NYC, NY. Cindi Weeks has talked to many people who have lost loved ones or are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts thru programs that AFSP has.
AFSP is the largest nonprofit organization in the world that deals with suicide in providing education, programs, promoting legislation, providing funding for research and raising awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. AFSP’s vision statement is “A World Without Suicide”. This year, there will be about 400 walks across the nation including 9 in Alabama. The Birmingham walk is typically one of the leading walks, having raised $1.2mm with 11,000 participants in the past 10 years.
MIA and Asbury has always been very generous in supporting us and our cause through donations and volunteers for the walk and for that we are very thankful for our church and church family these past 10 years.
Brown Bag Ministry: (January 2017)
As Christians, we are called to love our neighbor and give to others. We practice radical hospitality at Asbury, and one way is the Brown Bag. Inner city schools supply lunches by government fed programs and when the schools are not in session, 98% of the students go without. The Brown Bag ministry is dedicated to supply these children with a nutritional bag of snacks to get them through spring break and Thanksgiving holidays.
In November 2016, we served 8 schools which included Barrett Elementary, Putnam Middle, Martha Gaskins Elementary, Oliver Elementary, South Hampton K-8, Wylam K-8, Brown Elementary, and Avondale Elementary. With your help, we served 3,740 students and made sure every student took home a bag of food. When the truck pulls up and the bags are delivered, the excitement and joy on these children’s faces are such a reward. The principals are so very thankful and appreciative as well as the staff. They are concerned about how the children will eat over the breaks and many have expressed that this ministry is an answered prayer.
The Brown Bag is able to exist because of Asbury. The cost per bag is so little, $7.00, but the happiness and rewards it brings to the recipients, well words can’t describe it. We receive each time many letters of thanks both from children and parents, many of which bring tears to your eyes. To date, we have packed and distributed over 29,000 bags. My thanks to all who have supported this ministry through prayers, contributions, and labor. My prayers are that this ministry will continue, and we can do a little part to help stop hunger. Thanks again to my church family for all you do, and may God bless each one of you and your family in 2017.
Church of the Reconciler: (March 2016)
Every week, we get a small gift of $5 or $10 in the mail from Robert. Robert came to Church of the Reconciler for years to receive meals, visit one of our medical clinics, worship with our congregation, receive rides on our van, and use the church as his mailing address.
He never said much—mostly kept to himself. For years he had been addicted to any number of substances until the “bottom fell out,” as he called it. After that he was determined to get off the streets and get sober.
While it is part of Reconciler’s mission to help those on the streets get into housing and wholeness, the journey can be a long, confusing, and sometimes discouraging one. Robert waited years but took it one day at a time: getting clean, changing his attitude, deciding he could make a difference, and encourage others along their journey. He had to wade through government red tape, waiting lists to get into transitional housing, and much more.
But with God’s help he did it. We didn’t see much of him for almost a year after he got into housing. Then a couple of months ago, we received an envelope containing a $5 money order with a note that simply said, “Reconciler blessed me. God bless Reconciler.”
Every week since another $5 or $10 comes in, often with a few words of encouragement. When you live life on the margins of society, $5 or $10 can mean a great deal. And yet, just as a living example of the widow’s mite, Robert continues to spread the love that he received from Reconciler.
Asbury is a pivotal part in Reconciler’s ministry and several years ago quickly became one of our biggest church partners. Our hope is that you see Reconciler as a part of your church—not just a place you go once a month to serve a meal. Because in a very real sense you are an internal part in the lives of the folks we see every day. You are helping them on every step of the journey, whether you know it or not.
Community Church Without Walls: (January 2016)
For the last several years Asbury has been a key mission partner with Church without Walls in Birmingham’s West End neighborhood. Church without Walls was a church planted 10 years ago to intentionally be a church with and for people in the West End community, a neighborhood with one of the highest poverty rates in the state. Church without Walls is now an active congregation with a worship attendance of over 100 each week and a youth group with over 50 kids. We have partnered with a college preparatory high school for low-income students and now 22 former youth from Church without Walls are in college. We use their church vans six days a week to provide transportation to people without cars. In 2015, we provided over 4,000 rides to people in need. We started a community garden in partnership with Urban Ministry that gave away over 4,000 pounds of produce last year and sold an additional 4,000 pounds at community markets, using the revenue to employ young people from the community. Finally, we help meet people’s basic needs, delivering groceries to home-bound seniors, helping people with utility and rent payments, and covering the cost of prescription drugs for people in need.
Because nearly every member of Church without Walls lives below the federal poverty line, we depend on the generosity of other churches and individuals throughout our United Methodist connection. Asbury is one of our largest financial supporters, helping to make our ministry possible.
In addition to financial support, Asbury has sponsored a “Ready Day One” back to school drive for Church without Walls for the last three years. Asbury has purchased and delivered school uniforms, backpacks, and school supplies to over 100 students for the last three years. One student is Jimesha. Jimesha has been a part of Church without Walls from the very beginning when she was 7 years old. She grew up in the children and youth program and considers Church without Walls to be her family. When she was nine, her mother passed away. She and her two sisters lived with her grandmother who is also quite ill. In many ways, Church without Walls has raised Jimesha. Members have welcomed her into their home when her grandmother was too sick to care for her. We helped her older sister get her GED and go to Virginia College. Jimesha is one of our students that we provide a scholarship for to attend Holy Family High School, the college preparatory school with which we partner. She is a senior this year and has already been accepted into several colleges.
Jimesha has become one of our key leaders. She has given a talk at our Discovery Weekend for the last three years. She is often in the kitchen helping prepare meals for our church services. And she has set an example for our younger youth to emulate. In short, Jimesha represents everything we are trying to do at Church without Walls – to empower people in the community to achieve not only their dreams but also to lead others on that path as well.
Jimesha’s story is possible because she is a remarkable young woman, because of a community like Church without Walls, and because of the support of congregations like Asbury. From all of us at Church without Walls, we are so grateful for your support and your partnership. You are truly helping to manifest God’s kingdom in West End.
Craft Day: (February 2017)
The Esther Circle has a Craft Day meeting on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. At the meeting, Esther members and others who enjoy crafting gather in Room 111 downstairs at Asbury to work on various mission projects. These projects are inspired by both physical necessities and mental needs. For example, we make pocket quilt prayer squares and give them to people as a reminder that we’re praying for them and that God is always with them. We also make heart pillows for breast cancer and heart surgery patients to use under their car seatbelt. Each item that we make has a card attached that identifies the church. We have received phone calls and letters from people who have received items made by Esther Circle. These letters and phone calls are usually thanking us for the item. Sometimes they talk about their situations and tell how much the gift helped them.
One of our current projects came about through a need at Children’s Hospital at UAB. A very small infant was in surgery for a number of hours. His life depended on the success of a talented brain surgeon. The parents and family of this child were extremely anxious. As the baby came from intensive care, he was clutching in his hand a small giraffe. This small unexpected gift brought smiles to the faces of the family. Thus, the Children’s Hospital handmade gift bag with a book, toy, coloring book and crayons was born.
Cutters For Christ: (July 2016)
Cutters for Christ grew out of the recovery efforts for the April 2011 tornados. Boyd Martin formed a team to respond. From that initial team has grown a core group of well trained chain saw and equipment operators. The team typically responds immediately to storm damaged crises. Their role is clearing fallen trees, occasionally for professional first responders. Asbury has supplied the team with a skid steer, affectionately called “Abel”. The team says Abel can do the work of 12 men.
Faith in Action: (May 2016)
Faith in Action is an outreach ministry of Missions in Action that serves the community outside the membership at Asbury. The primary purpose of the fund is to assist those in need with payment of utility bills and occasionally with rent or a hotel room. Applicants are frequently referred to the church by other agencies and churches. Asbury has a strong reputation in the area for helping individuals and families in difficult circumstances. Those who apply usually need assistance due to events such as sickness, loss of a job, loss of a loved one, and domestic violence to name a few. They must come to the church office and fill out an application for assistance. At this time they are given a card with names and phone numbers of other Shelby County churches and agencies that might aid them as well. Once this is completed the application is sent to Pam Ottaway or Gina McIntyre to call and screen the person for legitimate need. After a determination for assistance is made, the office is notified in writing and a check or credit card payment is made. Many families have been saved from disconnect of a utility or eviction by the Faith in Action fund. During the screening process referrals are often made to the food pantry, Giggles and Grace Ministry, and the ACT Ministry to further help the family. On average 3 to 5 families are served each week and well over 100 families per year are assisted. Since privacy and confidentiality are required, the best thing Asbury members can do is contribute to the Faith in Action fund. Additionally prayers for all involved to be blessed with discernment, kindness, and respect are very important.
There are many stories of how Faith in Action has blessed and enhanced the lives of others. One involves a couple from Calera that was about to have their power disconnected. When questioned about why they were behind on their bill the husband explained that he was disabled due to a heart condition and his wife was unable to keep her job because their car motor was blown. Asbury helped with the power bill and kept their name in case a car was donated. The man said they were praying for a car and had a strong faith. About a month later an Asbury member came forward to donate a vehicle and it was given to this couple. Their gratitude was overwhelming. The wife had already secured a job before they picked up the van. The husband said it was God’s timing as he had missed his last doctor’s appointment because he couldn’t find a ride. They left a message the next day thanking the church again and saying what a blessing Asbury had been in their lives.
Another example is a letter we received from a school social worker: I wanted to write this note to say thanks to you, Mrs. Pam, and Asbury Methodist Church as a whole. Thanks in no small part to your generous donation, a family in desperate need was able to replace their broken water heater. I want you to know how important this seemingly small act is! I became involved with this family due to an 11 year old special needs child who was presenting with poor hygiene issues at school. The child is new to the school and has been struggling to transition into a new school and make friends. Unfortunately he was being teased at school due to having dirty clothes and an overall bad smell. After speaking with the family we were able to learn that due to extreme financial strain the family was unable to replace their broken water heater and had not been able to take hot showers for months. I cannot tell you how grateful the parents were to find out that a water heater had been paid for and ready for pick up at AL Power. This act of kindness made a world of difference to one family and one small child trying to fit in at school. Please pass along my thanks to all involved!
On a weekly basis many contacts and chances to share Christ are made through this wonderful and generous ministry. Please pray for it to continue touching lives in a way that would be pleasing to Jesus and the example he set for all of us. The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’. Matthew 25:40
First Priority: (February 2017)
First Priority is a campus ministry strategy that mobilizes students to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with every student, on every campus, in every community. We connect the CHURCH to the CAMPUS to share CHRIST with students. We are currently in our 26th year of ministry serving elementary, middle, junior high and high schools across the nation and world. What is truly exciting is that this ministry began here in Birmingham and is now expanding across the world. We have 184 clubs in the Birmingham Metro area and there is a presence of First Priority clubs in all 50 states. New studies from Barna say, “If Jesus is not already part of students’ lives by the time they leave junior high school, the chance of them professing Him as their Lord and Savior is very slim (6% to be exact).” Only 12% of students attend the local church nationwide, so we must go where they are or we will lose a generation. That is why we unite the body of Christ with a plan of action to influence the school with the Gospel.
We partner together to help set-up and organize clubs that meet before school that are student-initiated and student-led. The public school is the largest mission field in America. We provide Christian students with a platform, strategy and support for ongoing effective campus ministry outreach. These students are on a 9-month mission trip when school is in session.
I personally got involved with First Priority 20 years ago. At the time I surrendered to the call for full-time ministry to students, we did not have any teenagers at our church. Talk about questioning whether you heard the voice of God? Here I am, but there is no one to share the Hope of Christ with. The Lord spoke and challenged me to “Go.” “Go where?” The place where students are, the campus. A simple act of obedience changed everything. Now, my church has a thriving youth ministry. “You reap what you sow” was a spiritual principle that I can testify about. Every day I have the amazing privilege to sow into the lives of students and see God move in their life.
For example, Thompson 6th Grade campus is one of those schools that has struggled in the past with student leadership. This year at the First Priority Leadership Summit that Asbury personally supports, we focused on “the how to’s” of effective campus ministry and trained students on how to implement the First Priority HOPE Strategy. This strategy equips students with a plan of action to reach their school with the hope of Christ. There are 9 girls that serve on the leadership team at Thompson. The “P” week of the strategy is Prepare. The week is designated for students to give their personal testimony of when Christ impacted their life. Recently during Prepare Week, MaKayla, 12 years old, got up to share her story and you could have heard a pin drop. She proceeded to share how when she was in 2nd grade she had a tragic accident. To summarize, she has a passion for horses and she had been playing with a foal that she snuck up behind and it kicked her in the left side of her chest. She continued to share how she turned blue from lack of oxygen and then white as paramedics were called to the scene. Her mother began praying as she struggled to know what she could do for her daughter. CPR was dangerous because if the ribs were broken they could puncture the heart. The moment when all seems lost, Jesus is the answer. Her only injury was a mark of the horse’s hoof imprinted on her chest. Her only reason for what happened is that God had a plan for sparing her life and she is now impacting her classmates by telling the story of how Christ has delivered her.
This is just one testimony of what occurs every week on 184 campuses around the Birmingham area. God is using the lives of students to reach their peers for Christ. Equipping the next generation of leaders to share what Christ has done in their life is vitally important and has become my First Priority.
According to Robert Mercer, Asbury works with First Priority in a number of ways, including collaboration with other churches in the area and speaking at various First Priority meetings. One of the most meaningful things we do with this organization is mentoring students during report card time. Our youth staff helped talk students through their grades to give them a nonjudgmental voice concerning their academics. They were able to ask kids about their current performance and future goals. It was very meaningful for our team and the students involved. Moose Mosteller and Maggie Ward participated in the mentor program. Several nearby schools have First Priority clubs, including: Oak Mountain Intermediate, Oak Mountain Middle, Oak Mountain High, Forest Oaks Elementary, Mt Laurel Elementary, Chelsea Park Elementary, Chelsea Middle, Chelsea High, Greystone Elementary, Berry Middle, and Spain Park High.
Foundry Dental: (May 2016)
It is a pleasure to continue to work with Asbury UMC to serve others in the community. Much of what Jesus taught us centered around helping the less fortunate, and we are glad to have the opportunity to live out this faith in Bessemer, Alabama.
The Foundry Dental Center has grown with God’s blessing to now provide about 12,000 patient-visits each year, and we continue to give away over $4 million in dental services each year. While much of this is given to people working through addiction recovery in local ministries, we have recently partnered with another local non-profit with patients in tremendous need of dental care: United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham (UCP).
Access to dental care is especially challenging for some UCP program participants who cannot be treated in a traditional dental setting. Some need deep or general anesthesia to manage their treatment needs. Their routine dental care requires both an anesthesiologist and a dentist, and this combination is simply not available to some who need low-cost dental services.
Fortunately, the Foundry Dental Center, with help from Asbury MIA, is soon able to meet this need. We have purchased anesthesia equipment, and have commitments from at least two anesthesiologists and several volunteer dentists to help treat UCP patients. Asbury is supporting these efforts by sponsoring care for up to 10 UCP individuals. We are excited to begin this new area of service – dental care for UCP and special needs patients – and we feel confident this will be a blessing to many.
We continue to thank the members of Asbury who helped so much to launch our mission efforts. People who built walls and cabinets, floors and ceilings. People who put in the electricity and plumbing and helped pay for our first set of dental instruments. Your efforts are helping more people than you will know. Blessings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s Garage Sale: (September 2016)
God changed our usual way of doing business for God’s Garage Sale this year — He had a lot of heavy equipment and site preparation underway and told Asbury to get it done another way. Did we ever!
Instead of a “sale” in the gym, our customary approach, we collected furniture and kitchen items onsite, and also took in an incredible array of great clothing for men, women, and kids. We delivered everything except the clothing to Oak Mountain Missions, and a great many families starting new residential arrangements were served generously. Another of our ministry partners, Grace Klein Community, was the object of the clothing delivery — with a strong eye toward inner city children, and adult clothing focusing largely on those reentering the workplace.
Every year, I’m afraid that my congregation is just going to run out of stuff to share with those so less fortunate than many of us. Every year, I’m reminded again — as the angels say — “fear not.” Despite a change in format, we maintained a high turnout, and completely filled a 24-foot truck, and were able to maintain the incredible gift of ministering to many in need in this awesome way. Every year, we see God alive — moving the givers; every year, we see God alive — blessing the recipients.
We’ll be back to our “regular” format for God’s Garage Sale as soon as He tells us to. But for now, know that your congregation rose up in a different format — and made a big and positive difference on the community around us. I am very grateful to worship with such compassionate people.
Hands of Christ: (November 2016)
Hands of Christ is an outreach ministry at Asbury that was formed in 2007. It was started by a generous donation from members Larry and Amy King. Since that time at least 28 participants have come through the program. Its purpose is to assist those at the poverty level with acquiring educational opportunities and job skills to enable them to build a better life. In fact, the Hands of Christ mission statement reads: ” A Hand Up, Not A Handout”. This program is focused on helping the participants help themselves and they receive personalized attention from the committee. Each participant is assigned a committee member to mentor them from the time they are accepted in the program until they complete their goals. This involves whatever is needed to assist the person in their personal growth and development as well and achieving their goals. While in the program a participant may be helped with things such as school expenses, gas, rent, utilities, car maintenance and other items that will allow them to complete their education.
There are many uplifting stories of participants that have been helped by Hands of Christ and are now successful in the community. One of our first applicants was a young woman named Holli who was expecting when she entered the program. She was enrolled in school to become a nurse. Her background was that her mother had died when she was a teenager and her father left the family. She had no one in her life but a grandmother. She made a decision to move forward with her life and through hard work and the assistance of the Hands of Christ program she was able to complete the nursing program and raise her young child. She is now a successful nurse in Birmingham and is doing well. The people who come through the program are full of potential but just don’t have the means to attend school and take care of all the responsibilities of life. This program has given a career and a great direction to many applicants that would otherwise not have an opportunity to pursue their dream. It affects their life and in many cases the lives of small children that they are raising. Quite a few have graduated in the medical field but we also have those who have pursued degrees in business, communications, education, and cosmetology. At this time, there are three participants in the program that are all in four-year college programs.
I have seen God at work in this program since the beginning and the blessings of helping people reach their goals and full potential are immeasurable. The main source of our funding is through Missions in Action and financial gifts of those who support the program. Donations are always appreciated and can be in honor or memory of a loved one. Your prayers are needed for the participants and their success as well as the committee and their discernment of God’s will in helping others. We want to be good stewards of the money God has provided to help those in need. This ministry continues to be a blessing both to those who serve and those who are served through it.
Kairos Prison Ministry: (August 2016)
Kairos Prison Ministry International was founded about 40 years ago in Florida by nine men who wanted to take Catholic “Cursillo”, a program of the Catholic church, into a Florida state prison. Cursillo is a short course in Christianity that has given rise to Walk to Emmaus, Tres Dias, and many other 4th Day programs of Protestant churches. The program in Florida soon separated from the Catholic church and changed its name to Kairos, a Greek word meaning “God’s Time or In the Fullness of Time.”
Today, Kairos is in 472 prisons in 10 countries and has over 90,000 volunteers, including Asbury’s Bill McDowell, Greg Foust, and myself. I have been working in the St. Clair Correctional Facility near Springville for 15 years and have made many Christian friends: inmates, former inmates, and dedicated volunteers. Kairos is involved in 12 prisons in Alabama including Tutwiler, the only prison for women in our state system. There is a Federal prison for woman in Aliceville and Kairos is also there.
Kairos has become an important part of my faith and life. Being around men who have been changed by Jesus, from a life that most of us would neither understand nor believe, into a person that lives a Christian life under conditions that you would not think existed is an experience that would certainly affect anyone.
Kairos’ goal is to have a “self-sustaining” church in every prison based on Jesus’ command to “love God and your neighbor as yourself.”
Lucas Odero, Kenya missionary: (April 2016)
I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Hillside Faith Church is located in Eldoret and other towns in Kenya, East Africa. We are so grateful to the Almighty God for the leadership of Asbury Methodist Church. Hillside Faith Church was born from the inspiration of great missionaries from Asbury Church. We pray that the Lord will bless all of you together with your family for the kindness and the commitment you have for the work of expanding the Kingdom of God around the world.
I would like to express my gratitude for the many good things that you have done for us just to mention:
- The car that you bought us four year ago that is still doing a lot of good work. It has gone all over to share the Good News and even taking food and clothing to the needy and the poor. As a result we have been able to lead many people to Christ. Sometimes we have been called to help take people to the hospital. Because the Lord gave the car to us to help us show the love of Christ, we have done it willingly. All this is attributed to you because if it were not for your help, we would not have this instrument that has made our work very easy. May the King expand your territory for giving us the feet to run with the Gospel.
- Our public address system speakers are still helping us greatly to share the word of God in the open air crusades. Though our amplifier got a defect, we are trusting God to get another one.
- The piano keyboard is helping our music to be great.
- The tent also is doing us good though it has now been many years of service.
This is just to mention that the help you give us does not go unnoticed.
Currently the ministry has been able to impact thousands of people who have accepted Christ through our outreach ministries. We have touch life positively through the grace of God.
The impact is both spiritual and social in the sense that we have been able to remove some families from the street who were living very hard and got them some modest housing. Today they have testimonies of the love of God. I recently visited them and in the neighborhood people called me by name because the street girls talk good of what God has done through us. As you pray and support us know that you impact lives in a great way.
Lucy says- “Pastor if it was not for you I could now be dead in the street when I was being raped every day” and as a result bore babies. She has been in and out of the hospital and God has been good.
Tata says – “Pastor I now don’t sniff glue and see how clean I am”. This is just the impact the ministry is making in a small way. The love of Christ has changed her. This is Tata and her son Alan.
Evalyne is a widow with two children and an adopted niece who was orphaned. She did know how to pay for her house, feed her children, or pay school fees for her children. We helped her. This is what she says – “Pastor I just ask the Lord to bless you because I have nothing to repay you!” This is Evalyne, Sheila, Melvine, and Mercy.
Our church has been able to reach out to many and we have been able to preach the good news to many using a holistic approach: preaching the Gospel, giving out tracts, and showing a cinema show that God provided for us with an LCD projector. The cinema ministry has seen thousands of people turn to God in a culture that doesn’t value Christianity. This is in line with the great commission as it is stated in Matthew 28:19. We are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God that brings salvation to those who believe, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. As it is written the righteous shall live by faith. (Roman 1:16-17)
HFC has grown from one church to several around the country.
My spiritual son Christopher Oduor says – “Pastor thank you for impacting my life if it were not for you, I could not know how to relate to people.” He is our pastor in Nakuru church. I preached in his church on January 1st with Helen. He testified of the Lord’s doings. This pastor was considered good for nothing and a certain man wanted to employ him as a shepherd to keep his cows and sheep. But today God is using him greatly. We are grateful to God for many other pastors who are making an impact. Some are directly linked to us and others are indirectly. And it’s not only in Kenya but also in the neighboring countries of East Africa and India.
Through God’s favor with limited resource available, we said that will always share with the orphans and the needy in society. Whenever funds are available, we take food, clothing, and bedding. We have given out blankets and mattresses to people who have never owned one before and all these have been as a result of people who are our rope holders. We have come to realize that God’s work done in God’s way will never lack His supply.
In December we had a great VBS and many children have fallen in love with Jesus Christ as our kindness in some way has challenged many. Please stand with us and pray that you will come and lead a VBS with us one day. My children have become so instrumental in leading others to Christ. Recently they invited some children into our home. These children were strangers to them. They gave them something to eat and clothes. From that time these children have never missed coming to church.
We have also been able to help the elderly and we have seen lives change. We trust God to build a center in the land I inherited from my parents to put up a center to help orphans and widows and the elderly because the HIV/Aids is real and causing many problems.
We have been able to do mission in colleges and schools, like Moi University, Tamabch teacher college, Mosoriot teachers College, Eldoret Polytechnic, Chester College, Medical Training School, Wareng High School, among many others institutions like Eldoret Police. Many college students have been changed for the better and are now serving the Lord with the whole of their strength. We have done prison ministry and Re-awake community Rehabilitation (like alcoholic anonymous). Many have been transformed for the better and now are productive citizens of this country. We have visited many people in hospitals and prayed with them. Some received their healing and give us testimonies of what the Lord has done. As a ministry we are happy that in one way or the other, many pastors have been blessed through many conferences that we have been able to organize. As a result I have a network of pastors whose ministries have been blessed through us. These conferences include Discipleship Conference, Leadership conference, and prayer conferences ETC. Today we can say that this far has the Lord brought us. He has helped us overcome many challenges that have come our way.
Please know that we need you and we cannot do what we are doing without you. The challenges and the needs are great but will not stop since He who has called us is faithful.
- Purchase of church property worth $70,000. This will help us move from the school where we currently meet.
- Support for the orphans and widows.
- Support for the drug addicts and alcoholics.
- We trust the Lord to provide slippers, blankets, and soap for prisoners. We have given Bibles to people and Jesus has really changed some who are now serving faithfully both in and out of prison.
- $10,000 to run all the programs we have.
- My family’s health and schooling.
- Send as a team here people who will work with us in any ministry.
- Because of the many poor and needy people who can’t afford to come to church, we pray for a van that can help in bus ministry.
- We pray for more Bibles to give to those who have never owned one.
- Sponsorship for the school going children.
Our prayers are with all of you and may the Lord be with you and bless you a million for your kindness. You may not know the great impact you have partnered with us to cause, but I want to let you know it’s only the Heavens that will be able to tell.
Lucas and his ministry are supported by AUMC through Missions in Action and through private donations. If you would like to donate directly, designate Lucas Odero on your check to AUMC. Donations are accumulated and sent annually to minimize international transaction costs.
Oak Mountain Missions: (February 2016)
Oak Mountain Missions Ministries, Inc. is a non-profit organization that shows Christ’s love by giving food, clothing, furniture and financial assistance to those in the Shelby County and Greater Birmingham area.
The majority of our budget is obtained from our Harvest of Hope Luncheon hosted in the fall. The donations in 2015 allowed us to give 4662 households food and $49,070.94 for individual’s utility services, which are our most requested services. Special projects such as the Christmas program and the back to school initiative are also funded by this budget. We also accept donations of clothes and household items that are distributed to our clients as needed.
The needs and means to help have grown every year since the beginning of our ministry. In 2015, we had over 18 volunteers from Asbury United Methodist who impacted countless lives through their service to others. Thanks to your generous donations of money and time, we are able to keep serving our community. Our faith based churches are the structure we and our clients rely on for substantial assistance in elevating the quality of life in our area.
Proverbs 22:9 “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.”
Operation Christmas Child: (October 2016)
This year, Asbury will again be filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. What fun children and adults both have picking out small gifts for children around the world who face difficult circumstances each day. This Samaritan’s Purse project is so much more than delighting a child in need with a simple Christmas gift. Every shoebox is a powerful tool for evangelism, transforming the lives of children and their families through the Good News of Jesus Christ!
The follow-up is very exciting. The boys and girls are invited to enroll in The Greatest Journey, which is a 12 lesson program where the children learn what it means to faithfully follow Christ and then share their faith with others.
Pray that these children near and far will experience the love of Jesus Christ through the gifts in these shoeboxes.
Panera Bread Ministry: (September 2016)
Every Friday night, an Asbury volunteer picks up leftover bread from the Lee Branch Panera Bread restaurant and delivers it to Hannah Home, Jessie’s Place, or Shepherd’s Fold on a rotating basis. Over this past year, over 7,500 units were delivered at a value of almost $14,000.
Ready Day One: (August 2016)
Ready Day One is about preparing students to be ready for school on the first day by removing the financial obstacles that prevent improvised families from being ready for school. Ready Day One is targeted to children and youth families touched by Urban Ministry and Community Church Without Walls (both United Methodist missions) in the West End area of Birmingham. $17, 479.38 was donated through the extravagant generosity of the Asbury family. We were able to provide two sets of uniforms (including shirts, pants, underwear and socks), basic school supplies, a backpack and a Common English Bible (different formats for appropriate age levels) for 125 children and youth. Because of the generous giving, we may even have funds leftover to provide winter coats and/or additional mid-year school supplies.
Volunteers loaded and organized the provided resources plus added an additional personal touch with words of encouragement to every child and youth. In addition, we participated in a worship service with CCWW and had adults who offered a time of prayer for the child and or family. Twenty–six children and adult volunteers were part of the purchasing, assembly and distribution. Six stayed after the event and joined the CCWW community in a cookout in a local park. At this park, one grandmother stated that our presence meant so much to them because we chose to come there and to minister with them in the name of Christ. To her it was an example of what Christian love is meant to be and she was so thankful and grateful.
Shepherd’s Fold: (November 2016)
Shepherd’s Fold was established over 30 years ago by Mary Kay Beard. Mary Kay was one of the FBI’s most wanted female convicts in America for bank robbery. Mary kay was caught and sent to Tutwiler Prison where she was sentenced to a very large time. While in prison, she came to faith in Christ and was released only three years after having been incarcerated. She and her husband started Shepherd’s Fold. We are a 501(c)3 Christ centered, faith based, non-profit, transitional program for previously incarcerated men and woman who are homeless. Our mission has always been the same: to change their institutional thinking and to change their hearts to Christ. We currently have four houses in the West End of Birmingham, a Guiding Light Apartment complex for women and a graduate apartment complex in Pelham.
The picture shows our new facility which will house 150 men. We are renovating now and hope to be in operation soon. It triples our capacity to serve and has 7 offices, cafeteria, commercial kitchen, 17 baths, 34+ bedrooms, classrooms, and even a weight-lifting room. Asbury UMC has provided the necessary beds, mattresses and bedding for 50 of our residents. We also have the capacity for 30 women in West End due to our expansion.
Our ministry has a high success rate with less than 1% of men and women who complete the program returning to prison. We work to get them a license and Social Security card if needed as well as food stamps, clothing, and a job. All of our participants have a job and pay us a small weekly fee. It builds their self-esteem and prepares them to live in the community. We want to do everything we can to get them back on their feet as productive citizens. We want them to hear the Gospel and have it hopefully change hearts and minds for Christ and then hopefully become productive members of churches.
One of our recent graduates spoke at our recent banquet detailing the experiences he had at Shepherd’s Fold and is one to be emulated. He was incarcerated and while in prison earned his master’s in Biblical Studies. Upon his arrival at Shepherd’s Fold, he began immediately to engage his new life and to become a productive citizen. He founded his own business Exotic Upholstery, bought a house and became an active member of a local church. He continues to give back by going into various prisons sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We have been blessed by Asbury UMC by not only financial support but also by several Sunday School programs. Harriett McPherson and Susan Stroup’s group have faithfully provided meals, clothing and support to our men and women. The Missions committee has provided funds recently for us to acquire a 20-passenger bus which we desperately needed as well. Phillip Hunter from the Missions team has heard our story and has been a great supporter from the Asbury leadership.
Shepherd’s Fold relies on the free will love offerings of its donors. We receive no state or federal funding. We ask churches to place us on their yearly budget through a line item identified for missions. We visit churches and small groups to share the Shepherd’s Fold story for the express purpose of encouraging participation. Support comes in many ways including mentorships, Biblical studies, meals, hygiene products and financial. Many small groups will adopt a building and provide maintenance and upkeep. We have a strong need for an additional 20 passenger bus to help us to logistically accommodate our residents to and from work. Thank you for all that Asbury UMC does for the residents of Shepherd’s Fold. We want to take care of them like Jesus commands us – He is clear about how we are supposed to help people who are in prison.
Stop Hunger Now (recently changed name to Rise Against Hunger): (January 2017)
In December 2016, around 128 volunteers assembled 10,152 meals in under 2 hours! Each meal included rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and a packet containing 23 essential vitamins and minerals. Stop Hunger Now ships the meals throughout the world to support school feeding programs, orphanages, and crisis relief. The food is stored easily, transported quickly, and has a shelf life of 2 years. Asbury plans to host another Stop Hunger Now packing party in December 2017 on an even larger scale! “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds and dignity, and equality and freedom for their spirits.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
United Methodist Children’s Home: (December 2016)
Earlier this year, I heard a sermon where a pastor asked a simple question: As a citizen of Heaven, what breaks your heart?
At the United Methodist Children’s Home, our hearts are broken when we see children in Alabama and Northwest Florida without stable, safe homes and little hope for their future; children who have experienced severe forms of abuse and neglect; children who have experienced grief and loss of important loved ones at early ages; and children who can’t live at home due to parental abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Since 1989, Asbury United Methodist Church has given over $334,000 in support of UMCH’s ministry to children who have been abused, neglected, or otherwise abandoned. Not only has your support to UMCH been generous, it has been incredibly consistent. It has allowed UMCH to have a powerful ministry presence throughout Alabama and Northwest Florida.
The Advent Season is one of the most theologically appropriate times for us to make a statement about the church’s role in caring for vulnerable children. When you think about the Christmas story, Christmas doesn’t really happen without a man named Joseph saying yes to a child that was not biologically his. Asbury United Methodist Church has said YES to vulnerable children through its continued support of the UMCH’s White Christmas Offering. Thank you for saying YES.
Urban Ministry: (January 2017)
Urban Ministry was founded in 1978 with a mission to serve poor and low-income persons in the Birmingham area with programs of compassion and wholeness. Urban Ministry also serves as the inner-city ministry of the United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Programs offered on a completely non-sectarian basis include: the Joe Rush Center for Urban Mission, Beeson Senior Services, Urban Kids Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs, Food Assistance, Homelessness Prevention, as well as social enterprises WE Community Café and WE Community Gardens. We serve approximately 10,0000 people each year. Urban Ministry is a founding partner of Community Church Without Walls and works closely with this congregation through our community development programs. Together these programs address the long-term causes and consequences of poverty, creating opportunities for individuals to find wholeness as part of a healthy, supportive community.
Highlights from 2016:
- Our Urban Kids Summer Learning students scored a +2 month gain in reading and a +4 month gain in math on their end of summer assessment. Both scores represent significant achievements and we could not be more proud of these young learners.
- We successfully launched our pay-as-you-can social enterprise, WE Community Café, and are serving 120 customers each week.
- We helped move 52 individuals from insecure housing or homelessness to permanent housing.
- We painted and repaired 40 homes in Western Birmingham through the Joe Rush Center for Urban Missions.
- We hired 3 more young adults from the West End Community into our Workforce and Life Skills program.
- We increased the revenue generated from our social enterprise programs from $88,000 in 2015 to $140,000 in 2016. This represents an increase from approximately 10% of Urban Ministry’s budget to 15% of our budget. The more revenue generated, the more young adults we are able to hire and train, and the more sustainable our work becomes.
We give thanks to our Lord Jesus for the many blessings He continues to provide, so that together, we can continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable folks in our community. Urban Ministry relies on volunteers like YOU! Plug in to a regular weekly or monthly commitment at our WE Community Café, WE Community Garden, Urban Kids After-School Program, or Food Pantry. We have jobs for many ages, interests and schedules.
Prayer is the source of our strength here at Urban Ministry. You can support us by lifting us up in your prayers daily.
- Pray that we have the proper resources and the right people to continue bringing compassion and wholeness to our community.
- Pray that our compassion and wholeness ministries will spread and multiply, transforming our community through spiritual, emotional and economic empowerment.
- Pray that in all things we do, we seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and that we treat each person we meet as a precious child of God.
For details on volunteer opportunities or to give a donation, please visit urban-ministry.org. We also invite you to join us on Wednesdays from 11-2 at the WE Community Café for a delicious healthy lunch. As always, thank you for your continued prayers, leadership and support.
Wil Bailey, Costa Rica missionary: (June 2016)
Wil and Yolanda Bailey, Co-Directors of Costa Rica Mission Projects, believe that when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, he taught us, in dramatic fashion, that if we claim to be His followers, we must be servants to one another. Christian service comes in many forms and they believe that they have been called to provide opportunities for churches in Costa Rica and churches from other countries to serve one another and explore what it means for us to be part of a body that extends far beyond the walls of our own individual churches. Their hope is that they might be able to help foster long lasting, fruitful relationships between the congregations who participate in this ministry. It is very important to them that they avoid establishing or reinforcing already existing relationships of dependency, but rather, that the churches involved will discover the benefits of interaction with one another. They understand the communion that takes place across borders, cultures and languages as a glimpse of God’s Kingdom and as a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit among us.
CRMP hosts between 30 and 40 volunteer mission teams annually which means that an average of 600 volunteers per year work with this ministry. CRMP has worked in churches is over 20 communities over the past 13 years and have built close to 50 different church buildings (sanctuaries, classrooms, parsonages, etc). 2 months ago CRMP opened a day care center with 11 children currently coming to be fed and cared for. We expect to have 24 children there by this time next year. We also have a home for young women who are in school for higher education. There are 3 women living in the home and we have room for 3 more.
We can clearly see God at work through the way he takes such a diverse group of people, from all over the world, with such drastically different life experiences, cultures and backgrounds, and “makes us church”. The family that has grown out of Costa Rica Mission Projects, connecting people from all over and incredibly strong bonds and relationships, is nothing short of miraculous!
We love having Asbury UMC as a part of the CRMP family! Getting to spend time in the mission field side by side with members of your congregation, getting to see you all connecting with your brothers and sisters here in Costa Rica through work, worship and fellowship is truly a blessing. We hope that Asbury has been as blessed by that relationship as we have and that we can continue doing Kingdom work together here for a very long time. We are also eternally grateful to Asbury for being a faithful part of our Salary Support Base, which allows us to be in Costa Rica full time overseeing this important work.
There have been a lot of big changes with CRMP over the last 3 years with the land purchase, building process and grand opening of the CRMP Missions and Ministry Center. We ask for you to pray for wisdom and discernment as the leadership of this ministry continues to make important decisions that determine the direction of this ministry. We also ask for prayers for the families of the children who come to our day care. Many of them come from very difficult home situations we hope that they feel overwhelmed by the love of Christ through us and our workers while they are at the day care.