First United Methodist Grapevine knows how to be in mission. We call it, "Missions by Falling in Love". It is the concept of allowing relationships to guide and develop our ministry. When I first became the pastor at Grapevine, I heard people talk about "our Villages." They told me they had gone to Kenya or Costa Rica or they had participated in one of our Fiestas at our Grapevine Village, and they had fallen in love with the people. As the love grew between them, the more they wanted to be in ministry with one another. This is missions by falling in love.
As I began to travel to our different Villages, I found the same happening to me. As our love grew, so did the desire to serve in ministry with them. Now that I am on the verge of retirement, I find I am most thankful to our church for teaching me this concept of ministry. (Yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks.)
I am beginning to pack my office. I have so many kind gifts that have been given to me over the years. There is a church-styled birdhouse, a stuffed doll that was given to me on my 50th birthday that reads, "Once a Stud always a Stud", an assortment of coffee mugs, a full set of "Wash Away Your Sins" personal hygiene products, a few bobble-head Jesus statues, and a large assortment of crosses and praying hands. Every one of them is appreciated and holds wonderful memories. But the needs of the world go far beyond our first-world remembrances. That is why I am asking, if you would like to give me a going away, retirement gift, I would hope you would give to our Street Children project in Meru, Kenya or the pastors salary fund in Latvia.
In 2012, I was standing in the streets of Meru seeing children scavenging for food. I asked what the church was doing for these children. There was no answer. They, like we have done so many times with our poor, had allowed the children to become lost in the landscape and were no longer able to see them and their need. We started to work with the leaders of the Kaaga Synod to serve, protect and resettle these children. Wonderful progress has been made, but many more need our help. I had hoped we would be able to secure a $50,000+ grant before I left, but that is no longer possible. I pray your contributions will be able to replace the funding from that grant. Your gifts will provide the seed money needed to establish a mental health facility (the only one for hundreds of miles) for those mentally fragile street children, youth and adults in Meru.
The church in Latvia also needs our help. Following their independence in 1991, the Latvian United Methodist Church is beginning to reemerge out of the ashes of 50 years of Soviet, Nazi and Russian occupation. We now have 12 growing United Methodist Churches in Latvia. This is due to the dedication and discipleship of the Latvian pastors who make somewhere between $3000 and $8500 a year for their service. This is far below a living wage in Latvia. I would be honored if you would choose to give to the Latvian Pastor's Fund. Like the church leaders in Kenya, I have fallen in love with them and want us to continue to be in ministry with them.
Thank you for your continued generosity to this church and our missions. May we continue to be in missions by falling in love.