Missionary Mania is Contagious at First UMC San Augustine
When Dr. John Oglesbee thinks back to being a child of “The Sixties,” he doesn’t think about counter cultures and social revolution. He recalls, with pride, the fact that his church, First UMC of San Augustine in the East District, was supporting missions and missionaries from around the world in a significant way -- and still is today. In fact, the church gave over $97,000, in 2012, to more than 40 missionaries and organizations – a surprising statistic for a church of less than 200.
“The church as a whole has supported missionaries and projects around the world since I was a child,” says John, “and it is one of the most exciting and dynamic outreaches our church has – and one that has been a blessing to numerous members and certainly to many throughout the world.” An enthusiastic member of the Missions Committee, John travels often to the United Methodist Church and School in Corozal, Belize, often taking his family along. “Since our church is actively involved in foreign and domestic mission work for many years, we’ve had the opportunity to minister on Indian reservations, take a medical mission trip to Ecuador, and anticipate a trip to Nicaragua this summer. Our family has caught the vision of Christ’s greater desire for all the world to be saved through the opportunities offered to us through our local church.”
Other members are active in prison ministry, passing out snacks to students and breakfast to teachers, and supporting the Personal Energy Transportation (PET) ministry to individuals who have lost their mobility. Additionally, the church supports the Wesley Center at Stephen F. Austin University in a significant way with funds and resources including use of the church facility for annual leadership staff retreats.
More and More Ministry
This month, First UMC is hosting its 51st Missionary Conference, beginning with a 24-hour prayer vigil where members offer continuous prayer before the conference begins. “In April of 1963, members pledged $3,600 to missions at the church’s first conference,” says church secretary Sandy Newman. “In 2012, that number exceeded $97,000 as members, mission-minded community partners and even supporters from out of state expressed their love for this program.”
Vibrant congregations that pray together -- stay together. Adds John, “In 2012, we produced a missionary Prayer Guide listing all people and organizations that we support, along with contact information ideal for relationship building. The description of each ministry includes their main tasks, how God answered their prayers in the past and what they are praying for in the future. This helps everyone know what area of the country they are in, and even how we can pray for their children.”
Pastor Bill Lanigan, who also serves as conference historian, says missions is engrained in the DNA of the FUMC San Augustine, which is one of the original churches in Texas (established over 175 years ago as a mission by the Mississippi conference). “The credit for starting our missionary conference legacy goes to Dr. Harold Spann, our longest tenured pastor, now retired. The impact he had on our members many decades ago is still very evident today, and we are taking intentional steps to infuse that mentality into our children, knowing world views and attitudes are formed by age 13 in our present culture.”
Kathie Mann, Director of Partners in Mission for the Texas Annual Conference is eager to help other churches take their mission and missionary programs to the next level.
“Partners In Mission can connect churches doing a similar ministry so everyone can learn from each other,” she says. “We can also add just one person from your church to a mission team going out to serve so that the story will be retold at home. There are as many ways to be in mission as there are ideas from passionate people willing to step out in faith.”
Other Recent Missionary “Sightings” in Texas
· Stanley and Mary Gitari from Kenya are in Texas, speaking at several churches in the conference until March 2. Stanley and Mary Gitari work at the Maua Methodist Hospital, a Christian organization committed to providing affordable health care to the community. Mary is the head nurse on the wards and Stanley works closely with the volunteer teams, and in development of bush clinics, new schools, outreach programs to the community, AIDS orphans plus the projects on the hospital compound. The hospital serves over 100,000 out-patients and 12,000 in-patients annually as the only full service hospital in the area.
· Jim Monroe and Sue Owens are individual volunteers from the GBGM who host volunteer mission teams in Maua, Kenya. They are also in Texas this month. Jim and Sue are retired District Superintendents from the Oregon Conference and are taking the next three years to work at the Maua Methodist Hospital. Some of their assignments are to assist the hospital chaplains, work with the palliative care groups, assess all community projects for the mission teams and much more. They will tour through the Texas Annual conference then Colorado, Utah, Oregon and California before going back to their mission post.