And Are We Yet…Connected?


Jared Kunkle and Rev Mark Canada pray before leaving Fairview Center UMC with the team of UMC volunteers to work in CameronThe mission of our beloved United Methodist Church is to make disciples for Jesus Christ, for the transformation of God’s world.  Our Church seeks to achieve this through outreach, evangelism, and holiness, also called sanctification, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We Methodists are convinced that building loving relationships with others, through social service, is a means of working towards the inclusiveness of God's love.  

Our logo indicates our total dependency on God’s Holy Spirit and the connective church, to achieve the entirety of the transformation God seeks for the world. The flame in our logo, represents the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. The two parts of the flame, represent our predecessor denominations, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The flames “uniting” at the base symbolizes their 1968 merger.

The mission is not achieved singly, by the work of individuals, but, is also ignited, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Global Connection of our church. You see, my brothers and sisters, we are the conduits of God’s disciple making work. Many of us understand the work of Spirit…to guide, teach, help and comfort us in our work as God’s ambassadors. 

"The Beaver Crew," affectionately named for the number of trees and limbs they cleared in CameronBut, how does the Globally Connected nature of our United Methodist Church assist individuals and local churches in achieving our work as God’s emissaries?  Another way to ask the question is, “In a world that is increasingly becoming more polarized, are we yet connected?” As a Presiding Elder or District Superintendent, I am blessed to see our Church, and our connection, at work from a balcony view. 

Recently, the small town of Cameron, IL, was hit by a tornado.  I am the area superintendent, but I was on vacation. However, through the connectional relationship, that weaves us all together as conference superintendents within the Illinois Great River’s Cabinet, Rev. Doug Rorex was graciously covering the Spoon River District in my absence.  But yet, there was something tugging away at my spirit that made me want to be present, so I came back two days early.

As I drove to Fairview Center UMC (a church in Spoon River District, where our leaders decided to stage UMC volunteers), I was wondering, just what would I do? What would I say?  How would I be of help in a crisis that I had personally never experienced?  To my surprise, when I arrived I saw that Superintendent Rorex was already there, in work attire; ready to help in my absence. WOW, I thought! This really literally speaks to our individual interpretations of what it means to be connected, as members of the cabinet serving the entire conference, when needed!  What a blessing, indeed! As superintendents, we are each dedicated to ensuring that all is tended to, on our own turf!  We have churches, pastors, and laity; we have mission visions to cast; we are to encourage, facilitate, uphold, uplift, observe, instruct, and supervise in our own district… and yet, we manage to remember and respond, in areas not assigned directly to us, through the umbilical cord of our conference connection.  

"The Beaver Crew" at workOn the frontlines, we sometimes feel that our connectivity has been lost, due to the geographical size of our conference. Those too far north/south, cannot “feel” nor understand the needs of our southernmost/northernmost brothers and sisters, and from their perches in the conference office…our IGRC staff just has no idea what we’re dealing with in the trenches. Let me assure you that too, has been proven to be a misunderstanding of how far and wide and connected… is the reach from our staff in the Springfield Conference Center!

Bunny Wolfe was in Cameron with notepad in hand, assessing the need, coordinating the resources and offering comforting and assuring words. I discovered that it’s no easy task, walking into a disaster area and not be overwhelmed by the destruction and sense of total loss…knowing that the path you are walking is through what used to be somebody’s kitchen or bedroom. As you begin to assess the damage, you have a feeling of overall helplessness wash over you, knowing that this community has lived…thanking God that there was no loss of life and no serious injuries…through the complete destruction of their homes, grain bins, family memorabilia and everything else important to them… while also learning that because of its unincorporated status, there will be no funding assistance from any local, state or federal government entity.  Facing all of that makes you almost want to throw your hands up and say “There’s nothing that can be done!”  But, that’s NOT what happened in Cameron!

Destroyed trailer in CameronWe, as United Methodist, were connected to the people of this community, through the love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  As our Coordinator of Missions and Outreach, Bunny provided assistance to the people of Cameron, and together, through our connection, arranged for their spiritual brothers and sisters of Fairview Center United Methodist Church in Fairview to be the ground zero headquarters for all coordinating activity. This would be the place where meals would be provided and rest for the volunteers could be achieved and all activities would be coordinated.
I must share that my spirits were lifted, and my heart sang “let’s do this” when I heard someone say, “I’m so glad the Methodist have come!”  YES… we are yet connected!

In a small community, without the resources of a bigger city, it can become difficult to determine how you will get the word out to the surrounding areas and churches, regarding the true situation Cameron is facing.  How do you help those who are far, far away be aware of what is facing a community when there is no avenue of funding available to them? Oh, there might have been blips on the national news channels… but they didn’t tell the whole story! There might have been reporters there from local papers… but, there was no mention of the true dire needs of the community. They reported on the “what happened,” not the “what now!”

Cookies made by a member of Fairview UMC for Cameron tornado responseThrough the Communications Center of our Springfield Conference Center, and under the leadership of Paul Black, Director of Communication Ministries… there have been, and will continue to be articles and photos, sharing the current circumstances and resource needs of Cameron. Our line of communication provides funding links and information needed to help us live through our connection to the people of Cameron. We are important to them and our connection will provide the information and direction to help them overcome their disastrous circumstances. Please continue to read the Current and other conference media for more information. Oh YES, we are yet connected!

for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:35-40, NRSV

There’s much work to be done in Cameron. The human and environmental needs must be addressed. Loads and loads of trash and debris must be removed, before the restorative process can begin, and ALL of it requires people, time, and funding!

By contacting our conference office, you can receive more information regarding the status of the people of Cameron, learn of the opportunities for your assistance and obtain information you can share with your congregations. Bunny, or Paul can also provide you with volunteer need information in Cameron and at Fairview Center UMC, channels for funding assistance and Advance numbers assigned.

Oh YES… we ARE yet connected!

Thanks be to God. Amen!

Rev. Sylvester Weatherall, Superintendent
Spoon River District