Quarterly Report from the Children’s Home
As the pandemic continues into a second year, it’s beginning to look like there may be light at the end of the tunnel. The Florida United Methodist Children’s Home has remained dedicated to helping children and families in need throughout this difficult period, and they need your help now more than ever. We are looking forward to the Fifth Sunday offerings on May 30th.

RUMC held another “Noisy Offering” on May 30th. We collected $53.87 in change in or Noisy Offering buckets, including a generous donation of twenty (20) one-dollar coins. Including folding money and checks also collected during the offering, we collected $130.87 on May 30th. This brings our annual total to almost $1,100, including a $200 gift from the Gleaner’s Sunday School class.

Because of COVID-19, staying home to protect yourself and your community has become routine. However, a home environment may not be safe for the many children who experience domestic violence or abuse. Such conditions may stimulate violence in families where it wouldn’t exist normally, or it may worsen an already bad situation for the children. For children removed from threatening conditions, their need for healing continues.

Candi is one of our elementary school students who came into care at our Madison Youth Ranch as the result of her parent’s drug abuse. While in her home environment, her grades suffered. When in-person learning stopped during the pandemic, Candi continued her studies at the Youth Ranch through a virtual platform. Through her own hard work and the support of her houseparents and teachers, Candi made the honor roll for the first time! Amazingly, she also met her adoptive family during the pandemic, and she has since found her forever home. While her story is still unfolding, there are many other children in our care who still need your help.

Your support of the FUMC Children’s Home ministry goes a long way toward providing a space where our children don’t have to carry their burdens alone. They experience, first-hand, the tangible presence of Christ. Thank you for your prayers and support.

In His Service Together,
Elisabeth Gadd
Chief Development Officer
Florida United Methodist Children’s Home
8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
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About Us

The Next Emmaus Walks

In a sign that things are beginning to open up, the Tampa Bay Area Emmaus Community is planning to hold their next set of walks (retreats) at Florida Camp Rotary in the Fall of 2021. They are planning a women’s walk for the weekend of September 30-October 3, and a men’s walk for the following weekend of October 7-10. 

It is assumed that all participants—both the pilgrims and the support staff—will have been vaccinated against COVID by then, and that we will be looking at the Pandemic in our rearview window. If you are interested in “taking the walk” and meeting other Christians from the Tampa Bay Area, you can contact Connie Mosley or Bev or Mike Plett, and we will be glad to sponsor you for the Fall walks.
Waymaker on the AT
One of the many volunteers for Family Promise of Hillsborough County (FPHC), who goes by the trail name Waymaker, has been on an adventure of a lifetime. He is attempting to complete a thru hike covering all 2,193 miles of the Appalachian Trail this summer. He began the hike in early March at Springer Mountain in Georgia, and he hopes to reach his goal at Mount Katahdin in Maine sometime in August.

Although it is a personal challenge for Waymaker (alias Mike Bass of New Hope UMC), it is also a way to support Family Promise. He is asking the community of FPHC to consider pledging money-per-mile for each mile he completes. For example, a pledge of a penny per mile hiked would mean a donation to FPHC of $21.93.

As of Thursday, June 6th, Waymaker had logged about 1,160 miles on the AT and was hiking through Duncannon, Pennsylvania.

Family Promise of Hillsborough County is a network of churches that helps homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through community-based support. FPHC provides shelter, meals, and support services to their clients, who are typically young families or single mothers and their children. FPHC provides a safe and comfortable environment for their clients while their clients work to find employment and affordable housing.

Waymaker is keeping a running status of his thru hike on his blog which you can view at this link. You can make a pledge by contacting Chris McCallister at this email address. Finally, you can read more about Waymaker’s Hikeathon by reading his invitation letter here.
Warren Willis Camp 
Opens for 
Summer, 2021
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, the ministry at the Warren Willis Camp and Conference Center was hit particularly hard. The Board of Camps and Retreat Ministries suspended all programs in the camp's vital summer outreach.

"It was difficult. I think we felt just like everybody else. We felt isolated," Director of Camps and Retreats Ministries Mike Standifer said. "We weren't doing the ministry we typically do with groups gathering, making friendships, and that just couldn't happen because of COVID-19."

However, that was then. The camp will be back in business for the upcoming summer season – albeit with limitations and prudent precautions. "The American Camp Association put out a field guide for how to open camps safely, from areas like food service, normal cleanliness, and that sort of thing," Standifer said. "We're feeling very good about where that will take us."

The overnight camp capacity will be capped at 208 instead of 484 in 2019, its last full-time season. There will only be one camper per bunk bed in the cabins for overnight stays instead of two. Ionized air sanitizers were installed in all cabins, and, of course, social distancing and masks are mandatory. Wearing masks inside is required everywhere except at the dining hall or when sleeping in their bunk at night.

Day camp is offered at full capacity. Worship and fellowship are central to the camp experience, but there will be modifications this summer. Instead of everyone participating in a large group, campers will stay with small groups known as pods. They will do all activities together, including dining. That will make it easier for contact tracing should someone test positive for COVID-19.

"In the past, we used to have what is known as praise time. We'd have everyone in the fellowship hall singing and praising God," Standifer said. "This year, there will be no singing. Dinners used to be served family-style at the table, but this summer, we'll go cafeteria-style."

That's a lot of changes, but it will allow the camp's central mission -- "to prepare a sacred space in a natural setting for all to grow in community and connect with Christ" -- to remain. The summer camp opens on June 14 and runs for seven weeks. After the turmoil of last year, the camp staff is eager to welcome campers back and give them the experience of a lifetime.

"I'm really excited. Our support staff that helps run summer camp, we all lived it in the last year," Standifer said. "We know what we need to do to keep everyone safe. We'll be doing lots of training before camp starts. We want kids to encounter Christ in their life and take that home and go from there."
The 175 Plan
The Trustees are leading the way in getting the buildings and grounds updated and spruced up in time for our 175th Anniversary celebration this fall. This is a comprehensive wish list of the various projects that we may tackle this summer.

  • Sanctuary—Pressure clean the building; touch up the carpentry under the windows, paint the outside, and upgrade the shrubbery.

  • Crichton Fellowship Hall—Fix the sagging wall (possibly covered by insurance), pressure clean and paint the building.

  • Nursery/Music Room Building—Carpentry on the front windows, paint the building, upgrade the shrubbery, and touch up the flame and cross logo on the front of the building.

  • Classroom/RESTORE Building—Pressure Clean and paint the building, replace metal pole.

  • Youth Building—This building is nearing the completion of its repair from its recent truck accident. We plan on adding laminate floors, and possible adding accent paint to the interior.

  • The RESTORE Store Building—Replace rotten exterior wood, add vent boards to the back of the building, pressure wash and paint the building.

  • Other Possible Repairs—Pressure clean the sidewalks, plug grass throughout the front lawn, brush and paint railings, rebuild the gazebo.

If you have a special talent, or want to participate in some of these efforts, contact Gary Floyd. There is work at RUMC for everyone.

Is God Building Something New?

Congregations throughout the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church have faced unprecedented challenges for the last 15 months. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many churches to reinvent themselves on the fly, not only in the way they present worship services but also in how they continue their vital outreach missions to their communities. As difficult as that is, the good news is that the people of this Conference have come through the storm with praise on their lips and love in their hearts.

With infection rates dropping and normal life slowly returning throughout Florida, this seems like a good time for a retrospective on how churches dealt with adversity and met the great commandment to love their neighbors.

We begin with First UMC Kissimmee, where Pastor Jose Nieves and many dedicated volunteers from the congregation didn't let the pandemic stand in the way of their community involvement.

"A couple of years ago, we had the experience of reacting to the Hurricane Maria crisis in Central Florida. With the help of many people, we were able to respond to the needs of the community effectively," Rev. Nieves said. "This was a different time. In this case, the crisis was all over. But we used some lessons we learned from Maria. We discovered from Maria that when you have established relationships in the community, you can respond more effectively."

Those relationships helped the church focus on their community's most pressing need – food scarcity. It partnered with three Kissimmee aid groups to form a mobile food market. The need was great. Like many Central Florida communities, Kissimmee was deeply impacted by layoffs caused by the pandemic.

"As we saw how the pandemic was hitting our area, we saw that people would be hungry. And instead of trying to do seven different things, we concentrated on that," Nieves said. The market provided a low-cost option for families in need. They could purchase a box with up to 20 pounds of food for $5 and could buy as much as they wanted to. They served about 350 families every other Monday and became one of the largest distribution sites for United Against Poverty.

"It opened my eyes to the power of the church to bring about hope," Nieves said.  "After the pandemic, it will show the need for the church to be the hands and feet of Christ. I can definitely see in the long run that our church is going to be stronger.”

"There is the absolute necessity for churches to maximize technology to reach people for Christ. Going forward, some people might not go through your door. Some people might be online for a long time before they consider coming through your door. They might never come," he said. "I learned the buildings are not as important as we initially thought. I think about the importance of community because we have more people involved in small groups and worship than ever before."

The same is true at First UMC Oviedo. When the pandemic forced the church to suspend in-house worship, Associate Pastor Patina Ripkey got creative. She organized a Zoom Bible study group that began with a maximum of eight participants, but that number increased as people broke off into new groups. "It was really awesome," she said. "This was at the darkest time of COVID, and we knew that the most effective way would be small groups."

It didn't stop there. "We started a Bible study in a talk show format," she said.  The study took place in a studio that looked like a TV station. There were weekly guests and personal testimonies.

In January, the church also started a weekly Bible for men who meet on the Oviedo Brewing Company patio. The group is called He-BREWS. "Throughout the pandemic, it seemed like everything was going away. But in the end, it's a new foundation," Ripkey said. "I feel like God is going to build something new. I believe that in my heart.

"I will never be able to force people to do anything, but I can offer choices. I give them multiple opportunities to meet God. I will offer them the bread. I will offer them Jesus. I will offer the Holy Spirit to get them through."

We see the evidence of that new building throughout the Conference.  Many churches report sharp increases in the number of people who view their services online. There are community gardens in multiple locations where people can get free or low-cost food.

St. Luke's UMC in Orlando sits near the heart of the city's theme parks, which laid off thousands of workers and performers when the pandemic hit. The church quickly stepped up, partnering with Feed the Need Florida and the 4R Restaurant Group to provide meals for those in the Central Florida arts community who needed help. Meals were made available at $5 per meal. That worked out to $2,500 for 500 meals.

A church volunteer stepped up to pay for that first installment, and then, as Rev. Jennifer Stiles Williams said in an interview last year, "It took on a life of its own." "Organizations trust us now that we're going to be here and going to help. The community knows they can come here and not feel embarrassed. You've got to take a risk and trust your gut. God has given us the idea and is blessing it."

That blessing is happening all over the state as United Methodists take the church to the people. Churches are forming partnerships with local schools to offer homework assistance for students, along with mentoring and support for stressed-out teachers and administrators. Multiple churches served as COVID-19 vaccination sites.

The Florida Conference Office of Clergy Excellence offered help through Clergy Care to pastors who may have felt overwhelmed by everything that was going on.  "I think the problem is extraordinarily acute," Director Sara McKinley said in an interview last October. "Pastors have been asked to take on a role for which they were not trained. They didn't have any warning, any training, and the pandemic meant they had to figure out how to do it next Sunday. It wasn't enough to transfer what they were doing in the sanctuary. They had to transform it."

We are only beginning to realize the full impact of that transformation.  "There's no going back," Ripkey said. "I'm excited to see what God has in store for us next."

Joe Henderson
News Content Editor, FLUMC.Org
Pastor Jose Nieves,
First UMC Kissimmee
Bishop Carter’s New Assignment

In mid-May, it was announced that the Resident Bishop of the Florida Conference, will also begin to serve a second annual conference—this one in Western North Carolina. This new assignment will begin on September 1, 2021.

Bishop Carter will begin his tenth year as the Florida Resident Bishop this fall. He declares “I have been blessed by you and sense there is important ministry before us: supporting vital local churches, dismantling racism, supporting clergy health and resilience, and proclaiming the message of the continuing United Methodist Church as our way of sharing the grace of Jesus Christ with the people of our communities and beyond.”

To serve both annual conferences--Florida and Western North Carolina--will require a model of shared leadership, flexibility, and residence in both areas. Bishop Carter affirms, “ I thank you all for your faith in me and for our partnership in the gospel (Philippians 1:5). I will give myself wholly to this work, and I ask for your prayers; indeed, I depend on them. I am excited about the future and claim the promise that God is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (found in Ephesians 3:20).