Volume 50
Issue 17
April 23, 2020
              
From Our Senior Pastor
Each week I lead Bible Studies based on the Revised Common Lectionary. The Common Lectionary (which was developed in 1985 and revised in 1994) has weekly readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, The Epistles, and a reading from one of the Gospels. In this week's reading from Luke's Gospel, the story of the resurrection continues. It was the from Luke 24 - the story of the Walk to Emmaus.

In that story Cleopas and the other disciple have left Jerusalem on Sunday and are heading toward Emmaus. They are overwhelmed with all of the bad things that had happened - the arrest of Jesus, the trial, the crucifixion, the burial, and the empty tomb. They didn't know that Jesus had been raised from the dead. They just thought that everything was horrible. Suddenly, Jesus appeared and was walking down the road with them. But they were so caught up in focusing on the bad, being pessimistic, majoring on everything wrong that had happened, that they didn't notice that it was Jesus.

It really wasn't until they finally stopped - stopped walking - stopped talking - stopped obsessing - simply stopped - that they finally opened their eyes to see that it was Jesus, and that he had been with them all along.

I think this story has a wonderful meaning for us. With all that has happened...with all that is going on...with all the uncertainty of what tomorrow brings...we can easily find ourselves caught up. We can focus on the bad. We can be pessimistic. We can major on everything wrong. We can go out of our way to point out what other people aren't doing. We can open ourselves up to all of that negativity, and we can close ourselves off from noticing that the Risen Lord is with us even now.

This week - when we begin to act or react like Cleopas and the other disciple - caught up, overwhelmed, negative, pessimistic, and critical - we should stop and realize that the Risen Lord is with us.

This week - may this be our prayer:

God, we are frightened, worried for our loved ones, and worried for our world, but in all of this we turn to you. Teach us to turn our panic into patience, and our fear into acts of kindness and support. Send strength and courage to the doctors and nurses who serve on the frontlines of this battle. Send wisdom and insight to the scientists who are working toward a vaccine, a treatment plan, and a cure.

Fill our leaders with the wisdom and the courage to do what needs to be done no sooner and no later than it needs to be done.

As we walk through these days and weeks, open our minds, hearts, and eyes to see that the Risen Lord is with us and may that give us the strength to be his disciples every moment of every day.

Hear this prayer, O God, that we offer in the name of the Risen Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Bill Brunson, Senior Pastor
COVID-19 Response Team Update
This horrible coronavirus has impacted us all - with several of our members and their family members being directly infected. We continue to be grateful for your generous and caring efforts to reach out to neighbors, friends, and others throughout our community, state, nation, and world. Our church is receiving ongoing requests for assistance and help, and because of all of you, we are meeting those needs. We encourage you to frequently visit our coronavirus web page for the latest updates and information. If you go to the "Ways You Can Help" (Link) section, you'll see a recent, specific request from our friends at Mount Royal Towers. Please help them if you can.

We are assisting our various mission partners, local and state agencies, and individuals with the resources we have available. Our "How Can We Help" phone line at (205) 259-8835 receives frequent requests, as does our "Help Request Form (Link), Sunday School classes, small groups, and individuals of all ages are responding and helping. As needs present themselves, we are reaching out for your assistance. Together, we are making a difference.

Vacation Bible Camp
Nothing can take the place of our wonderful Vacation Bible Camp week at VHUMC! The fellowship time, the faith community coming together, a gazillion children all together for the glory of God. This year, we feel it is best to put no one at risk, so we are moving forward with an alternative - a Virtual Bible Camp. Therefore...

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Thou hast been summoned to join us at our Virtual Bible Camp, June 8-11, as we learn to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of God's power!

Registration is now open for your 4K through 5th graders (as of the 2019-2020 school year). Before the week of Bible Camp, you will have the opportunity to pick up supply bags and t-shirts for each child you have registered. Beginning June 8th, your child will be able to watch interactive videos and use the hands-on supplies and ideas in their bags to help them learn about being strong in the Lord!

Helping Others Continues
As we continue to help others during this time, our mission partners are needing our support now more than ever. This weekend, the church and community would have been setting up for one of our biggest community events, Rise Against Hunger. It is a weekend full of energy, prayer, fellowship and serving others by packing meals to be shipped to children across the world.

This year, our meals were going to the children of South Africa. The same children that we were able to meet last August. RAH has had 400 events canceled due to COVID-19, but there are other ways we can help support Rise Against Hunger until the meal-packing events are back on schedule.
  • If you are a runner or walker, there is a virtual 5K/10K race that you can be a part of individually or with friends. Go the social distance race to support Rise Against Hunger. If you would like to participate, visit: www.riseagainsthunger.org/race to register or more details.
  • You can help transport rice from US warehouses to needy places around the world. Convoy of Hope in El Salvador, ADRA in Madagascar, and ORPHANetwork in Nicaragua are receiving and distributing rice to needy hospitals, schools, children, and families.
    • A 40-foot container with 20 pallets would ship for $25,000 and provide 423,360 servings or rice.
    • Each pallet of 42 bags would ship for $1,250 and provide 21,168 servings of rice.
  • The United Methodist Hospital in Ganta, Liberia needs meals and medical supplies. RAH is trying to raise $28,844 to ship over $20 million in food and medical supplies.
Visit RAH's website below for more details and how your donations can help.

Join a Virtual Group
If you're looking for a virtual Sunday School class or Bible Study, we have many available now. Take a look at the link below to see what fits your schedule and either email the leader directly, or contact Kelly Bottcher (kbottcher@vhumc.org). We're here to help and keep you connected with our VHUMC community.

Thrive Student Ministry Meeting Virtually
During this time while our students and amazing volunteers are not able to meet in person, our ministry has not stopped and so many groups have met over Zoom the past several weeks! From weekly Bible studies, small groups, Confirmation family groups, and a college hangout, Thrive has continued to connect with our students during the COVID-19 pandemic. We miss everyone so much, but we are so thankful for technology to be able to stay connected in God's love. For more information about our virtual ministry, visit our Thrive Student Ministries App, follow us on our social media platforms, or reach out to our Thrive Student Ministries Staff.
Communion Elements Partnership
During this time ministry has certainly looked different, but we are so excited for all of the new ministry opportunities. This week we were able to partner with Due West United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia by providing leftover communion elements from our Maundy Thursday service for their Congregational Care Ministry. Through this, many people will be able to experience the grace of the Lord's Table and the hope found in Christ!
Family Journal
During these unique times, we want to encourage you to join us in creating a Faith Journal. This is not an "Honors English" assignment, far from it - but simply another way for us to connect with and encourage each other. We hope you will take a few minutes to remember your own reflections with God in this sequestered time and then journal your reflections. Please email them to Kelly Bottcher (kbottcher@vhumc.org) who will compile a living document we can look back on and see how God led us through these waters. Below is Kelly's first entry into the journal.

April 1, 2020
My family in faith,
My name is Kelly Bottcher and I have recently joined the staff at VHUMC. It has been one of the greatest invitations of my life. Like you, I am at home. Maybe like you, I am weary of watching the news. I find myself "bracing for impact "against something I cannot see but newscasters liken to a tsunami, an ominous curve or a lurking "Boogie Man." Wow! I'm 59, I've raised three sons and a daughter, I started a master's degree last year, and I am a widow; I don't scare easily. But that was yesterday. Today, I'm determined to look at this time in the rearview mirror and say, "Oh, the COVID -19 weeks were the time I Iearned/discovered/grew in_____." How will I fill in the blank? How will I use this time, not just to cope in quarantined confinement, but become a better human being? What will be my resolve?

Vestavia Hills Farmers Market
Great news! Our farmers market will officially open as an essential service on Wednesday, May 13 to provide critical food access for our community. We encourage you to stay heathy and shop safely, while supporting your community of local farmers and food makers. The market will be open from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm every Wednesday through August 26 and will be located right off of Highway 31 in Scouts Square. Mark your calendars and come see the seasonal goodies from local producers. The farmers market is an outreach ministry of the church, and monies obtained from the fees (paid by the farmers) are used to buy fruit and vegetables that are distributed through our VHUMC Food Pantry.

Invite Friends To Our Online Church
Technology has wonderfully allowed us to continue being the church, just as Jesus commanded. We have heard what a blessing that has been to many of you. Please use this opportunity to invite/encourage your friends, families, and neighbors to join us on our Sunday morning live stream broadcasts or view our services any time after the service is concluded.

Text Your Attendance
When watching our services online, please text "worship" (no quotes) to our text line, 205-683-2631 to record your attendance. Please list all of your family member names in the name field. Also, when watching on Facebook, please be sure to "like," comment, or share the video so we can invite others to worship with us.
Not on Social Media
We are posting church videos and content about the church on social media (currently Facebook and Instagram) every day. For those of you who do not follow social media, we want to offer you the same information and videos. If you're not on social media and would like to have major announcements and videos emailed to you, please send your name and email address to Suzanne Scott-Trammell (sstrammell@vhumc.org). When items are posted online, we will send it to you by email.
Helping Your Children Through This
We miss seeing your children at church! During this time that our lives have been put on hold, we want to show our children that God is still with us. Even though many activities have been canceled, learning about Him and growing closer to Him can still go on.

Preschool and elementary parents, check your email for weekly newsletters updating you on what will be provided. You will also receive Sunday School lessons on Sunday mornings. These will be simple lessons you can do as a family. Let Anne Strozier (astrozier@vhumc.org) or Jamie Meeks (jmeeks@vhumc.org) know if you need anything!
Prayer 2020: This Week in Prayer
"Prayer does not equip us for greater works - prayer is the greater work." Oswald Chambers

"Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind" Psalm 107:8

Father, You are the God of all creation and our Good Shepherd; the author of life and salvation; the great Physician and the great I Am! We thank you for your unfailing love towards us. Thank you for hearing our cries of mercy; for healing our land; for pushing back the darkness of this illness. Thank you for your protection and provision. For all the folks healed of disease. For those who selflessly serve in health care. For proving models wrong. For making a way in the wilderness for your church to gather and worship while physically apart. For the stunning beauty of spring. For showing us your glory and for pointing us to you every day.

O, Father, let us not be like the nine lepers who failed to return to give you thanks, but like the one who fell at your feet in thanksgiving for the ways you have answered our prayers. All glory and honor are Yours! Amen and amen.
National Day of Prayer
The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America's leaders and its families. Some make sure to join the nation in prayer on Thursday, May 7!

Weekly Memory Verses
While we aren't able to attend church, our 1st - 5th graders will have the opportunity to memorize a different memory verse each week! Once they have memorized the verse they can email Jamie Meeks (jmeeks@vhumc.org) a video of themselves saying the verse for a chance to win a swinging tent at our end of the year assembly! Also, Jamie will deliver Hershey bars to the mailboxes of the first five children who send videos!

This week's verse is: "Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." - John 14:27b
Little Lambs and Bible Pathfinders
Wednesday night Bible Studies are a time when we learn so much and have even more fun! We plan to bring that fun home each Wednesday during our social distancing. Our Little Lambs have been receiving Lamb Lovey bags that contain a devotion and some activities so they can have their own fun at home!

Parents of elementary children, you will receive an email each Wednesday that contains a lesson about Incredible Faith. Each week we will look at a different hero from the Bible who showed incredible faith. You will be able to download a skit for the kids to perform, a lesson, discussion questions, and an activity. This week we will be encouraged to think of people we can help as we learn about the "Princess of Protection!"

Please email Anne Strozier (astrozier@vhumc.org) and Jamie Meeks (jmeeks@vhumc.org) with pictures of your children doing these activities. We would love to see them in action!
Ongoing Outreach
Food Pantry
Thank you to those that helped with the drive-thru food pantry last week under the Lighthouse portico. We served 120 families and they were most appreciative. We will do it again on April 29. Also, a big thank you to the high school for the two pick-up trucks of cans from their RISE project.

Oak Mountain Ministry
Oak Mountain Ministry is only open to distribute food to their clients. There is no need to bring items to the church for them right now. 
General Fund Fiscal Year 2020
 
Donations this past week
 
July - March 2020
Donations
Other Income
Total Income 
Actual
$50,193
 
 
$2,919,054
$112,275
$3,031,329
Targeted  
-$19,205
 
 
-$184,475
+$7,186
-$177,289
 
(+) Better or (-) worse for the church than our target
Care and Support
Congratulations, hospitalizations, and sympathies

Prayer Requests
Please be in prayer for the following persons: