February 01, 2016

When the Missouri Conference cabinet gets together in January, they like to share Christmas stories. Not so much what they found in their stockings on Christmas morning – these are usually stories about the day before Christmas, and what’s going on at their churches during those Christmas Eve Services. 
Often, notes from these stories get passed on to me. The numbers are overwhelming – literally. I’m overwhelmed and don’t know what to do with them. 
It would be easiest to talk about the Ozarks District only, because District Superintendent Lynn Dyke was most organized in her reporting, with handouts of highlights organized by church. There are some really big gift numbers, like Waynesville sitting out to raise $5,000 to keep Meals on Wheels rolling, and ending up collecting $6,700. King’s Way put $69,000 towards Crosslines, enough to keep the food pantry operational for two months. 
Throughout Christmas and Advent, Campbell UMC in Springfield raised $18,800 for Laguna. I assumed this would be to support the ritzy southern-California resort community of Laguna Beach. But some fact-checking revealed to me that no, Campbell’s generosity is directed toward La Laguna, a rural Nicaraguan community, with whom the church has formed a new partnership. Even better. 
There are staggering attendance numbers in the Springfield area – 1,445 at six services at Aldersgate (Nixa), 1,868 at Schweitzer, 2,200 at Wesley...the list goes on.
Head up to St. Louis, and Gateway Regional District Superintendent Kurt Schuermann, and you see numbers like Manchester UMC with 3,655 in attendance and a $52,000 offering going to Kingdom House, Epworth and homeless ministries. Just a bit west of Manchester, you’ll find Living Word, where they had a miracle offering that raised $227,626 for their Ghana project. 
That’s not a typo – it really is a six-digit number – hundreds of thousands of dollars. That brings the total that Living Word has raised for the Ghana Project to a seven digit number – $1.4 million – since the project was started in 2011. 
I can’t get my head around numbers that large – and I haven’t even gotten to The Gathering, Morning Star, La Croix, or any of our big churches in the Kansas City area. The impact that comes from this is hard to fathom. 
What’s even harder to comprehend is the impact that all of our churches are having. Some may not have set a record for attendance at Christmas Eve this year. Perhaps there were fewer people gathered than the previous year. But how many lives have been changed by these churches? How many souls have been transformed by being fed something more substantial than what people outside of church get from the world around us? How many people who may have otherwise been isolated have found community in one of our churches, and experienced a deeper, fuller life because of it?
I’m sure every church in the Conference has a special Christmas story to tell. And I really hope you tell it – not to me, but to co-workers, friends and neighbors who would have benefited from being part of the celebration. Let them be part of the miracle we are all experiencing.