By Fred Koenig
The Harry Denman Evangelism Award honors one lay and one clergy for their exceptional ministry of evangelism - expressed in Word (what), Sign (why) and Deed (how) – that brings people into a life transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
This year’s recipient of the Denman Evangelism Award for Laity goes to George Handy. When Handy learned that his church’s Trunk-or-Treat event was being discontinued because there wasn’t leadership for it, he stepped up.
Handy recognized the community event as a way to evangelize to people outside the walls of the church.
Through his leadership, he involved both members and non-members in putting together an event that had more in attendance than any other event the church has held. Handy personally invited over 100 families through the distribution of “Boo Bag” invitations. Through the 225 names gathered for a door prize drawing, Handy and company were able to conclude that the event brought in churched families as well as 103 unchurched families from the community. Postcards were sent to all newcomers thanking them for joining the fun at the Fall Festival and also inviting them to Sunday morning worship. Nine of these people brought their families to worship, so 18 new people attended worship.
Earlier in the year, Handy spearheaded an opportunity for the congregation to quietly and sensitively evangelize to residents of an apartment complex near the church. Most of these residents are underserved families. Handy implemented an “ice cream truck” method used by police officers in Kansas City to reach an underserved population. After receiving permission from the apartment complex manager, he made arrangements for an ice cream truck driver to be onsite when the school bus dropped of dozens of school children at the apartment complex. He organized a few members of our church to be present during these times to have conversation and continue to build relationships with the families. These families were also invited to the church’s Trunk-or-Treat, and many of them came. Before Christmas, he made hot chocolate and had a group make cookies. He and a few others hand delivered hot chocolate and plates of cookies to the apartment residents with an invitation to attend Christmas Eve services. Inspired by Handy’s commitment, relationships continue to be nurtured with these neighboring families as they are encouraged to participate in small groups, Bible studies and worship.
Handy has been an active member of First Kearney UMC’s Outreach Ministry for several years, serving both locally and internationally. He is a busy man, prioritizing his time for family first then managing his own small business, while rarely missing any opportunity to serve God by sharing the Good News. He exemplifies the very best of those who witness for Christ. His serving is a natural outpouring of his love for Jesus.
This year’s recipient of the Denman Evangelism Award for Clergy goes to Rev. David Israel. He has provided strong pastoral leadership to New McKendree UMC since his appointment in July of 2011. His vision has been to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ who have been beyond the church in the region served by this historic United Methodist church. It is located on two campuses with an average worship attendance that has increased by 44 (from 397 to 441). During these seven years the church received 79 members by profession of faith, 23 of these coming by profession of faith in 2017. A member of their leadership team said, “our church is more vital and more missional than ever.”
The growth of the church and the evangelism of new people who have come into the church are direct results of an integrated discipleship and missions program that Israel has been instrumental in developing and implementing. Combining works of compassion with sharing Christ, he has led the congregation in developing systems and opportunities to serve. This has resulted in the fruit of new followers of Jesus Christ.
In 2016, Israel began writing daily devotions for the entire New Testament and has intentionally led the church through the New Testament one chapter at a time over the course of the next year. Continuing through the year and the current one, the daily devotions are coordinated to match the weekly sermons from the pulpit, and Sunday School/small group curriculum is also coordinated to compliment the weekly sermons and daily devotions as the entire congregation moves through the New Testament together in a unified way. This has resulted in the congregation reading the Bible and discussing matters not previously considered without this intentional and integrated approach.
Israel’s leadership has seen a deepening discipleship and growing missional involvement including (and this is just a highlight reel of his ministry):
-They have seen their volunteers grow from 163 volunteers in 2012 to 913 volunteers in 2016 (increase of 750!) to 1000 in 2017.
-Their commitment to Feed My Starving Children has grown to over 900 participants packing 209,952 meals resulting in 575 children being fed daily for an entire year.
-Eighty two children are currently sponsored by members of the congregation through Compassion International.
-One thousand buckets flowed through New McKendree last year.
-Youth Fellowship Ignite started in 2013 with 25 kids, in 2016 there were 89 active kids and in 2017 there were 129 participants. There are 10 small groups, 24 small group leaders, 38 support volunteers for a total of 64 volunteers involved in YFI. In 2016 there were 150 campers with 45 volunteers.
-In 2017, 239 campers with 46 volunteers and five partner churches joined with New McKendree. Twelve children accepted Christ into their lives for the first time. The planning is for 250 campers in 2018.
-An ecumenical youth event in the Cape Girardeau/Jackson area called Disciple Now has 107 youth signed up through New McKendree plus 47 adult volunteers. For 2018, there were 111 kids and 50 adult volunteers, including host homes.
-Israel’s district superintendent shares that he “is an excellent candidate for this award that honors the layperson Harry Denman. David personally shares Christ, leads a small group, participates in missions locally and beyond; he also has nurtured an environment in which lay persons are propelled into Christ-centered ministries that multiply the impact of New McKendree in its region and beyond.”