On May 17, leaders of the Missouri Conference gathered in Columbia to honor United Methodists from across Missouri for their exceptional achievements in ministry. These are their stories.
Harry Denman Evangelism
Award for Clergy
Rev. Po’ese Vatikani
In his previous appointment, Rev. Po’ese Uikelotu Vatikani wanted to reach the younger generation. He noticed children and youth in the community enjoyed riding bikes, so he asked them about it. They also said he should ride a bike, and they gifted him one! Po’ese began building relationships through biking. By the time he left the appointment, the youth group had grown from three to 32, and worship attendance had doubled.
The Harry Denman Evangelism Award honors one layperson and one clergyperson for their exceptional ministry of evangelism. This ministry is demonstrated in Word, Sign and Deed and brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Vatikani is the 2023 recipient of the Denman Evangelism Award for clergy.
Since Vatikani appointment to Carrollton United Methodist Church in July of 2022, the regular worship attendance has nearly doubled. Rev. Vatikani has started a youth group at Carrollton and is working to reach the next generation. The excellent work happening is contagious: Other small churches in the area see what God is doing at Carrollton UMC and are excited by it!
Vatikani sees God’s call both for Carrollton and beyond his church. He is helping two small United Methodist Churches form a Collaborative Partnership and empowers lay people to see the vision of God in their communities. He invites lay leaders of these churches to leadership training and supports them as they transform their communities for Jesus Christ.
Harry Denman Evangelism
Award for Laity
Stephanie Fohey is deeply passionate about all children knowing Jesus Christ. She offers a ministry of evangelism to Hatton’s youngest members through Kids for Jesus, a Wednesday night interactive program for first through fifth graders. Together with her volunteer team, Fohey and KFJ are bringing children and youth into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. She is the 2023 recipient of the Denman Evangelism Award for laity.
Since 2020, Fohey has served as the Kids for Jesus Youth Program Director. Under her leadership, program attendance has exploded. Children and youth are learning about Jesus and feel like they are part of the church. Because of Fohey’s leadership, KFJ is part of Pleasant Grove’s identity as a church.
As part of her leadership, Foheye looks for ways to grow young disciples in their understanding of service and connection. For example, she helped pioneer a project to put fifth graders in charge of the audio-visual components for KFJ. This helps them learn a new skill and contribute to a program that has loved and formed them as disciples.Fohey takes her role as ministry shepherd seriously and has implemented an exciting and engaging curriculum for all ages.
Fohey is a compassionate and dedicated follower of Jesus Christ who lives out her baptismal calling through her local Church of Pleasant Grove in Hatton. Countless children and youth can count on Fohey as a critical person in helping to start their faith journey.
Marble Mission Award
Karen & Keith Jaspers
You don’t have to work in ministry full-time to live a life on a mission. The service and shared work of Karen and Keith Jaspers demonstrate this. Together, the couple has made an impact in their community and abroad.
Each year the Robert and Martha Marble Mission Award is given to an individual who exhibits outstanding commitment to the mission. This award is given in honor of the Marbles, who served 36 years as missionaries from Missouri to India. The Jaspers, members of Campbell United Methodist Church in Springfield, are the 2023 recipients of the Marble Mission Award.
For six years, Karen and Keith worked on the Habitat for Humanity International Board alongside world leaders such as President Jimmy Carter. Those years of volunteer service and exposure to worldwide nonprofit work sparked an idea: What if those working in business could unite their skills with the Church’s mission of serving others?
Before their work with Habitat, the Jaspers devoted time and support to local initiatives and the Springfield Area Council of Churches. In their vocational life, Karen and Keith owned hotel businesses in the St. Louis and Branson areas. Alongside other Christian leaders, they set out to put their vision of service into action.
As a result, the Jaspers started the Rainbow Network, which works to share the love of Jesus Christ by partnering with Nicaraguan people to provide healthcare, education, economic development and housing. Over the past 25 years, the Rainbow Network has impacted countless lives and improved the quality of life for communities in Nicaragua. Without the vision and initiative of the Jaspers, this ministry wouldn’t have been possible. Their tireless work and dedication to God’s call is faith lived out through action.
ONE Matters Award
Reaching out to the community and meeting new people is a core practice at Evangelical United Methodist Church in Brookfield. It’s in its name! The Church has grown from 11 to 20 in regular attendance as new youth and families have started to call the worshipping community home.
The One Matters Discipleship Award recognizes churches that, in recent years, have moved from zeros in baptisms and professions of faith to positive numbers, with a renewed focus on intentional discipleship. In addition to a ONE Matters Discipleship Award plaque, the honor includes a $1,000 check from Discipleship Ministries. The monetary award is designed to encourage continued growth in the area of discipleship. This year’s One Matters Discipleship Award goes to Evangelical United Methodist Church in Brookfield.
Rev. Sue Lambert and church leaders have been working to raise laity leaders to help preach and grow the church’s ministry, specifically related to youth. Lambert invited youth to help with media ministry and children’s Sunday school. Recently, Evangelical has opened its doors to other United Methodist youths in the Brookfield Hub Network. Around 15 young people from small churches have been growing under the pastor’s and lay people’s leadership in the Hub Network.
Evangelical’s emphasis on empowering laity has resulted in fruit. In 2021, the church had three baptisms and baptized one person in 2022. This year, two youth group members are preparing to be baptized.
Lambert’s love for small churches and compassion show. She and the leaders at Evangelical have transformed lives in their community and their small church.
Rev. José Marino Chacón Mayorga
As the pastor of La Trinidad Hispanic Ministry, Rev. José Marino Chacón Mayorga searches for social justice for every person he meets, whether in the congregation or the community. His efforts have united the Latino Christian community in St. Louis for the service of others and the benefit of the Church.
The Unity Award celebrates the spirit and work of an individual in light of the values of the Conference, with particular emphasis on inclusiveness, justice and worth. Mayorga is the pastor of La Trinidad Hispanic Ministry in Saint Louis. He is the 2023 recipient of the Unity Award.
Mayorga has a spirit of unity, love, inclusiveness and service. This posture leads him to extend a helping hand to the entire community. For example, since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Mayorga fed 1,000 people weekly through a drive-up food distribution. This ministry to the South County community serves people of all backgrounds, especially immigrants and refugees who lack food support while navigating the immigration process.
Mayorga’s support goes beyond putting food on the table: He assists community members who are navigating the immigration system and meets the practical needs of those who have just arrived in St. Louis. In addition, for community members who didn’t have access to educational opportunities in their country of origin, Mayorga helps them to pursue their GED.
Mayorga lives out God’s call of offering mercy and seeking justice. To know him is to understand both a helping hand and a champion for others and the community.