KINGSPORT, Tenn. -- Maria Humbane came 8,400 miles from Mutare, Zimbabwe.
Brooke Atchley came 140 miles from Narrows, Va.
Bishop Paul Leeland came 450 miles from Montgomery, Ala.
Bruce Sites came 1.37 miles from his office in Kingsport, Tenn.
From near and far, about 20 missionaries, speakers and craft-sellers came to the “Missions Celebration” organized by First Broad Street United Methodist Church for the 18th consecutive year on Feb. 21-23.
It was a weekend for stories, music, prayer, workshops, exhibits, crafts and meals. On Friday and Saturday, about 300 church members, staff, volunteers and guests gathered among flags of many nations to learn how their past contributions had changed lives. They heard about new opportunities and ongoing needs in local, national, and global mission fields.
On Sunday morning, 856 came to worship at First Broad Street and pledged $82,500 in missions giving for 2014.
Russell spoke during Saturday lunch as well as at two of the five Sunday worship services. He referred to the weekend’s theme, “In His Steps,” as he told his own story of going on his first mission trip to build an orphanage in Bogata, Colombia, in 1966.
He said his “heart was broken” by the love of a little boy, Roberto, who slept on the floor next to him so that Russell could sleep in a bed.
“I saw something bigger than myself,” Russell said. “We don’t need the Dalai Lama to tell us that focus on ‘self’ is the center of our problems in this world. Jesus said something about dying to self, didn’t he?”
Since then, Russell has served as a missionary in Bolivia and Argentina and has led more than 120 short-term mission teams for his own church, the Holston Annual Conference, and World Evangelism.
CHASE YOUR PASSION
Leeland spoke during the Saturday evening meal as well as at three Sunday-morning services. He said his nightly prayer is, “Lord, keep me from being seduced by power, position, influence, or entitlement.”
He said there is a big difference between pastors who “chase their passions” and pastors who “chase their pensions.”
“There is a real difference in being ‘in God to serve the world’ than being ‘in the world to serve God,’” he said. “We need the passion of the Holy Spirit to remember that we serve one who stripped himself to serve the world."
Leeland was elected bishop in 2008 and spoke at Holston Conference’s “Abolishing Poverty” conference in 2011.
Maria Humbane, missionary from Ishe Anesu, spoke on Saturday morning and led workshops for children and youth. For more than 15 years, Holston Conference has collected supplies for the children of Ishe Anesu through the “Hands-on Mission Project.”
“You are the light of the world,” Humbane told First Broad Street members. “You do so much for us.”
Humbane said she was hungry as a child in a home where her father had died and her mother worked long hours. “I came home from school so hungry. Bread was like gold in the house … I said that when I grow up, I’m going to be someone and feed hungry children.”
IMAGINE NO MALARIA
Music was provided by different groups. On Friday night, a choir of 4th and 5th graders from nearby Jackson Elementary came to sing and express appreciation for First Broad Street’s partnership ministry.
Principal Holly Flora said she experienced Bible study for the first time as a high-school student whose best friend brought her to First Broad Street. When she became Jackson Elementary principal three years ago, Flora said First Broad Street answered prayers by supplying clothing, school supplies, and tutors for the lower-income student population.
To show their gratitude, the school took up a collection and raised $1,000 for Imagine No Malaria in First Broad Street’s honor.
“This is a God weekend,” said the Rev. Mickey Rainwater, senior pastor, accepting the gift. (See photo.)
Other speakers and workshop leaders included Bruce Stiles, Friends in Need Medical Clinic; Brooke Atchley, Tazewell District Church & Community Worker; the Rev. Marta Cogburn and Heidi Taylor, Jubilee Project; Mike Feely, Henderson Settlement; Mike and Melanie Harris, Bristol Raceway Ministries; Jim Keech, General Board of Global Ministries-Southeastern Jurisdiction; Kevin and Jessica Bowling, Mission Society in India; and the Rev. Ray Buchanan, Stop Hunger Now.
Crafts were sold by vendors from SERRV International, Henderson Settlement, Red Bird Missionary Conference, Uganda, and Cherokee, N.C. Missions displays were presented by 25 ministries, according to Danny Howe, missions director. About 50 volunteers from First Broad Street participated in planning and production.
First Broad Street spent more than $275,000 on missions in 2013, including South Sudan scholarships, Holston Home for Children, Bethlehem Center, and Project Crossroads, according to Bill Campbell, Holston Conference Volunteers in Mission coordinator.
See "Missions Celebration" photos on Flickr.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.