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Wonderful! Restful! Fruitful!

This summer, the Region granted me a three month sabbatical.  I was hungry for some rest, yes, but I was also very hungry to find a deeper, stronger, more resilient faith.  After a wonderful, restful, and fruitful sabbatical, I am pleased to return to the call to serve the Regional Church!  I am grateful for the Regional Executive Committee and the Regional Board for their encouragement and support for this sabbatical time.  And I am also grateful for the Regional Staff and Rev. Paxton Jones for their dedication, knowledge, and wisdom to continue the ministry as expected.

So what did I do on this sabbatical?  Several things.  On May 1st, Randy and I moved temporarily to a cottage on a sizable horse ranch in Mineral Wells, Texas.  We brought our cat, our dog, and our two horses with us.  While there, we also welcomed a feral cat, a longhorn, and a crawdad!  The month of May was a muddy mess.  It rained every single day!

I began this sabbatical by taking the Faith Institute’s “Teaching Healthy Boundaries 101 & 201.” While this course was intended for me to join our other trainers in preparation for teaching Healthy Boundaries to clergy, it really helped me understand more fully why self-care boundaries are so important for clergy, even during sabbaticals.

Randy and I both were refreshed in our souls by sharing many evenings with friends we have not seen in several years. Around many tables, we broke bread and drank wine. We laughed and we wept with one another as we shared our joys and lamented our sorrows we had experienced over the last several years.

Family Time

We spent two weeks of this sabbatical time in Pagosa Springs, Colorado where we gathered with our children, our three year old grandson, and Randy’s sister and brother-in-law. This time was absolutely delight-full as we ate together and played together. Our adventures included fishing, hiking, shopping, and exploring through the eyes of a three year old! We also gathered as family at Lobo Lookout at Wolf Creek Pass to finally spread the ashes of our son Brook who died in December of 2018.

We also gathered with my family to finally join the ashes of my mother, Shirley Green, with my father in Arlington, Texas.

Sorrow permeated my sabbatical when Rev. Dr. Don Pittman died. And that same week, my favorite professor from TCU, Dr. Ronald B. Flowers died, and Rev. Bob Stewart died. All three of these men influenced my call to ministry in profound ways. I cling to the joy of knowing them and remembering them in simple and profound ways.

True Connection

The pinnacle of my sabbatical was a surprise invitation to participate in an eight day horse conference north of Dallas, Texas.  The leader would be a woman I had never heard of, Ingela Larsson Smith, a professional horsewoman from Canada, who was offering an opportunity to have “True Connection” with your horse.  I had one hour to decide and pay to reserve my place.  I had the time, the horse, the trailer, and the money, and a very supportive husband!

Of course, I went with one set of expectations and came away awed and fulfilled . . . let me explain, very simply.  In the first lecture, Ingela shared that she was a professional dressage rider and horse trainer around the world. She has trained the Queen of England’s horses and horses for the Sheik in the Middle East. Impressive, right? But she continued to say that her performance path left her heart yearning for something more, something deeper. So she turned to the Christian faith. She shared with her twelve students that we could never have “true connection” with our horses unless we had a “true connection with God.”  Full stop, right?  In other words, we as humans can make horses perform and work, but for a horse to choose us as a leader, and choose to be in relationship with us, we have to find a way to be fully present.

Before we ever got to the arena with our horses, she invited us to consider our relationship with God.  God’s deepest desire, or hunger, is that we will choose to be in full relationship with God.  That is easier said that done and where we often get confused. For a visual, Ingela placed three chairs in front of us.  One of the three chairs represented the unbelievers in the world.  People who have not yet heard the good news or choose not to believe it.  A second chair represented all the believers, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, all those who believe in God and have a faith tradition.  This is a good place to be, of course, but it is a place where we are also driven by the cultural demands of society . . . achieving, doing, ladders to success, demands. It becomes a place where we begin to hunger for more and more only to discover exhaustion and depletion.

The third chair represented God — the full, unconditional, steadfast love of God, who is fully present to us and lavishes us with love and grace when we choose to be in God’s presence, every time.  This is the place to gently push aside and silence the many voices that question our goodness and to trust that you will hear a voice of blessing, and most importantly to realize that God walks with us, together.  Ingela asked us, “In which chair would you like to sit?”

Of course, we all opted for the third chair because we are deeply hungry for this true connection with God, but we realized that we all, even as the best disciples of Christ, find ourselves in the second chair most often, distracted by the demands of our culture and daily work/tasks, and often lured by the critical voices in our head.  To have true connection with your horse, Ingela said, you must find your way into the chair of God for yourself, to be loved without any distraction, to be fully and truly accepted for all that you are created in God’s image, and to be anointed over and over again with goodness and mercy. This, Ingela said, is the kind of presence you will need to be with your horse — fully present in your mind, in your heart, in your soul.  At that moment, your horse will find true connection with you and you will walk together.

In the afternoon practical applications of Ingela’s lectures with our horses, all twelve of us found that magical and mystical moment of true connection with our horses. As you might imagine, holding on to it is another challenge!

I was on the edge of my seat for every word Ingela uttered about faith and relationships. And, feeling truly inspired and connected, equipped and empowered, I have discovered a new level of servant leadership both with my horse and with ministry. What I know for sure is that it is not all about me, it is about “we” and what we do together.

Again, I am deeply grateful for this time of rest and renewal to discover a deeper, stronger, more resilient connection with God, and I am equally as grateful to return to you as we do ministry together!

Peace & God’s Grace,
Pam

2021-08-10T12:40:35-05:00Aug 10, 2021|Pamela Holt Blog, Regional News|0 Comments

To Be As Generous and Loving as Children

By Rev. Mary Heath, Chair
Commission on Refugee & Immigration Ministries

On July 23rd, 2020, I received a text at 8:07 from my friend in Del Rio, Texas. We had been emailing and talking for about a year. I started connecting with border organizations when the Oklahoma Commission on Refugee and Immigration Ministries began. This organization in Del Rio at the time and for some time had been the busiest.

My friend asked if she could call and of course I said yes. She asked if Oklahoma Disciples were ready to take in a family. She had a large family that would be more difficult to place but thought about us immediately. When she told the family, it might be a little difficult to be placed, their reply was “God is good, God will provide.” My friend believed this family was just right for us, and we for them. I told her we would sponsor this family and she was thrilled! She knew she had called the right organization and that they would arrive at 11:45 pm that evening. I told her I had to get busy and would text when the family was safe in our care.

The fact my friend cares so much about the people she helps is the main reason I developed the friendship. She works hard without pay to give men, women, and children a chance at a new life and hope for a future. She takes photos with them, remembers them, and checks in on their progress and wellbeing. My friend has been working night and day lately.

I frantically began making phone calls, that is the way processing works. The organizations have to get the families sent to sponsors very quickly. I began thinking of everything I needed to do and everything the family needed. I wasn’t exactly panicked, but close to it.

Thankfully, many Disciples stepped up immediately and offered assistance of all kinds. One particular Disciple did more for me and the family than I could have imagined. The apartment for the family was not ready and we could not have taken them so late at night anyway. In only a few hours Jennifer Gallaway and her family arrived at Edmond Trinity Christian Church with air mattresses, along with complete bedding and a stuffed toy chosen especially for each child. Jennifer’s amazing family with huge hearts also brought toiletries and snacks for everyone. (The teenage girl’s favorite lotion is still guava body lotion from Bath & Bodyworks that was bought especially for her.)

But this was not all. There are many special moments in ministry, and there are some moments in ministry when God’s presence is fully recognized. There are moments when people know what it is to follow Jesus and it brings me to tears. This was such a moment.

Jennifer’s grade school-age daughter and nephew broke into their piggy banks to bring the family money. I stood there for some time before I could say anything. And I wasn’t the only person standing in our church nursery with tears. God is good. God will provide.

It was hard to find the words that could express how that kind and generous act by children made me feel. I will remember that moment for as long as I am on earth, and maybe even after. Part of the money given by the children went to buy a dress for the refugee mom. She was so exited to own another dress! This is the dress she wore to church at Edmond Trinity on their first Sunday in Oklahoma.

When we picked up the family at the Oklahoma City bus station, they were exhausted. They had taken a 13-hour bus ride with three children ages 12, 4, and 3. Just imagine that. And the mother was almost eight months pregnant. She had not yet seen a doctor. So, my husband Don and I picked them up with two cars and borrowed car seats.

They did not know us. They did not know the place they were. They did not know what to expect or what would happen. They did not know how they would make it in this place or to what extent we would help. I finally got around to asking them if it was scary to have to trust in total strangers? They replied, “Yes, but God is good, God will provide. We trust in God.”

This is still the response when we have hit a bump, and there have been several. The system is not set up to help families who want to live here. In fact, it is set up specifically so that it is very difficult and frustrating.

Our family has great faith and are devout Christians who are so interesting to talk to on subjects like religion, politics, faith, and the Bible. Everyone in the family is really sharp and funny. Time with them is very enjoyable. They believe everything will turn out the way in which God wishes, and they trust this, and they are quite right.

God will provide, and it is through good Disciples with kind and compassionate hearts like Jennifer, her family, and you. We have had wonderful support throughout our Region, however more is needed. This family has to be totally supported by us and a couple of small African churches in Oklahoma City.

Donations to the Region for the care of the family is greatly appreciated. Volunteers to help out with the family are greatly appreciated. Please prayerfully consider the situation they are in as are many families, and give what you are able in funds and time. And God will indeed provide, when we can be as generous and loving as children. Click here to learn more about Oklahoma’s Refugee & Immigration Ministries.

2021-06-30T11:57:16-05:00Jun 30, 2021|Mission|Comments Off on To Be As Generous and Loving as Children

Village Fosters New Ministry at Yale Avenue Christian Church

Yale Avenue Christian Church, Tulsa, gave birth to a new ministry this summer as they began a support group for foster parents called the Village Fosters. This group will meet to provide support, resources, encouragement, and advice about the foster system. They are partnering with other like-minded agencies to provide as much love and support as possible for these families.

Rev. Andy Campbell, Sr. Minister at Yale Avenue said, “We are all a part of the foster system, and we need the best possible outcomes.” The church has 11 foster families in their congregation.

The first official meeting of Village Fosters will be July 12, 2021 at 6:30 pm. The church looks forward to seeing where this journey takes them as they work to help those families who are going above and beyond to make the village better.

Village Fosters kicked things off with a cookout with all kinds of fun and fellowship on June 25th. Each of the foster families received a Tulsa Zoo Family Membership as a beginning to this ministry. Everyone had a great time!

For more information about Village Fosters email Rev. Campbell at andy@yacc.org or contact the church at (918) 747-1304.

2021-06-30T11:42:32-05:00Jun 30, 2021|Congregations|Comments Off on Village Fosters New Ministry at Yale Avenue Christian Church

Scholarships for Disciples Virtual Gathering

The Region is pleased to announce the availability of scholarships for Oklahoma Disciples who wish to attend the Disciples Virtual Gathering event on August 7, 2021.

The online event is an opportunity for Disciples to connect, experience Bible study, learn from workshops, worship and imagine new ways of gathering as church.

Apply today for a $25 scholarship to reimburse your cost of Regular Registration. Applications are due no later than August 6th.

2021-06-21T15:02:55-05:00Jun 21, 2021|Congregations|Comments Off on Scholarships for Disciples Virtual Gathering

A Very Christmas Narrative

Refugee & Immigrant Ministries

This following story is given to us by the inspiration of Rev. Daniel U’Ren (Western Oaks Christian Church, OKC) and his servanthood along with that of Rev. Colton Lott (First Christian Church El Reno) and First Christian Church Norman member, Neil Johnson. We ask you to consider contributing to our Christmas in July Project.

Imagine a young couple with no place to go, adhering to a directive dictated by politics and necessity. Following a northern route, when they arrive there is no place for them to stay. They are placed in a refugee camp where their child is born. As they fled for their lives, wise ones following a heavenly star brought them gifts of food, shelter, and a way to safety, a place to be welcomed and loved. Those called “wise” have done so because they chose to do the right thing. To give a family a chance, to bring hope to their lives, and to this child. Born a refugee and escaping persecution, this child is given the opportunity to explore unknown potential. At Christmas we celebrate the Christ child who, too, was born in the lowliest of places, far from home, and his family would soon flee for their own safety. What better gift to give to Christ than to help a family such as this?

The Generosity of Three Oklahoma Disciples

A young refugee couple with an infant arrived in Fort Worth, TX and needed to check in with Oklahoma City ICE. They had no one to help them. Neil agreed to not only drive them to their appointment in OKC, but to drive to Fort Worth and pick them up, saving them from a very long bus ride with an infant in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Daniel and Colton without hesitation agreed to find them a place to stay and supply food. Through the generosity of three Oklahoma Disciples, and your generous donations to Refugee and Immigrant Ministries, this young family was cared for while awaiting another sponsor.

Many families, especially women and children, are released in winter without adequate outer wear and shoes, and often sent to states that are still experiencing cold temperatures. The couple had been released into the U.S. in summer clothing and Oklahoma was currently having a December snowstorm. The twenty-one-year-old mother only had a short skirt, stretch pants, a thin sweater given to her by the border organization, sandals, and a short sleeve blouse. The infant had one sleeper, one blanket, and no formula.

Christmas in July

Our Region is asking you to participate in the Christmas in July project. Your donations of online purchases will ensure warm coats and shoes to those being processed in our border organizations. Our goal is to obtain 300 articles of clothing and shoes by July 31. Contact Rev. Mary Heath, chair of the Refugee and Immigrant Ministries Commission, for more information to help clothe women and children in need! Cell 405-697-7829 or email revmaryheath@att.net

A Day for Mothers

By Rev. Mary Heath

In the place we now call America-
we have just celebrated “Mother’s Day.”
A day we remember and thank mothers,
for all the love and support they gave.

The birthday parties, the presents,
the clothes, allowance, dance class, activities,
gymnastics, athletics, clubs, organizations,
bedrooms filled with posters, furniture, and toys.

And what about the mothers who gave everything-
their own homes and life,
their own safety and dignity,
just in the hope they would give their children-
safety, health, education, and the possibility of a future.

Those who gave their children to a wall or a bridge,
or a river, or a system far away that might offer them a chance.
Those mothers who gave the most precious thing in their life,
for the opportunity of a new life in a place they could not reach.

How do we celebrate mothers-
who made the ultimate sacrifice,
out of love and hope for their children.

2021-06-30T12:00:59-05:00Jun 20, 2021|Mission|Comments Off on A Very Christmas Narrative

Third Reconstruction Resolution: Poor People’s Campaign

The Poor People’s Campaign has released a non-partisan resolution urging a Third Reconstruction. Members of the Faith in Action Commission of the Oklahoma Region support the Poor People’s Campaign and share the following information with you to educate and to spur action. Please also note the Oklahoma Fact Sheet that provides statistics on poverty, systemic racism and other important issues in our state.

We invite you to join us in work necessary to attain our goals regarding the well-being of all people. Please see our website at https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/committee/oklahoma/ or follow our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OklahomaPPC for updated information.

Moral Monday

The next Moral Monday event is slated for June 21, 2021. Learn more

Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up

Drawing on the transformational history of the First Reconstruction following the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights struggles of the 20th century, the Third Reconstruction is a revival of our constitutional commitment to establish justice, provide for the general welfare, end decades of austerity, and recognize that policies that center the 140 million are also good economic policies that can heal and transform the nation.

Emerging from the pain and organizing power of the 140 million people living in poverty or with low wages in this nation, the congressional resolution for a Third Reconstruction reflects an omnibus vision for a fundamental restructuring of society that lifts from the bottom. This newest congressional effort comes as a response to years of movement-building to create the collective resolve necessary to implement real and transformational legislative action.

This non-partisan resolution recognizes that in order to build a true Third Reconstruction we must simultaneously deal with the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of health care, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism that blames the poor instead of the systems that cause poverty. Read the entire Third Construction Resolution.

Oklahoma Poor People’s Campaign Fact Sheet

2021-06-16T14:05:54-05:00Jun 16, 2021|Faith in Action|Comments Off on Third Reconstruction Resolution: Poor People’s Campaign

Spring ’21 Ordination & Installations

Ordination of Rev. Gregory Chambers

Rev. Gregory Chambers was ordained into Christian ministry on Sunday, May 30, 2021 at New Hope Christian Church, Oklahoma City. Participants included his father, Rev. Stephen Chamber, Sr. Minister at New Hope, his mother, siblings, and family friends. Acting Regional Minister Rev. Dr. Paxton Jones officiated accompanied by Rev. Dr. Debi Powell-Maxwell, representing the Region’s Commission on Clergy.

Installations

Associate Regional Minister Rev. Michael Davison installed Rev. Paul Ragle as Sr. Minister at Christian Church of the Covenant in Enid on May 2, 2021.

Associate Regional Minister Rev. Michael Davison installed Rev. Dr. Richmond Adams as Sr. Minister at First Christian Church Pawnee on May 16, 2021.

2021-06-03T15:51:42-05:00Jun 3, 2021|Clergy News|Comments Off on Spring ’21 Ordination & Installations

Support Disciples Mission Fund 2021

DMF Day is June 24

Make a gift on DMF Day to support Disciples Mission Fund, which makes it possible for the whole church to work together, doing far more than we could alone.

Individuals and congregations make contributions to DMF, which funds the work of regional and general ministries, who make it possible for us to be the church together, in many ways and in many places.

If you’ve ever…

  • Sat around a campfire at church camp
  • Had a visit from a global mission co-worker
  • Visited a Disciples college
  • Served on a search committee for a new pastor
  • Attended Children Worship and Wonder

… then you’ve seen Disciples Mission Fund at work. Learn more about DMF

Tell us your DMF story!

How has DMF made an impact on your congregation or your life? Send your story and a picture to news@disciples.org, and share it on social media tagged #DMFDoesThat.

Imagine what our gifts can do!

2021-05-18T11:59:09-05:00May 18, 2021|Regional News|Comments Off on Support Disciples Mission Fund 2021

Paxton Jones: Peace Offerings

When our younger daughter was 2½ years old, her pediatrician advised us that she needed tubes put into her ears to combat a series of infections threatening her hearing. Arrangements were made; on Sunday I informed my congregation from the pulpit that I would be out of the office the next day and why; and too soon morning arrived.

In terms of medical procedures, putting tubes in a child’s ears is relatively minor. But this was my child, my baby, and though she marched down the hall to the surgical suite like a trooper, I was a nervous wreck. My anxiety was compounded by the absence of anyone waiting with us—no elder, no deacon, no one from the congregation, though it was obvious the previous day in church how anxious their young pastor was.

My wife and I were lonely and scared…and then the district minister of my region walked into the waiting room. He was the answer to a prayer I was too afraid to voice. He knew, when no one else seemed aware, that even pastors need pastoral care. And I swore to myself then and there that given the chance I would be “a pastor to pastors” whenever and however I could.

This episode is a foundational piece as to why I went into regional ministry and why, when my friend Pam Holt called, I came out of retirement to serve as your Acting Regional Minister for three months while she’s on a well-deserved sabbatical. I’m happy to be here—happy to minister with and to you, and to and for her—until she returns, hopefully renewed and refreshed, on August 1st.

I hope to encounter you soon, somewhere along the journey, here in Oklahoma!

Paxton Jones
Acting Regional Minister

2021-05-05T15:23:33-05:00May 5, 2021|Regional News|Comments Off on Paxton Jones: Peace Offerings