Cуббота (Saturday)

We once again started our morning with a devotional over Romans 10:8-10 and Matthew 28:16-20. We were reminded that although we may have a language barrier with the people of Samara, we can still form a relationship through the presence of God. Jeff left after our devotional to go shopping for food he can prepare tomorrow for the people served from the soup kitchen run by the church. The rest of us had breakfast at the hotel together before heading out for our day in the city.

We were split up into groups for cars to ride around the city in. Our first stop was at an overlook of the Volga River where a statue honored the aeronautic history of the Samarans. There was also a tomb very similar to our Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, remembering those who fought and were lost in the Great Patriotic War. From there we had the chance to visit a Russian Orthodox Church. When we entered, women had to cover their heads with scarves. The inside was very ornate with marble covered in gold and many icons covering the marble. We each lit candles at the altar. Here are pictures from the overlook and the outside of the Orthodox Church:

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We then visited a space museum where we learned the history of Russian space travel and rocket building. Samara is known for manufacturing parts of the rocketships and we got to see some old space satellites that had been made and used by the military. In the museum they had pressed metal made in Samara that is typically used for the fuel tanks of rockets. The tour guide was very proud of the history Samara had in aeronautics and made sure we understood how important their contributions have been.

One of the most popular places to visit in Samara is another overlook of the Volga River, from which we could see a few islands and campsites along the river. Being such a beautiful location, we saw at least 4 brides and grooms getting wedding pictures taken here. We joined the fun and decided to take a group picture. The first is just our Cincinnati team, and the second is with the group that drove and accompanied us today. Max, unfortunately, was taking the picture so he is absent from the photo.

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From here we went to a nice outdoor restaurant for lunch. It sprinkled a little bit, but we all managed to scoot under cover and stay dry. Meals have been a fun place for conversations about interesting foods Russians typically eat. Doug has decided he will try anything once, so today’s adventurous food was a soup filled with multiple types of sausages. When it was first brought up, one of the ladies with us made a gagging noise and vocalized how much she dislikes it. Doug, however, enjoyed the dish, so we’re yet to find something that he doesn’t like. Yesterday we all tried a drink made from fermented bread- definitely not as good as the soup, but we were all able to finish the tastes we were given.

Before we begin telling you about the second half of our day we’d like to take this time and address the driving situation over here. (Mom, feel free to skip this paragraph) First off, they do drive on the right side of the road, but that’s where similarities between our countries ends on this topic. There are no stop signs, and very few traffic lights and lane lines. Drivers typically weave in and out wherever they can find room. Since there are so few traffic lights, intersections are quite entertaining to watch, but not drive in. Pedestrians cross the street whenever they need and cars are expected to stop for them. I captured a video when we were waiting for the tram yesterday. It’s not the best quality, but you’ll get the idea. Max makes an appearance, so shout out to him.

We went back to the church where we were greeted by a reception of fresh fruit and baked goods made by a member of the congregation. After this time, we met with the leaders of the church about their roles and then Doug gave a presentation on how they can continue to grow their ministry. To conclude our time with them today we had a barbecue dinner outside the church with what we would consider metts, salad, corn, peas, and bread. It’s interesting to see their takes on our popular meals. We had an earlier night than last night, which we all needed because the traveling and our activities have definitely caught up with us. Thanks for continuing to follow our journey and check back tomorrow for another update!

Chowing down with new friends

Chowing down with new friends

Day 2 of Adventures

Everyone seemed to have gotten a good night’s sleep after our long day of travel and we were all up and had eaten by 9 for our morning devotional. The breakfast provided by the hotel was very nice with sausage, eggs, waffles, cereal, pastries, potatoes, and good coffee. Today’s devotional was over Colossians 3:12-17 talking about clothing ourselves in God’s love and spreading His word. The pastors and Max, our translator, from Samara United Methodist Church met us at 10 and we left for our first day in the city.

We first walked around the city center of Samara, with Max explaining different architectural styles along the way. We learned that the earliest buildings were wooden, but many have been burned or knocked down, so most of the structures present today have been built since the 19th century. They take much pride in the wood and stone carvings on the outside of their buildings, which can also indicate what type of function the building is used for. However, buildings from the Soviet time period were very functional and not meant to show beauty. We ended our walking tour at a scenic overlook of the Volga River:IMG_8661     IMG_8665

Next we headed to Stalin’s bunker, which would have been used during the Second World War, or as Russians call it, the Great Patriotic War. We got to hike 12 stories underground and learn about how and why the bunker was built. We ended in a room that would have been Stalin’s office, which was designed exactly like the office at the Kremlin, so if Stalin came to this bunker he would’ve felt at home. However, there is no documentation that Stalin ever came to this bunker.

After the tour we headed to Kuybyshev Square which is just a massive area of pavement in front of a theater where the ballet performs. From here we went to lunch at a restaurant themed like a Soviet apartment. After we ordered we were able to walk around from room to room and see what types of decorations they would have had. After our meal our hosts insisted we tried blini, a Russian dessert similar to crepes. We topped them with cream and jam and they were delicious.

We then went to Samara United Methodist Church where we got a tour and learned the history of its foundation and met some more of the members. We are always greeted with big smiles and open arms. We ended our tour in the youth cafe with tea time, talking and getting to know more about each other. Then we were invited to join members in the sanctuary for a prayer meeting, which was filled with songs we (kind of) knew in English, while we had Russian hymnals in front of us. It was a great experience seeing how we could worship together even though we may not speak the same language. Below are pictures of the church and its sanctuary:

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We then enjoyed a delicious pizza and salad dinner with young adults from the church. If it weren’t for Max we wouldn’t be able to have as great of conversations as we have, so we’re very thankful he’s been so generous with his time in escorting and translating for us. Everyone has been so welcoming and we’re looking forward to another great day tomorrow. Do svidaniya (goodbye) and we’ll be back tomorrow to once again update you on our travels.

Privet from Russia

Welcome to the blog! If you haven’t already heard, a group from HPCUMC has journeyed to Samara, Russia in order to do mission work with our sister church, Samara United Methodist Church. This is Anna Renfro and Sarah Krott running the blog, but we are here also with Kevin Betts, Pastor Doug Johns, and Mary and Jeff Sheldon. We’re a small group, but we’re happy to make any contribution we can.

We began our adventure at the Cincinnati airport Wednesday at 1:15. We flew to JFK airport where we had a short layover before leaving for Moscow that evening. We were supposed to take off around 7pm, but an unknown bag was loaded onto the plane, which caused a delay of little over an hour. Thanks to a strong tail wind, we still made it to Moscow right on time. Not only did we get a choice of chicken or pasta for dinner, we also got a late-night sandwich and breakfast right before we landed. It’s safe to say we didn’t starve on the way over. After landing in Moscow and clearing customs, we were ready for our final flight to Samara. We had to go through security again, but Moscow’s security is a lot more relaxed and Kevin was even able to get a full water bottle through. We landed in Samara around 5pm, which would be 9am in Cincinnati. We are eight hours ahead of central time and our bodies are very confused because we only saw two hours of night before our plane found the sun again.

Everybody’s bags made it without any problems (kind of), and after leaving baggage claim we were greeted by some friendly smiles, hugs, and flowers from members of the Samara United Methodist Church. They accompanied us on our drive to the hotel, providing us with history and answers to many of our questions. A young man named Max is very fluent in English and helped translate between us and the church staff that came with him. We are currently in the hotel and don’t have plans until 10am tomorrow morning, which gives us plenty of time to relax and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Enjoy some pictures from our first day of travel:

The whole gang at the airport before departure

The whole gang at the airport before departure

A picture looking out the plane at the view of Samara

A picture looking out the plane at the view of Samara

Sarah, Anna, and Doug catch some z's on the flight to Samara

Sarah, Anna, and Doug catch some z’s on the flight to Samara

By this they will know…

This past Sunday we awoke to a shock not experienced in the United States since 9/11; hate unleashed, mass murder, an act of terror. Like you, as I made my way to church, I had no clue what had happened early Sunday morning. Like you, my emotions are all over the board; demanding, desiring, hoping for answers. Why did this happen?  How do we respond?

In the aftermath, I know this; God through Jesus Christ provides us a way forward!  Jesus instructs us: “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:4); “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34); “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). In Jesus, through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered not to stoop to the level of the perpetrator and give into hate; rather, we are empowered to seek higher ground, choosing the way of love: “By this they will know you are my disciples.”

Hate breeds hate, love in the midst of tragedy and despair breeds transformation. Bishop Palmer wrote to the churches of the conference:

“Every life lost to terrorism and gun violence is a summons to turn our backs on a paradigm that simply does not work…In these days to come, may we compassionately hold the families cut most deeply by this loss and fear.  May we stand close enough so we feel their pain as if it were our own, because it is.  And may the pain of staying the same finally give way to the pain of change.  The change we need will be costly.  We will have to give up something.  Only in the letting go of what is do we have a chance to embrace what can be . . . .We must die to live.  Die to violence, to live in peace. Die to hatred, to live in love.” (Go to the West Ohio Conference website for the complete article)

We are called to a life centered in the love of God through Jesus Christ. At times it is a life that is not easy, convenient, or preferred; but a life that is, at all times, transformative!

I look forward to seeing you in church.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Well Done Good and Faithful Servants!

On May 15, 2016 we wrapped up our Imagine No Malaria Campaign. In 2014 Bishop Palmer challenged the congregation of HPCUMC to be a “Champion Church” committing to raise $50,000 towards the 3.5 million dollar goal of the Annual Conference. Upon the recommendation of the Community Ministry/Global Outreach Team the Servant Leadership Board accepted the Bishop’s challenge.

I am excited to report that at the conclusion of our three-phase campaign HPCUMC surpassed our goal of $50,000, raising a total of $55,551.81. The break down is as follows:

Download (PDF, 14KB)

Quoting the statement on an Imagine No Malaria post card: “Thanks to the giving spirit you have inspired, we are closer to eliminating death and suffering from malaria.” According to recent statistics 430,000 of the reported 584,000 malaria deaths were children under the age of five. Every 60 seconds a child dies in Africa. The United Methodist Church has partnered with secular and sacred institutions to eradicate malaria from the continent of Africa. The West Ohio Conference is leading the way committing 3.5 million towards the United Methodist Church commitment of $75 million.

The Global Community effort involves a four-prong attack on malaria: Prevention; through the use of bed nets, providing access to diagnostic tests and medicine, draining standing water and improving sanitation. Treatment; ensuring clinics and hospitals have the diagnostic tests and treatment needed to save lives. Education; health care workers are trained to go door to door in remote communities to deliver and install bed nets and teach people how to use and care for the nets properly. Communication; using technology to reach millions with life-saving information about malaria.

Well done good and faithful servants! It is a joy and privilege to serve in ministry with you.  I look forward to seeing you in church.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Master Plan Update

In 2013 Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church received, and approved, a recommendation from The TAG (The Armstrong Group) Team to:  “create a long term Master Plan with associated costs to lay a roadmap for future capital projects to meet evolving ministry and missional needs.”  Shortly after the decision was made, The MSA Architectural firm was engaged to lead HPCUMC in the creation of a Master Plan.  Due to Pastoral changes in January 2014, the decision was made to wait until the new pastoral leadership was appointed before beginning the work of the Master Plan.

The Servant Leadership Board, in consultation with Pastor Cathy and me gave the green light to MSA Architects to begin the Master Plan process in the fall of 2014.  The following year,  MSA Architects met with a number of groups in the church for input on current and future facility needs/wishes/desires.  In late fall 2015, MSA Architects presented their report to the Servant Leadership Board.  Subsequently a group from The Servant Leadership Board and Facilities Team, led by Pastor Cathy, developed the following schedule for sharing the Master Plan.

Over the next couple of weeks a team of people will be equipped to share the Master Plan with various groups (Program/Fellowship/Administrative) of HPCUMC.  In addition, there will be two to three “All Church” gatherings.  Following the sharing sessions, a recommendation will go to the Annual Charge Conference (Late October or mid-November) to assemble a team that will create a plan to implement Phase One of the Master Plan, which will include, but not limited to, a timeline, architectural plans and funding plans.

We are excited to share this forward thinking plan with you.  Be on the lookout for the many opportunities you will have to hear the Master Plan.  I look forward to sharing in ministry with you in the months and years to come as we put in place the infrastructure to fulfill our calling with excellence!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

A Prayer on Pentecost for the United Methodist Church

This Sunday is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church!  In Acts 2 we read the account of the Holy Spirit who empowered the people who were gathered all in one place.

There was the sound of a rushing wind and “divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, a a tongue rested on each one of them.” (Acts 2:3).

Once every four years the global United Methodist Church gathers.  At General Conference powerful worship will be experienced as the Church renews our commitment to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  Major decisions will be made which will impact individuals, families, churches, laity, pastors, and our life together as United Methodists.

The United Methodist Church needs your prayers this week.  Please join me in praying for General Conference:

God, Maker of heaven and earth, as the people called United Methodists gather in Portland, may Your Spirit rain down upon everyone.

As people gather from around the globe, renew the United Methodist Church in a powerful way, anointing us with fresh wind and fire as on the first Pentecost.

Jesus, Great shepherd of the sheep, watch over the delegation from West Ohio Conference, all voting members, and guests.

With Your gentle staff, direct them.  Lead them and guide their words, thoughts, and actions.  Protect them from harm.

Hold them in Your loving arms, especially when they are weary and need new strength.

Holy Spirit, Wonderful Counselor, flood every inch of General Conference with Your life-giving presence. 

Fill each delegate and guest with Your wisdom and strength.  Remind all who gather that You are a God who makes all things new. 

Help us to remember that with You all things are possible. 

Unite us.  Empower us.  Fill us with the peace of Christ, a peace that passes all understanding.

I offer this prayer in the name of our God, who created us, watches over us, and guides our steps.  Amen.


(offered by Rev. Dr. Cathy Johns)

Comfort and Hope in Tragedy

From the floods in Houston to earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan, the United Methodist Church is bringing comfort and hope to those affected by tragedy.  The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the United Methodist “first responders” when tragedy strikes.

Bishop Palmer, resident Bishop of the West Ohio conference, writes to the churches of the Conference:

“Major disasters have unleashed chaos across the world.  Earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador have destroyed whole communities killing hundreds.  According to Defense Minister, Ricardo Patino, Ecuador’s earthquake is the worst tragedy that has hit their country in 60 years . . .  In Japan, an earthquake in the Kumamoto areas has resulted in 48 confirmed deaths with over 100,000 people in evacuation centers . . .  The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is assessing the situation and working with the Methodist Church in Ecuador and other partners to develop a response to the devastation caused by the earthquake . . . UMCOR has also assessed the situation in Japan and concluded that the government and people of Japan are strongly and adequately responding to the recent earthquake.  Please keep the people of Japan and Ecuador in your prayers.

Back home in the United States, Houston is still waiting for water to recede after major flooding.  Seven people are confirmed killed with 1,200 people rescued and more rain in the forecast.  The Texas Conference disaster coordinator is a member of the emergency response network for the city of Houston and will be advising UMCOR as to when cleanup supplies and personnel will be requested.  UMCOR Early Response Teams in Texas are on standby, ready to respond when invited.”

How can we help?  First and foremost, pray for the people and communities effected.  Second, consider supporting the relief effort of UMCOR with a one-time gift (www.umcor.org, click on “donate”, and then click on “U.S. disaster response”, or “International disaster response”).  If you do not have internet access, write a check to HPCUMC, and clearly mark UMCOR Disaster Relief.  Together we make a difference; it is a privilege to serve in ministry with you!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

The Eradication of Malaria

Malaria is a preventable disease that kills over a half million people a year in Africa. According to recent statistics 430,000 of the reported 584,000 malaria deaths were children under the age of five. The West Ohio Conference, under the leadership of Bishop Gregory Palmer has led the denomination, in the effort to eradicate malaria, by pledging 3.5 million dollars. Last year HPCUMC embraced Bishop Palmer’s challenge and pledged $50,000 to the Imagine No Malaria Campaign.

The United Methodist Church has partnered with secular and sacred institutions committing $75 million. The Global Community effort involves a four-prong attack on malaria: Prevention- through the use of bed nets, providing access to diagnostic tests and medicine, draining standing water and improving sanitation; Treatment- ensuring clinics and hospitals have the diagnostic tests and treatment needed to save lives; Education- health care workers are trained to go door to door in remote communities to deliver and install bed nets and teach people how to use and care for the nets properly; Communication- using technology to reach millions with life-saving information about malaria.

In an effort to raise our $50,000 pledged, HPCUMC set up a Three Phase Imagine No Malaria campaign. Phase One: “Bring Change,” every man, woman and child was encouraged and challenged to bring their loose change to “change the world.” Phase Two: Alternative Christmas Giving. Individuals/Families were encouraged to make a donation to Imagine No Malaria as a Christmas gift to loved ones and aquiantances. Phase Three: The kick-off was led by a Youth sponsored 5K run April 16, proceeds to support Imagine No Malaria, and continues through May 8 offering the congregation the opportunity to make a one time gift (envelopes are in your bulletin for your use.)

Update: As we begin Phase Three, HPCUMC has raised $48,665 of the $50,000 goal! The question is not can we reach our goal, but how much will we surpass our goal? Can we raise $60,000? $70,000? Dr. Bev Connelly reminded us last fall, “No child should die from a preventable disease.”

Today we welcome Bishop Gregory Palmer to HPCUMC, the resident Bishop of West Ohio Conference, and world leader in the Imagine No Malaria campaign. Thank you Bishop Palmer for your leadership, challenge, and encouragement as together we walk with our brothers and sisters in Africa to healing and wholeness!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Your Legacy Gift and The Legacy of HPCUMC

For decades, the Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church Endowment program has been a vehicle in which individuals and families may express their love for Jesus Christ and HPCUMC. For over 40 years individuals and families have seen fit to enhance the mission and ministry of HPCUMC through their estate plans, wills, and gifts to the Endowment Fund. In 2010 the value of the Endowment Fund (including the Martz Scholarship Fund) was $12,759,784. At the end of 2015 the value of the Endowment Fund was $26,812,844. Over the past 5 years the Endowment Fund has grown over 14 million dollars.

The income from the Endowment Fund supports and enhances the mission and ministry of HPCUMC. Over the years income has been used to support the life transforming ministries of Wesley Chapel Mission Center, The Center for Respite Care, Habitat for Humanity, Inter-Faith Hospitality Network, MEAC, State Ave UMC, Wesley Community Services, Hyde Park Center for Older Adults, a number of food pantries in Metropolitan Cincinnati area, and the world wide effort to eradicate Malaria on the continent of Africa. The Endowment Fund offers scholarship help to our young adults in college, HPCUMC Preschool families, and short-term mission trips. In addition, income has been used to complete necessary renovations and repairs to our facilities, enabling HPCUMC to fulfill her mission.

Thank you to those who made a gift to the endowment and/or included HPCUMC in your estate plans. Your extravagant generosity will transform lives for generations to come. Furthermore, as we celebrate the ministry of the Endowment Fund, we recognize the generosity of Carl and Alice Bimel. Carl and Alice loved the Lord and their church! Consequently, they made it a priority to include HPCUMC in their estate plans. Carl and Alice have left a legacy that will transform lives and communities for generations to come!

The beauty of the Endowment program is that no gift is too small, whether $25 or millions; the endowment program allows every individual and/or family to leave a legacy to the church they love. To those who have considered making a gift to the endowment, and/or including HPCUMC in your estate plans, we look forward to talking with you with regard to the appropriate ways your legacy gift can make a difference.

Together we make a difference in God’s kingdom as we partner with God in establishing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. It’s a privilege to serve in ministry with you! See you in Church!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug