Interesting read – Drifting Toward Hope: A Vietnamese Refugee on What it Means to Be An American

In the summer of 1979 my family and I lay half-dead in a derelict fishing boat lost in the South China Sea. There were 83 other refugees aboard, all of us fleeing Vietnam, and after five days without food and water, some of the mothers began to consider the unthinkable: binding their babies’ arms with strips of cloth and slipping them into the sea.

I was born in the Mekong ­Delta of South Vietnam, eight months after the country fell to the com­munists. My family had owned a rice milling empire worth millions, but the Viet Cong took almost ­everything. We eked out a meager existence on a tiny tract of land for four years, until my parents de­cided that leaving was the only hope for a better future, and worth the ­many risks we would face as “boat people.”

Then, on our sixth day at sea, a miracle happened: We were spotted by a World Vision aid ship. The crew brought us to a refugee camp in Singapore, and a few months later, a Lutheran church in Fort Smith, Ark., sponsored my family’s move to the United States.

We arrived with nothing, unable to speak a word of English. My father went to work in a fiberglass factory, earning $90 a week to support a family of 10. The children in our neighborhood were friendly, but we weren’t ­allowed to play with them. My parents were terrified that if one of us got into a fight, we’d all be sent back to Vietnam. That fear defines the life of a refugee: Don’t stand out. Don’t take risks. And whatever you do, don’t fail.

My time was divided between school, work, and church. Work gave me discipline and kept me out of trouble; church gave me community and a strong faith. My siblings and I walked a path two inches wide and 18 years long, but it turned out to be a good one. Together, we hold six doctorates and five master’s ­degrees, from schools such as ­Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, the University of Pennsylvania, and NYU.

When I was a student in ­medi­cal school in 2002, I returned to Vietnam for the first time, to visit my relatives who are still there. I was shocked by the poverty. Their houses were shacks, the walls plastered over with newspapers; bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling on electrical cords. My cousins slept on the floor. Visiting them was like walking into a parallel universe—the life that would have been mine had the wind blown our boat in a different ­direction.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (12:48 NLT). I used to wonder who Jesus meant, because I sure didn’t think it was my family. The way I saw it, we had been given nothing, entrusted with nothing. I hoped that rich and powerful people would read Jesus’s words and take them to heart.

But when I went to Vietnam, I finally understood: He meant me. I was the one plucked from the South China Sea. I was the one granted asylum in a nation where education is available to everyone, and prosperity is attainable for anyone. I worked hard to get to where I am today, but the humbling truth is that my hard work was possible because of a blessing I did nothing to deserve. And that blessing is something I must pass on, in any way I can.

My story is true for all of us, whether you arrived in this country by boat or by birth: Much has been given to us—and much is required. That, I believe, is what it means to be an American.

Vinh Chung serves on World Vision’s Board of Directors, and his new memoir is called Where the Wind Leads. In the video below, he describes his family’s journey to the U.S.

From Published August 10, 2014

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Alpha course coming

A bit about Alpha. . . . What is alpha? Alpha is a worldwide phenomenon. It’s found in over 169 countries. It’s run in tens of thousands of schools, prisons, homes and churches of all denominations. It’s given more than 19.6 million people the opportunity to explore the meaning of life. Perhaps it’s just what your community – and your church – needs.

Our version will feature a dinner at 5:30 PM followed by an Alpha presentation and small group discussion concluding at 7:30 PM. Nursery is provided free of charge as is the dinner. We will meet on Monday evenings beginning September 8 and continue for 11 weeks.

Information covered: The Alpha course covers the basics of Christianity. It answers questions like: Who is Jesus?, and Why did he die? The Alpha course usually lasts 10 weeks, with a day or weekend getaway in the middle. Each week, guests gather for about two hours. They share an informal meal, sing a few songs, listen to a talk on how Christianity approaches the question at hand, then gather into small groups for discussion. The talks each week act as a springboard for small group discussions.

Please call the church office for more information, 287-2440. The course is free and open to all!

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September is National Hunger Action Month

National Hunger Action Month
Nearly 50 million people in the United States today are hungry or food insecure. Yet in this country, we will throw away over 133 billion pounds of good food this year. As people of faith, it is time for us to take action – to say that this situation is unacceptable and to do something about it.
September is National Hunger Action Month. Plan now to make September 2014 a time for your congregation to stand together against hunger, joining with the Society of St. Andrew to see that each person in this country has healthy, nourishing food to eat.

See more at:

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Shopping and helping First UMC

While preparing for purchasing school supplies…or for the change in the seasons…doing some home remodeling…or planning late summer or fall travel…doing some early holiday shopping…or you just love to shop online… There is a way to shop online for your needs and benefit your local church or other UM organization. Shop

When you use to shop, a percentage of your purchase (donated by the retailer) – combined with the purchases of other members of your congregation – are donated back to your church. You can select your local United Methodist Church as the recipient of your donation, or you can select from a long list of other United Methodist related organizations like the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCor), The Advance, JustPeace, MARCHA, among many, many others.

Not a current user? Go to and Log in. It takes just a couple of minutes. Each time you shop online, first log into, search for the retailer you want to shop online with, click their logo and start shopping. When you visit the retail site through the portal, your total spending is accumulated for your church and when the total donations reach $100+ your church will get a check.

Now, what about the donation? The donations are processed by the support staff at Once your total donations (generated from a percent of purchases) equal or surpass $100, your church or other organization you designate will receive a check. And then, as you make more purchases throughout the year, the process is repeated. Everyone benefits – you conveniently shop online as you have always done and the church or other UM organization you want to help receives monies for ministries to do the things throughout the connection that make us United Methodists.

Be sure to share with family and friends. The more shopping that is done through this portal, the more assistance is given throughout the United Methodist connection to support the global ministries of the connectional United Methodist Church.

Note: Este comunicado de prensa está disponible en español.

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Aldersgate Fall Volunteer Work Day

Help be part of tidying up Aldersgate after a summer of life changing ministry by volunteering at Aldersgate’s Fall Volunteer Work Day! We’ll be cleaning, disassembling, painting, and preparing Aldersgate for the fall and winter seasons.

Bring your family, friends, and a servant’s heart ready to work! Lunch will be provided for all volunteers.

Overnight accommodations can be arranged for those travelling longer distances for a small fee. For further information on staying overnight, or any additional questions, please call the Aldersgate Office at 315-348-8833.

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“Like” us on Facebook

Search for First UMC Gouverneur and “like” us on Facebook. Here you will find information about upcoming worship services and activities.

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Your giving impacts – where?

Visit the UMC Giving website ( to find out. Share with your fellow church members when you read something that resonates with you!

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What do you think?

What isn’t Said At Every Dying Methodist Church

Was reading this article earlier today about a 142 year old United Methodist Church that is dying a typical slow death in the UMC. Nothing really out of the ordinary with a UMC falling in membership. We’ve had these before, one such instance I could find with a quick search. What was most interesting to me with this article was the responses of ‘why’ this is happening and their total blindness to their own control over it.

The size of the congregation whittles down each year as older members pass away and younger generations choose to attend what Strauch refers to as mega churches. Main Street United claims just 35 members and averages between 15 to 20 for its services.

The future of the church is in peril, considering the average age of the congregation is 82 and the youngest families in the church are in their 60s.

“A lot of it has been due to deceased members,” says Robert Hunt, who is nearing his 15th year as the church pastor. “We’ve had a lot of walk-in traffic from the neighborhood, but they don’t stay.”

First off if you want to be a church that is growing you need to stop worrying about, and playing the victim of, the mega-church. Faith population wise the mega-church only covers a small percentage of people. If trends pan out there will be continued movement back towards a close, relational, faith community by generations to come. The mega-church will continue to be around, but this relationship will be a both/and not an either/or.

If you are a church that has ‘a lot of walk-in traffic from the neighborhood’ (which is awesome) but they do not stay then you need to be asking yourself as a congregation, “WHY?” Why are they not staying? Reading on we might have some idea.

The Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church owns Main Street United, and Hunt says conference officials advised him and the trustees to merge with another or modernize by putting in a projection screen and musical instruments for worship.

The congregation opposes installing new technology and prefers praise and worship as traditional as the three-floor structure the church operates out of on the corner of East Main Street and Pershing Drive in the Emily Kimbrough Historic District.

What does this tell whomever visits? This congregation is just fine dying. They do not care to revive the health of their church. To anyone who visits, they will sense this. No, projection and contemporary music are not the cure-alls for a dying church. Changing the culture of the church, which changing up worship and technologies is a step, gives people something to look forward to in the future.

What I found crazy with this church historically was this nugget in describing the church architecture (which sounds pretty impressive in places).

There is a wood accordion door that cuts the sanctuary ground floor down in size by about a third. Strauch says an orchestra played there in the days when hundreds attended services.

Pretty sure the insertion of an orchestra was a pretty contemporary thing do some 100-80 years ago. It’s in this church’s DNA to be innovative in worship, but they’ve totally stalled at one point in this aging congregations life as ‘the sweet spot’ and they are happy to take their ship/church down with them.

This ends how we all know it will. They know it as well.

For Strauch and the rest of the shrinking but unwavering congregation, the idea of shutting the doors on the church is incomprehensible. The Main Street United members have no intention of being another statistic.

“Most of us will hold out because we don’t want to go to the big churches,” Strauch says. “There’s some people that want us to close it down, but we’re going to keep it open.”

These doors will close and it is a shame. This church could have had a lasting life if the people who claim to love it would actually live into the culture the church had when they probably started going to it.

Photo from the Star Press photo gallery of this church

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September newsletter

The Cornerstone
A newsletter for and by the people called United Methodist in Gouverneur and North Gouverneur.
34 Grove Street, Gouverneur NY 13646 315-287-2440
In Alpha, guests are invited to freely explore the Christian faith in a relaxed setting over ten weekly sessions with a weekend away. Each week guests enjoy a meal and a video on subjects as diverse as “Who is Jesus?”, “How Can I Have Faith?” and “How Can I Make the Most of the Rest of My Life?” After the talk, guests break into small groups to discuss the content of the talk and share their own opinions.
The course is low-key, friendly and fun – and is supported by all major denominations of the Christian church. Alpha is a worldwide phenomenon –run in 169 countries and attended by over 22 million people. Alpha is free and open to everyone.
No question is out of bounds, and participants are free to say as much or as little as they wish as they make up their own minds about the teachings of Jesus.
We will be starting Monday, September 8th from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Older teens and adults are welcome to participate. Childcare will be provided. There’s no cost involved. Indication that you’ll be attending is appreciated (287-2440), but not required.
In addition to ALPHA we will be considering what it means to take part in Extravagant Generosity – both as receivers and givers. Each week in September you should be getting a letter and “heart” card by mail. These are to fill out and return the next Sunday. Our worship will include music, sermons, videos and storytellers that help re-enforce the week’s theme. Join us in celebrating our church – as family together in mission for Christ, reaching out to our neighbors with love for all.

Remember: we return to the Sanctuary, 11:00 a.m.

September 7th — Communion, Scripture is I Timothy 6:17-19
Sharing and good deeds result in caring ministry
Celebrate what we love about our church!
Storyteller – what I love, how I’ve seen Jesus.
Choir Rehearsal at 9:30 in the sanctuary.
Birthday Bash for all September birthdays
Pastor at North Gouverneur, 9:30 a.m.

September 14th — John 13:34-35
Our relationships with others show what we know of God.
Celebrate those people who have extended God’s love to us.
Storyteller – who has made a difference in your faith journey?
Fellowship Feast – bring a dish to share at an after worship pot-luck.

September 21st — Communion, Joel 2:28, Matthew 6:33 and Colossians 3:1
God-sizing our visions, stepping out in faith
Celebrate sources of hope and visions for the future.
Storyteller shares his/her vision for the church

September 28th — John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 8:24
Well done good and faithful servants
Celebrate that we can trust God, hearts belong to God, not things
Storyteller tells how s/he was influenced to step out of comfort zone and give.
Pastor at Spraguevillle, 9:00 am.
Our choir is open to all interested persons. Why not add your voice to the mix? It’s a lot of fun and adds so much to our worship.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK – First United Methodist Gouverneur has a page. Please invite your friends to like us to! Thanks. Posting is done by the Pastor and our IT Geek – Glenda Schuessler!
Thank-you for allowing me to use the sanctuary in your church to hold the piano recital. Enclosed is a donation, perhaps to be put toward the back to school supplies you are helping families with. Sincerely, Beth Johnson
From the Finance Committee: A special Thank-You to: Tenille Reed, John Halford, the Memorial Committee and the Add Hope Committee for donating the funds necessary to pay for the Audio Visual system for the sanctuary.
Tenille has also been a major supplier of school supplies for We’ve Got Your Back to School since the beginning of the program, and John has been a very generous donor to many church projects and programs. A big THANK YOU to both of you for your generous and faithful support.
Speaking of WGYB to School: How do we begin to thank everybody for the donations of supplies and time to make this year’s WGYB2School even bigger and better? We supplied over 175 children with at least part of their school supplies, as well as offering socks, underwear and haircuts. (HUGE THANKS to the hair cutters from Ultimate Experience. They have been with us every year and treat each child as a special customer!)
Dear Methodist Church – Thank you for the opportunity to go to camp. It was fun swimming, playing games, and singing songs. I had a great time. Thanks from Lily Towne
To all members of the church – Thank-you so much for congratulating me on my graduation! Church has always been a big part of my life, it is such a comfort to know that I have a wonderful church family supporting me. The clock will be on my desk in the fall! Blessings, Marthalyn Sweet
Dear Friends in Mission: Thank you for partnering with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). 100% of your contribution will go to supporting UMCOR’s response to disasters in the United States.
123 children were registered.
38 adults volunteered their time!
24 teenagers were valuable assistants!
$510 was given to Ryan’s Wish!
8,000,000 cookies were eaten!
5 T-Shirts shredded by Capt Beth!
PLEASE get us their contact information as soon as possible: Name, address, email, birthday – We’d like to let them know we’re thinking of them. Thanks.
We know we have students at Potsdam State, Clarkson, SLU, Jefferson CC, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Cobleskill, and ??? Our neighbors at Canton UMC have long displayed the pennants from each of “their kids” colleges. If doing something similar is up your alley please speak up and see what we can do here to remind ourselves of students away from home and needing our prayers and support.
Jason Moore is an award winning digital artist who will help us consider new ways of utilizing visual imagery in worship. We have a team of four persons who have committed to attending the seven hour workshop on September 10th. Our Upper New York Annual Conference is sponsoring this event which covers everything from biblical approaches to practical hands-on training. The Creative Worship seminars are designed to meet a variety of needs and speak to ministry areas including preaching, music, media and more. If you have an interest in coming along, we’ll sign you up!
This summer our organ has been getting some much needed work. Look and listen for Glenda to be giving it a real workout! The Trustees have also been looking into what work should be done to keep our stained glass windows safe and shiny. More details as decisions are made.
With thanks for her years of service, the SPRC has accepted the resignation of Sheri Holmes as our church secretary. Another opportunity has presented itself that Sheri could not afford to ignore. Yes, both Sheri and Dan will continue to be active in the church and the community. They’re going nowhere!
At the same time, the SPRC has hired Donna Boscoe as the new secretary with a three month probationary period. She has been our go to substitute and comes with some working knowledge of the position. Let’s offer her our support and patience as she gets up to speed with her new duties.
on Sunday, September 21st. Boys and girls of all ages are welcome. Rehearsals are held after worship. Parents are welcome to stay and help or go to Fellowship Time.
REMEMBER: OUR NEWSLETTER DEADLINE is the Thursday after our Council on Ministries meeting – held on the third Tuesday of the month.
Amber Ormasen is making exercise fun with her frequent Rip It classes held here at the church. It doesn’t have to cost you anything to get that heartbeat going, find your muscles and enjoy lots of laughter Everyone is welcome…. men, women, teens.
“I’m not training for a 5K. I’m not preparing for a competition. I’m not trying to set a new record. I’m not trying to impress you. I’m saving my life.”
From the Pastor:
Grace and Peace in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I am just writing a short note to thank you for your faithful support of the ministries here at First United Methodist. Because of your tithe or gift we are able to reach out to our neighbors here in the community and, through the denomination, we are touching lives all around the globe.
➢ a child feels loved and welcomed in Sunday School or dance…
➢ a family in the community receives food, fuel oil, a warm coat…
➢ mourners celebrate the life of a loved one at a personalized funeral…
➢ Scouts, 4-H, special needs persons, dieters have a place to meet…
➢ worship lifts our spirits and challenges our daily living…
➢ the resource center provides free materials for our study groups…
➢ engineers, educators, doctors venture across national boundaries…
➢ people of faith take a stand in the face of injustice and prejudice…
➢ families, teens and children encounter God via one of the camp programs…
➢ men and women have a place to ask questions, disagree, learn about themselves and Christ…
➢ a hot meal is shared along with table conversation….
➢ a family, new to the community, finds a place to belong with fellow Christians…
➢ a soldier in Afghanistan receives a box of breakfast goodies and prayers for safety…

While we might be tempted to think in terms of budgets and bills, your financial support of this church is all about ministry – providing a place, a pastor, a program, a people – that touches lives and makes a difference in the world.
If you pledge and support this ministry on a regular basis: THANK YOU!
If you would like to be listed as one of those who makes an upfront and consistent gift to First UMC: JUST START DOING IT! AND THANK YOU!
If your giving potential is extremely limited: THANK YOU FOR DOING WHAT YOU CAN!
To everyone: let us continue to rejoice together as we are the body of Christ through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness to the world.

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United Methodist 101 and other Free Webinars

Visit the website for more information. Webinars are available on many topics.

Upcoming webinars:

United Methodist 101 On-line Course

Lifelong United Methodist? New to United Methodism?

United Methodism 101 is designed for new church members and anyone else wanting to know more about our history, Structure, beliefs, Ministries and Challenges.You may be surprised at all there is to discover about our denomination! Click here for Registration ($9.99 fee)

Find more courses at this link:

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