Posts Tagged ‘Backpack Buddies’


My Favorite Things: Oakdale United Methodist Church…

Oak Tree at Sunse

Can you say that one of your favorite “things” is a church? Probably not, because God tells us that a church is a living, breathing “being.” But, I’m doing it anyway today. So there.

In 2007 my hubby and I were burned out Christians. We don’t easily transfer our membership from one church to another. To me, doing that is like saying you need a divorce. But, for a pile of reasons, we had to reluctantly say goodbye to a church that gave all 3 of our children a great foundation in Christianity. This church “walked with me” through the valley of the “shadow of death” during my first 2 heart attacks. I wouldn’t still be here if it weren’t for some very caring members there. But, no matter how hard I tried to focus only on worshiping and serving the Lord there, it wasn’t happening. Finally, we made the painful decision to look for a new church.

I have to confess that the hubby’s busy schedule turned Sunday mornings into “date time” for us during this time. And thus, while I feel badly about this, we didn’t go to church anywhere for a long time. Not a great way to witness to your teenage children!

Thankfully, a dear friend began a contemporary service at a small church close to our home. He needed a keyboardist and he knew our daughter had some experience in that “realm.” He asked her if she would be willing to play at an early service at this small church and told her it was perfectly fine to continue to attend church at the church we had just left. Our daughter enthusiastically agreed.

Trying to be supportive parents, we went to the first service where she accompanied this newly-assembled group of musicians. And there I fell in love with some preaching by a new minister there. For starters, just about every sermon began with a hilarious story either about himself (and he didn’t make himself look pretty in that story) or “Little Johnny.” I don’t know if “Little Johnny” actually exists, but if he does, I need to pray overtime for his mother. The kid is a little stinker.

And then I fell in love with this minister’s family. All of them were just as talented as the patriarch of the family–each in their own way. And they worked tirelessly, generously, patiently, and lovingly to get out one message and one message alone–“All are welcome here.”

Many churches say this, but don’t really mean it. Pretty much everyone at Oakdale United Methodist Church really means this. People come to church, myself included, in blue jeans, t-shirts and flip-flops. If you want to dress up, that’s fine, but it’s also fine to wear shorts in the summertime. And Oakdale endorses “donut therapy.” Before our two church services, there is always coffee, decaf coffee, hot water for tea and a plethora of donuts. As we indulge our sweet tooth, many great conversations happen in our Fellowship Hall. (Quite a few hugs occur there, too.) But, it doesn’t end there.

This is the first church I’ve attended where it’s perfectly fine to bring those donuts and coffee with you to worship. Yes, you read that right. And trust me, I make full use of that rule. In fact, during our “greeting time,” I may run back for a second cup of coffee! We don’t care how you lived your “pre-Christian” life and we don’t even care if your views on Christianity differ from ours. We don’t care if you’re still questioning whether there’s a God in Heaven or not. Just be a part of some or all of what we’re doing and being. No judgments. Go to another church and only come to our church for an activity or two. Attend regularly and don’t join. Become a member and just soak up the teaching. Actively help and minister to those of us who are burned out or are confused about our place in this world or need some help. We just love you as Christ loves you.

Somehow, through the miraculous work of God, we have assembled a team of musicians that should be contestants on “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice.” Don’t ask me how this happened. It just did. And many of the musicians are teenagers like my daughter. Just about when we think we have no replacements for the ones graduating and going on to college, a new talent rises up in their place. I just know that I can’t get through a service without at least one electric guitar solo now. And I’m rather fond of some of the percussionists in the band–one is my hubby and the other is my youngest son. Sometimes father and son even play together. We have one mean bass guitar player–and he’s a doctor. One of the electric guitarists is a lawyer. Go figure.

If you think small churches don’t make a difference, this small church started the local chapter of a program to feed “food insecure” children in our community. These children, for a variety of reasons, don’t have enough food to eat on the weekends and when school is out. This is true across America, but not publicly understood. These children rely upon school lunch and breakfast programs to get enough to eat each day. But because there is no school on the weekends, these children often do poorly in school the first few days of the following week.

The Backpack Buddies program allows school counselors to identify children in this situation. Then, through generous community donations, volunteers purchase food from an area food bank (all of which requires no cooking or refrigeration, including a unique kind of milk), load the food into backpacks, and deliver the backpacks to those school counselors. The children pick up the backpack from the school counselor on Fridays. This way no volunteers ever know the identity of the children needing these backpacks and the kids just look like they’re taking home their homework. It’s an effort to make them feel just like every other kid. This program is now providing food for over 110 children per week and the school districts are seeing improved school performance from these kids! And last summer we tried a pilot program to feed these same kids in the summertime.

But, Oakdale doesn’t stop there. They regularly make blankets and small kits of necessary items for people around the world. We have an OAK program (Organized Acts of Kindness) and you never know when a group of Oakdale members might be building a handicapped-accessible ramp for someone or helping with Habitat for Humanity or other projects in town that just need doing. There is always some need being worked on in our fellowship and probably more than one, particularly at this time of year. If there are angels to adopt, they are all adopted. The list is endless on how this church reaches out to others.

Oakdale members were the first to see a need for a nonprofit counseling center and said, “We have a building that’s not being used all the time; let’s do it!” Yesterday I spent the majority of my day creating “counseling rooms” and cleaning up the inevitable clutter that accumulates at all busy churches sooner or later. I don’t even want to discuss the current state of our choir room right now! And as each volunteer left to get on with their own busy days, another quickly took that person’s place and asked, “What can I do to help?” Today even more are expected. One member is a successful Pampered Chef consultant and she is creating a very ambitious schedule of fun and interactive displays and activities, all with the main focus of helping the Center.

I realize many of my readers can’t come to Oakdale, but oh, how I wish you could. If you do live close by, I invite you to visit. Be forewarned–your neck may get hugged and we’ll likely steer you towards the donuts.

Monday’s Post: What is a malversation?

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