Every year, we at Decatur FUMC take a month to focus on all the amazing ministries and missions that have happened over the past year! We also take time to dream and wish for all of the missions and ministries we would like to have an accomplish over the next year. We would not be able to accomplish any of our church's mission work or ministries without the support of our congregation. This year's stewardship campaign is focussed on the wilderness. This campaign is centered on the fact that 2020 did not go how anyone had planned it. Below, you will find devotion blogs and testimonies from people of our church! These blog posts are written to help you discern your part in this year's stewardship campaign. There will be more videos and testimonies in our Sunday morning worship services!

Wilderness Wonderings

God uses wilderness experiences to help us learn, grow and trust in Him and his path for each of us and our church. This month, we are walking through the wilderness with Moses, the Israelites – and each other. These heartfelt devotions from our church family about their own times of struggle along their faith journeys help us see how God goes before us to light our path... and behind us to protect us. Thanks be to God.

Hardship to Hope - Steve Blake,
(October 21)

I have been a Christian all my life. My grandparents were devoted believers. My parents raised me going to church even when I protested. In high school my church’s youth group were among my best friends. After our children were born we became more active in church. We came to First United Methodist Church because we felt welcomed here from our first visit. 

So why has my life had so many setbacks and failures? I have at times failed at education and relationships. I have had significant economic setbacks in business and employment. I’ve struggled with not making the correct decisions as a parent and have not always been a supportive husband. And I am a sinner in addition to all that. Why have I had to wander in the desert of life? Why is life so hard? That was not what I had planned.

When I start to invite myself to my own “pity party” I think of Job. Nobody faced more heartaches and tragedy than did he. I would not want to swap places with him. He still praised God. He had hope. When I look to the Bible for comfort, I go to Isaiah 43:1-2:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

As I go through this life, I have an increased ability to look back and realize God never leaves you. He knows your heartaches. Even when he allows you to wander off the trail the good shepherd is always there ready to bring you back into the fold. He has a plan for us that is better than anything we can achieve on our own. He teaches us his ways that give us hope and leads us to great joys IF we trust in Him.

God has a plan for our church too. We must seek his guidance and work His plan. Life is not easy but His love for us is greater that we can imagine. When we’re in the desert our human minds cannot imagine the rewards he has waiting for us.

Heartache to Healing - Betty Sims,
(October 20th)

A heartfelt thank you, dear Church, for all the prayers you sent up for our girls and us in the past several years. God held our hands and hearts through our oldest daughter Libby’s cancer, recurrence, and her last treatment which was a bone marrow transplant, completed in February. And, through our youngest daughter Lisa’s heart attack due to her Hodgkin’s Disease that she had in high school, treated with mantle radiation to the chest. This radiation caused shrinkage of an artery which led to her heart problem. We are so thankful and can report that both girls are doing well. Libby is a miracle and is back at work at her design firm in Atlanta, Sims Patrick Studio. Lisa, who lives in Florence and is a nurse practitioner and an artist, is slowly healing. 

We keep saying the good times in our family have certainly outweighed the bad. We all are so thankful and remain optimistic and a happy family. I don’t want to overwhelm you, but I will briefly mention things that have happened in our lives, starting years ago. Libby experienced thyroid cancer at age 13, with many surgeries, followed by Bill’s mom who died of ALS. Lisa had Hodgkin’s Disease, followed by aggressive breast cancer, meningitis, and eventually the heart attack. In the meantime, Bill, Jr., came down with ALS and died at age 43 in 2007. All three girls, including our second daughter Sheri in Atlanta, have had bilateral mastectomies.

Thank goodness Bill and I are optimistic souls and have had a strong marriage and with God’s help and our strong faith have remained optimistic. To God be the Glory! 


Trials to Triumphs - Jan Dean,
(October 15)


I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path.
Psalm 37:34


Trials and triumphs – two things that if you have not experienced the yet, watch out – because they are coming! They are just a part of life. On August 12, 2016, Sammy and I experienced a big trial when he was in an automobile accident and broke his neck. Thankfully, he survived, did not have to have surgery, and was under the care of a great physician and staff. Add to that that gratitude the wonderful love, support, prayers, and help of a fantastic church family, family and friends!

As a part of the healing process, Sammy had to wear a neck brace 24/7 until his neck healed. To help record his progress and encourage him, I made a chart of the months, days of the week, and the two scriptures above. Each day we would recite the verses out loud and I would mark out the date. We did that for 24 weeks. 

On January 16, 2017, great news came! Sammy was healed enough to remove the neck brace and to begin rehab with driving and golf to eventually resume. Our chart is still up on the bedroom wall to remind us that in our trials God is holding us and in our triumphs God is hugging us! Thanks be to God!

Heartache to Hope - Debbie Heard, (October 12th)


Working at Hospice of the Valley, I have an upfront view of the heartache that comes when a loved one is facing a terminal illness. The hope of a longer earthly life is dimmed. Plans and dreams for the future suddenly seem irrelevant.  


Our staff; however, sees that the last weeks and months of a person’s life can be filled with meaning that can elude us when we believe we have an unlimited future. Time with family and friends becomes more precious, and faith in God can strengthen. This verse speaks to the time they have left as well as the life to come: 


Psalm 16:11:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


Facing a finite future also gives our patients a time to review their life – have they been a good steward of the resources God has blessed them with? For some of them, they realize they have squandered some of these blessings. It is a reminder to all of us that God asks us to be faithful with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service. In the middle of a season of heartbreak for so many caused by COVID-19, hurricanes, and wildfires, by being good stewards of our gifts, we can spread hope to others by being faithful to the God who will never forsake us.

An Interview with Ignite Ministries’ Students
- Kaden and Dylon Martin, Jonathan Creekmore,

(October 9th)


What has been difficult in life the past several months?

Dylon: Not being able to see my friends. Not being able to go places.

Kaden: Not being able to be social. You can’t really do much right now with COVID around.
 

Has being able to come to church been helpful?

Dylon: Mmhm. It’s fun to see people instead of just sitting at home and doing nothing. I’d rather be at youth than at home doing nothing.

Kaden: Yes. It’s been nice being able to get out and do stuff again.

 

Stewardship campaign is a time every year that the people of our church give money so that we are able to go on mission trips and go to Xtreme Winter. How does it make y’all feel that people give their money to help us be able to do events like these?

Kaden: I appreciate that people care enough about us to give so that we can go out and experience different stuff and have fun. 

Dylon: We don’t get to go out of Decatur or Alabama a lot, and it’s a lot of fun because we got to listen to different music that we don’t normally listen to. It was cool because I got to go to my first concert! It was a lot of fun! Rich (Newman) was a lot of fun as a volunteer!

 

What would you like to say to the people of Decatur FUMC for their giving and helping us be able to do things like that?

Kaden: Thank you for letting us go out and have fun and do stuff that we don’t get to do a lot.

Dylon: Thank you for donating your money, so we can go out and have fun and do stuff with our friends. I hope we are able to do more again soon!

Betrayed and Blessed - Fred and Lou Underwood

(October 7th)


We thought once retirement came, we would have so much more time on our hands. We thought we would have so much more time to travel, visit friends and family, maybe even volunteer. What we didn’t count on was the pandemic and immediately we felt betrayed, similar to how the Israelites did in the wilderness, and, yes, we grumbled about our plight just like they did.


As time has progressed though, we are truly feeling blessed in so many ways we didn’t expect. We’ve had more time to spend on phone calls with family (grandchildren and great-grandchildren) and friends, and have enjoyed meals from special friends.


This quote sums up how we feel now. 


“Are you living your life in a hurry, spending every day on the run? God has given his spirit to lead you if only you’ll take time to hear. By his word with his wisdom he’ll feed you. He’s just waiting for you to draw near. You’ve got to make time to spend in his presence to hear his voice whisper, ‘My child, I love you!’”

Pain to Promise - Julianne O'Hara

(October 6th)


“Everything you have, everything you have had, and everything you will have is through the grace of God.”


These are the words our father said to us many times to help put our lives, the good and the not so good, into perspective. 


Growing up, we heard many stories of Daddy’s younger days – having to get his tonsils out just because his brother was, selling peanuts at Legion Field, or hitchhiking back to Auburn. We were regularly reminded that his life had not always been as we saw it.


But we also heard a lot about the good times – the swimming hole his brother and sister spent so much time in, meeting the love of his life, and the family of six that followed.


“Everything you have, everything you have had, and everything you will have is through the grace of God.”


In 2018, as my family cared for our father in his last days, the pain was almost unbearable. Watching the pillar of your family decline takes your thoughts and feelings in many directions. Family dynamics change as some succumb to the emotions while others step up in strength.


Preparing for his funeral, my brother reminded us of daddy’s wise words, even in the midst of our pain.



Today, Vann and I have just returned from a weekend with our daughters and their husbands. The weather was perfect, the company was exceptional, and the time together was memorable. While driving home, I posted a picture on Instagram of our picnic dinner with the words, “Get away. Spend time with people who get you. Eat donuts. Play games. Eat more food. Pet dogs. Tell each other why you love them. Laugh. Cry, just a little. Eat again. Make memories. That was my weekend.” 


I was amazed at the number of comments pointing out that this was the perfect weekend. While I did feel like it was a great time, I had not realized how perfect it actually was. There was no big event, just people spending time together.


“Everything you have, everything you have had, and everything you will have is through the grace of God.”


As we approach the time of year when our thoughts turn towards the monetary gifts we give back to God, I can only look up and be reminded of my Heavenly Father and my earthly father’s gifts to me. Their words both impact me daily. I pray you too will seek to understand how all you have belongs to your Heavenly Father and giving it back to Him is the greatest joy there is.


“Everything you have, everything you have had, and everything you will have is through the grace of God.”