312,000 and counting

By Bishop Jonathan Holston

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Upon the “fixing” of the pastoral appointments on Wednesday, June 4, the 2014 South Carolina Annual Conference is now history.

It was an incredible gathering of more than 1,600 laity and clergy assembling together for a special time of praying, singing, planning and reporting. The words overheard describing our time together are self-explanatory: namely, awesome, excellent, energetic, exhilarating, fantastic, inspiring, organized, outstanding, uplifting and wonderful.

Indeed, I was appreciative of the tremendous spirit of compassion, community and hope expressed among our delegates, guests and visitors.

It suffices to say, there was a “sweet, sweet spirit” on the grounds of the Florence Civic Center. Kudos are extended to the Rev. Karen Radcliffe and the Annual Conference Planning Committee, the Rev. John Hipp, the Rev. Anthony Hodge and the Florence District Host Committee, the Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as the multitude of volunteers who were essential in making our time enjoyable and productive.

In fact, many have said it was the best Annual Conference ever. Each day and night was filled with opportunities to celebrate, fellowship and experience God-sized dreams. The willingness of delegates to engage in conversation and be attentive to the needs of the local church was inspirational.

As we participated in our ongoing Million Book Effort, we celebrated as a conference in receiving and packaging 312,000 books to date. Delegates from the Jordan United Methodist Church in Manning shared with us “thank you” notes from children receiving the generosity of a book. Consider these two letters from our children:

“Thank you for the books, we really like them. The book that I have is ‘Chocolate Fever.’ It’s a really good book. I am almost done and when I’m done I’m going to let my mom read that book …”

“Thank you for the book, ‘Salsa Stories,’ that you gave me. I can’t wait to read it, which I am going to do over the summer. Thank you for the tremendous book you gave us.”

Just know that your generosity is making a difference. Friends, in the days, weeks and months ahead, we look to hear from congregations—still reporting—across South Carolina in helping us complete our goal.

Our “next steps” in creating corridors of faith, hope and love are before us. As we network with our local communities and organizations across South Carolina, we will address illiteracy one community at a time. It is my hope that the excitement of these efforts will be evident in the lives of all our children.

The story is told of a Methodist lay preacher named Johnson Oatman Jr. When he was 36 years of age, he began writing Gospel songs of which some 3,000 are attributed to him. One song he wrote is described as an antidote for life’s discouragements and leads towards victorious Christian living. The song is titled “Count Your Blessings.” The chorus simply states:

“Count your blessings,
Name them one by one,
Count your many blessings,
See what God has done.”

In our dear South Carolina Annual Conference, we are naming 312,000 blessings and counting!

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