By Bishop Jonathan Holston
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.—Jeremiah 29: 11
The people we value and love are given a place of honor in our lives. The second Sunday in May is set aside as Mother’s Day. It’s a special time of recognition to honor those who share this role in loving and compassionate ways.
In the early 1900’s, Anna Jarvis took up the torch to “honor the best mother that ever lived: your mother.” Though never a mother herself, she dedicated herself to fulfilling the mandate of celebrating a special day of recognition of mothers. So, in whatever way that is appropriate for you, take the time to remember the wonderful love of your mother.
Also, the month of May is a time of preparation as we draw closer to the 2014 S.C. Annual Conference, which is scheduled for June 1-4. Delegates (lay and clergy) will assemble in Florence for a four-day period of praying, singing, planning and reporting. Last year more than 285,000 meals were packed for Stop Hunger Now, and we gave a total of $97,752 to our districts for ministry of compassion, community and hope. The theme for this year is “A More Excellent Way: Creating Corridors of Faith, Hope and Love.” Our special emphasis this year is our initiative with children and poverty, campus ministry and the Million Book Effort.
The Million Book Effort is the God-sized dream of the S.C. Conference to collect one million new, age-appropriate books for preschool and elementary school children. As we address the issue of children and poverty, it is understood that illiteracy and poverty go hand-in-hand. As Christians, it is our responsibility to care for those in need among us. It is our hope to transform the lives of children in our state by equipping them with the tools they need to grow into educated adults.
An anonymous writer stated, “We are often faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” Indeed, our goals may be lofty, but they are not unattainable. I believe that “the greater danger … lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark” (Michelangelo). In other words, we need your help to realize this vision on behalf of children in South Carolina.
You can get involved by talking to your United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men groups, as well as Sunday school classes, about the project. You can get the community and local businesses involved by collecting books or giving funds to purchase books for this effort. You can volunteer to help sort, label and package books on June 3. You can consider ways your church can combat illiteracy in your community. You can pray for our conference in this effort and the children we will impact.
Please note that this is the first step in addressing this significant concern. My hope is that S.C. United Methodists will be moved with compassion to support the reading and mentoring programs in your community.
Friends, the Million Book Effort is a “God-sized” dream, and we are more than able for such an effort.
A God-sized dream moves us beyond ourselves and helps us move closer to God, forces us to invite others into a bigger picture of our lives and gives glory to God and not us. I invite you to join me in prayer for our annual conference session in Florence, as well as this significant effort of compassion, community and hope.
By Bishop Jonathan Holston