Volunteer for Hospice

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Hospice is a form of compassionate and quality care for people facing life-limiting illness and injury. The word itself dates back to the Middle Ages, meaning "a place of safe haven for travelers, pilgrims and the sick." Today, hospice is a special program, often provided in a patient's home, designed to make the end of life experience a positive one. Our goal is to provide exceptional care and unparalleled service to patients and families who have placed their trust in us. Our hospice care team include specially trained and experienced doctors, nurses, nurse aide, social worker, and spiritual and bereavement counselors. As a hospice volunteer, you'll be an important member of the hospice care team, helping to serve a wide range of people with a variety of life-limiting illnesses. As a volunteer you may be asked to; listen and support the patient and family, read or sit with patients for short periods of time, prepare meals, write letters, etc. All volunteers are required to complete a background check and a drug test. Training is provided to all volunteers as part of your volunteer experience. Hospice volunteers often say their experience is personally rewarding and emotionally meaningful to help those in need at a critical point in their lives. Your volunteer work is significant and can make a positive impact in the quality of others' lives. Please call me if you feel a desire to be part of such an amazing team and community, Casey Jo at 828-631-1702.

Gasping for Air

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Every evening, I strap a mask to my face as I get into bed to sleep. The mask that I wear has straps that make indentions on my cheeks. The foam on the plastic liner creates a seal around my mouth and nose, and I must hasten to attach a hose to it so that I don’t suffocate. 

Sound strange? It’s my normal. This is how I sleep.

It’s called CPAP therapy, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and I’ve been sleeping with the help of a machine for the last several years. I suffer from moderate to severe sleep apnea. That is, my small airways become obstructed when I sleep. My snoring becomes dramatic. And worst of all, I stop breathing…many, many times an hour. 

Doctors tell me that this is not good.

The machine that I fire up as I lay me down to sleep each night pushes air—like a vacuum cleaner on reverse—into my airways to keep them open as I rest. And believe it or not, this inelegant solution works. I sleep more soundly. I wake feeling more rested. I have more energy throughout the day and my health is better than it would be otherwise. It’s true, though. I do look like I’m on life-support while I’m dreaming.

Just prior to this evening ritual, however, my mind is racing. With the loss of my daily activities my head spins with reflections and worries from the day. When I’m able to stop ruminating on the circumstances, conversations, encounters, joys, and sorrows from the day, I begin to problem-solve the next day. Yes, the Braves game earlier was a good distraction, and spending time with my family is always good medicine. But it’s those in-between times that become consumed with mental work. As you are fully aware, the worries of the past and anxieties for the future are both unproductive and soul-sucking. 

It’s the gift of sleep that saves me from the endless laps my mind is trying to make. Surrender and slumber, even if they are accompanied by an oxygen-blowing black box, are what provide me with the sabbath I need to rest and recover. Without these hours of daily cessation, I would be certifiably unwell. 

As you probably know, our Jewish cousins were instructed to create a worldview that embraced this idea of Sabbath. Yes, God commanded His people to practice Sabbath each week by sacrificing work and productivity to rest as God Himself had rested in creation. But Sabbath-keeping is more than just a weekly occurrence. Our bodies and souls require daily doses of Sabbath. For the ancient Jewish community that Christ was born into, the new day—that is tomorrow—did not occur at the stroke of midnight or with first light at dawn. No, the new day began with the setting of the sun and the arrival of the stars. 

The implications for this diurnal rhythm are far-reaching. Tomorrowdoesn’t begin in the morning. Tomorrowbegins each evening. According to the culture established by the people of the Old Testament, we start our day at night and with inactivity. The first act of the new day is sleep. We begin our new day with rest, with sleep, with dreams.

I love this idea of letting God have first crack at our days. When each day comes to a close, the very first thing that we do is to allow God to work on our behalf. As much as we might wish it was so, we cannot accomplish our to-do lists in our sleep. In sleeping, we surrender to a kind of death and un-being that is an act of trust in a God who will at some point wake us up. God has arranged sleep to be a place of recovery and renewal. God gets the first fruits of the new day. Our new day begins after God has been at work for a good 7 or 8 hours before we can muck it up. 

I have come to believe that my inability to draw my own breath overnight to be a faithful reminder that I am fully dependent on God to have life and to live it according to His direction. Just as I need a machine to fill my lungs with breath each evening, I require God’s breath—literally God’s Spirit—to fill me, also. It’s strange to consider that God is working for good while I do nothing but surrender my spirit, soul, mind, and body to Him. Truly, sleep is an act of trust. 

In this way, the passage from Lamentations makes more sense:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” -Lamentations 3:22-23

God’s mercies are new every morning because God has been at work long before we’ve ever had the chance to punch the clock. The ebb and flow of our days all point to God’s faithfulness to us. Our work in the daytime, therefore, becomes our response to the work that God was doing while we slept. 

May the Spirit of God fill the collapsing airways of our souls so that we can find rest, renewal and purpose in Him.

Anam Cara Project

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In ancient Ireland, a soul friend was someone with whom you could…
Share the practical matters of your life.
Reveal your life’s deep joys and sorrows.
Be for someone a sanctuary of trust and unconditional love.

You are invited to strengthen a friendship this fall. Practicing the ancient, Celtic tradition of Anam Cara, or soul friendship, is a way that you can deepen your relationship with someone you already know.

What’s the Plan?

-Participants in the Anam Cara Projectwill identify someone with whom they would like to strengthen a friendship.

-Participants will attend an afternoon retreat on Sunday, September 8that Lake Junaluska Conference Center. Lunch will be provided, and participants will learn how to practice Anam Cara by strengthening a friendship. 

-Pairs of friends will commit to spending an hour with each other once a week for 6 weeks. Pairs can meet in person or arrange to talk on the phone. 

-The pastor will schedule a brief conversation with each participant at the conclusion of the project to discuss their experience. 

How do I participate?

-Identify someone with whom you’d like to deepen a friendship. This is most likely someone you already know and may very well be a close friend! The friend you invite to practice Anam Cara with does not have to be a member of our church, or even reside here locally.

-Make plans to attend the afternoon retreat on September 8. The friend with whom you are going to practice soul friendship with is encouraged to attend! There is no cost for the event. 

-Commit to practicing Anam Cara with your friend for one hour a week for six weeks. 

-Let Pastor Jeff know that you are interested by completing the sign-up form at this link: https://forms.gle/uTu8dM6WVvuhhUJJ8

Why?

Anam Cara, or soul friendships, are relationships that are marked by high commitment levels, mutuality, and reciprocity. The individuals who practice this type of friendship become Christ to one another; hearing concerns, sharing joys, and modeling unconditional love. In life, and along the way, God provides us companions to walk alongside us. By sharing our lives with one another, our faith is deepened and our perspective on life begins to change. We recognize that we are not alone, and that Christ is coming up alongside us as we travel together. Having an Anam Cara is good for the friends who walk side by side. But even better, Anam Cara is how we can best be church to one another. 

Be church with us this fall as we walk along the path together. 

Meet Emily and Jeff!

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Hi! I'm Emily Whitaker, and am delighted to be serving as interim director of 1st Explorers this year! I'm from Kings Mountain, NC, and I graduated from Western Carolina with a Bachelors degree in Commercial and Electronic Music. I aspire to attend graduate school in the fall of 2020 at Appalachian State University to acquire a Master's degree in Music Therapy. I am also a director of the WCU United Sound chapter which allows college students with special needs to learn how to play instruments and perform music. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, kayaking, relaxing, playing music, and spending time with family and friends.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here at FBC Sylva and being a part of 1st Explorers. The kids are phenomenal, and I love interacting with them, teaching them, and watching them grow into amazing human beings. I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing organization and to be a part of you and your children's lives. I look forward to an amazing year with you all!

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Hi! I’m Jeff Logan. I grew up in Stone Mountain Georgia and graduated from Georgia State University. My previous working life was with large corporations such as 3M, Bristol Myers and Dupont. I also spent many years in Rabun County rehabbing homes and driving a school bus. Sylva has been my home for 2 years where I work for Jackson County School Systems and Western Carolina University in Student Transportation.

I have three children all in their twenties. Megan and Ben graduated from the University of Georgia and Haley from Georgia Tech. All three have wonderful careers in Atlanta. I am a dedicated Dad that participated in a variety of sports coaching assignments and required that all my children have an excellent foundation in church, education and music. I am equally interested and delighted to help all children enjoy and enrich their lives through learning experiences. So, I am very excited to assist First Baptist provide their superb Explorer programs for the children of Jackson County and assist the church with other duties.

Serving the Prisoner - Have Mercy Challenge

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The Have Mercy Challenge Prisoner Team is collecting children's books, young adult books, and children/family games that are in good condition to begin their ministry to prisoners and their families. These books and games will be donated to the families/children of local prisoners. If you have anything you would like to donate, please leave them in the labeled box in Loving Kindness room.

Serving the Immigrant

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The Have Mercy Challenge Team ministering to immigrants has learned migrant farm workers in WNC need long-sleeved shirts for protection from sun and scratches when working in the fields. We invite you to share men’s shirts you may not be using by putting them in a labeled box in the Loving Kindness Room. We’ll get them to the Vecinos organization which supports the needs of those workers, and they will be distributed. Thank you!

A Message Worth Dying For?

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When you think of sharing your faith with friends, perhaps you’re a bit timid, maybe a little anxious, but are you ever afraid?

Our student ministry here in Southeast Asia consists of believers in Christ from a myriad of traditions—those who don’t believe in anything, as well as people who are committed to other faiths.

One of our students joins for Bible study, for semester retreats, and even went to church on Good Friday. She’s not a Christian and comes from a strict family. Brooke asked her best friend what would happen if she were to become a Christian. She said, matter of factly, “Her uncle would probably kill her.”

How much do you believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life? Is this message worth dying for?

- Mike and Brooke, CBF field personnel serving in Southeast Asia

An Interview with Rebecca Mathis

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Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an amazing minister on their blog. Last week, they interviewed Rebecca Mathis. Rebecca IS what a minister looks like!

Rebecca, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.  

Maybe it was the in the choir room at my home church when I used to help my mother organize the choir folders. Or maybe it was listening to my dad read my Sunday School lesson to me from the quarterly before church on Sunday mornings. It could have been that mission trip to the beach or that final youth retreat to the mountains. It’s really hard to pinpoint. In fact, I’m not quite sure when my ministry journey began.

Before I left for college, a member of my home church insisted that I go to the Baptist Student Union as soon as I arrived on campus. And I did just that.  A few short days after my arrival at Western Carolina University, I walked into the BSU and met the campus minister, Wanda Kidd. Not growing up in a church that ordained women, she was the first ordained Baptist woman I had ever met. Thanks be to God for Wanda’s faithful witness and her willingness to walk alongside young people as they discern who God is calling them to be. 

I first felt a strong sense of call to vocational ministry during those college years, probably around 1999.  And yet, it wasn’t until 2007 that I began seminary. I have not had a cookie-cutter ministry journey. And if I’m really honest, I’ve sometimes been envious of those who seem to have it all figured out. But when I look back over the past twenty years of ministry— from feeling called as a college student to the position I hold today— I can see and feel God’s abundant provision and grace along the way.

My ministry journey isn’t singular; you see, both my husband Jeff, and I are ordained ministers in the Baptist tradition.  He attended a Presbyterian seminary; I later attended an Episcopalian seminary. I often joke that we are a walking ecumenical movement, helping the world find common ground in the grace of Jesus. We also have two wonderful children who are ministers in their own right, praying sweet prayers in the evening and having their first international experience be a visit to our sister church in Cuba. We’re a team. And therefore, it’s much easier to reflect on our ministry as a family.

Throughout our ministry journey, we’ve served churches in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Sylva, North Carolina— Jeff as minister and I as minister’s spouse.  And we’ve served nonprofit ministries across several counties in Western North Carolina– myself as minister and Jeff as minister’s spouse.  I am thankful for faith communities who have always valued our shared sense of call and understood that our call and our gifts are not identical to one another.

I now have the joy of serving as the director of development for Lake Junaluska Assembly, a Christian conference and retreat center located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I am thankful to serve in a role where I can draw from my nonprofit sector experience and my seminary training each and every day. In the midst of a culture that seems to perpetuate constant busyness, I get to be an advocate for rest, Sabbath and renewal— working to continue Lake Junaluska’s mission of Christian hospitality to all of God’s beloved children.

What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?

Hands down, the greatest source of joy in ministry has been working with volunteers and encountering the abundant generosity of others. I served as the executive director of a small nonprofit organization for several years in our community and was continually amazed by how volunteers gave so much of themselves so that others could live happier and healthier lives.  

So many things have brought joy throughout my ministry journey—  working with college students on service-learning projects, laughing with friends on Sunday morning in our Table Fellowship Bible study class, jumping up and down with children during our downtown VBS, building ecumenical and interfaith partnerships, experiencing intergenerational mission trips, and traveling with Jeff and our children to sacred sites both near and far.

What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?

One of the greatest challenges of ministering in the nonprofit sector is the reality of scarcity in the face of overwhelming need. Having served on a variety of boards and advisory councils in rural Appalachia, I have seen how dependent nonprofits are on grants— one grant cycle can make or break an organization’s ability to provide critical services to the least of these. It is gut wrenching to sit in a board meeting and grapple with the possibility of ending services, laying off staff members, or even closing an organization’s doors.  Yet, despite these tough realities, I have seen God remain faithful and work through the creative imagination of community members who refuse to give up when faced with great challenge.

What is the best ministry advice you have received?

“Give it six weeks.” It’s a simple statement, but I’ve found it to be true.  Several years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a nonprofit leadership program. During one of our retreats, we were having honest conversations about the challenges of nonprofit leadership: working with boards, dealing with personnel issues, finding resources in an economically depressed community, handling negative coverage in the local media, etc.  One leader shared a vulnerable story about a sticky work situation. Another leader spoke up: “Give it six weeks.  Stay strong, push forward, and it will feel better in six weeks.”

Of course I’m not suggesting that all hard situations can be resolved in six weeks, but that advice is something that has sustained me on hard days.  Ministry can be grueling at times—on any given day, we encounter a world of hurt, of disappointment, and of grief. It’s important to remind ourselves that God is bigger than any one hard situation and that God will walk alongside us in tough spots and pull us through to the other side.  

I don’t think my colleague was necessarily referring to a literal six weeks, but rather referring to the fact that there are seasons in ministry. There is great hope in knowing that difficult seasons are not forever. Give it six weeks and a new season may be just around the corner.