Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Grand Prize

The Grand Prize

Each fall for the past six years the youth ministry has run a Scripture Memorization Program where youth memorize Scripture verses and receive an entry for each verse. Then we have a drawing at Christmas time for a grand prize. Every year we have run this program, the grand prize has improved. The first year the it was an iPod. The next two years an iPad. Then the group voted that it should be a free mission trip. Needless to say, participation has grown each year and the students have learned hundreds of Scripture verses.

This fall the group decided that the grand prize would be either a free mission trip or an electronic device up to a value of $750. This really inspired everyone! We had 21 different students participate and they memorized over 380 verses. However, in the last month two students really separated themselves from the rest. August Bodin and Claire Bodin pushed themselves and each other to learn more verses.
Now, let me fill you in on some more of the back story. Claire won the free mission trip last year with 64 entries and set a new Scripture Memorization Program record. The old record was shared by Christina Aspinwall and Abbie Wagner at 63 entries. Claire also lost her cell phone during a youth room clean-up last summer, so she was determined to win and buy herself a new phone.

August Bodin had his own reasons for learning so many verses, but sibling competition was definitely part of the deal. I think he also realized just how good his memory was and keeping up with Claire was easy in the beginning.

I always post the official entries in November to encourage the students to learn more in the last month leading up to the drawing. Here is the official entry list (top six students only) from November 5, 2015:

Scripture Memorization Program Entries to Date
Claire Bodin                            60
August Bodin                           46
Sydney Wright                         24
Franco Urra-Morffiz               22
Matthew Wagner                   16
Joshua Bartley                         12

In December, things intesified. The drawing is always at the Youth Christmas Party and this year’s party was scheduled for Friday, December 18. Students can only recite verses during youth bible study meetings on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings. Claire and August started telling me verses in my office with the door shut so that the other one wouldn’t know what verse they had memorized. Claire even recited verses to me during a Gaga Ball game one Wednesday night. August plays Gaga ball with a passion, so he wasn’t paying attention. On the other hand, August liked to whisper his verses to me even with the office door shut. Both of them made me promise not to reveal which verses they were memorizing or how many they recited on a given day.

By the week of the Christmas party, August and Claire had separated themselves from the rest of the students. This is the final official entry list (top six students) from December 15, 2015:

Official Scripture Memorization Program Entries 2015
Claire Bodin                            109
August Bodin                           90
Sydney Wright                         28
Franco Urra-Morffiz                28
Matthew Wagner                   22
Joshua Bartley                         12

Both August and Claire had blown the old record of 64 entries away! Now, remember, it is just a drawing. Anyone can win. Ask Cameron Gray. He won the Grand Prize in 2012 with three entries. By the way, do not bring this up around Abbie Wagner. With their record breaking efforts, there was still a chance August and Claire might not win the Grand Prize, but the odds were clearly in their favor.

At the Christmas party, Zebastian Alzamora was visiting as a youth alumnus. Zebastian is now in college in Texas. As a visiting dignitary, I asked him to do the drawing. I recuse myself from the official drawing and always have a neutral party draw the winners from the giant bubble gum container used to mix all the official entries.

Zebastian drew out three winners. I carefully placed them in order on the table next to the mini Christmas tree where our gift exchange presents had previously been piled up.

The drawing is always the last part of our Christmas party. Students must be present to win any prize in the drawing. You can Skype in, under the Cameron Gray rule, if you are out of town or sick or have an excuse acceptable to the group. By the way, do not bring up the Cameron Gray skype rule around Abbie Wagner. This year Marco Trillo was in Argentina and the skype program on our old Mac computer wouldn’t work. The group voted to allow Marco to win if his name was drawn given that he had tried to skype several times and his poor mother, Cari Gardner, was texting me madly all day from South America. I reminded everyone of the rules and we began to turn over the winning entry cards.

August Bodin won the Grand Prize! And everyone was a good sport for the most part, but it was intense. Claire received the prize for having the most entries without winning, incidentally a prize which began the year Cameron Gray won. Sydney Wright won second place and Franco Urra-Morffiz won third place.

The next day during Mission Miami, when the youth visit the elderly of the church for Christmas, August asked to speak to me in private. He asked me to buy an iPhone 6 for his sister, Claire, as his Grand Prize. He also wanted to know if I could get it to him before Christmas so that he could wrap it for her. Luckily, I have a friend who owns a phone store and he had one iPhone 6 left. The Holy Spirit just works that way. It was a special Christmas in the Bodin house.

August and Claire and all of the students memorized a lot of verses this year. The real lesson, though, is that you cannot intake that much of God’s Word without His Spirit having a profound effect on you. That is the real Grand Prize.

Winners: Sydney Wright, August Bodin, Franco Urra-Morffiz, and Claire Bodin


August & Claire on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Confirmation Class 2015

The Confirmation Class of 2015 
L to R Sean Hickey, Jamie Horman, Matt Wagner, Grant Archer,
Marco Trillo, Emily Rios, Kayla Martinez, Gabriel Martinez,
Franco Urra-Morffiz, Robert Gray

On Sunday, April 19, 2015 we confirmed another fantastic group confirmation class.

Confirmation is one of my favorite things to teach as the Director of Student Ministries. Of course, I have a wonderful team of teachers who work with me including Andrew and Jen Sheehy and April Lewis. The class meets on Sunday mornings and includes one of the worship services. This has been a great strategy because it allows the youth to experience both the traditional and the contemporary services our church offers. They see the similarities and the differences as we gather as a community to worship God. They also get to meet people from these services and participate serving communion or being acolyte or crucifer.
The curriculum is the entire gospel of Mark. Along the way, a lot of great questions are asked and insights are revealed about Jesus Christ. We also include two sessions on the history of the Methodist church,the Wesley Quadrilateral and the sacraments of the church.

The Ropes Course at Warren Willis Confirmation Retreat
The class meets eight to ten times over 3 months and includes a retreat to Warren Willis United Methodist Youth Camp to join 350 other youth also going through confirmation. Several of our youth have been inspired to go to summer camp at Warren Willis after visiting the camp during confirmation.

Each confirmand is sponsored by a member of the church, who prays for them, writes them encouraging notes and cards, and provides them with a fun basket of goodies for the retreat. We had a great group of sponsors this year. 
Confirmand                               Sponsor          
Grant Archer                              April Lewis
Sean Hickey                              Angela Kim
Jamie Horman                           Robert Gray
Gabriel Martinez                        Joe Banos
Kayla Martinez                           Mirta Banos
Marco Trillo                               Andrew Sheehy
Emily Rios                                Kimberley Rios 
Franco Urra-Morffiz                   Kay Brezina                              
Matt Wagner                             Kathy Howard
Pastor Dur sees confirmation as one of the most important spiritual processes of the church. He likes to bring each confirmand up individually to kneel and to be confirmed. Then he prays with them and their parents and sponsor.
 Pastor Dur Confirms and Prays over Gabriel Martinez
with his parents and Sponsor, Joe Banos

Confirmands officially join the church as full members upon being confirmed. Franco Urra-Morffiz understood this as he checked the “Member of the Church” box on the attendance form during his confirmation service. He wrote a smiley face and the words, “I am now!” Welcome, Franco, and all your classmates of this year’s terrific confirmation class!

April Lewis, Andrew Sheehy, Jen Sheehy - My teaching team
Confirmation Class at 9:30am Service




Mission Trip to the Florida United Methodist Children's Home, June 15-19

This June, the youth ministry will be going to Enterprise, Florida to work with the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home. Our church has supported this amazing institution for many decades. If you check their website you will read that, “The Florida United Methodist Children's Home was established in 1908 to provide a home for orphans and other children that had nowhere else to live.”  Members of 1st United Coral Gables have worked at the Children’s Home, volunteered there, and sponsored activities and buildings on the campus.

The youth are very excited about this mission trip. I made a preliminary trip to the Children’s Home in April to check everything out. According to Lynn Bellamy, the volunteer coordinator, we will be working in three different areas. First, we will be working at their resale shop called “Heart & Home”. Donated items are sold there to raise money. We will be organizing their store room and the new donations which come in each week. Some of the youth may get to work the retail floor as well. Second, we will be organizing the kitchen pantry at the Children’s Home. They receive donated items each week which need to be sorted and stored. Third, we will work on the grounds of the Children’s Home doing maintenance items or landscaping work. The youth are also hoping to interact with the youth who live there as well. We have to respect that this is their home and we are the visitors. We have had several discussions about privacy, respect and service and I think the group is prepared to do great things.

The campus of the Children’s Home is beautiful. They have separate bunk houses for girls and boys. We will have our own kitchen and bathroom facilities as well. Our group will divide into four dinner crews each responsible for a breakfast and dinner during our stay. Each youth will have their own ‘mess kit’ with plastic plate, bowl and silverware set and water bottle. This way we use less paper goods, are personally responsible for our own clean-up and work together as a group at mealtime.

I am excited to say we have twenty youth going on this year’s mission trip. We also have some great parents joining us as chaperones including Carrie Bodin, Meg Wright, Jeff Wright and, possibly, Axle Font. The group will have some fun, too. We are planning on visiting at least two state parks to swim, ride inner tubes and explore. At one of the parks, we will make our own pancakes at the sugar mill restaurant which dates back to 1830!

Please keep the youth ministry in your prayers all summer and especially June 15-19. We look forward to sharing our experience with everyone at church when we return. Love wins!

One of the original buildings on the FLUMCH Campus

The Resale Shop

Tubing at Kelly Park

The Fire Pit right outside our bunk house at FUMCH

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why is youth group so important at First UMC Coral Gables?

Why is youth group so important at First UMC Coral Gables?

Every year on one Sunday in the fall we turn over our worship services to the youth and student ministry at First UMC Coral Gables. Some serve as ushers, some lead in worship, and others give their testimonies on why being in youth group is so important to them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hope Swings Mission Trip, Wednesday

June 18 - Washington, Illinois - 7:15am

It is Wednesday in the middle of our mission trip and I am tired and sore. But it is a good pain and a welcome weariness. As they have told us over and over again, our task is to build swing sets and our goal is to build relationships. We are making much progress on both fronts.

We are organized into four work teams and my team delivered our first swing set yesterday. It was to a family of a little 3 year-old girl. They still weren’t living in their house yet, but it was almost ready. We met the mom, Kelly, and she was so happy and thankful to receive the swing set. She told us how much her daughter, Jocelyn, would appreciate it. 

The hope and love we share with this community is so much more important than the swing set itself. So many families are not yet back in their homes, that we must keep that in mind. A swing set is a great thing for the kids, but it does not compare to a roof over your head. 

Being here reminds me so much of Hurricane Andrew. The repair effort that our community in Miami underwent in the months and years after that tragedy are mirrored in the efforts here. On our first day, we met a man named Al in the CVS while we were buying things we had forgotten. Al found out why we were in Washington and told us how he had gone with a group of men from his church and worked in Homestead after Andrew. It has felt like my opportunity to give back to this community what was shared with Miami in those days 22 years ago.

We had an idea in December to build swing sets for this town and God had a plan. The first person I talked to here was Dan Phillips, the outreach coordinator for 1st UMC of Peoria. Dan was the perfect person to pick up this idea and run with it. He is a combination of positive energy, creative fervor and good old midwestern dogged dertermination. His laugh and smile are infectious and he lives to serve. But he is not alone at all. He has an amazing cast of characters surrounding him and making this whole thing happen. 

Julie Rolffs is the boss. She has built this based on a program she ran in Cincinnati the last few summers. They are extremely organized and it is quite impressive. They have foreman to direct the work teams and help them build the sets. They have intern/team leaders who run everything from the food to the small group bible studies. They have teams at each church providing dinners. They also have the praise teams from each church helping with worship each night. 

Julie is the director this week and runs the whole operation.  In their wisdom, (and these folks are very wise) they are rotating the weeks directors. Next week Dan will direct and then Trevor Bartolomucci, Youth Director from Crossroads UMC, after that. 

Mike Francisco, the youth director from 1st UMC Peoria, has been really great to work with as well. His team is staying at one church while we stay at Crossroads. All the swing sets are assembled in the parking lot of Crossroads UMC. Once the set is ready the work team delivers and it and completes the assembly on-site. Mike has been great since their three church vans are our transportation. 

Our team leaders are amazing college students who do most of the work. Katie, Logan, David, Caitlin, Rachel, Sara, and a few others whose names I haven’t remembered are the heart and soul of this operation. They are working closely with the kids and are fantastic. 

I do not have time to tell you all the amazing things happening but they are many. I sit here in the cafeteria watching Black & White team set up breakfast. Each work group is organized and color coded. Each group sets up breakfast one day during the week. All your tools and lunches and anything else you need is in a bin color-coded to your team. There are eight work teams this week as we are working with a team of 31 youth and adults from 1st United Peoria. 

This is three United Methodist churches working together and they have built quite a machine. They have enlisted the support of the community and other organizations (for example the kids shower at the community center) The schedule is full and littered with great ideas. One is that they put a little ‘Coming Soon..” sign on the front yard the week they plan to deliver a swing set. I told you these guys are organized. I think they may invade Iowa this fall but that is just a rumor.

Our task is to build swing sets and our goal is to build relationships. 

See photos on our Facebook Page

Signing out..

Robert Gray
Camouflage team
Crossroads United Methodist Church
Washington, Illinois

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mission Trip Update

The plans have really come together for our mission trip this summer to Washington, Illinois. We have a team of 28 going including 23 youth and 5 adult chaperones.

Lake June Retreat

For the fourth year in a row we have been blessed to have our Spring High School retreat at Lake June in Lake Placid, Florida courtesy of my brother-in-law and sister, Chip and Mary Jean Lafferty. This retreat is the favorite event of many of our youth and is excitedly anticipated by the middle school youth. They are only allowed to go on the ‘High School’ retreat beginning at the end of their 8th grade year as part of their move-up rite of passage.