Category Archives: Money & Giving

Historic Ephesus Junior Academy closer to reopening

Board member Ron Sparks poses with the Ephesus Junior Academy sign. He's trying to get the school started once more. Photo by Amanda Greene

By AMANDA GREENE
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

Since his days as a Wilmington city councilman, Ron Sparks has been working diligently on a project very close to his heart – the reopening of Ephesus Junior Academy.

The kindergarten through eighth grade school is located on two floors of the brick L-shaped side of Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church at 1002 Castle Street. In its 100 years, the multi-racial school hosted thousands of students before it was closed because of its low class sizes in late 2010.

Because it did not have the required minimum of 12 students enrolled, the school’s accrediting organization, Adventist Education, temporarily closed Ephesus Junior Academy just before its 100th birthday.

“My mother went here, I went here, my aunt when here,” Sparks said. He’s on the school’s board. “The church stands behind the school. To say we were not happy when it closed is not even close to describing it.”

Ephesus alum Carl Newton said his heart broke when he heard the academy had closed.

“Especially now, kids need a school like that. That kind of attention,” he said, now a graduation coach at Hoggard High School. “Everybody can’t go to the same school. At that point in my life, that school met my needs.”

At one time, the church was so dedicated to keeping the school open, it subsidized tuition, sending up to $3,700 each month (the amount due for 12 students) to its parent organization, even though it only had four students enrolled. Tuition at the private school was one of the lowest in Wilmington at $250 per month.

But it wasn’t enough.

Adventist Education challenged Ephesus to boost its enrollment to at least 12 students and raise $60,000 in payroll balances for its teachers before re-opening. There are other Seventh-day schools in the area including Wilmington SDA School, Carolina Adventist Academy in Whiteville and Myrtle Beach SDA Christian School.

Sparks blamed the school’s sagging enrollment on the closing of a daycare linked to the school six years ago and the lack of community recruitment.

But he said the school has had a lasting impact on children in downtown Wilmington. In its history, the school was located in Castle Hayne and off Beasley Road.

The school once held fundraising education banquets with invited speakers talking about the state of American education. In 2002, one banquet theme was “The Role of the Home, the Church and the Community in the Education of the Child.” In 1985, an Ephesus school fundraiser featured Kennedy Center and Crystal Cathedral performer Wintley Phipps.

Sparks hopes the school can return to being a vibrant part of the downtown community again.

To prepare for a re-opening, Ephesus replaced all of the school’s windows, installed a handicapped stair access to its second floor and bought all new laptop computers.

There aren’t any electronic smartboards at Ephesus, as there are in

One of the classrooms at Ephesus Junior Academy. The school hopes to reopen in fall 2012. Photo by Amanda Greene.

many local public schools. But Sparks says the school has something more substantial – small class sizes and one-on-one teacher attention.

“We have a long history of being able to turn children around, children who have been in distress in the public school system,” he added. “When issues break out in the classroom, what the public schools can’t do is pray with the children. Our children can pray together.”

Ephesus Academy’s curriculum includes a bible class at each grade level along with art, computers, language arts, math, music, physical education, science and health and social studies.

But “turning children into Adventists isn’t the mission,” Sparks said. “We want to develop moral children to survive in the modern world.”

Newton took away many life lessons from his time at Ephesus Academy.

“Teachers then were more concerned with you learning the lesson versus preparing for a test,” he said. “And just being honest and always thinking about your fellow man, having integrity, always trying to do what was right and acknowledging the fact that you knew right from wrong. We were taught to acknowledge that.”

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or on Twitter @WilmFAVS

Advertisements

House of Mercy grows; looks to become a community center

House of Mercy volunteers pray with a guest. Photo courtesy of Global River Church.

Andy Lee

By Blogger Andy Lee
Walk the Talk

Global River Church’s entire ministry is based on Ezekiel 47. In this chapter, the prophet describes a river flowing from the threshold of the temple of God. Ezekiel experiences the water deepening into a river that flows into the Dead Sea, instantly purifying the sea into fresh water where fish can swim and live. Everything that touches the flowing water thrives. Trees line the border of the river, and the trees contain healing in their leaves.

This is the vision that constitutes GRC’s mission to bring healing, both physical and spiritual to those in need. One way the church fulfills this mission is through its House of Mercy. They not only give monetary assistance, they also pray for physical and emotional healing, and they have witnessed miracles.

When I interviewed Pastor Michael Satorre, the pastor of GRC’s benevolence ministry, I was struck by Satorre’s humility and gentle spirit. He is a man who has given his life to service for others and the God he believes in. But the House of Mercy did not start with Satorre. In fact, he never planned to be a pastor.

A former pastor named David Green and another member of the church, Annie Shaw, started House of Mercy. His experience of living in poverty as a child made him passionate about helping people.  They counseled and assisted those in need the best they could with a small monthly budget of $500.

Not long after Green started this ministry, he died of a heart attack. His funeral was filled with people from all walks of life who shared testimonies of how Pastor Green had helped them. They told stories of him buying groceries for their families, giving away air conditioners, and bringing Christmas presents to children. The testimony of his generous heart made an impact on the leadership of the church who knew this ministry must continue.

Since his death, Green’s ministry has more than tripled in size. It has a much greater budget, more volunteers and serves a wider demographic. People from three surrounding counties come to House of Mercy for assistance.

The House of Mercy’s doors are open 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Fridays. It is

House of Mercy volunteers work with guests. Photo courtesy of Global River Church.

located in the Global River administration building behind the church. Participants can call ahead to schedule an appointment, but appointments are not necessary. Volunteers are available to counsel and pray with each client, and participants are provided a $20 Food Lion card and other assistance if needed.

Beyond their Friday ministry, the House of Mercy also prepares for hurricanes and disaster situations with its House of Mercy Response Team. The team stores enough canned goods and other non-perishable food to feed at least 250 people three meals a day for two weeks.

The House of Mercy also plans to start an after school feeding outreach that would involve traveling to different schools around the city to feed children who don’t get a meal when they go home.  For many of us, it is hard to believe there are children in our city who have no food at home. But this is the reality.

The program is modeled on the St. Louis Dream Center in Missouri.

“I see in the future of Wilmington a Dream Center, a place where broken families and single moms and just broken people can come and receive the love of Jesus without condemnation or judgment,” Satorre wrote in an email. “A place where they can receive healing and encouragement and especially hope. A place where they can receive medical, financial, spiritual help and shelter for homeless families, abused children and individuals.”

Sounds like a village of hope to me.

For more information contact Pastor Michael Satorre at 910-392-2899, ext. 103 or email him at mercy@globalriverchurch.com.

My FAV Word: Praying for Strangers with Rev. Bob Bauman

By Samantha Freda
WilmingtonFAVS news intern

At Wrightsville United Methodist Church, a sort of spiritual project was taken on for this year’s Lenten Study—a five week course following a book by author River Jordan called “Praying For Strangers”.

This book was written by a woman who—after having two sons deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan—sought comfort in the act of praying for others.  Jordan’s book and accompanying blog are both a reflection of her experience and a guideline for how to engage in a daily practice of prayer for others, in fact, prayer for complete strangers.

Jordan wrote this book based off of this personal experience, a time during which she would pick a person she came across each day and pray for them. In “Praying for Strangers,” Jordan describes how she would often ask a person if they minded if she said a prayer for them, and more times than not that person would have something to share with her—a reason for needing prayer.

The Rev. Bob Bauman, senior pastor of WUMC, explained how 60-70 members of the church read the book and met once a week and share their experiences of participating in this practice themselves.

“I wanted to move the congregation toward an awareness of our daily journey, the people we look past and how that cuts us off from what is around us,” Bauman said. “As we begin to really recognize these people we come across, we realize that they have stories to tell just like we do.”

In these weekly meetings, Bauman opened with his own reflections, then they broke into small groups and went over the Twelve Keys, an aspect of Jordan’s website that provides discussion points for those reading the book together.

“Most people of faith struggle with prayer. Jordan’s method offers the liberation of something as simple as just giving another person a one sentence blessing as you pass them on the street,” Bauman said.

The course, which concluded a few weeks ago, resulted in many similar responses of feeling more connected with the world around them.

“It was powerful to watch that many people share a notion of integration, and sharing stories about being unexpectedly blessed while carrying out this exercise,” Bauman said.

LEARN MORE
Wrightsville United Methodist Church, which has Sunday services at 8:30, 9:45, and 11:15, consists of about 2000 members and is located on 4 Live Oak Drive in Wrightsville Beach. Phone: 910- 262-6409. Email: bob@wrightsvilleumc.com

Vet hears God’s call in providing artificial limbs

Standing With Hope Founder, Gracie Rosenberger with SWH patient, Abraham. RNS photo courtesy of Standing With Hope

 By BOB SMIETANA
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

NASHVILLE (RNS) Allan Doyle used to have big dreams and little faith.

He’d grown up Methodist but dropped out of church after high school. A bad marriage in his early 20s ended in divorce, leaving Doyle afraid that he’s spend most of his life alone.

His main goal was to save enough money from serving in the Army to go to college and become a corporate lawyer. “I wanted to make as much money as possible,” said Doyle, 39.

But the Iraq War changed all that.

In 2003, Doyle was in Saddam Hussein’s palace in Tikrit when a stone from one of the walls fell on him, crushing his left leg. Doctors had no choice but to amputate it below the knee.

A few months later, Doyle was fitted with his first artificial leg. Along the way he rediscovered his faith and found a new calling as a prosthetist — a medical professional who fits amputees with new limbs.

This summer, he’ll spend a week in Ghana with Nashville-based Standing with Hope, a nonprofit that helps provide high quality limbs for people of the West African nation.

“I just want to help people walk again,” said Doyle.

Seven years ago, when they founded Standing with Hope, Gracie and Peter Rosenberger had the same goal.

The couple met in college at Belmont University in Nashville, where Gracie was an aspiring Christian singer who hoped to someday be a missionary.

A week before Thanksgiving in 1983, Gracie, then 17, fell asleep while driving in rural Tennessee. She endured dozens of surgeries, hoping doctors could repair her shattered legs. The recovery was excruciating.

Doctors weren’t able to save her legs and both were amputated. That left her with a fearful and uncertain future, until Gracie got her first prosthetic legs. She was able to recover enough to walk and play basketball in the driveway with her two boys, and to realize her dream of becoming a singer. A highlight of her career was singing for President George W. Bush in 2004 at an event in Nashville.

She’s also visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Without those new legs, she said, none of that would have been possible.

“They gave me my life back,” she said. “I had no idea what I was capable of. I want to offer people the same hope that’s been offered to me.”

The Rosenbergers founded Standing with Hope in 2003 and starting working in Ghana two years later.

The nonprofit ships the parts and supplies needed to build legs to the National Prosthetics and Orthotics Center run by Ghana’s National Health Service in the capital city of Accra. Most of the parts are recycled from old prosthetic limbs that have been donated to Standing with Hope.

Technicians trained by Standing with Hope then use those recycled parts to assemble and fit the new limbs on amputees.

Jim McElhiney, a Spring Hill, Tenn.-based prosthetist who’s a longtime friend of the Rosenberger’s, helped design the training program. Initially, he was skeptical, saying the program wouldn’t work if it relied too heavily on Americans to build and fit artificial limbs.

“I didn’t want to do it at first,” he said. “Look, if I go over there for weeks once a year — how many legs can I make? The need is so much bigger than I — even if I had a team of 50 prosthetists — could handle.”

With the help of Standing with Hope, technicians at the clinic in Accra can now build custom limbs to fit amputees as well as provide follow-up care.

“We put hundreds and hundreds of legs on people but each person needs adjustment over the years. If the patient is young, they might need new legs as they grow. It is a lifelong commitment to each patient.”

Last fall, Standing with Hope started a new program they hope will expand the number of prosthetics they can provide in Ghana. Inmates at a Nashville prison now disassemble donated limbs and sort the parts for shipping to Africa.

The charity’s biggest need is for more donated limbs, said Rosenberger. At the clinic, each patient also gets a bag with cleaning supplies and tools needed to care for their new limb. The bag also includes an explanation of the charity’s Christian mission.

Peter Rosenberger, who will be making his 10th trip to Ghana this summer, said that he and other volunteers don’t push their faith. But if the patients are interested, he shared with them how faith in Jesus motivates the charity’s work.

He recalls telling one patient about how Christianity gave his wife, Gracie, hope after she lost her legs. “I told him, ‘You are literally standing on her belief,'” he said. “She trusted on that belief and every step you take you are standing on that faith.'”

Doyle said he rediscovered his faith while in the Army, and it was strengthened while he recovered from his injury in Iraq. He now attends a Southern Baptist congregation in Texas. Doyle also remarried and now is the father of four, with three young children from his second marriage and an older daughter from his first.

He graduated from University of Texas Southwestern with a degree in prosthetics and orthotics and is currently working for a prosthetist in Texas. He hopes to finish his final licensing exam in June.

During his training he worked at a Veterans Administration facility in Texas, helping other veterans who are amputees.

“It is wonderful to see a guy walking again for the first time after he was amputated, and you helped them to do that,” he said.

And his new life is better than his old dream of being a wealthy lawyer.

“I look at my injury as a blessing,” he said, “rather than a curse.”

Cape Fear Community College Food Drive ends April 13

Andy Lee

By Blogger Andy Lee
Walk the Talk

When we think of helping the needy in our community, our minds gravitate toward feeding the hungry. It is a growing need. According to the Central and Eastern North Carolina Food Bank website, “In the counties served by the Wilmington branch, over 61,000 individuals are at risk of hunger; over 18,000 are children and 12 percent are 65 years and over.”

There are many ministries and nonprofit organizations all over Wilmington trying to help meet this need. Many of these organizations are food pantries.

Have you ever wondered where the food pantries get their food? It doesn’t fall from the sky. (Not this time.) Food pantries often buy food from the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

That begs another question: Where does the food bank get its food? Answer: In part, from donations from businesses and food drives sponsored by organizations like Cape Fear Community College.

Cape Fear Community College’s Student Government is sponsoring the college’s first food drive to benefit the food bank through April 13. Bring your food donations to Building L-112 on the Wilmington campus or to the lobby of the North campus’ McKeithan Building.

Participating in CFCC’s food drive will play a role in providing for our regional food bank and thus help feed the hungry in Wilmington.

Take time to click here to read the motivational letter written by a participant. His letter makes me want to drive to CFCC today with a bag full of food!

Read more about our regional food bank here.

Food pantry volunteer, Ricky Roundtree, loads a cart with bags of food to move out onto the main floor area of Holy Grounds Feb. 10. Roundtree and other food pantry volunteers gather every Friday to do the final preparations for the food pantry. Photo by Sara Clark

BRIEF: Giveit4ward.org teams up with local restaurant to benefit nonprofits

A local nonprofit Giveit4ward.org has teamed up with local downtown Wilmington restaurant Circa 1922 to donate a portion of the eatery’s proceeds this month to charity.

Encore magazine had a feature about the endeavor out today.

Basically Circa will donate 4 percent of its total revenues until April 30 to Give it 4ward, Inc. The nonprofit then will give all of this donation to an established nonprofit selected by each diner.

Read more here.

– Amanda Greene

COMMENTARY: What would Jesus cut?

By Blogger David Scott
Politics + Religion

American Christianity is wrestling with its conscience.

Recent polls taken of the evangelical community show the majority approving of torture and increasing military spending. They have also aligned themselves politically with a movement favoring drastic reductions in the social safety net while extending tax cuts for the richest among us.

These same Christians proudly go to church each Sunday and hear their ministers preach “Jesus said, ‘when you do it unto the least of these you do it unto me.’” Throughout the New Testament, Jesus urges time after time to feed the poor, heal the sick and clothe the naked. He admonishes the rich warning them with the “camel and the eye of the needle” metaphor for getting into heaven.

Is the evangelical flock on the pews asleep or simply victims of “selective hearing?”

Jim Wallis, world-respected evangelical, author, and editor of “Sojourner Magazine” is one of my personal heroes. Wallis both preaches and practices.

Speaking recently before Congress on spending and deficits, Wallis made the bold statement: “The Federal Budget is a moral document.” By this, he meant a nation’s budget reflects its values and its priorities and what it considers important and unimportant.

He then posed this question to the wide-eyed politicians: “What Would Jesus Cut?” Quoting Wallis, he said “House Republicans focused in on only 12 percent of federal spending, and targeted things like education, the environment, food safety, law enforcement, infrastructure, and transportation — programs that benefit or protect most Americans, especially the poor.”

Wallis continued saying, “The moral test of any society is how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable citizens. And that is exactly what the Bible says, over and over again.”

As Christians, shouldn’t our actions always reflect the values and example we see in the life of Jesus? Or do corporations, the ultra wealthy, and the defense industry now speak for us?

Every intelligent and patriotic American with at least a third grade education knows we face a staggering national debt.

History proved once again that the wealthy are no more willing to share than the rest of us. With only a few notable exceptions, they have chosen to insulate themselves from our national financial disaster behind security gates and Wall Street, thumbing their noses at the rest of us.

Regardless of your religion, Judgment Day is coming, either spiritually or financially for us as individuals and as a nation. Unless they’ve changed the rules, many of us Christians are going to be sorely disappointed.

Report says church giving on the rebound

Alexander Giving Money to the Priests of Ammon

Alexander Giving Money to the Priests of Ammon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By ANNALISA MUSARRA
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS) The recession and a sluggish recovery have made for a lighter collection plate in recent years, but a new study shows that giving to U.S. congregations bounced back in 2011 as the economy improved.

According to the fourth annual “State of the Plate” survey released on Tuesday (March 27), 51 percent of churches last year saw an increase in giving, up from 43 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2009.

The national survey, sponsored by MAXIMUM Generosity, Christianity Today and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), asked more than 1,360 congregations of different sizes to report on their donations and budgets.

“This has been the worst season of our lifetime in declines in giving,” said Brian Kluth, founder of MAXIMUM Generosity and the “State of the Plate” research. But 2011 “is the first time we’re seeing an upswing after three very hard years.”

A separate report issued last week as part of the 2012 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches showed the impact of the recession’s worst damage: churches lost $1.2 billion in giving in 2010 — nearly three times as large as the $431 million in losses reported in 2009.

The increase seen in 2011 was most noticeable in the most mega of megachurches: 86 percent of churches with more than 10,000 congregants saw an greatest rise in giving, compared to 39 percent of churches with fewer than 100 people saw an increase.

Still, nearly one-third (32 percent) of churches said giving was down in 2011 — although a smaller share than the 39 percent of churches that reported a decline two years ago, according to the survey.

The survey included small and large churches, although more than half had fewer than 250 members. Respondents included mainline Protestant, evangelical, Pentecostal and nondenominational congregations; just 1 percent were Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.

Church leaders attributed the reversal in fortunes to better attendance, which was reported by half of the churches surveyed. Many others also cited their efforts to address giving and generosity with the congregation.

In addition, according to the survey, 51.3 percent of churches enjoyed a bigger budget, with extra money going to pay raises (40.3 percent) and missions (36.5 percent), among other priorities.

A shift away from “envelope packets” toward electronic giving — such as using cell phones, online donations and lobby kiosks — changed the way churches received donations in 2011, a trend that has accelerated in the past four years, according to report.

The survey also showed churches in the past year have tried to be more transparent with their finances: 92 percent make their financial statements available by request to members, and 89 percent do the same for their annual budgets.

The majority of churches “really do desire to handle their finances with integrity and they use financial best practices that ensure that integrity,” said Matt Branaugh, the editorial director for Christianity Today’s Church Management Team.

“If you handle your finances with this kind of integrity up front,” he said, “then people will respond.”

Empty Bowls Wilmington fundraiser sees its largest crowd ever

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By AMANDA GREENE
WilmingtonFAVS

The parking lot was packed and lines snaked through First Baptist Activity Center for the Empty Bowls benefit for Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and Good Shepherd Center today (March 23).

Organizers of Wilmington’s Empty Bowls Lenten lunch event said it had a record attendance, selling about 1,800 tickets.

Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard gives emergency food to the poor, and Good Shepherd Center shelters the homeless and helps reconnect them with housing.

Area potters and ceramic artists crafted about 1,900 bowls for Empty Bowls attendees to take home after the event. Three dozen area restaurants donated soups, breads, cookies and drinks for the crowd.

There were even a few celebrity soup servers including author Clyde Edgerton, Cucalorus Film Festival director Dan Brawley and New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield.

Mentors needed for Christian Women’s Job Corp Ministry this weekend

Andy Lee

By Contributor Andy Lee

She was a woman struggling to survive in a marriage rocked by mental illness.

Without relatives nearby, Mary Ellen Bowman did her best to raise her boys alone. Their family’s only source of income (a disability check) paid the rent but left no money for food or bills.

Bowman used to be a desperate woman living in poverty – much like the

Christian Women's Job Corp Executive Director, Mary Ellen Bowman, lists all of the upcoming CWJC events on the board Monday (March 5) during their weekly meeting at the First Baptist Church Activities Center on Independence Boulevard in Wilmington.

women she now mentors.

While sitting on a park bench one day, Bowman met Frances Anderson. Anderson was the pioneer who brought Christian Women’s Job Corps to hurting women in Wilmington. During their conversation, she saw something very special in Mary Ellen, the gift of hardship partnered with faith. So she encouraged Bowman to attend a CWJC convention.

This was the spark that lit the flame in Mary Ellen Bowman. She soon became the executive director of Wilmington’s CWJC ministry. Almost 12 years later, she is still CWJC’s fearless leader.

What is Christian Women’s Job Corps?

CWJC is a ministry of women helping women. It is a non-profit organization that exists to equip women in poverty with necessary life skills to move them from dependency to self-sufficiency. Life skills CWJC mentors teach include: money management, goal setting, and parenting skills. The participants also receive instruction in job readiness such as computer skills, career development and resume writing. Women in the program also attend a weekly Bible study.

The training is vital, but more importantly, each woman is given a mentor. Each mentor is trained by CWJC to walk alongside, encourage, and help discover each protegee’s strengths.

Along with job and life-skill training, CWJC tries to help with basic needs. They welcome donations of cars, gas cards, bus passes, NIV Bibles and toiletry articles such as shampoo, soap and lotion.

One of Bowman’s biggest dreams is to provide housing for homeless women and those living in dilapidated, unsafe homes. Bowman dreams of a “Village of Hope,” a place where the women can both attend CWJC classes and tuck their children into bed at night.

CWJC holds two large fundraisers annually. Their “Parade of Tables” is scheduled for April 28 (stay tuned to Wilmington FAVs for more information), and the Battle of the Bands will be held Sept. 14.

Most importantly, mentors and computer teachers are needed. CWJC can only accept participants based on the number of mentors available. Currently, there are seven. Yet there are many more women on the waiting list who need help. The next mentor training will be 10 a.m. Saturday (March 10) at Winter Park Baptist Church, 4700 Wrightsville Ave.

Details: 910-392-3967.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.