May the grace and peace from our risen Lord be with you.
I hope you had a very joyful and meaningful Easter celebration. Easter is the foundation of our hope: the hope that truth and love will prevail in the end; the hope that life will defeat the power of death and darkness; and the hope that God will have the final word in our challenges and sufferings. All these hopes are grounded in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we, Easter people, are people of hope which nothing can shake. Let us give thanks to God for giving us this hope!
This month I would like to remind you of two invitations. The first is an invitation to Imagine No Malaria. Since we launched this missional initiative at last year’s Annual Conference, we have raised over $430,000, which will save 43,000 lives from malaria. Our goal is to save more than 100,000 lives. April 25 was World Malaria Day. We encouraged every church to go out into their community on that day, open a lemonade stand and invite the people to join in this life-saving mission.
According to the most recent report I received prior to this writing (March 2015), still more than half of our churches have not participated in this initiative. By the end of April, I anticipate that many more churches will join this mission. From the beginning our thought was that if every church participated and if every member saved a life, we would easily save100,000 plus lives. This is the reason we created the catch phrase, “Every Life Save a Life.”
Now, we have less than two months to go until we get together for our 2015 Annual Conference in Roanoke. Our hope is to have a very joyful celebration during Annual Conference of reaching our goal of saving more than 100,000 lives. At this moment, we are falling short of our goal, and there is not much time remaining. I invite all United Methodists in the Virginia Annual Conference to pray and to take part in this very meaningful mission initiative of Imagine No Malaria. If we pray and work together, we can reach our goal. It is possible! This is my first invitation.
My second invitation is to our conference-wide Day of Prayer. We began this campaign last year to help create a culture of prayer in our conference as the basis for a renewal and revival of our churches. This year May 24 (Sunday) is the date of our conference-wide Day of Prayer. I invite every church to remember this day and to pray for a renewal and revival of the churches in our conference and in the entire United Methodist Church.
Last year when I visited a church on the Day of Prayer, I was disappointed during the worship service. I could not find any announcement of the Day of Prayer in the worship bulletin, and the worship leader did not mention it in any way. But I had a very different and moving experience when I visited Swain Memorial UMC on Tangier Island. Since the first Virginia Conference Day of Prayer, this church has been praying together the Prayer for Renewal of the Church in the UM Hymnal #574 every Sunday during their worship service. I was deeply touched and moved by their prayer, and my hope was strengthened for a new future.
Today everyone says that we, The United Methodist Church, are at a crossroads. All of us are worrying about the future of our denomination. But not everyone prays seriously for our churches. Is it too difficult for us to pray for a renewal and revival of our churches during the worship time? We faithfully remember and pray for people in need. What about including the need for a renewal and revival of our churches in our pastoral prayers and prayers for our community? Is it too difficult for us to keep on praying for a revival of our beloved UMC?
If we pray together, I believe great things will happen to our churches. We truly need faith in prayer. We need to trust in our Lord who answers our prayers. In closing, I would like to share with you a prayer for the church, from our Book of Worship #501:
O gracious God, we pray for your holy Church universal,
That you would be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
Where it is in error, direct it;
Where in anything it is amiss, reform it;
Where it is right, establish it;
Where it is in want, provide for it;
Where it is divided, reunite it;
For the sake of him who died and rose again,
And ever lives to make intercession for us,
Jesus Christ, your son, our Lord. Amen.
–The Book of Common Prayer, U.S.A., 20th cent., ALT.
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho