Month: April 2018

Who Is My Neighbor?

Our Lord foresaw those tremendous difficulties for his disciples–including us–in fulfilling the commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” One of them is the question he was asked, “And who is my neighbor?” In Old Testament times it was much easier to distinguish between good and bad. It was always either white or black, clean or unclean. A person or thing could contract ritual “uncleanness” in a variety of ways: by skin diseases, touching something or eating unclean foods (Lev. 11Deut. 14 ). All those prejudices should be long gone, but oh, no! They are imprinted in our genes! 
I remember my first date with my husband when he took me out to eat sushi. He felt like it was the best way to make me an American. When I understood what sushi was, “That’s it!” I decided. “This is my last day. I’ll die from eating raw ‘unclean’ shrimp and fish.”  Before I was able to remind myself that, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” (Acts 10:16), I was hugging the stool whole night, throwing up and was prepared to die. 
Loving our neighbor is a peculiar Commandment, don’t you think? God wants us to love but loving sometimes is not just hard, it can be even unsafe. I wonder if the Lord would change the formula if he moved into our neighborhood. 
Life itself is all about choices.  People suffer because they make wrong choices, or someone makes wrong choices for them, and it affects us all badly. This is like a chain reaction. One wrong choice and we reap the consequence for years that causes us losing trust and love of many people.  Loving God and our neighbor means that we also need to learn to make right choices ourselves first and then help those who can’t distinguish good from bad how to make right choices. As soon as I believed that to eat sushi is safe, I never again threw up eating it. Was I afraid more of the “unclean” food or of “unclean” people? Was I simply afraid of my neighbor? After the fears were gone, I was able to see a bigger picture. 
If you want to hear about loving your neighbor and why it is all about choices, come this Sunday to hear another story about love.
Pastor Lydia 


Francis Street First partnered with other churches in St. Joseph, MO to prepare a retreat for retirees. The idea is that lay people will share how to plan and start the second half of life to find a new purpose and meaning. Several of our members, who studied Richard Rohr’s book “Falling Upward” with the Coping with Sudden Life Changes group, are already familiar with the concept of the second part of life.

Al Brown shared about joining St. Joseph Police Academy for Citizens to help people understand what does it take to be a police officer in the times of school and church shooting, increasing burglaries, and the threat of terrorism. Al Brown chose a Christian approach to stop the cycle of violence to gain a better understanding of how police department provides services to the community.

Our members can teach others! Look at Virginia Chandler, who just turned 93 this month, she is still active, she still drives, and does not plan to slow down. The fact that Virginia volunteered for the hospital for over 20 years and is still active in our church made me connect her longevity with her selfless ministry. Often, you can see Ann Hannah working in the church garden. She has already managed to plant pansies this spring right before the snow. Rilla Henman picked up her cell phone while she was delivering Meals on Wheels in Kings City, MO. “There are not enough people to deliver meals here,” Rilla explained. Cindy Allen and Mary Buckler serve as lunch buddies and mentors at Carden Park Elementary School. Al Brown and Bud Barr helped Habitat for Humanity to repair houses. Dan Madinger shares his passion to preach. Carlene and Neal Makawski, Virginia Chandler, Fred Hannah, Betty Walkup, Phyllis Brooke, Wanda Barr, Nancy Reed, and Karen Gibson serve lunches at the Open Door Kitchen. Sherril and David Lewis and Fred Hannah sing in the Community Chorus & Chamber Choir. Candy Sheehan is actively involved with AFI-CIO and Teachers Association. David Lewis leads St. Joseph Museum Association. Karen Gibson is involved with Imagine Eleven and many other programs in the city. Our passion is to see our city renewed.

All of you support our growing ministries and help our community in so many ways. Francis Street First Members know the secret of loving God and loving our neighbors, but did you know that this secret has another hidden benefit of longevity and youthfulness? Having a purpose in life in the second half of life opens new channels in our minds and bodies for a longer and happier life. Francis Street First holds keys to longevity! It was just a quick look around to make me learn what our members are doing in the community. Please share your works of kindness that others could find the new meaning in life in its second half.

Pastor Lydia


Last week in D.C. was all about walking and listening. People from different religious groups shared one concern: racism is sin and should be stopped. The Rally against Racism was initiated by the Council of Bishops and started with a three-hour ecumenical worship service in St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The sanctuary was packed. If believers from so many different denominations managed to overcome religious differences and worshipped together, then there is hope for all.
After the event was over, we moved to Alexandria, VA to spend five days with the family. My son Paul also joined us on Saturday on his way to North Carolina. We slept like Gypsies, and it added to the experience. Again, it was all about walking and listening. We went together to the Museum of the Bible, National Geographic Museum, where we saw the 3-D/VR image of the tomb of Christ. And, again, we walked and listened. In the Museum of the Bible, an actor dressed as a rabbi asked who heard the name of Jesus Christ, and many people, including our four-year-old Katya, raised their hands.
People need to believe to have hope and confidence in the future. Children need to believe that their lives matter.
Today, we handed out bracelets with the word “BELIEVE” to children at Carden Park elementary school right before they started a tough math test. Karen Gibson ordered beautiful leather bracelets with the word “BELIEVE” engraved on a metal plate. You needed to see what difference those bracelets made for seventy-five children who felt quite nervous about the test! Jennifer Culver and the teachers were so happy for their students! After Cindy Allen greeted children and wished them good luck and Mary Buckler gave children their gifts, one boy asked, “Where is your church? I want my parents to take me to your church.”
Francis Street First helped so many children today to believe in themselves and to assure them that their future matters to all of us.

God Loves All

The Museum Hill District has changed plenty over the last 150 years. The rich built mansions above the city. Prosperous merchants wanted to be close to work.
Retirees and working-class families now populate the historic neighborhood.
Francis St First UMC remains dedicated to serve its neighbors and provide sanctuary for all in search of a spiritual safe harbor.

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