Bishop Ward welcomes the Rev. Connie Stutts to share the story of answered prayer at Rhems United Methodist Church in New Bern.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.
The North Carolina Conference is deeply committed to ministries of welcome and hospitality. Reverend Connie Stutts and the congregation of Rhems United Methodist Church in the Sound district have been pioneers and leaders among us in this regard. I’m inviting Connie to give a witness.
I know that when we hear the words “hospitality” and “welcoming the stranger”, we often think that those are big church programs, but a small rural church in New Bern, North Carolina, Rhems United Methodist Church found out differently.
You see about 15 years ago we were a dwindling congregation. We had no children and no one of child-bearing age even attending the church at the time. But the people knew that we needed children and so we began to pray. What we didn’t know was that at the same time there were other people that were praying and those people were refugees from the nation of Burma settling in camps in Thailand and they were praying for a safe place for their children to grow up, to be educated, and to be able to worship and grow in faith in Christ. Well God brought those two prayer requests together about 15 years ago in a really surprising way. So the U. S. opened up the gates for refugees from Thailand to come into the United States to settle. Some of them were settled in North Carolina in New Bern, and very surprisingly, some of them, many of them found their way to Rhems United Methodist Church. It seemed like overnight we went from a church with no children to a church with about 25 children. We went from a church that was basically white rural to a church that was now multicolored and multicultural. We were in shock but we did know that God was answering this prayer. We found out very, very quickly that the language that the church speaks best is the language of love. And as we learn to love one another and to embrace one another, God brought blessing after blessing. We were a church, no phone, no internet, no church bus, nothing, no children’s program, and yet at every corner, God supplied every need. We are so thankful for how God has transformed Rhems United Methodist Church.
We give God all of the glory.
Thank you Connie and thank you Rhems United Methodist Church. We are offering a workshop, Hope 4 Humanity very soon. I hope that you will plan to participate and become prepared to welcome the stranger in your community so that you may receive the grace of God in doing so. We at this time, in the United States, are welcoming more people from Myanmar, from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, from Congo, and other countries in Africa. May we be faithful followers of Christ as we extend the welcome of Christ’s heart.