Phone card ministry reaches out to soldiers around the world (July 28, 2004)



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Phone card ministry reaches out to soldiers around the world

July 28, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0124}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

JACKSONVILLE — Kathy McCulloch is always searching for opportunities to be in mission, either in her community or around the world.

McCulloch is the Jacksonville District's missions coordinator, and she found just the project for her district this summer during a district mission team meeting. Someone suggested they start their own AT&T telephone card ministry similar to ones in other conferences.

The card ministry stems from the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry's Endorsing Agency's appeal for telephone card minutes for soldiers, which began last year on Veteran's Day. Only AT&T cards work in the Iraqi area.

The district embraced the telephone card ministry and will be sending cards to military chaplains around the world for distribution to soldiers, regardless of their religious affiliation.

McCulloch launched the project in July and has been overwhelmed by its success in such a short period of time. A member of Crossroad United Methodist Church here, McCulloch said her church raised $2,000 for the telephone card ministry during its July 4 worship service.

"I think soldiers away from home is something that is close to the hearts of many people," she said.

So far several thousand in cash donations have arrived at the district office for McCulloch to purchase the telephone cards.

The project isn't just for the Jacksonville District. McCulloch has opened it up to the entire conference. If churches and districts want to collect telephone cards and cash McCulloch will purchase and/or forward the cards to the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry's Endorsing Agency. She said churches sending telephone cards could attach stickers imprinted with messages such as, "We love you," along with the name of the church, to the telephone cards as long as the messages do not cover vital information needed to access the card.

The project will last as long as telephone cards and cash keep arriving, according to McCulloch.

McCulloch said Jacksonville has a long way to go to catch up with the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. That conference, which covers the southern two-thirds of Illinois and includes 950 churches, has collected 800,000 telephone card minutes and $11,000 in cash as of July 1.

ILLINOIS — Bunny Wolfe (right), the Illinois Great Rivers Conference's director of Missions & Outreach, announces the grand total of phone cards collected at that conference's 2004 annual conference event June 12. Also pictured is Navy Chaplain Bob Phillips (second from right), who blessed the cards and collection. The Illinois Great Rivers Conference leads the denomination in the collection of telephone cards for the military while on active duty. The Florida Conference's Jacksonville District has begun the ministry in its district and has invited the rest of the Florida Conference to participate. Photo courtesy of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, Photo #04-0050.
Bunny Wolfe, director of missions and outreach for the Illinois Conference, said the goal of their project, which began in April, is to collect one million telephone minutes.

"It's been fantastic," Wolfe said. "It's going great guns. We never dreamed we'd have this kind of response. We have exceeded total giving to date from all other conferences."

Since the nationwide campaign was launched, more than 575,635 telephone minutes have been collected from more than 30 states and distributed by the agency that oversees military chaplains endorsed by the church, according to an article by the United Methodist News Service.

Wolfe said she had no idea the campaign would become so popular throughout the conference when it began. "It's been overwhelming and exciting," she said. "It's been very phenomenal."

McCulloch has high hopes for the project in Florida, as well.

"This is turning out to be huge," she said. "We hope it gets larger. It's just going to take some time to get everyone on board."

The Rev. Richard W. Neal, the Jacksonville District's superintendent, said he's glad the district mission team has undertaken the project.

"Anything we can do for people who are a long way from home who are in harm's way to show support, I'm glad we can do it," he said. "I'm glad we found the project."

Contributions, either telephone cards or cash, may be sent to the Jacksonville District Office, 1415 LaSalle Street, Jacksonville, FL 32207.

For more information about the telephone card ministry visit http://www.gbgm-umc.org/jaxmissions/intro.html.

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This article relates to Outreach.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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