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SW District November-December 2018 Newsletter

Keep alert at all times

Luke 21:25-36, “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in

turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So, when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near! Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near… Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man”

Dear Friends in the SW District -

As we celebrate this Advent season, I encourage all of us to see this as more than just the remembrance of the first coming of Christ and its significance for the salvation of humankind. Advent should also be a moment to reflect on what our expectations are as we look forward to the consummation of all things with the Second Advent of Christ to establish His Kingdom and provide Eternal life for His people. 

Those with open hearts and discerning spirits were able to celebrate and rejoice in the first coming. Those who would be able to keep faithful until the end, will be the ones who truly find joy in the fulfilling of all things with the second advent of Christ.

Discerning the signs of the times
There would be two ways to look at the events that are happening around us today:
•    Letting fear prevail in our hearts. Fear prevents us from enjoying the fullness of life in Christ or,
•    With a hopeful, discerning spirit, understanding how this world keeps going on this destructive path. As Jesus warned us, in the final days “sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12)
•    Living in fear will only lead us to alienation, depression and disconnection from the world. Allowing fear to take possession of our hearts and minds will also lead us to separation from God. Jesus told us to be “in the world” without being “of the world”, behaving and speaking like all the others around us.
•    Living in hope, joy, and expectation of the great things still to come will allow us to make the right decisions and to spend time serving the Lord and leading others to hope through faith in Jesus Christ. To live in hope will help us to come out of our own shell and to intentionally become the hands and feet of Jesus in the world through our service to the poor and the needy, and through our compassion for the brokenhearted and people submitted to slavery of all kind of addictions. 

The parable of the Fig Tree
Many of the parables use figures of language taken from agricultural experiences in Israel. They knew when the summer was coming because of the leaves on each fig tree. Warmer temperatures would result in an exponential increase in leaves and fruit. They were good at that!
Jesus message is: “You should be equally smart at getting the sign of times. When you see these signs, get ready because the time is near”.

Through this teaching, Jesus is also encouraging us His disciples to live wisely, partaking in “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Philippians 4:8, NLT). “Getting ready” means to me “leaving with a heart at peace, treating each other with respect, and refusing to be part of the nastiness, incivility and spreading of fake news” that is prevalent in our world today. We need to be aware of the times we are living, and to “keep alert” against all forms of evil and with the hope that the best from God is yet to come.

In answering the disciples’ question about when the end of days will come, Jesus announced: (1) the destruction of the Temple, (2) imminent persecution, (3) political instability, (4) horrific events in nature, (5) family divisions, (6) the fall of Jerusalem, and (7) the glorious return of the Son of Man with the signs accompanying it. Jesus is saying: “You will have to go through very difficult experiences. But keep alert, because I’m the Lord your God”.

Martin Luther, the 16th Century reformer of the Church, said in his sermon on Luke 21 proclaimed more than five centuries ago:

“I will permit anyone to deny me the right to believe that the last day is near at hand. These words and signs of Christ compel me to believe that such is the case. For the history of the centuries that have passed since the birth of Christ nowhere reveals conditions like those of the present. There has never been such building and planting in the world. There has never been such gluttonous and varied eating and drinking as now. Wearing apparel has reached its limit in costliness. Who has ever heard of such commerce as now encircles the earth? There have arisen all kinds of art and sculpture, embroidery and engraving, the like of which has not been seen during the whole Christian era. In addition, men are so dedicated to reveal the mysteries of things that today a boy of twenty knows more than twenty doctors from before. There is such a knowledge of languages and all manner of wisdom that it must be confessed, the world has reached such great heights in the things that pertain to the body, or as Christ calls them, "cares of life", eating, drinking, building, planting, buying, selling, marrying and giving in marriage, that everyone must see and say either ruin or a change must come. There was never such keenness, understanding and judgment among Christians in bodily and temporal things as now - I forbear to speak of the new inventions, printing, fire-arms, and other implements of war. This compels me to believe that Christ will soon come to judgment: it must soon break in upon them." (Martin Luther, Sermon on Luke 21:25-36: The signs of the Day of Judgement).

Well, brother Martin Luther, I wish you would have had the opportunity to see where the world is 500 years after you said that! I bet you would feel like the coming of Christ should have happened some years ago!

Anchored in faith and hope, living with wisdom and humble hearts, we anxiously wait for the time when “Christ comes in final victory and we feast at His Heavenly banquet". Have a joyful Advent and Christmas season!

In Christ’s amazing grace,




Profiles are now available to complete.  Please CLICK HERE to access the instructions to complete the forms.



Please save the following dates: 
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 @ Edgewater UMC in Port Charlotte
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 @ Grace UMC in Cape Coral.



According to records in the archives, the following churches in the South West District will be celebrating significant anniversaries in 2019 and will be recognized at annual conference.

150th    First, Ft. Meade

100th    Estero

If other churches should be included, please notify Nell Thrift at or 863-680-4992.

Active Threat Safety Seminar

In keeping with our core value of safety and security and to address the continuing instances of tragic shootings around the country, The Florida Conference Ministry Protection Department is offering a free training event for local churches.

We were fortunate to be able to schedule four events before year’s end with one of the pre-eminent active threat training experts in Florida.

Who can attend?  Pastors, assistant/associate pastors, youth pastors/leaders, business administrators, trustees, church secretaries, daycare directors and staff, security team members, church ushers/greeters, and anyone else at the local church who is interested in safety.   There is a seating capacity for each site, so registration (below) will be on a first-come, first-served basis.  You will receive an electronic confirmation of your registration.

What will be covered?

  • Interactive training focusing on preparing for hostile intruders, active shooters, or other threats.
  • Formulating plans that can be incorporated into daily routines
  • Developing safety teams and assigning duties within the team
  • Continuing training throughout the year
  • Trauma care

Training Sessions:  (the same material will be presented at each session)

  • Wednesday, December 12, 2018 – First United Methodist Church of Clewiston
  • Thursday, December 13, 2018 – First United Methodist Church of Clewiston
  • Monday, December 17, 2018 – First United Methodist Church of Lakeland
  • Tuesday December 18, 2018 – Trinity United Methodist Church of Gainesville

Each session will last from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and lunch will be provided.

You can reserve your spot by clicking HERE to register.  The deadline for confirming your attendance at one of the events is December 10, 2018, so reserve your space today!

If you have questions about the training events, or need further information, please feel free to contact us at

Your Partners in His Service,

The Ministry Protection Department


Being in ministry is a wonderful and challenging call—for clergy and for their spouse. One of the best ways to thrive in this role is to feel the support and encouragement of others who understand the ups and downs that come with it. There are several ways you can find that connection:

 (1)  We have a dedicated Facebook group just for mates of the Florida Annual Conference. It is a private group, and a safe place to share the joys and concerns you experience along the way. I will be happy to add you to the group, if you send me your email.

(2)  Every November we have a 3-day retreat at Riverside Retreat in LaBelle (next event is 11/7-9/2019). Information will be available next summer via the Annual Conference website.

(3)  A group of us meet for dinner at a restaurant in the Estero-area every month (clergy, couples, families, etc.). We have a dedicated Facebook group to share this information, so I can also add you to this one.

We’d also like to compile a contact list of all mates in the district who are interested in connecting in some way. Please contact me, and I’ll make sure you are included.

Kim Fisackerly (

THRIVE! South West District Leadership Training

Save the date - Saturday, March 9, 2019
Edgewater UMC in Port Charlotte
9:30am - 2:30pm



Dreams Do Come True in Cuba!

Eighteen months ago, I wrote an article about “Dream Being Born” in the article a sentence stands out today. But its Cuba dreams do not come true. Dreams come and go, yes somewhere over the rainbow where they get lost in the great abyss of lost dreams and forgotten dreams that never come to reality.

After all it is Cuba.  Cuban government restrictions and permits, American government restrictions, financial restriction all these enter the reality part of this dream.  From the playgrounds of the Foundation Day Care at Englewood United Methodist Church to Mayari Methodist Church in Mayari, Cuba God has exceeded our wild imagination. 

Yes, I heard you would never get that approved in Cuba.  There has never been a Christian day care in Cuba for sixty years.  On my desk I have a saying; Just because it’s never been done before does not mean it cannot be done.  It only means God is waiting for you to take the first step.

On October 16th I had the honor to attend an Open House in Mayari, Cuba for the opening of “Lisi’s Sueno” (Lisi’s Dream) Day Care.  Sixteen Cuban children and their parents sat in an air-conditioned classroom wide eyed with disbelief of what they were seeing.  The children’s big brown eyes were darting back and forward across the room filled with toys, yellow children’s table and chairs covered with unexplored new toys. Located on the wall was a television set playing children’s videos in another location was a table full of children’s Bibles and many other children’s Christian books. In no time there was sixteen young minds learning and playing with other children. I truly believe the parents were more at awe than the children.

We went around the room and each parent introduced their son or daughter and gave their name and ages. One couple had two sons that were enrolled.  Lisi and the new principal plus two teachers also introduced themselves.  By this time in every corner of the room organized chaos was well on the way.  Smiles were on everyone’s face there was no exception to this.  All I could think of was Jesus saying, “send me your children.”

I went around the room and introduced myself to every parent and thanked them for trusting us with your most precious possession. Many gave me a big hug and thanked me because there is nothing like this any place in Cuba.  For their child to have access to such a facility they could not thank me enough. Sure, it made me feel great, but this is much larger and told them to give the glory to God where it is deserved.

I want to thank the Southwest District and many churches within the district for your support.  Also, countless individuals, retire school principals, teachers, police officers, plus parents and grandparents that told me they had to be involved in this. So, Dreams Do Come True in Cuba.   

We are not done yet this is just the first phase of a four-phase project.  If you want to donate or have any questions do not hesitate to email or call.  The next generation of Cuban children is depending on you. God Bless.

Dan Christopherson / Email: / 941-468-7209



Steve Kennedy, SW District UMM President

As S.W. Florida District President, I cannot say enough about the Kairos Prison Ministry and the affect it can have with bringing men to Christ, (The incarcerated) growing in Christ, ( the volunteers) and bringing all UMM and men from other denominations together in service to God the Father as the Body of Christ, united in purpose!
I had the distinct honor of leading Kairos #44 at Moore Haven Correctional recently. We had Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Assembly of God, and Episcopal clergy with, 28 volunteer men (65% Methodist ), serving 30 incarcerated men. The Kairos Program is beyond compare and produces results.
We followed the program and watched the Holy Spirit work to break down walls, show value of forgiveness of self and others and saw men come to the Lord, right before our eyes. We did this through the power of our Lord and the Kairos method of Listen, Listen - Love, Love!! The men were astounded by receiving love and acceptance from people they had not known. Prayers from the community and the world!  If you want a ministry to men by men go to

You change the men in prison you change the community and culture! For more information on how to get involved call me at 941-809-2191!


Lay Servant, Lay Speaker, Lay Minister?

If you are interested in becoming one of these, you will always need to have the support of your pastor and church, and the district director for lay servant ministries. In addition, a Certified Lay Servant must complete the Basic Course and an Advanced Course. A Certified Lay Speaker must be a Certified Lay Servant, complete additional coursework, and be approved by the conference committee on lay servant ministries. To begin becoming a Certified Lay Minister, you must be a Certified Lay Servant and receive approval to proceed with training by the District Superintendent. Then contact the district director for training options.

Upcoming Classes in the South West District:

Basic Course in Lay Ministries at Trinity UMC, Sarasota, Florida, led by the Rev. Lisa Ann Degrenia on February 15, 16, and 18, 2019. This is a daytime class only.

Three Advanced Courses in Lay Servant Ministries at St. John UMC, Sarasota, Florida, on March 22 and 23, 2019:
•    Leading in Prayer, led by Carolyn Boyle. 
•    Living Our Beliefs, led by Sam Carter. 
•    Lay Servants As Christian Transformational Leaders, led by Rod Groom. 

For more information or to register, see the flyer at:
If you have questions, email Rod Groom at 


As we approach 2019, we want to invite you to put an exciting experience on your calendar. Bishop Carter is asking if your church would join us in setting aside one weekend in May to align your church around God’s mission.

We are building a dynamic, customizable On Mission Together Weekend where you can bring your congregation together to connect with one another, your community, and the mission that we share to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.

We will provide you with a loose structure, agenda, and content for the experience and you will have the opportunity to tailor it to your context. We envision three movements to the weekend that you can adapt:

Friday – Movement 1: Kick the weekend off with a time of connection. This could be a Love Feast, Concert, or Celebrate Recovery event. It is a time to enjoy one another and celebrate our shared mission.

Saturday – Movement 2: Saturday morning will be a time for missional engagement where participants will serve together in the community. Take some time to rest and reflect in the afternoon and then gather the group for dinner and intentional, courageous conversations.

Sunday – Movement 3: Sunday morning will be a normal Sunday service with a focus on grace, lay testimony, and an invitation to follow Jesus. After church, the On Mission Together Weekend would close with a lunch sharing some of what participants learned and God-sightings. This could also kick off a small-group study or some brainstorming around how the church can continue living out the mission, vision, and mindsets. Click here for attachment.

This note is to get you excited, ask you to save a weekend and let you know more resources and ideas will be coming your way soon. Will you consider joining us? We think this will be a great time to rally together around our passion for Jesus and his mission to the world.

Your next step might be to start conversations with your leadership and begin forming a team who can make this idea a reality. Keep in mind that we will be providing great resources for this event, but you will have freedom and flexibility to adapt it to your context for maximum impact.

Click the “Count Me In” button below to let us know when you are planning on having your On Mission Together Weekend.

Let’s do this!


Job Opening - Director of Maintenance:  We are hiring! We are in search of someone to serve as the new Maintenance Technician and join our team here at Faith Church. This is a part-time position. Please submit your resumé to Pastor Dennis Lewis at Faith United Methodist Church, 15690 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33908 or


Program Coordinator Wanted: If you have a passion for our Camp and Retreat Ministry, then becoming the Program Coordinator for the Warren W. Willis Camp and Life Enrichment Center may be your dream job!  This role oversees the Summer and Year-Round Programs of WWW and LEC to enhance, develop and design the experiences we’ve grown up loving.  Visit our website for more information > Classifieds.  Position closes 11/12/18 


JOB OPPORTUNITY:  If you have experience in the building trades, construction, renovation or restoration, you might enjoy being our newest Construction Coordinator for Disaster Recovery! Please visit our website at > Classifieds for more information about this role and the regions that still need your expertise.

“Hanging of the Hands”
24th Annual Children's Week March 24 – 29, 2019
Florida Advocacy Days March 24 – 26, 2019

Tens of thousands of pieces of “hand art” will be hung throughout the Capitol Rotunda Sunday, March 24 – Friday, March 29, 2019, creating an amazing display of children’s art. “Hand art” is decorated by children and their teachers and collected at child care centers and schools across the state. The hands hang in the Capitol Rotunda as a reminder to legislators and advocates that we must take care of our most precious commodity – our children.

Schools, child care centers, and individuals from across the state have been submitting hands to hang at the Capitol for many years, and we encourage everyone to participate in this time-honored tradition.

Several of our United Methodist Church preschools have participated in the past. The more hands the better!

All artwork must be postmarked by March 10, 2019. Please include your county on the box used for mailing and send to:

The Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend Region
2639 N. Monroe Street, Building C
Tallahassee, FL 32303

For more information about Children’s Week, please visit or contact us at


Missional Vital Signs Due

Please remember to submit your Missional Vital Signs (MVS) each month no later than the 10th of the month. Click here to enter stats.

December 7 - SW District SPRC Training - 2018

South West District SPRC (Staff Parish Relations Committee) Training Event will provide you with information needed in your many responsibilities.  District Superintendent Rini Hernandez will facilitate the training. Pastors, Lay Leaders, SPRC Chairpersons and Committee Members (current and 2019 members) are strongly encouraged to attend this important training event. Please register to help us plan appropriate set-up and handouts. Locations: Dec. 1, 2018 @ 10am - Venice Location (Christ UMC, 1475 Center Rd, Venice, FL 34229) Dec. 2, 2018 @ 3pm - Estero Location (Estero UMC, 8088 Lord's Way, Estero, FL 33929) Dec. 7, 2018 @ 6:30pm - Lake Placid Location (Memorial UMC, 500 Kent Ave., Lake ...

December 9 - Christmas Cantata Lehigh Acres

The Chancel Choir will present “Good News From Home” at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 9th in the sanctuary of Christ United Methodist Church, 1430 Homestead Rd. N. (at the corner of Lee Blvd. and Homestead Road) in Lehigh Acres.

December 9 - SW District Clergy Christmas & Appreciation Dinner

The South West District is hosting its Annual Clergy Christmas and Appreciation Dinner on Sunday, December 9, 2018. We will start gathering at 5:30pm with dinner being served at 6:00pm. RSVP NOW PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU WILL OR WILL NOT BE ATTENDING  All appointed clergy and spouses serving a local church are invited to attend (though clergy and spouses will need to register separately). This is a wonderful opportunity to relax and enjoy the company of your fellow pastors. We will be gathering at the Kingsway Country Club in Lake Suzy. Kingsway Country Club hosted our event last year and we are excited about celebrating the holiday there again this year!  When you RSVP for this event, you ...

December 14 - Live Nativity Outdoors in Lehigh Acres

Live Nativity Friday, December 14 and Saturday, December 15 from 5 to 8 pm. As you walk through this outdoor event, you will register for the census, pay your taxes, enjoy the marketplace, visit with the Bible characters as they tell the first Christmas story, pet the animals, do 2 crafts and enjoy a snack at the Inn. One Starry Night is a multi-sensory, interactive Bethlehem experience for all ages at Christ United Methodist Church, 1430 Homestead Rd. N. in Lehigh Acres. This event is free and open to the public. It is handicap and stroller accessible.

December 19 - One Night At The Stable Live Nativity

Snow in Florida? A donkey, a lamb and a llama dressed as a camel? At First Church? Yes! And Snow! On Wednesday, December 19th we will present “One Night At the Stable”. There will be a live nativity, sharing The Christmas Story, carols, hot chocolate and cookies with Bradenton.

December 24 - Christmas Holiday

Conference & District Offices are closed.

January 10 - SW District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM)

The South West District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM) will be meeting. Certification of Candidates and Renewal of Candidates Materials due December 13, 2018

February 16 - Cuba, So Close But a World Away

Location: Christ United Methodist Church, 1475 Center Road, Venice, Florida 34293 Time: 11:00 to 2:30 PM Free lunch will be served. The Southwest District Mission Program, Inc. invites you to an Open Forum Panel discussion on Cuba. A distinguish panel of experts will be answering questions from a moderator plus taking questions from the audience.

March 9 - SW District THRIVE! Local Church Leadership Training Event

SAVE THE DATE FOR THRIVE! Local Church Leadership Training Event Saturday, March 9, 2019 Edgewater UMC, 19190 Cochran Blvd, Port Charlotte FL 33948 ONLINE REGISTRATION COMING SOON!   Must register one person at a time. Cost: $10.00 cash or check payable to "South West District" at the door. Lunch and child care provided.   An opportunity for all local church laity looking to serve more effectively.   Begin and end the day with worship and a message from District Superintendent Rini Hernandez. Each participant will choose a morning and afternoon workshop session; selections include finance, church security, worship, student ministries, disaster recovery, local outreach, and Fresh Expressions...

March 16 - Day on Campus

More than 1,000 United Methodist from across the Florida Conference will gather on the beautiful campus of the Florida United Methodist Children's Home in Enterprise.

March 28 - SW District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM)

The South West District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM) will be meeting. - Renewal of LPs Materials due February 28, 2019

April 30 - SW District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM)

The South West District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM) will be meeting. - Review of paperwork by candidates seeking permission to go to BOOM Materials due April 2, 2019

May 11 - Run 4 Life 4 Miler - FUMCH

The Run 4 Life 4 Miler begins and ends on the campus of the Florida United Methodist Children's Home in historic Enterprise.  The 4 mile course is on magnificent oak canopy roads along the shore of Lake Monroe.  It is one of the most uniquely beautiful areas and race courses in Central Florida.   The goal of this race is to bring awareness to mental health/depression issues and to raise funds for programs providing support to those in need.  It is also in remembrance of those who were overwhelmed by their struggles and felt suicide was their only option.  All race proceeds will go to FUMCH and other local suicide prevention programs.    Whether you will run or walk, we hope that you will ...