Barry Skinner, pastor, Kilburn Avenue UB Church (Rockford, Ill.)

We held a Christmas Eve candlelight service, 10 pm to midnight, during which we sang and gave testimonies, and heard the message which explained all that was given unto us when Jesus came in human form. Twenty-five people attended and the singing was incredible. We had battery-operated candles in all the windows, and each person had a real candle that was lit for last 5 minutes of the service, during which the house lights were turned off as we sang “Silent Night.”

We held a normal service Christmas Day, with 25 people attending. The message was “There Goes the Neighborhood,” dealing with the impact on the area and world when the Messiah arrived. We again sang Christmas hymns and shared testimonies.

Tell us something special your church did during the Christmas season–events, programs, ministries, anything. You can use this form or send an email.

Andy Sikora (right), pastor, Renew Communities (Berea, Ohio)

Renew Communities, as a church plant, has had a great first year. We’ve grown from 20 people to 130 in average attendance. As a new church we are doing a TON of fund-raising for 2012. We have set a budget of $250,000 for 2012 ($100,000 from giving within our church and $150,000 from outside sources).

We have recieved support from churches within the denomination as well as outside of the denomination. In 2011 in terms of UB support we have received support from the denomination and from two UB churches–Colwood (Caro, Mich.) and Mainstreet (Walbridge, Ohio). For 2012, we have commitments from the denomination, those two churches, and two additional UB churches: Pathway Church (Jackson, Mich.) and Prince Street (Shippensburg, Pa.). If you or your church would be willing to support us, send me a note.

We reported earlier on Gerald Hallman (right), an ordained and retired UB minister, who was hospitalized Dec 22 with a brain tumor. Gerald and the family learned yesterday, Dec 29, that the tumor is stage 4 cancer–the worst, most aggressive kind, they were told. He currently has no movement on his right side.

Gerald is currently in the ICU at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind., though it’s expected he’ll be moved to rehab soon (he’s already undergoing rehab). Gerald is in good spirits, and jokes with the medical staff. His family spends a lot of time with him.

Cards can be sent to Gerald at: 9111 Whispering Woods Drive, Fort Wayne, IN 46804.

Tim and Rozanne are keeping people updated on their Facebook pages, and many people have already left messages there.

Filled stockings and other gifts from the college students at Banner of Christ Church

Mike Caley (right), senior pastor, Banner of Christ Church (Byron Center, Mich.)

Banner tries hard to share Christmas with the most hurting and needy people in our community and church family–more so than at any other church I have served. This year, our students took it to a whole new level.

Our middle school students were challenged in early December with $5 seed money from their teacher, Mrs. Sue Vogt. All 10 students worked hard to make various items, and then brought them to church and to their families to sell to raise funds to help minister to families at Renucci House–a temporary residence associated with Devos Children’s Hospital for families of sick children. In all, they raised over $400 to buy gifts and a Little Tikes playhouse to present to Renucci House.

On December 18 they went to the house and prepared and served dinner to the residents, and presented the playhouse and gifts.

Our College Students–18 to Life Class–last year decorated and filled 50 stockings to share with the homeless in Grand Rapids at Christmas. This year they challenged the church family to join them, and presented 150 empty stockings for families to decorate and fill.

The response was amazing. On Christmas morning, just before our service, we prayed for the students and sent them out with 153 filled stockings. They later reported that it took them under 45 minutes to distribute all the stockings to some very grateful individuals. The stockings were filled with food items, personal toiletries and care items, gloves, mittens, and hats. Several also included small Bibles or devotional books.

In all, beyond these above, Banner helped over 30 families with various gifts, gas and grocery cards, even a cord of seasoned and stacked wood. We celebrated the joy of Jesus’ gift of himself to us, by embracing the challenge to give beyond ourselves.

Tell us something special your church did during the Christmas season–events, programs, ministries, anything. You can use this form or send an email.

Anna and Simeon

The Lake View choir

Stephen Smith (senior pastor, left) and Ben Gladhill (associate pastor (right), Lake View Church, Camden, Mich.

December is an exciting time at Lake View Church (like most churches)! We rejoice in the many avenues of outreach and ministry God enables us to enjoy. One of our main outreach events is our annual Christmas musical. This was Lake View’s 22nd year, and we offered three presentations of “Hope Has Hands” on December 9, 10, and 11.

This dramatic musical was enhanced by the ongoing dramatic scenes featuring the conversation of Anna and Simeon sharing their part in the life of the Christ child. The 30-voice choir blended with soloists, children doing sign language, and interpretive drama to present the powerful message of hope that the birth of Christ affords to all.

Many of our various small groups and ministry groups were involved in outreach and sharing.

  • 14 adults from one small group got together before leaving go Christmas carolling and prepared 15 plates of goodies and gifts to give to shut-ins, the elderly, and some who lost their spouses in the past year.
  • Our ONE80 student ministries provided the worship service on Sunday, December 11, for about 100 residents at the Fairlawn Haven Residence in Archbold, Ohio. Teens provided music and a devotional, and took time to share with the residents and spread cheer!
  • Another small group enjoyed a progressive Christmas dinner and then attended a musical presentation.
  • Like many churches, we participated in the Operation Christmas Child outreach, sending 115 boxes this year.
  • Our Wednesday night AWANA Club enjoyed celebrating the birth of Christ on Wednesday, December 14–Jingle For Jesus Night. The evening included gifts, candy, and carol singing, and the Christmas story was presented to 100 that evening.

Another annual event is the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service which is a tremendous outreach to our community and neighbors. The theme this year was “Immanuel – The Word Became Flesh.” This one-hour service intentionally included the congregation with numerous responsive readings, eight Christmas hymns, and numerous solos and instrumentals. The evening was completed with the packed-out sanctuary glowing with everyone’s candles being lit and the singing of Silent Night.

Pastor Steve Smith’s Christmas series this year was called “Christmas HOPE – Getting to Know the Christ of Christmas.” The series, from John 1:1-14, thoroughly explained the Incarnation and person of Jesus Christ. We were blessed by many responses to this series and we rejoice with Jody, one of our adult men, who accepted Christ on Christmas Sunday morning. During the closing song he came forward to publicly profess his newfound faith in Christ with joy and tears!

Tell us something special your church did during the Christmas season–events, programs, ministries, anything. You can use this form or send an email.

Marshall Woods (right), pastor, Mill Chapel (Reedsville, W. Va.)

Susan Brown and Paula Croft were directors of an incredible Christmas program on December 18 that involved people of every age.

On Christmas Eve, we had a 9 pm service, in which the place was packed. We ended the service with a candlelight service.

And then on Christmas Day, we held one service, since at other times we have an 8:30 and 11 am service. The Spirit of God was so sweet.

Tell us something special your church did during the Christmas season–events, programs, ministries, anything. You can use this form or send an email.

Jessica Hollopeter (right), Global Ministries staff working with One Mission Society

Whether you are a parent, Sunday school teacher or Vacation Bible School leader, you’ve probably tried at some point to get your kids interested in missions. But let’s face it: kid-friendly resources can be hard to find. Now, however, One Mission Society (with its World Headquarters in Greenwood, Ind.) has a fantastic website devoted entirely to getting kids involved in missions!

The Global Access Mission Explorer (GAME) website takes kids on an interactive scavenger hunt through five countries (with more added every quarter), teaching them local customs and introducing them to missionaries and nationals working to share the Gospel in their country. Along the way, kids also learn how to pray for missionaries and help them in fun and creative ways.

Kids aren’t the only ones who will love the website, though. There are also great resources for parents and teachers! The Missions to the Max series takes kids around the world, presenting missionary stories, games, cultural facts, and recipes from more than 20 countries. Homeschool families have also found the website to be a great resource for teaching kids about mission projects they can do at home.

The goal behind the website is simple – get kids of all ages involved in missions, whether through learning, going, giving, or praying. New materials are added weekly, with content especially designed to get kids excited about serving God. It is truly your one-stop resource for all of your mission needs!

Rod Bittick (right), pastor, Pixley UB (Pixley, Calif.)

Every year Pixley UB (Pixley, Calif.) holds a Christmas Candlelight Musicale. Members and friends are encouraged to present a song, reading, dance–whatever they can do. In recent years, musical performances by various grandchildren have predominated. The evening concludes with a candle lighting and congregational singing of “Silent Night.”

Tell us something special your church did during the Christmas season–events, programs, ministries, anything. You can use this form or send an email.

Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries

With the recent death of Kim Jong-Il, many are asking what lies ahead for North Korea. Dr. Carl Moeller of Open Doors comments:

“Today marks a significant day in North Korean history. Though this brutal dictator, who was responsible for so many atrocities, has died, the future is still unknown. Some speculate that his son Kim Jong-Un will be just as cruel to all dissenters. Others suggest that he may be more lenient. We simply do not know the future of North Korea, but God does.

“This is why it is vital that Christians around the world pray for North Korea during this transitional time. Pray especially for the brave Christians inside North Korea. They are fearful that they might face even more suffering. There are an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians being held in North Korean prison camps where they face even more horrific treatment than other prisoners. People are starving to death. The people of North Korea are living a nightmare that never ends.”

Remember the suffering church around the world and particularly the church in North Korea. A number of mission organizations have personnel from neighboring countries living and sharing the gospel within North Korea. Pray for them as well.

Rev. Robert Shellhouse, 85, a former United Brethren minister in Michigan, passed away in around 3 am on December 26, 2011. He is survived by his wife, Geneva, three children, nine grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

Rev. and Mrs. Shellhouse served in the pastorate for 51 years in Michigan–at Sackrider, North Star, Ithaca, Fowlerville, Flint, and Grandville. He also served in World War 2 from January 1945 to December 1946.

Viewing time: 4-8 pm Wednesday, December 28, 2011.
Viewing location: Harris Funeral Home, 267 N. Michigan Ave., Shelby, Mich. 49455
Funeral service time: 2 pm Thursday, December 29, 2011.
Funeral location: Mears United Methodist Church, 1990 N 56th Ave, Mears, MI 49436.

A luncheon will follow the funeral. Burial will be at Elbridge Township Cemetery at 4:15 pm.

Condolences can be sent to Geneva Shellhouse at 994 Meadow Lane, Jenison, Mich 49428.