Zip Code Missionaries

published 9/13/2013

(Bishop Paul L. Leeland) - During an engaging conversation with one of our United Methodist Missionaries several weeks ago, my wife, Janet, and I found a growing interest in the movement and work of missionaries from a global perspective. We were intrigued with those who dedicated themselves to enter into areas of our world to do evangelism and offer specific ministries that point others to Jesus Christ. This, of course, is the traditional view of missionaries – people who witness across cultures to make disciples of all nations, fulfilling the Great Commission. I think our interest was heightened when we were told about the growing number of Korean and African missionaries that can now be found all over the world, even in the United States.

The Church owes a great amount of gratitude to those who have entered other cultures, learning the language of the culture, coming to adapt and respect the values of the culture, and developing deep relationships of respect in order to introduce these new found friends to Jesus.

Our son-in-law shared his experience of campus ministry during his college years where as a student he was encouraged to get a part time job. This job would introduce him to a circle of people whom he would see consistently and often. Many of these people would not have a relationship with a church and may not think of themselves as Christians. Still, our son-in-law was urged to be friendly, make a friend, and bring this new friend to a Bible study, a mission work team, worship service, or prayer group. The college mantra was, “Be a friend, make a friend, bring a friend to Christ.” This was not done in a manipulative way, but offered as a guide to initiate and present new disciples of Jesus who would have a growing interest in what the Bible says, who Jesus is, and what life looks like when one lives their personal life following the teachings of Jesus.

For some, as they step into a new work environment, meeting new people, this means finding oneself in a new culture – perhaps an un-churched culture. It becomes challenging to listen both to the language of this new culture and recognize the values of this new culture. As new relationships of trust and respect are developed, these new friends are invited into some contact point with our own Christian community that will allow a healthy interest in Jesus Christ to develop.

We don’t need to travel to Africa, Korea, or South America simply to find new disciples. We need to go no further than our own zip code. Changing our patterns of behavior, the time we walk, where we go to eat, or opportunities to serve our community through volunteer efforts, will allow us to meet new people. As we learn of their interests, what they value, and their needs, we develop genuine relationships of trust where it becomes natural and easy to invite them to join us for Bible study, worship, mission work teams, or covenant groups. We become missionaries within our own zip code.

Next month, October 11-12, at Woodlawn United Methodist Church, Panama City, you will certainly want to participate in our Conference Evangelism offering, “Seed Cast,” when Rev. Jim Cowart, founding pastor of Harvest United Methodist Church, Macon, Georgia, comes to share practical steps and insight for growing disciples of Jesus Christ. He started a congregation that now has an average worship attendance of over 2,000 people a week. I hope you will register for this event today by clicking here; it will be well worth your investment since this will be a practical approach to inviting others to follow Jesus Christ.

More importantly, when you return home from this event, thoroughly tour your zip code and then “Be a friend, make a friend, and bring a friend to Christ.” Become a Zip Code Missionary!

Click here to read in Spanish. 



Open Doors Resale and Thrift Store Announces Grand Opening

published 9/10/2013

(Mobile, AL) - The Mobile District of the United Methodist Church is pleased to announce the grand opening of the Open Doors Resale and Thrift Store located at 4125 Government Boulevard. The store was established to financially support mission endeavors of the United Methodist Church in the Mobile area. With the economic downturn over the past several years, charitable contributions have severely diminished and impacted those needing assistance.

Rev. Charles Fail, current pastor at New Life United Methodist Church, is helping to lead the efforts of this new endeavor. He said, "We believe that God has led this process. In a changing economy and life of the Church, the resale and thrift store is the best way to ensure that Mobile District mission agencies are funded well. Everyone wins. There are great deals on great items, opportunities for people to serve, and the proceeds enable ministry to the poorest among us."

The store acquired its name from the widely used tagline of the global United Methodist Church, “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” The United Methodist Church and the ministries of the Mobile District are open to all persons, thus the appropriate naming of the facility.

Purchases will directly have an impact on the following agencies:
-The United Methodist Inner City Mission
-The Dumas Wesley Community Center
-The University of South Alabama Wesley Foundation
-The Mobile Metro Jail Chaplaincy Program
-The United Methodist Babies First.

The Open Doors Resale and Thrift Store needs merchandise donations, volunteers, grass-roots advertising, shoppers and prayers! Currently the store is operated 100% by volunteers. There are many ways the citizens of Mobile and surrounding areas can touch lives through this new store.

The Mobile District is one of eight districts of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and is comprised of more than sixty churches and 16,422 members in Mobile and South Washington Counties. For more information about the store including donation information, contact them at or 251.661.5661.


AWF Conference Office Completes Move

published 8/16/2013

The Alabama-West Florida Conference Office has completed its move. E-mail and phone services have been restored. 

The new contact information is as follows:
4719 Woodmere Boulevard
Montgomery, AL 36106
Conference Main Telephone: 334.356.8014
Montgomery-Opelika and Montgomery-Prattville Districts Telephone: 334.239.7329
All e-mail addresses will remain the same. Please call for fax information, if needed.

As various ministry teams packed their offices earlier this week, some items were no longer needed. On Friday, August 23 from 8am-12pm, those items will be available for free at the previous connectional ministries office space located at 100 Interstate Park, Suite 120, Montgomery, AL. If you are in the Montgomery area and would like to stop by, someone will be at the former office to assist you. 

The conference staff, trustees and leaders look forward to hosting a ribbon cutting and open house on Thursday, September 26 from 10am-2pm. More details about this event are forthcoming. Please make plans to attend this celebratory time of fellowship. 

The conference office would like to extend its sincere appreciation to the AWF Board of Trustees for their guidance during this time of transition. 

Foundation Continues to Thrive Through Donor Support

published 8/9/2013

(Meredyth Earnest) - On Thursday, August 1, 2013, the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Endowment Foundation held its annual Dinner of Celebration at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Montgomery. Nearly 400 supporters - a foundation record - gathered to hear words of thanksgiving from representatives of the 17 seminary students in attendance that evening.

Each year, two extravagantly generous foundation donors underwrite the entire cost of the banquet, ensuring that donations made to the foundation only go directly toward student scholarships. Rev. David Saliba, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Greenville, Ala., served as the emcee for the evening. The invocation was given by Brady Baird, pastor of the Summerville Road United Methodist Church in Phenix City, Ala. Baird is a new foundation scholar, and enters Candler School of Theology this Fall.

The highlight of each year’s banquet is the ability for donors to hear firsthand from current seminary students and alumni. This year, four students and one alumna spoke on behalf of the 38 seminary students the foundation currently supports.

Rev. Carolyn Nelson, a native of Prattville, Ala. and foundation alumna, spoke first. Carolyn, currently serving as the associate pastor at St. Luke UMC in Pensacola, Fla., is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary. She reminded donors of the importance of the additional benefits their support provides. “The benefits of the Foundation extend beyond financial – they provide special and life giving relationships with donors that provide a connection to home. Through your encouragement, I was able to fulfill the dream God laid upon my heart.”

John Russell, a native of Mobile, Ala., and a current student at Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Ga., spoke next. Addressing the donors, he said, “Seminary is hard, but this journey is wonderful. I celebrate you on this day. Just continue to do what you do; you’re making a major difference.”

Russell reinforced the idea of partnership between donors and students, saying: “I want to go all the way, and with your support we can go together.”

Woods Lisenby, a native of Dothan, Ala., will begin his third year at Candler School of Theology this fall. He spoke to donors about how their support creates a lasting relationship. “You mean more to me than I can explain. Thank you for being a part of our stories, and letting us be a part of yours.”

Ebb Hagan, a native of Evergreen, Ala. and a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, joined the banquet via a pre-recorded video message. He took the donors on a tour of the seminary and a local church where he interned. Hagan discussed how God had put a call to ministry on his heart, but the real-world financial realities of responding were daunting. “With an undeniable call you have to commit,” he told donors. “It is because of people like you that I’m able to commit to something this big.”

Colby Leonard is a native of Coker, Ala. and a graduate of Huntingdon College. Currently a student at Duke Divinity School, Leonard shared how his experience with the foundation allows him the opportunity to watch God at work through others. “When looking at you, I see people who want to build the church. With whatever gift I have for ministry, I hope to make every one of you proud. It is only because of your generous gifts that I have the opportunity to attend Duke Divinity School. This is an opportunity that my parents – and my grandparents – never even imagined.”

A duet of “You Raise Me Up” was provided by Susan Cooper and Jack Horner, of First United Methodist Church of Montgomery.

Dr. Paulette Thompson, on behalf of the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Foundation board, presented the third annual Spirit of the Foundation Award to Temple Millsap. “This award is designed to give a special recognition to someone whose insight, guidance, and support have furthered the foundation’s capacity to respond to student needs,” said Thompson.

Millsap, who was joined at the banquet by his wife, SuSu, was honored with a standing ovation. “I am speechless. Thank you,” said Millsap when recognized by the crowd. Bishop Paul A. Duffey and Mr. John Bullard are the two previous recipients of the Spirit of the Foundation award.

Introducing the visionary behind the foundation, Rev. Saliba said, “No man has ever worked as passionately or as fervently for a cause without any credit or compensation whatsoever as Dr. Karl Stegall does for the seminary scholarship foundation. He works, he lives, he breathes to support the future of Christ and His church through the education of ministers.”

Dr. Karl K. Stegall, retired Alabama-West Florida Conference pastor and executive director of the Foundation, then took to the stage to share a word with those in attendance. “When we very informally began these dinners in the late 1980s, we had 25 people and tonight we celebrate that we have nearly 400 people,” said Stegall. “However, our job is not finished and I want to challenge you to help me once again.”

Stegall invited the donors to provide a minimum scholarship of $10,000 per year per student. “Will you join me in this effort,” he asked. He went on to share, “I don’t know of a greater investment - I don’t know of a greater feeling that could dwell in your hearts - than that of knowing one day in the future the felling you will know that you have made a financial investment in the life of one of these seminary students who comes to be your pastor.”

In closing, Dr. Stegall introduced Bishop Paul Leeland, resident Bishop of the AWF Conference, to share a few words. “It’s like we’re sitting on the front row of watching what God is doing to build the church,” said Leeland. Leeland then invited each seminary student to join him on the stage as a blessing was said over them.

To view photos of the evening, please click here.

{John Russell, a current Gammon Theological Seminary student, 
speaks to those in attendance.}

Alabama-West Florida Conference Office to Move This Month

published 8/1/2013

(Montgomery, AL) - The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church is pleased to announce that conference headquarters will be relocating within the Montgomery area. The Conference Board of Trustees, under the leadership of Rev. Debora Bishop, has researched this move for several years. Rev. Bishop stated, "It was our desire to find a location that will be a permanent home for the conference office. We have been renting space for seven years and know that finding a place we can own will allow us to be better stewards of the conference budget. We have diligently explored various options including renovating existing space at a current Methodist facility, building a new site and purchasing an existing office building. The decision to purchase and renovate was made by the members of the Alabama-West Florida Conference in January and is the best fit for the conference in terms of size, price, location and future ministries to our communities."

The new office is located on Woodmere Boulevard in Montgomery and is situated among other professional office buildings. It is convenient to I-85, the Eastern Bypass and Perry Hill Road. In addition to conference staff and the Episcopal Office, the two Montgomery District offices will now be located within this new building.

The official move dates for the conference office are August 14-15. Because the conference computer server is located on site and must move, there will be a brief time where all staff e-mails will be down. Telephone service will also experience a brief outage during these two days. The plan is to be fully accessible by Friday, August 16. A notification will be sent as soon as telephone and e-mail services are fully restored.

The leadership directors of the conference may be reached by cell phone during the move. Those numbers are as follows:
Frank Dunnewind: 334.488.0667
Rev. June Jernigan: 334.324.4820
Rev. Neil McDavid: 251.510.3514
Mary Catherine Phillips: 334.590.5641
Bishop Paul Leeland's calls may be routed through his assistant, Megyn Ard: 334.318.8720.

The new contact information for the conference and Montgomery District offices maybe be found below.
Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church
4719 Woodmere Boulevard
Montgomery, AL 36106
Conference Main Telephone: 334.356.8014
Montgomery-Opelika and Montgomery-Prattville Districts Telephone: 334.239.7329
All e-mail addresses will remain the same. Please call for fax information, if needed.

The conference staff, trustees and leaders look forward to hosting a ribbon cutting and open house on Thursday, September 26 from 10am-2pm. More details about this event are forthcoming. Please make plans to attend this celebratory time of fellowship. 

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