Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dignity, Honor and Respect = Love

Chaplain John C. Wheatley, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and an Elder in the Eastern PA Conference, serves at the Dover (Del.) Air Force Base as a Family Support and Liaison Chaplain. He is part of the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Division at the base. Two Peninsula-Delaware Conference Cabinet members and I visited him recently, and we were greatly impressed with his extension ministry and the program there. 

Prior to this most recent deployment the Rev. Wheatley served as pastor of the Ono UM Church on the Northwest District. His current deployment at the Dover Air Force base will be a short-term venture, and we hope to have him back at Ono UMC to continue his ministry there soon.

The Casualty and Mortuary Affairs program opened in April 2009. It was designed to bring families to the base to help receive their loved ones who were killed while serving their country in any capacity. Since then there have been 1,900 dignified transfers, and the program has ministered to 9,275 families.

There are buildings that house family members who come from all over the country. And there is 24- hour assistance for them as they grieve the loss of their loved ones. A family meets the plane that is carrying the body of its loved one; and if the family requests, the transfer moments are recorded on video as a keepsake. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Happy 25th Birthday, Americans with Disabilities Act!

I was appointed to serve Christ UMC of the Deaf in Baltimore in 1988.  This was two years before the Americans with Disabilities Act became U.S. law.  Prior to the ADA law telecommunication for Deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans was difficult.  One of the most important parts of the law was equal access to communication. 

Deaf people have long had telephone devices that they used to type words into the phone, with the cradle of one of those old fashioned phones laying at the top of the device.  Through the wonders of technology back then two people with TTY’s (“teletype” as they were called) could communicate with English words back and forth using this device.  However not everyone had a TTY or a phone line and Deaf people could not talk to just anyone, like hearing people can.  That is where I got a lot of requests for “favors” from my members. I had a TTY, of course and this is how it went:

“Please call my dentist.  I have to be seen as soon as possible.”  So I would call the dentist and say “Hello, I am calling for Jane Doe and she is Deaf and needs to be seen soon.”  The dentist’s secretary would give me a date and time the next day.  I would call the Deaf person back and they would say “I can’t wait that long.  Please, I must be seen today.”  I would call back and negotiate a better time and it went on and on.  About 25 minutes and four phone calls later the Deaf person had a dental appointment. 

In 1990 when the ADA bill was signed into law a relay system was devised so that a Deaf person wanting to talk to a hearing person who did not have a TTY could call a special number, and a hearing operator with access to two phone lines would type for the Deaf person and speak for the hearing person. A process that used to take 25 minutes now took two minutes. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pressing on in the race to end malaria

“I press on toward the goal," the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, "for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 3:14) 

Indeed, the Christian life is like a race. The opportunity to do greater and greater works for God is ever before us. And we strive toward the goal of Christian perfection, fueled by our faith in Christ's promise.

The Imagine No Malaria (INM) campaign is pressing on toward a goal as well.  As United Methodists we have pledged to raise $75 million dollars to fund efforts that should effectively wipe out the disease of malaria in our lifetime! The Eastern PA Conference has given much toward this effort in the last 8 years.

In fact, you may recall that the original Nothing But Nets campaign that launched in early 2007 was inspired by the efforts of then-6-year-old Katherine Commale of Hopewell UMC.  Aided by her mother, her church and her community, she initially eventually raised more than $135,000 to purchase and donate insecticide-treated bed nets to protect children and adults in Africa from mosquitoes that spread malaria. Our conference responded by raising more than $250,000. 

United Methodists have not yet achieved our goal, but we are pressing on. So far we have raised $66 million. We are getting close. And it seems only right that we here in the Eastern PA Conference should finish what we started.