Download the printable version of the May 8 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

AC2019 is three weeks away; conference workbook now available
Flooding, storm damage hits Kansas as ERTs make a return to Nebraska 
Great Plains participants pleased with proposed updates of Social Principles
College ministry students spend their spring breaks in service
Bishops meet during what leader calls ‘chaotic’ moment

Clergy spouses to gather at Topeka First UMC during AC
Aldersgate Village celebrates 40th anniversary with reception
Cokesbury to offer best-sellers, UM logo items, speaker books

Churches offer Mental Health First Aid during free workshops this summer
Summit Youth Academy to offer career coaching
Share your thoughts with the Great Plains with our devotionals

Participant shares experience from Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Blog series aims to help your church stay copyright compliant
Web seminar to discuss publicity for local churches

Emmanuel Church missions expands to help farmers in Bungoma County, Kenya
In other news
Blogs and opinion


AC2019 is three weeks away;
conference workbook now available


The final deadline to register for annual conference, May 29 to June 1 at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, is Wednesday, May 22.

Watch this video invitation from Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.

Sign up to volunteer during the conference.

The conference workbook, which includes materials that will be addressed during plenary sessions, is now available for download. We ask that you print the workbook to bring with you to the event or download it to your computer or electronic device for access. Please do not plan to access it online during the event as connectivity will not always be available depending on how many people are online at the same time.

You may also request that the workbook be printed and mailed to you for a fee of $25 – and an additional $15 for the candidate profiles for the laity delegates to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional conferences. If you are interested in this option, contact Lisa Soukup or 785-414-4235 by Friday, May 17. Workbooks will not be mailed until payment is received.

Here is the schedule for the annual conference.

View the profiles for the clergy and laity vying to be delegates in 2020.

Get more information and register for the Therefore Go 5k run/walk, at 7 a.m. Saturday, June 1, at the southwest corner of the Expocentre.

Most of the hotels with group rates for AC still have rooms available.

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Flooding, storm damage hits Kansas
as ERTs make a return to Nebraska 

As flash floods hit areas around rivers, creeks and streams in south-central Kansas this week, workers continue to be needed to repair the damage done by Nebraska’s historic floods in mid-March. 
KWCH in Wichita has a list of problem areas in Sedgwick and Cowley counties. 
Mulvane, which suffered extensive damage in flooding two years ago, has at least 14 houses that have been damaged, many of them in the same locations. 
ERTs are asked to meet the Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator, at the former police station, in the basement of the Mulvane City Hall, this afternoon, to begin work there. Text Tapley if you are available to work this week.
Camp Chippewa, near Ottawa, Kansas, suffered damage from this week’s storms (shown above), including trees, its archery backdrop, livestock feed storage area, the wall of the bathhouse and broken cabin windows.
Campers begin arriving in three weeks, and a volunteer work day is already scheduled for May 18. 

Eleven volunteers are scheduled to begin working in Fremont, Nebraska, from Thursday through Saturday. The point person for the volunteers is the Rev. Bill Gepford, pastor of Fremont UMC. 
Work will be done on a number of homes that were damaged because of flooding in the area. 

So far, $586,133 has been contributed to the Great Plains Disaster Relief Fund, including $566 raised by the Kids Clean-Up Fund. 
Grants have not yet been given from the conference, Tapley said, but will be used to purchase large items such as insulation and drywall and smaller items such as box fans and dehumidifiers. 
“A majority of the donations will be used during the recovery phase,” Tapley said. 

As of May 1, Tapley said, 45 ERTs had volunteered 10,080 hours to serve those damaged by the flood. She said 47 homes have already been cleared, with a waiting list of more than 70 to complete.

"These ERTs have done terrific work and have represented you well as they serve to make a difference in the lives of these individuals. Their hard work and dedication allows me to connect with city/county officials, emergency managers, Red Cross and FEMA as planning for long-term needs are being put into place," Tapley said. "All these agencies are just like us United Methodist, we have to have a series of meetings to accomplish anything!

"Recovery is going to be long – a process that is going to take patience and understanding. Please continue to lift our neighbors in Nebraska in your prayers. Pray for your ERT’s – for strength and safety while they are working."
The next Early Response Team training is May 18 in Aurora, Nebraska, as well as May 29, before the opening of the Annual Conference sessions, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka

A new video produced by multimedia production specialist Eugenio Hernandez highlights the work being done by ERTs in Nebraska
Stay up to date with our Great Plains Conference flood relief page

From Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and FEMA: Houses of worship may apply for FEMA public assistance grants.

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Great Plains participants pleased with
proposed updates of Social Principles

The Rev. Cindy Karges says that being a part of the team tasked with updating the United Methodist Social Principles has been monumental in her career.

“It was probably one of the most meaningful experiences of my 30-some years of being in pastoral ministry and in my whole life of being a United Methodist,” said Karges, Gateway and Great West districts superintendent.

Read more about the contributions of Karges and the Rev, Kabala Chali.

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College ministry students spend
their spring breaks in service

When you hear about college students on spring break, you think fun, frolic and relaxation, right?

That wasn’t the case for three of the student ministries in the Great Plains. Groups from Kansas State University (pictured above) and the University of Kansas went to work in San Juan, Puerto Rico, repairing homes that were damaged by hurricanes. And Emporia State University students went to Arkansas to work on a farm on behalf of Heifer International.

Read more about their experiences.

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Bishops meet during what
leader calls ‘chaotic’ moment

The Council of Bishops is meeting in Chicago this week amid conversations around the denomination about possibly splitting the church. Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Council of Bishops president, urged his colleagues to “leave this place different than when we arrived.”

Read more from the United Methodist News Service.

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Annual Conference

Clergy spouses to gather at
Topeka First UMC during AC

Great Plains clergy spouses will gather from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, May 31, at Topeka First UMC, 600 SW Topeka Blvd., followed by a 1 p.m. tour of the state capitol building, a short walk or drive away.

Following the meal will be a get-to-know-you activity.

Register here for lunch. There will be a freewill donation.

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Aldersgate Village celebrates
40th anniversary with reception

Aldersgate Village, a mission agency of the Great Plains Conference located in southwest Topeka, invites Great Plains Conference members to join the staff in commemorating its 40th anniversary with a reception in Wesley Hall, on the Aldersgate campus at 7220 SW Asbury Drive. The reception will begin at 3 p.m. May 29, and will include food, fellowship and fun. This is an informal gathering, so guests may come and go as needed.

In the four decades since Aldersgate Village was established by the United Methodist Homes Board of Trustees, Aldersgate has transitioned from a single senior care home to a comprehensive life plan community, providing a full range of residential and care services for seniors. Today, on its scenic 168-acre campus, Aldersgate Village serves nearly 400 residents and offers independent living, assisted living, home plus, skilled nursing and a state-of-the-art recovery center for inpatient and outpatient therapy.

Reflecting its faith-based heritage, Aldersgate continues to uphold its Christian mission of providing compassionate care for seniors, including those who have exhausted their resources and are unable to pay. As a result, over the last 40 years, Aldersgate has provided millions of dollars in uncompensated care and, through its Good Samaritan Fund, substantial charitable care to the frail elderly who had nowhere else to turn. 

If you would like to visit the campus and celebrate with Aldersgate, please complete the RSVP form at

For more information about Aldersgate Village, its complete range of life plan services, or its charitable mission, go to

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Cokesbury to offer best-sellers,
UM logo items, speaker books

Cokesbury is pleased to offer its most popular titles, UM official resources and speakers’ books in quantity through on-site sales at Annual Conference 2019 at Cokesbury Resource Centers.

This year’s Cokesbury Resource Center will look different as it continues to be responsible stewards of resources, the environment and our staff, while providing the most popular Christian resources to our customers. There will be fewer items on-site, but those will include the bishop’s recommended title, best sellers most often purchased by church professionals and volunteers and UM logo items. Customers may also be measured for and order clergy robes at a 15% discount.

Additional bishop recommendations, speaker books, and other titles and merchandise will be featured in a Conference-specific online catalog before, during and after Annual Conference across a two-month timeframe. This allows for greater exposure of these resources to more conference attendees for a longer period of time.

As always, free ground U.S. shipping is offered on orders of regularly stocked merchandise not available on-site at the Cokesbury Resource Center. Use the online code AC2019 at, telephone the Customer Care Center at 1-800-672-1789, or speak to the Cokesbury representative on site at the Annual Conference’s Cokesbury Resource Center.

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Equipping Disciples

Churches offer Mental Health First Aid during free workshops this summer

Did you know that you are more likely to encounter a person in an emotional or mental health crisis than someone having a heart attack? Did you know mental disorders are more common than heart disease and cancer combined?

Mental Health First Aid is an interactive, eight-hour training equipping the public to help persons with mental illness connect to care.

Two United Methodist churches in Kansas will host Mental Health First Aid seminars this summer:

  • June 8 – Osborne UMC, 105 N. 3rd St. 
  • Aug. 10 — Smith Center UMC, 301 E. Kansas

Both are free and take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

Reserve space for Osborne by June 1 and Smith Center by Aug. 3.

Contact these pastors for more information or to make reservations:

Summit Youth Academy
to offer career coaching

The Summit Youth Academy is a week-long faith formation program for high school sophomores and juniors that provides young people with the tools to find their calling in life. One of the many tools is a session with the Rev. Dr. Peter Cammarano, Birkman Certified Career Coach and senior pastor of Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Lake Jackson, Texas.

At Summit, July 21-27 at Southwestern College in Winfield, students take the Birkman Personality Test and review their results with Cammarano to become more aware of themselves and learn which careers and job environments match their personality. Cammarano is available throughout the whole week for students who have more questions or desire additional assistance.

If there is a high school sophomore or junior in your church who would benefit from the help of a career coach, nominate them for the Summit. Visit to nominate a student or to find more information about the Summit. You can also follow us on social media by searching @summitkansas on any social media platform.

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Share your thoughts with the
Great Plains with our devotionals

Michael Turner, pastor of Auburn, Kansas, UMC, compares those who work in our food industry today with the disciples who fished for a living and were called by Jesus.

“We may not get a boatload of fish as a sign like those first disciples, but we must be listening and willing to respond to God’s call,” Turner writes in today’s devotional. “But if we are willing to take the risk to respond we may find ourselves nourished with something other than a net full of fish at our feet.”

Would you like to share your perspective with the thousands of clergy and laity in the Great Plains who wake up to our devotional every day? Go to this link to sign up! Several spots are available between now and the end of the month.

At least three choices of lectionary texts are available for each day, or use a verse that’s on your heart and corresponds to your thoughts.

Would you like to receive the daily devotionals the first thing every morning? Click here to get on our email list.

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Mercy & Justice

Participant shares experience
from Ecumenical Advocacy Days

In April, four representatives from the Great Plains Conference participated in Ecumenical Advocacy Days thanks to scholarships through Peace with Justice Ministries.

Melissa Ross, a member of Wichita College Hill UMC, shares about her experience (Ross is in the front, center of this photo, in front of Valecia Scribner, another Great Plains participant):

“I am passionate about social justice so when my pastor mentioned Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington D.C., I was interested in attending. Thanks to the Great Plains Peace with Justice Ministries advisory team for providing a scholarship that made my trip possible. This year the theme was ‘Troubling the Waters for the Healing of the World.’ One of the scriptural foundations for the theme was from John 5:1-9.

“Although I am a United Methodist, it was beautiful to worship and learn about healing the world with people of different faith backgrounds. We are all God’s people and must work together to affect the positive change we wish to see in the world.

“During our first plenary session, we heard a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Georgia (sermon begins at 1-hour mark). His passion and message moved me to want to take action to better the world for all of God’s people. I believe his vision, that in God’s economy, everyone has health care and a person’s zip code does not determine their success. Unfortunately, this is not true in our world. We are called upon to be the voice for those without.

“I attended sessions about the situation at the border and about getting our message to people in an effective way. I loved hearing about the work people are doing within our country and around the world to improve conditions for all of God’s people.

“The final day of EAD is a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with our senators and representatives. This year our focus was on voting rights and global fragility. I teach ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) to students that are new to the United States. Many of my students come to the U.S. because of violence in their countries. I was privileged to be able to share their stories and ask for our government to help protect their countries so that they do not have to be displaced for safety reasons.

“Attending EAD made me realize that my voice matters. I will continue to share my experiences and contact my politicians both locally and nationally. My voice matters and so does yours.”

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Blog series aims to help your
church stay copyright compliant

Our communications team has had more questions than usual in recent weeks about song lyrics, use of videos and a number of other aspects of copyright law. So in his blog, “In Layman’s Terms,” Todd Seifert, communications director, is providing a series on CCLI to help you ensure your church is protected from any legal issues surrounding use of copyrighted materials.

In this first installment, he explains how to provide the copyright information on any slides you project during worship services.

Read the blog.

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Web seminar to discuss
publicity for local churches

United Methodist Communications will offer a free 45-minute webinar on at noon Central time Wednesday, May 15, to discover tips for boosting the publicity of your local church with the help of key public relations strategies. This live learning session, "Publicity for Local Churches" will guide you in gaining a presence on news outlets to increase awareness of your church’s events, community activities and more.

Register here for the seminar.

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Across the Connection

Emmanuel Church missions expands to
help farmers in Bungoma County, Kenya

ABOVE: Amy McClure makes a friend in Kenya. BELOW: The Emmanuel team. (Contributed photos)

From March 8-16, a team laity from Emmanuel Church in Abilene, Kansas, including farmers, traveled to Bungoma, Kenya, to present a conference to farmers from the region. The conference was held at Grace Fellowship Church Bungoma Campus, with over 200 in attendance, some walking for 12 hours.

The purpose of the conference was to teach regional farmers regarding best practices for improving the yield of their crops. The average farmer in this region has a field as small as half an acre, with a five-acre plot being considered the largest. In addition to best practices for farming there were sessions on rabbit and chicken production.

The conference was the first of its kind in the region and the beginning of an ongoing relationship with Bungoma County and Emmanuel Church. Future plans include monthly video conferencing with local farmers, return trips to Kenya to present conferences, and discipleship with the farmers.

The overall purpose of Emmanuel Church’s efforts is first and foremost to share the Gospel with the farmers and families of the region and secondly to develop better management of resources and practices among the farmers with a goal of lifting them out of poverty. The average Kenyan family in Bungoma County lives on 80 cents to $1 a day. Because of archaic farming practices, the farmers struggle to create enough yield to feed their families for the entire growing season and rarely have enough left over to create income. With better farming practices and the spiritual encouragement that can be provided by our farmers, we see a bright future for the farmers of this region to prosper both in food production and spiritually.

To help foster this ongoing relationship and to develop a means by which to provide resources to Bungoma County farmers, a nonprofit organization called Global Train has been established by several members of Emmanuel Church as well as its senior pastor, the Rev. Gordon McClure. This partnership will enable us to develop farming co-ops in Bungoma County to sustain progress made in both farming practices and discipling relationships.

On the March trip, additional ministry was led by McClure in the form of preaching at worship services, conducting a worship seminar for local worship leaders, and speaking to an established group of Christian business people in Nairobi, Kenya. Emmanuel Church has sent mission teams to Kenya and Mexico so far this year, with a team traveling to Appalachia in July to work in impoverished areas.

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In other news


Blogs and opinion

  • Remembering a woman of valor: Christian author-blogger Rachel Held Evans, who died Saturday at age 37, inspired a large audience, especially Christian women. “Rachel gave us many gifts through her writing and speaking — in part because, while her writing was very public, it was also very personal. Her ability to minister to millions through her blogging and best-selling books was measured by how much of herself she gave us on the page. Rachel was generous with her own story,” writes Katelyn Beaty, a fellow author, for Religion News Service.
  • Lessons from a false arrest:  A United Methodist pastor from New Jersey finds God’s grace in his false arrest, which he says gave him the chance to shine a light on what others suffer in a flawed criminal justice system. The Rev. Jeffrey Edwards writes about the charges against him that were eventually dropped. 


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PO Box 4187
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