Download the printable version of the Feb. 7 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Episode highlights clergy covenant groups, OneEvent, campus ministry
Trip to Washington, D.C., evolves into mentoring program in Omaha
GPconnect will arrive a day late next week

Help design, build new furniture for annual conference 

Washington, D.C., forum strengthens young pastor’s resolve
Asbury offering health care funding to retired alumni in crisis
Congregational leadership seminar set for May in San Diego

Lay Servant Ministry has evolved -- but where do we go from here?
Amp It Up worship band camp is taking applications for 2018 session

Learning alongside Haitian farmers at Dieulece, La Gonave 
Micah Corps planning retreat generates excitement for summer
Special offering for Global AIDS Fund is this Sunday
Young adults eligible for scholarships to workshop

One and a half years later, Mulvane work almost complete

Live webinar about clergy taxes scheduled for Monday morning
Nebraska UM Foundation offers New Start/New Faith Community Grants
Kansas Area UM Foundation announces certificate rates

Lenexa St. Paul's UMC ready for its second ‘Servant Sunday’
Moore recalls ‘risk’ as first head of Health Ministry Fund
International giving for theological education exceeding expectations
In other news
Blogs and opinion
The week ahead


Episode highlights clergy covenant groups, OneEvent, campus ministry

The year always starts at a fast pace in the Great Plains Conference. And this month’s episode of “Harvesting the Great Plains” shares a little about why.

Our latest episode features:

  • The Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford sharing information about clergy covenant groups and why these groups of pastors are good for the clergy as well as the churches they serve.
  • A story about The OneEvent, our annual youth rally. See and hear for yourself some of the music, the message and, of course, the fun the kids had in Salina.
  • A segment about campus ministry. We took the opportunity of having the conference’s four United Methodist-affiliated schools present to ask why students should consider attending their universities and colleges.

View the latest episode.

Find out more about the Bishop's Confirmation Rallies and DEEP student training.

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Trip to Washington, D.C., evolves
into mentoring program in Omaha

This February, we are commemorating Black History Month with a series of articles spotlighting African-American and multicultural churches in the Great Plains Conference. We kick off the series with the Living Hope UMC-Mission Church in Omaha, which propelled a trip to Washington, D.C., last summer into a mentoring program that involves three congregations.

Read more about the new mentoring program.

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GPconnect will arrive
a day late next week

Because of staff meetings and obligations next week, the GPconnect issue will be published on Thursday, Feb. 15, rather than Wednesday. We will resume our regular Wednesday deliveries to your inbox the following week.
The deadline for submissions to GPconnect will still be at noon Tuesday.

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Annual Conference

Help design, build new
furniture for annual conference 

Attention artists and furniture builders! You can help set the tone for our annual conference sessions by helping design the Great Plains Conference’s own pulpit, communion table, two side tables, kneeler, baptismal font and cross.

Since the first Great Plains Annual Conference session in 2014, we’ve borrowed these worship elements from churches in our host cities of Lincoln, Wichita, Topeka and Grand Island. It’s time for the conference to have its own furniture that can be counted on for use each time we gather to proclaim our witness for Christ.

Here is what we are looking for:

  • Pulpit – 48 inches wide, 56-58 inches tall, 32 inches deep.
  • Communion table – 32 inches wide, 42 inches tall, 96 inches long.
  • Side tables – 32 inches wide, 32 inches long, 38-42 inches tall.
  • Kneeler – 30-32 inches wide, 24 inches deep, cushion for knees at 10 inches, cushion for hands at 28-32 inches.
  • Baptismal font – 32 inches wide, 32 inches long, 42-48 inches tall.
  • Communion table cross – Appropriate proportion for the communion table listed above.

Anyone interested in submitting designs to build these four key pieces of furniture for our worship experience is asked to provide the following:

  • Scaled sketches of what each piece will look like.
  • Details about materials to be used in designing each piece.
  • Express how each piece would be marked in some way to show that it belongs to the Great Plains Conference.
  • Include anticipated design/construction costs.
  • Keep in mind these items must be transportable to our venue(s) for the annual conference session, so portability factors must be taken into account.

The goal is to make these worship items so they are uniquely associated with the Great Plains, so please consider native materials, designs that showcase the best parts of Kansas and Nebraska, and keep in mind that all items should function well together as a “matching set.”

Send your ideas to the Rev. Ross Baker, chair of the annual conference session planning team, at Or mail submissions to Rev. Ross Baker, Eastmoor United Methodist Church, 105 Eastmoor Drive, P.O. Box 98, Marion, KS 66861.

We look forward to seeing the creativity of the people of the Great Plains Conference!

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Clergy Excellence

Washington, D.C., forum
strengthens young pastor’s resolve

Editor's note: The Rev. Lora Andrews (pictured right, with a colleague), pastor of Winfield Grace United Methodist Church, shares her experiences from the Young Clergy Forum:

I spent last week in Washington, D.C., at the General Board of Church & Society’s Young Clergy Forum. Each annual conference sends 1-2 young clergy to come together to learn about the social justice work of the church. It was a week that made me proud to be United Methodist and excited about the possibilities of bringing what I learned back to my church and our conference.

The week was rooted in our United Methodist Social Principles and we learned how that book is put into action through resources we share, advocacy and organizing all rooted in what the United Methodist Church teaches on vital issues. The staff at GBCS works day in and day out to inspire the local church and denomination to put our faith into action and create change. We learned about how our faith urges us to advocate for health care for all people, to protect the immigrants, to work toward gun violence prevention, to dismantle systemic racism and much more.

The first afternoon, we had an intensive called “Racial Justice in the U.S.: Finding the Voice of the Church.” As the 60 young clergy shared about the work happening in local churches, districts and annual conferences all over the country, the challenges we all face and our hopes for the future, I was grateful for strong conviction in the room that the UMC can and should be a voice for racial equity. We learned tools to correct the habits of white supremacy and received resources to do the hard work of anti-racism in our congregations.

We met Barry Black, the chaplain for the U.S. Senate, and he shared what it is like to gather together in prayer, study and worship with people on both sides of the aisle. He shared that to speak truth to power requires strong spiritual disciplines. Chaplain Black spends an hour each day praying the Scriptures and in his 45 minutes with us, he recited at least 30 by memory. It was reorienting for me to realize there was so much faithfulness in the Capitol, even when it doesn’t always seem like this is the case. Before we left the Capitol, we prayed in that space and thought about how many people have prayed in that building before us.

Shane Claiborne, popular author and activist, shared stories about what it looks like to create systemic change through the work of neighboring, similar to the work Neighboring Movement by SoCe Life does in Wichita. He also shared stories of the holiness of good public protests and inspired each of us to call for justice in the public square (Isaiah 59).

Through this event I have made connections with others from across the nation who also are looking at 30-40 more years before retirement in the UMC. We each left with further resolve to help build God’s kingdom and equip disciples to stand for justice for all of God’s children. I also would encourage you all to utilize GBCS and check out their incredible resources online, including their new “Faith & Facts” cards. Thank you, Great Plains, for sending me on a trip that will keep me journeying in this good work for years to come.

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Asbury offering health care
funding to retired alumni in crisis

Asbury Theological Seminary has announced that if retired Asbury alumni or their spouses have a legitimate health care crisis, the Asbury Shepherd's Fund can help. Asbury can help up to $10,000 per year with financial needs due to a health care crisis. Asbury says it knows that many clergy have given to the Body of Christ sacrificially and have not retired with large retirement funds or bank accounts, and have little money to meet the medical needs that can arise in the latter years. A denominational leader can also make the request on behalf of the Asbury alumni.
More information is in this video.
Here is the application form.

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Congregational leadership
seminar set for May in San Diego

Dr. Kennon L. Callahan will be leading a seminar for congregational leaders at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island in San Diego, April 23-27.

The seminar, “Learn and Practice Leadership, Worship, and Preaching,” will focus on raising the discovering new ways of reaching people through worship and preaching. It will also focus on how we grow and develop leadership resources in our ministry settings.

Sessions will be on focused worship, leadership, preaching, and discovering the freedom God gives us to grow our strengths, discover our motives, practice our pace and live in hope.

Callahan is the author of “Twelve Keys to an Effective Church,” which continues to be helpful to thousands of congregations and tens of thousands of church leaders and pastors from around the world. He has just published his 22nd book, “Freedoms, Grassroots and Hope.”

He will share wisdom, insight and practical advice in one-on-one and group settings. A copy of the seminar brochure is available here, or you can visit

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Equipping Disciples

Lay Servant Ministry has evolved --
but where do we go from here?


Lay Servant Ministry has traveled many miles in the past few years. A journey that has taken laity from a dependent, minor role in the mission of the church to recognition as a major player in making disciples. Lay Servant Ministry has moved into a leadership role in making disciples that make disciples. How can we be even better and do even more to serve Jesus

Read some of the possible ideas in the latest Lay Servant Ministry blog.

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Amp It Up worship band camp
is taking applications for 2018 session

If you know a high school student who loves to sing, play and lead their youth group in worship, they can’t afford to miss this opportunity. Amp It Up encourages and inspires youth to maximize their gifts for the gospel of Christ. Students at Amp It Up learn musical, worship and inter-relational techniques from experienced worship leaders and musicians. Youth form bands to practice their skills throughout the week, attend workshops based on their instrument, and worship together.
Amp It Up takes place May 29 to June 2 on the campus of Southwestern College in Winfield. A discounted rate is available if young people register before March 1. Visit the camp website to register a young person.

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Mercy & Justice

Learning alongside Haitian
farmers at Dieulece, La Gonave 

At the invitation of Rev. Kalaba Chali, Mercy & Justice coordinator, and Sheryl Crooks, the chair of the Great Plains’ Haiti partnership, two staff (Cait Caughey and Nathan Morgan) from Big Garden in Omaha were invited to travel to Haiti and learn alongside local famers in Dieulece, La Gonave. Our friends Moise and Mathieu coordinated a visit from Anse a Galets to a small village called “Dieulece,” translated in English to mean “God knows,” up in the mountains of the island. The trip up the mountain was challenging and made us realize how difficult transportation is on the island. A trip of less than 20 miles took more than three hours in the back of a pickup truck.
More than 100 people, including many members of a local farmer’s cooperative, were waiting for us in a church. Rev. Chali and Mathieu translated for those of us in the group who did not speak French. The farmers reminded us that all farming was organic and expressed no interest in leaving La Gonave for the city. They love farming and growing food. During a Q&A, several people stated that they were particularly interested in improving their animal husbandry skills.
The farmers listed several crops in production in the area: corn, bananas, oranges, eggplant, tomatoes, etc. They did mention that they used to grow more citrus but there has been a disease that has killed many of the trees and reduced production. A young farmer expressed concern that irrigation was a problem for some farmers. We later learned that he had attended an agricultural technical school at Cape Haitian. He had a garden near the church that he showed us after the meeting where he had cultivated raised beds and had dug a small culvert under the road to channel water to his field, an impressive task as the soil is extremely rocky and all of the work was done by hand or with the help of donkeys most likely. Another farmer commented that they could use more tools such as shovels, picks, hoes, rakes and scythes as these tools are the common used tools in this part of the country and do not require expensive means to use or fix, like tractors would.
Our group discussed several responses to the farmers concerns. These discussions were informed by the fact that, although our Conference is a rural conference, agriculture in Kansas and Nebraska is very different than in the tropics. Varieties of crops that are common here may not be suited for the climate there and might cause more problems than they solve. We also want to support the farmer’s desires to remain in their communities and farm without chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. With these things in mind there were three general suggestions we came with for further discernment: 
1. To contact Heifer International, which is already active in Haiti, to include La Gonave area.
2. To explore whether the agricultural school in Cape Haitian could benefit more farmers and how we might be able to facilitate any training there for the farmers in Dieulece. 
3. To consider raising money through our Haiti partnership for hand tools for the farmer’s cooperative in Dieulece. To support the local economy, it is important to purchase the tools in Haiti, preferably in La Gonave.
As a mission agency of the Great Plains Conference, Big Garden is grateful to offer support to the Haiti Partnership and our friends in La Gonave in their efforts to grow food in Haiti for Haitians. We invite you to pray for Haitian friends, particularly La Gonave and their farming work.
To learn more about Big Garden, visit: or contact Nathan Morgan, Executive Director at
To learn more about working alongside our Haitian friends, contact our Haiti Partnership Chair, Sheryl Crooks: or Rev. Chali:

-- Nathan Morgan, executive director, Big Garden

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Micah Corps planning retreat
generates excitement for summer

Micah Corps 2018 leaders Maddi Baugous, left, and Maria Penrod.
On the last weekend in January, the Micah Corps planning retreat was held in Omaha to prepare for this summer’s Micah Corps internship program.
Micah Corps, one of several internships for young adults offered by the Great Plains Conference, combines faith and social justice to provide young people with a summer of personal growth, living in community, and creating systemic change.
Micah Corps is based on Micah 6:8 “God has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,  and to walk humbly with your God?”
The co-coordinators of the Micah Corps are Maddi Baugous and Maria Penrod, both former Micah Corps interns. Baugous and Penrod each say their faith was deeply impacted by Micah Corps, are eager to share their love of Christ and social justice with the interns and the entire Great Plains Conference.
“After our weekend of collaboration and work, I felt overwhelmed: overwhelmed by joy and excitement,” said Baugous. “I am so excited to get to work with the Micah Corps this summer!” Baugous is a Master of Divinity student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
Micah Corps is planning to hire eight to 10 interns. The interns will be divided into teams of two, and each team will focus on a topic. The topics for the 2018 Micah Corps program are immigration, food security and poverty, peace and nonviolence, and environment.
“I cannot wait to walk alongside the Micah Corps interns this summer,” said Penrod. Penrod will start at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary as a Master of Divinity student this summer.
As the Micah Corps learns about different social justice topics, they will travel to local churches across the connection to share how congregations can engage in justice issues in their communities, and to learn what justice activities congregations are already involved in. The Micah Corps will travel to Washington, D.C., to visit the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society and to meet with lawmakers from Kansas and Nebraska.
If you or a young adult you know is interested in being a Micah Corps intern this summer, please apply here:

-- Maria Penrod, 2018 Micah Corps Co-Coordinator

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Special offering for
Global AIDS Fund is this Sunday

The Great Plains Task Force on the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund encourages all United Methodist Churches in the conference to receive a special offering for the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund on Sunday, Feb. 11.

The UMGAF is Advance Special #982345. Three-fourths of the monies received will go to the UMGAF to be used in programs combating HIV/AIDS globally through the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the prevention of HIV in young people and high-risk populations, and increased access to HIV counseling, testing and treatment services. The cost of preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother-to-child is only $10.

In addition UMGAF is seeking to reduce the stigma associated with HIV, and provide psychosocial support to people living with HIV. 

The remaining 25 percent of the funds from the offering will remain in the conference and be disbursed by the GP Task Force on the UMGAF in grants to local congregations who have ministries with persons living with HIV/AIDS, as well as providing resources to local congregations to learn how they can be involved in the effort to create an AIDS-free world.

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Young adults eligible for
scholarships to workshop

The Council of Bishops is once again offering scholarships for young adult (ages 21-35), first-time participants to attend the National Workshop on Christian Unity and UMEIT:USA (United Methodist Ecumenical and Interreligious Training in the United States). 

The National Workshop (NWCU) and UMEIT:USA occur parallel to each other once a year in a different area of the United States. This year they will be held in Silver Spring, Maryland, April 16-19, 2018.

The NWCU is an opportunity for Christians who care about ecumenical and interreligious ministry to learn and network. UMEIT:USA is the annual training in the US for Methodists engaged in ecumenical and interreligious ministry through the church.

The Council of Bishops will offer up to six scholarships, at $300 each, to assist young adults with the costs of attending. To receive a scholarship application, either email or go to this link.

Registration for the NWCU and UMEIT:USA is open via The scholarship application is due Feb. 28.

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Disaster Response

One and a half years later,
Mulvane work almost complete

More than 18 months after devastating floods hit the Mulvane, Kansas, area, some homes are still being rebuilt.

After working in nearly 170 homes, the Great Plains United Methodist Conference’s Disaster Relief ministry is almost done. Here is a video and story from KSN in Wichita.

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Live webinar about clergy taxes scheduled for Monday morning

A live webinar, "Clergy Taxes: Don't Live in Fear!" is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 12.

Clergy face some unique challenges when it comes to things like social security payments, estimated tax payments, housing allowances or exclusions, and reimbursed expenses. Your corner tax preparer may not understand the unique situation of clergy, and finding one who does can save you substantially in money and aggravation. Join Discipleship Ministries as the Rev. Don Joiner, a certified financial planner, helps  navigate the preparation of taxes and planning for a sound financial future.

More information is available here. The webinar will be archived for those unable to attend the live version.

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Nebraska UM Foundation offers
New Start/New Faith Community Grants


The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation announces a new church development grant opportunity available to Nebraska churches and affiliated Nebraska agencies of the Great Plains United Methodist Conference.
Due to the generosity of donors supporting congregational development, the Nebraska Foundation has grants available to enhance and support your new church development. The ultimate goal of these awards is to alleviate a little bit of the financial burden.
Grant applicants should be aware that priority will be given to the following:

  • A new start that is recognized by congregational excellence as a new start/new faith community.
  • A new start deemed to be of an outreach and beneficial nature to the larger community.
  • A new start that is in collaboration with other United Methodist entities.
  • A new start that has identified other sources of revenue.
  • A new start that is an integral part of a long-range plan for growth and outreach.

Grants will be awarded on an annual basis and must be received by April 1 to be considered. For application materials and more information, please visit
If you have questions about the application process or would like to talk to the Foundation about how you can help grow these types of grants, please call 1-877-495-5545.

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Kansas Area UM Foundation announces certificate rates

A Certificate of Participation is a time investment in building the United Methodist witness through the Kansas Area United Methodist Foundation’s loan program for Kansas United Methodist churches and agencies. An individual or church may invest a $1,000 minimum for one- or two-year participation so that you may strengthen the expansion of the United Methodist witness. Any United Methodist agency, individual or church in Kansas or Nebraska is eligible to invest.

*NEW* Certificate of Participation February Rates: One Year: 1.20%; Two Year: 1.50%

To learn more how you may increase your investments at the same time expanding the United Methodist witness, download promotional material for your church such as flyers, postcards or newsletter/bulletin ads at or call 1-888-453-8405.

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Across the Connection

Lenexa St. Paul's UMC ready
for its second ‘Servant Sunday’

Lenexa, Kansas, St. Paul’s UMC is gearing up for its second “Servant Sunday,” from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 11. Servant Sunday provides the opportunity for all ages to serve together in a variety of ways with partner organizations after brief worship services at 8:15, 9:30 and 11 a.m. 

Church members will:

  • Prepare and package meals with Rise Against Hunger
  • Sort and package Lego bricks to give to kids in need with The Giving Brick
  • Donate blood with the Community Blood Center's mobile unit
  • Assemble and sew feminine hygiene products for women and girls in Africa with Project Patricia
  • Make pet toys and treats for shelter pets with KC Pet Project
  • Knit and crochet to comfort those in need with Hands of Love, a ministry of St. Paul’s
  • Decorate meal bags for Meals on Wheels recipients
  • Make cards to be placed in bags of food with Harvesters

Last year, 336 people participated in service projects at St. Paul’s. Here’s a summary of what was accomplished:

  • 20,756 meals for Rise Against Hunger
  • 70 health kits packed for United Methodist Committee on Relief
  • 27 fleece blankets for pets; 140 toys for cats; 80 lbs. of peanut butter/dog biscuit treats for Wayside Waifs, a local animal shelter
  • 25 units of blood for the Community Blood Center
  • 54 supportive letters/notes to servicemen and women
  • 32 letters to people waiting for sponsorship in Mexico and Central America
  • Fruit trees pruned in its community garden
  • 40 preemie hats, scarves for persons who are homeless for Hands of Love, a knitting and crocheting group
  • 120 bags and cards decorated to encourage and cheer recipients of meals from Meals on Wheels

A total of at least 21,504 lives were touched by the love and care of St. Paul’s UMC.

See video from last year's Servant Sunday at St. Paul's.

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Moore recalls ‘risk’ as first
head of Health Ministry Fund

As the first president of the Health Ministry Fund in 1987, Wichita attorney Kim Moore was at the helm of a charitable non-profit designed to support and advance the health care mission of the then-Kansas West Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Proceeds from the sale of Wesley Hospital, Wichita, in 1986, financed the fund.

When Moore took the job, someone asked him if he was going to keep practicing law, “since all you’re going to have to do is sign a few checks.’ ” The law license wasn’t kept up. Moore embraced the research, the dialogue and the problem-solving, and kept with the job for more than 30 years, recently retiring

“It was probably the only big risk I ever took in my life,” Moore says, in this article by Mary Clarkin in the Hutchinson News.

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International giving for theological education exceeding expectations

A recent pledge of $100,000 from Connexio, the Network for Mission and Diaconia of The United Methodist Church in Switzerland and France, added to the growing number of gifts that the Endowment Fund for Theological Education in the Central Conferences has received from around the world.

Inspired by the Stead Challenge, Connexio organized a reception and used an initial contribution from a generous donor as the starting point for establishing a Stead Challenge Giving Circle. Additional donors will contribute to the “Connexio UMC Switzerland-France Giving Circle” to meet the minimum threshold of $100,000 required for a Stead Challenge match.

The Stead Challenge is an investment from Jerre and Mary Joy Stead (pictured above), which encourages generosity by matching on a 1:4 basis gifts that are received. For example, a gift of $100,000 will unlock $25,000 from the Stead Challenge. Once complete, the Stead Challenge will result in a minimum of $5 million for this critical ministry.

Giving circles are being encouraged to enable groups of donors to extend their impact by qualifying for the Stead Challenge. Numerous congregations, districts, conferences and other groups around the world are currently considering forming a Stead Challenge Giving Circle as a means to increase the impact of their generosity.

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In other news

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  • Outreach vs. inreach: When a church plans a community event, is it really reaching out to the community or is it more to the benefit of the church sponsoring the program? Eddie Pipkin of Excellence in Ministry Coaching looks at the differences.
  • UMCOR Sunday, March 11: At times of crisis, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is present with heartfelt prayers, empathy, monetary donations and volunteering spirits after disaster strikes. We saw that over and over in 2017 when hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria battered Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico, and again when mudslides swept through Sierra Leone. 


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Blogs and opinion

  • A change in the right direction: The announcement by Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians that it will drop its “Chief Wahoo” logo next year is the beginning of what could be some substantial changes in sports, according to the Rev. David Wilson (pictured above), superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.
  • Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day connection: For the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day. Although it might not look like it, there are quite a few connections, according to Polly House of Interpreter magazine.

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The week ahead

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