On Wednesday afternoon, the Conference’s Connectional Ministries Awards were presented to individuals and churches throughout The West Ohio Conference.
This year, West Ohio honored four recipients of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award, two clergy and two lay. This award is given to United Methodists in each annual conference whose exceptional ministry of evangelism brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. The clergy award winners are Rev. John Edgar and Rev. Matt VanWinkle.
Rev. John Edgar is the founding pastor of the United Methodist Church for All People, as well as executive director of Community Development for All People, located on the south side of Columbus. The two were intentionally connected from the very beginning, because Pastor John believes the best thing we have to offer people is life in Jesus Christ. Divisions between those served and those who serve melt away, creating a community where people from all walks of life serve and participate together. Because all are encouraged to offer their gifts and leadership, strangers become friends and redemption is experienced. Through Pastor John’s leadership and example, people intentionally invite others to worship, where testimonies of how God has changed lives and provided hope and friendship are freely shared. Because of John’s ministry and leadership, people who never thought they would walk through a church or be welcomed have found a faith community where they are known by name and experience the miracle of Christ’s love. They know God loves them just the way they are, and that God isn’t finished with them yet. With 345 people in worship, the Light of Christ’s love shines brightly on the south side of Columbus, welcoming all just as they are.
Rev. Matt VanWinkle is finishing up his second year as the pastor of Johnstown United Methodist Church in the Capitol Area South District. Pastor Matt came to the church at a time when it was hurting, and in addition to helping heal broken relationships, he has encouraged the congregation to reach out into the community. Using innovative ideas such as community cook-outs and creating college scholarships for local high school students, Johnstown UMC has begun to connect with its neighbors in new and exciting ways. Instead of insisting that the church ‘keep up with the times’ by using contemporary music, Pastor Matt has worked to strengthen the congregation’s traditional style of music and worship. Since coming to Johnstown, Pastor Matt has seen and built on the strengths of the congregation, including opportunities to connect with their community, resulting in 16 new members and five baptisms.
Two lay people from West Ohio also received this year’s Harry Denman Evangelism Award: Abby Lightle and Jessie Roark.
Abby Lightle attends Anna United Methodist Church in the Miami Valley District, where Rev. Randy Locker is the pastor. Abby is an active member of the church, involved in worship, youth ministry, and outreach. Several years ago, Abby created the ‘Love 1 More’ mission program, which brings together church members from both Anna UMC and Botkins UMC to help members of their local communities during a four-day mission experience. Each year since, the congregations have helped community members in need by re-roofing homes, installing handicap ramps, painting inside and out, and doing yardwork, among other tasks. The lives of many people – youth, church members, and neighbors – have been greatly impacted by Abby’s leadership. One of Abby’s youth group members said, “Abby has helped me grow in my faith in so many ways. She has been someone I can lean on in times of need and times of question. When I first came to the Methodist church, I was a young kid who did not know how to communicate with God or how to read the Bible and understand it or how to be open with my faith. Abby has helped me grow to be able to do all of those things and to help people younger than me grow in their faith.”
Jessie Roark is a member of St. Mark’s UMC in Lima, Northwest Plains District, with Rev. Ted Bible as pastor. Jessie is the director of St. Mark’s Resource Center, which offers free clothing, food, personal hygiene items, household items, internet access, and referrals to other community resources. Jessie’s life has not been an easy one. At one time, she found herself homeless with two young children. Having been on the receiving end of numerous assistance programs, Jessie wanted to find a way to help those in need. In February of 2019, the Resource Center served 834 households, representing 2,383 individuals. No matter the reason for their visit, each person is greeted with a warm smile, encouragement, honesty, an eagerness to help, and if God prompts, a prayer and hug. Pastor Bible says, “Jessie gives God all the glory and takes zero credit. She only wishes to be obedient to the Lord as he guides her along this journey. She knows what it feels like to be alone, hungry and hopeless and wishes to live her life feeding the hungry, coming alongside of the lonely, and giving hope to the hopeless.”
Other Connectional Ministries awards presented at Annual Conference are as follows:
- Faith in Mission Award – Henry Folgoso and Dani Ortega de Folgoso
- MCCI Multiplication Award – Coburn UMC in FTH
- Traction Track Multiplication Award – Hilliard UMC in CAS and Bremen UMC in FTH
- Greenhouse Multiplication Award – Anderson Hills UMC in ORV
- Camp Changes Lives Award – Kirkersville UMC in CAS
- Francis Asbury Award – Rev. Kimberly Wisecup (Summit UMC) and Rev. Colleen Ogle (King Avenue UMC), both in CAN
- West Ohio UMRA Vital Church Award - North Lewisburg UMC (CAN)
- Light of the World Awards – Lakeview Christ UMC (CAN), New Holland UMC (CAS), Euclid Avenue UMC (FTH), Hope UMC-Dayton (MIV), Bryan Wesley UMC (NWP), Villar’s Chapel and Martinsville UMC’s (ORV), and New Hope UMC (SHV)
- One Matters Award – River Point Ministries (MWD)
Congratulations to all of the Connectional Ministries Awards recipients, and thank you for your work and ministry throughout The West Ohio Conference!