Friday, June 26, 2015

Guest Blog: "God's GPS"

I’m very disappointed in my GPS lately. It doesn’t have the name-voice combination I want (Samantha-British… not Samantha-American). It lies (it tells me that the shortest distance between two points is way “X” when I know perfectly well that way “Y” is shorter). It tells me that the best way to get from the New Jersey turnpike to Brooklyn is by taking the Holland Tunnel (“driving through Manhattan is on my bucket list!”, said NO ONE ever). It tells me that the next rest area is 70 miles up the road, making me miss the one that’s 2 miles away at the next exit. And it most recently enjoys putting my life in danger. 

On May 16th of this year, on our way back from a week in New York, Michelle and I decided to stop in Baltimore and visit their zoo, which we’d been told had a brand new and rather spectacular penguin habitat. Because penguins are my favorite creature, followed closely by cats, lemurs, giraffes, hippos, dogs, horses, meerkats, tree kangaroos and nearly every other creature in the class Mammalia, this was a must see.

We started out from the hotel and followed Samantha’s instructions and wound up driving through just about the worst area I have ever been in. On one street corner it was amazing to see that someone was actually living in a structure (term used loosely). After coming to a stop at another, Michelle asked me if I’d seen the man in handcuffs being led up the stairs of an apartment. I looked in my rear-view mirror and decided that running a stop sign might be argued in court as ‘justifiable’. And there were dealers on *nearly* every corner. Not car dealers. 

This area the GPS was taking us through was NOT safe by any stretch of the imagination and back at the hotel, I googled “locations of Baltimore riots”. As I studied the map and placed remembered street names, stores and parks with what I was seeing on the computer, I turned to Michelle and said, “Do you remember that intersection that had this, that and the other?” After receiving confirmation I said, “Yeah, well… A couple of weeks ago there may have been a big fight there? Maybe a burnt out drugstore at the next one up?” Yes. That one.

The next morning, on our way out of town, I asked her if she wanted to drive by Edgar Allan Poe’s house. She asked where it was and I said, “Good question.” So I asked Samantha. When I saw the route… we declined and decided that driving on the Capitol Beltway in DC was more to our liking… where we promptly got stuck and sat for three hours. 

It’s easy to think of God as our GPS. It’s also easy to wonder why He seems to lead us where we really don’t want to go, and had we known how he was going to get us there, we never would have chosen that route and tried to press the “find alternate route” button. And when we *do* get to where we’re going, why is it that the end-destination sometimes just doesn’t seem to be worth the trouble it took to get there? Don’t get me wrong; the penguin habitat was amazing – the rest of the zoo… meh.
For everything there is a reason. Perhaps it’s simply that taking the route we consider to be a “bad” one, is the shortest distance between two points. God gets us where He wants us faster, because He needs us there on His time… not ours. And while maybe we think a route is shorter… He knows it’s not. Perhaps it’s that there are things along that route that He wants us to slow down and see and absorb, as much as we want to speed up, run some stop signs (and some red lights), so that we can be changed in Him. Sometimes when we have inclination to go one place and He wants us to go elsewhere, when we change our direction, He lets us know we shouldn’t have. And just maybe He even gets us “lost” every now and then so that we can find the way back home by whatever means necessary; pressing “find alternate route”, phoning a friend, or consulting a different map, or just driving until you come to something familiar, are all ways to rely on Him.

Heather Eddy is the Assistant Director of Christian Education here at Sardis. When she is not working with the Sardis children’s programs or assisting the Fellowship Committee, she spends time teaching Anatomy and Physiology to pre-Nursing college students and CPR to anyone who cares to know it, traveling to and from the Big Apple where her best friend Michelle currently resides and attempting to train her cats.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Guest Post: "Impressed and Amazed"

Our trip with the Sardis mission team to the Bayonnais region of Haiti in April left us impressed and amazed!  “At what?” you may ask. 

Many Sardis church members  remember hearing Pastor Actionnel Fleurisma, the driving force behind the ministry taking place in that mountain region, preach and speak to our congregation about the school and medical clinic in Cathor, Bayonnais. You may have also heard from members the congregation who have been to Bayonnais, speak about opportunities to sponsor children to allow them to attend school.  We had heard about Bayonnais through many sources and have sponsored a child for three years, so when the timing of this year’s trip fit into our schedule, we eagerly placed our names on the list of those making the trip.

Once there, we saw a plaque as we entered the guest house where we would be staying. The plaque states the house is dedicated to Helen Hunter.  Mrs. Hunter is from Charlotte and sponsored and hosted Pastor Actionnel in Charlotte when he was a young man. This allowed him to get his business degree from Central Piedmont Community College.  You can read more about his story in the June 2015 Challenge Newsletter at 

We wonder what would have happened to Pastor Actionnel if a kind and generous woman named Helen Hunter had not come into his life.  Would the school that educates and feeds over 2,000 children in Cathor, Haiti exist?  What about the newer school that has been started in the even more remote area of Nicholas and has over 400 students?  And just ask the five medical professionals who were on this year’s team about the medical clinic and the services it is providing to that community- would it be there if not for Helen Hunter? Would Pastor Actionnel be a pastor and would the church right on the grounds next to the school be a support to the people of that community?


We don’t know and we doubt very much that Mrs. Hunter would expect to be given credit for all the hard work that Pastor Actionnel, his team, the school and medical clinic employees, churches, and so many volunteers have done since 1993 (when the school was founded); but we are impressed and amazed at how this seemingly small act may have been the start of a ministry that is dedicated to serving Jesus Christ in big ways every single day! 

We were forever changed by this trip in ways we could not have anticipated. So now our challenge is to remember that our actions may make a difference in someone’s life, which may then make a difference in someone else’s life, and so on, and so on……  Thanks be to God!

Ron and Janice Abluton: Ron, a former CPA, is retired and enjoying tennis, travel, cooking and gardening.  Janice is a CPA who also enjoys tennis and traveling.  Both have served as elders at Sardis Presbyterian Church  and they love spending time with family and friends and especially their four grandchildren.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Guest Post: "Angel Wings!"

From April 22 through April 28, a group from Sardis traveled to Haiti. This was Sardis’ third mission trip to Bayonnais, a mountainous region of Haiti that is a three and a half hour drive north from Port au Prince. I am blessed to have been part of all three trips and with the third trip I again experienced the gracious hospitality of the people of Bayonnais and was again amazed by the eagerness of the children and youth to get an education. I was again struck by the way the high school students set their aspirations within the context of their faith – frequently I heard them say something like, “I want to be (fill in the blank) if that is the will of God,” or “God will show the way if this is God’s will.”  Once again I saw how participation in a mission trip transforms the respectable attitude of acquaintance between fellow church members into a genuine experience of unity and mutual affection.

There was one difference this year; I think I might have been the recipient of a miracle! One day, Pastor Actionnel Fleurisma led our mission team on a walk through the village. As with all walks through the village, children and younger youth joined us as we walked along. The “walk” became a hike up to a higher area of homes from which one could look down into the valley. On the second half of the hike, the path became very steep. At the midpoint of one stretch of the steep path, I had to stop and catch my breath. Quickly, one of the young boys came to my side, he took hold of my hand and said, “You go, you go!” I tried to explain I was just resting. The boy responded, “You go, I help…I push you.” I told him I was too heavy, he couldn’t push me. He didn’t listen to that. He put his hands in the small of my back and pushed – that’s when the miracle happened! I started walking and found his pushing really was helping. I felt an incredible sense of energy and strength – I wondered if I had sprouted angel wings!?! But it was a better miracle than that!

 I experienced what it is like to be in a place where “It takes a village” is more than a catchy phrase; it is a necessity in a place where resources are limited. They knew they needed each other and seemed to possess inner radar, always scanning for the one who needed help. It happened throughout that hike: other Sardis team members received those helpful pushes up the trail; when there were streams to cross on rocks, the middle school age boys (without being asked) took our hands and helped us across. The hike was one more time for me to be humbled by the generosity of spirit that was extended to us before we ever realized how much it was needed.

Thank you Sardis, for being a mission focused congregation. Thank you for the financial support you have given to the OFCB School and medical clinic. That support has been a channel through which God has wrought miracles in the opening of young minds to a world of possibilities and creating access to medical and dental healthcare for an improved quality of life. Thanks be to God for privilege of participating as partners in God’s holy work and miracles.

Jane is one of the Associate Pastors at Sardis. She is a native of Mecklenburg County, grew up on a farm and has milked a cow!  She is married to Mark, a Chicago native, who works for Bank of America.  They have two children; a  son, Peter, who has completed his Master’s degree in Structural Engineering and is working with a Structural Engineering firm (Arup) in Houston, TX, and a daughter, Lydia, graduated NC State this spring with a major in social work