Dear Friends in Christ,
Grace and peace to you from God, the source of all our blessings, as we prepare for our national Thanksgiving celebration and the Advent season.
As Dakotans, we are blessed to live in and be stewards of some of the most productive land in the world. Yet, during this growing season we have seen an unprecedented number of stressors that are impacting our farmers and ranchers and those that support the agricultural industry. A wet spring delayed planting, the wet fall is delaying harvest and depressing yields. Some producers are facing drought, others have been flooded, the markets are volatile for crops and livestock.
An increasing number of farmers and ranchers and their families are filled with despair as they deal with the lack of production and depressed markets. Farm income continues to decline; an average loss of 10-12% since 2012. Family farms and ranches that have been part of a lineage for a century or more are now in jeopardy of being lost. The cumulative impact of these multiple stressors is manifested in increases in fatal farm accidents, abuse of drugs and alcohol, and suicides. Our friends are in need of support through encouragement, prayer, and professional assistance.
So, I appeal to each of our 250 congregations in the Dakotas Conference to join together through our annual Thanksgiving offering to help support our friends and neighbors who produce our food and fiber. We have an opportunity to be a blessing to those who produce so many of our blessings. We have an opportunity to give a tangible expression to the promise God made to the people of God:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 CEB
Our offering will be utilized to partner with Lutheran Social Services in North Dakota and Avera Behavioral Health in South Dakota. Our plan is to provide services to farmers and ranchers at no costs or at reduced costs. We know that our clergy will be a first point of contact for farmers and ranchers in our rural community. The funds that you graciously give will provide a resource for clergy as they refer someone in need to professional services through our partners.
You will find more information and resources for the offering on the Dakotas Conference website. There are several resources for clergy, congregations, and individuals available through the North Dakota and South Dakota Cooperative Extension Services.
I urge you to continue your earnest prayers and to magnify your generosity to those in despair. Let us deliver the comfort and hope of the Lord.
Your Thanksgiving offering is a gift that will bring honor to God. Thank you in advance for your extravagant generosity. Thank you for blessing the Lord as you bless others.
In Christ’s love,
Bruce R. Ough
Bishop Bruce R. Ough
The United Methodist Church
2019 Thanksgiving Offering resources for congregations:
Bulletin insert — black and white pdf | black and white Microsoft Word
Bulletin insert — color pdf | color Microsoft Word
Power Point with music and transitions—16 x 9 version | 4 x 3 version
Power Point without music — PDF version | slides as photos
Resources about farm stress:
North Dakota State University Service—resources | contact information
South Dakotas State Extension Service—resources | contact information
Avera Health — information | hotline 1-800 691-4336
North Dakota LSS — information | For First Link Help Line, call 2-1-1