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This will be fun!
Recently I participated in the North Georgia Conference Dancing with the Clergy Stars fundraising event to benefit The Matthew Initiative. When people hear this their first question is “how did you get selected to do this?” That in itself is a funny story! At last year’s National PAUMCS Conference in Atlanta Rev. Phil Schroeder was one of our speakers. In between sessions I was talking with Phil and in the background Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” was playing. I made the comment, “That song makes me want to dance.” Phil said, “You should participate in Dancing with the Stars”. I responded, “That sound like fun.” Immediately, Phil picked up his cell phone and called Sharon Yancey, Director of The Matthew Initiative and said “I have a contestant for you for the next Dancing with the Stars.” Seven months later, Sharon called and asked me to participate. I agreed, thinking “this will be fun!”
The Matthew Initiative is a non-profit organization that helps churches build and strengthen their Children’s Ministry program. They have been very successful in helping churches reach out to the children in their community in new and exciting ways. They have done the Dancing with the Stars fundraiser for 3 years. Originally it was just clergy who participated but they have now expanded to include several lay people who have ties to the United Methodist Church. I was honored to represent the LaGrange District and PAUMCS and help The Matthew Initiative raise money.
While I thought dancing would be fun, participation in this event was something that was way out of my comfort zone. I don’t particularly enjoy being on stage for anything, but I have never in my life danced on stage! Each “contestant” was assigned a professional dancer to work with. Thank goodness my partner, Newell DeFreest, was very patient. I drove from LaGrange to Marietta once or twice a week for about 6 weeks to work on our dance routine. Not used to driving in Atlanta traffic, I would usually arrive slightly frazzled. We decided to do a Two Step, which I thought would be lively and entertaining. I now describe the dance as Newell just spinning me around the floor for 2 ½ minutes! Going into this, I wanted to win, but I finally came to the conclusion that if I completed the dance and remained upright I would consider it a success.
On the TV series, Dancing with the Stars, you always hear them say that they learned something about themselves. I guess my revealing moment came at a practice fairly early on when Newell said to me, “Stop trying to figure out where you are going and just relax and follow me. I’ll lead you where you need to go.” My immediate response was, “I always have to know where I’m going!” This was not exactly a new revelation about myself, but it did make me stop and think. There are times when I need to relax and trust someone else – whether it’s my dance partner, a friend or family member, or God. I need to practice “letting go and letting God”!
During the last 2 days leading up to the actual event I began to wonder why I got myself into this. I was extremely nervous about performing in front of a crowd. Luckily, I had a lot of support from family, friends and co-workers and I had the largest crowd of supporters present at the fundraising dinner. On Saturday morning during my devotion time I happened to read Psalm 20 which was just what I need to hear and helped to calm me down. I asked God to calm my nerves and help me do my best. It worked!
The most unexpected blessing from all this was the support I got. So many of the churches and pastors in my district contributed financially to the cause, but many of them also send me encouraging notes to let me know they were thinking about me. As I mentioned, I had the largest group of supporters on hand for the dinner and show – 7 tables full of family from all over the state and North Carolina, friends from LaGrange, PAUMCS sisters, and ministers from the LaGrange District. All of this helped me raise $7,773 for The Matthew Initiative! As it turned out, after the event was over it was discovered that Rev. Alice Rogers and I raised almost equal amounts – just $37 difference – and the People’s Choice Award has now been awarded to both of us! The real winner there was The Matthew Initiative. While this was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done, it was also one of the most fun and don’t regret it for a minute!
Denise is the Administrative Assistant in the LaGrange District Office where she has worked for over 18 years. She is a lifelong United Methodist having grown up as a “preacher’s kid” in South Georgia and attended LaGrange College where she met her husband, Mike. They have 2 grown sons, Robert (who is getting married in October!) and Brian. She is very active at LaGrange First UMC. She has been a member of both the GA Chapter and the National Chapter of PAUMCS since 2003, the same year she attended the PAUMCS Certification School. Denise has served as Newsletter Editor, Vice-President, President and National Conference Site Chair.
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