Impacting Lives

george hancockstefanIn November 2014, I was invited to give the sermon for the 100th Anniversary of the First Romanian Baptist Church of Chicago.  I was one of the 10 pastors that served the church and I have known 8 of them, myself included.  I served there only 7 years, in comparison with others who served 17 and 26 years.  Out of the pastors that served, 5 are still living and preaching the gospel in various parts of the United States.

While I was thinking of the pastors that impacted the lives of the thousands that have been members of the congregation, I was also thinking of the many people in that congregation that impacted my life and the life of my family in ways that they were not even aware.

An old couple in their 80’s used to come to church every Sunday.  Their family brought them to church, but as they would climb the stairs of the church and participate in worship service, they would hold hands.  They were married in the old country when both of them were sixteen and now, over sixty years later, they were still in love with one another.

We were blessed to have some great musicians. Some of them grew up in the church and now they play in international orchestras or are ministers of music in large churches.  Some continue to be musicians in small churches because God is worthy to be praised.  One such musician was our pianist, who was crippled with arthritis, but pleaded with us to allow her to play as long as she was able. We knew that every note was played with pain, but we loved to hear her play, for in her playing she weaved her physical plain with praise to the Lord who gave her the gift of music.

We were blessed to have some wise deacons. I arrived to the church in my thirties after serving in an American church, and they knew that while I was ethnically Romanian, there were things that I forgot, such as allowing my elders to always speak first in our meetings.  I learned to honor my brothers and they have learned to honor their pastor.  While in my current congregation, almost everyone calls me Pastor George, in the Romanian church, I always addressed my elders by their last names.  In our American setting, it is understood that when a Pastor retires, he stays away from the church for at least two years so that the new pastor assumes his full leadership, while in our ethnic churches, he receives the title of honorary pastor and is always present in the worship service.

My family was blessed to live on Sundays in a holy community that reflected the apostolic community.  Because we lived in the environs of Chicago and because we had two services – one in morning preceded by the prayer hour and Sunday school classes and one in the evening preceded by choir rehearsal and youth service, we stayed the whole day in the church building.  What created the holy community, in addition to the various spiritual activities, were the extensive tables set with lots of food prepared by the custodial family that lived in the church parsonage. When the evening service was finished at 8:00 PM, most of the guys would stay for another hour and play ping pong.

I was invited to speak at the Anniversary because many of the members felt that I brought new energy, vitality, and sometimes I stretched them beyond their comfort zones.  They invited me back because they felt that I made an impact on their lives. However, as I was reflecting on that, I could see how much they have impacted me.  I was thinking of a line that I have heard and used often, of a deacon praying at the installation of a pastor in a new church, “Dear Lord, thank you for giving us a good pastor.  Now, we pray and promise you that we will make him better.”  I praise God that when I left the First Romanian Baptist Church, I left a better pastor because of what the congregation had done for my life.

Impacting Lives

george hancockstefanIn November 2014, I was invited to give the sermon for the 100th Anniversary of the First Romanian Baptist Church of Chicago.  I was one of the 10 pastors that served the church and I have known 8 of them, myself included.  I served there only 7 years, in comparison with others who served 17 and 26 years.  Out of the pastors that served, 5 are still living and preaching the gospel in various parts of the United States.

While I was thinking of the pastors that impacted the lives of the thousands that have been members of the congregation, I was also thinking of the many people in that congregation that impacted my life and the life of my family in ways that they were not even aware.

An old couple in their 80’s used to come to church every Sunday.  Their family brought them to church, but as they would climb the stairs of the church and participate in worship service, they would hold hands.  They were married in the old country when both of them were sixteen and now, over sixty years later, they were still in love with one another.

We were blessed to have some great musicians. Some of them grew up in the church and now they play in international orchestras or are ministers of music in large churches.  Some continue to be musicians in small churches because God is worthy to be praised.  One such musician was our pianist, who was crippled with arthritis, but pleaded with us to allow her to play as long as she was able. We knew that every note was played with pain, but we loved to hear her play, for in her playing she weaved her physical plain with praise to the Lord who gave her the gift of music.

We were blessed to have some wise deacons. I arrived to the church in my thirties after serving in an American church, and they knew that while I was ethnically Romanian, there were things that I forgot, such as allowing my elders to always speak first in our meetings.  I learned to honor my brothers and they have learned to honor their pastor.  While in my current congregation, almost everyone calls me Pastor George, in the Romanian church, I always addressed my elders by their last names.  In our American setting, it is understood that when a Pastor retires, he stays away from the church for at least two years so that the new pastor assumes his full leadership, while in our ethnic churches, he receives the title of honorary pastor and is always present in the worship service.

My family was blessed to live on Sundays in a holy community that reflected the apostolic community.  Because we lived in the environs of Chicago and because we had two services – one in morning preceded by the prayer hour and Sunday school classes and one in the evening preceded by choir rehearsal and youth service, we stayed the whole day in the church building.  What created the holy community, in addition to the various spiritual activities, were the extensive tables set with lots of food prepared by the custodial family that lived in the church parsonage. When the evening service was finished at 8:00 PM, most of the guys would stay for another hour and play ping pong.

I was invited to speak at the Anniversary because many of the members felt that I brought new energy, vitality, and sometimes I stretched them beyond their comfort zones.  They invited me back because they felt that I made an impact on their lives. However, as I was reflecting on that, I could see how much they have impacted me.  I was thinking of a line that I have heard and used often, of a deacon praying at the installation of a pastor in a new church, “Dear Lord, thank you for giving us a good pastor.  Now, we pray and promise you that we will make him better.”  I praise God that when I left the First Romanian Baptist Church, I left a better pastor because of what the congregation had done for my life.

Caution Ahead: New Year’s Ranks Among Deadliest Days on U.S. Roadways

Hamilton, NJ – As Americans prepare for New Year’s celebrations, AAA Mid-Atlantic is reminding drivers and passengers alike of the dangers on the roads this New Year’s Day, which consistently ranks among the year’s deadliest days for alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10,076 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2013, which although is a decline of 2.5% from the number of persons killed (10,336) in 2012, is still far too many lives lost from a completely preventable crime,” stated Tracy Noble, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  In New Jersey, there were 146 drunk driving deaths in 2013, making up 27% of traffic deaths in the State, 146 deaths that were completely unnecessary.  

To strengthen efforts to protect the public against drunk drivers and reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths, AAA Mid-Atlantic is offering important safety advice to New Year’s Eve partygoers:

·         Always plan ahead to designate a non-drinking driver before any party or celebration begins.

·         Never get behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.

·         Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.

·         Do not hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who may be impaired

·         Use mass transit or call a taxi.

·         Be a responsible host in reminding guests to stay safe and always offer alcohol-free beverages.

·         If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself).

·         Download NHTSA’s new SaferRide app which will allow users to call a taxi or a friend and identify their location so they can be picked up. The app is available for Android devices on Google Play, and Apple devices on the iTunes store.

·         Remember: prescription, over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs also can impair your ability to drive safely.

Visit PreventDUI.AAA.com for impaired driving facts, transportation alternatives and expert advice.  AAA encourages visitors to Take the Pledge to drive drug and alcohol-free.

Caution Ahead: New Year’s Ranks Among Deadliest Days on U.S. Roadways

Hamilton, NJ – As Americans prepare for New Year’s celebrations, AAA Mid-Atlantic is reminding drivers and passengers alike of the dangers on the roads this New Year’s Day, which consistently ranks among the year’s deadliest days for alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10,076 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2013, which although is a decline of 2.5% from the number of persons killed (10,336) in 2012, is still far too many lives lost from a completely preventable crime,” stated Tracy Noble, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  In New Jersey, there were 146 drunk driving deaths in 2013, making up 27% of traffic deaths in the State, 146 deaths that were completely unnecessary.  

To strengthen efforts to protect the public against drunk drivers and reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths, AAA Mid-Atlantic is offering important safety advice to New Year’s Eve partygoers:

·         Always plan ahead to designate a non-drinking driver before any party or celebration begins.

·         Never get behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.

·         Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.

·         Do not hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who may be impaired

·         Use mass transit or call a taxi.

·         Be a responsible host in reminding guests to stay safe and always offer alcohol-free beverages.

·         If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself).

·         Download NHTSA’s new SaferRide app which will allow users to call a taxi or a friend and identify their location so they can be picked up. The app is available for Android devices on Google Play, and Apple devices on the iTunes store.

·         Remember: prescription, over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs also can impair your ability to drive safely.

Visit PreventDUI.AAA.com for impaired driving facts, transportation alternatives and expert advice.  AAA encourages visitors to Take the Pledge to drive drug and alcohol-free.

Pallone Secures Over $332,000 for 6th District Residents in 2014

LONG BRANCH, NJToday,Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. announced that, in 2014, he has helped secure over $332,274 for constituents seeking assistance through his district offices.  His work on behalf of constituents includes help with Sandy related FEMA grants and claims, SBA loans, Social Security payments, and more.  Over the past year, Congressman Pallone’s constituent outreach representatives have made it possible for constituents to cut through red tape in order to receive money that is rightfully owed to them.

“Whether a constituent is concerned about a federal policy or needs help navigating the federal bureaucracy, I want them to know we’re here to help,” said Congressman Pallone.  “I am grateful that so many residents of the 6th District have turned to us for assistance this year, especially as we continue to recover and rebuild from Sandy together.  I hope that they continue to use my office as a resource.”

The funds secured by Congressman Pallone and his staff are part of a long list of constituent services that his district offices offer.  For example, constituents who have issues with their Social Security benefits, federal pensions, Medicare eligibility, and U.S. citizenship are eligible for help.  Additionally, Pallone and his staff frequently assist veterans obtain back pay, GI Bill benefits, VA disability claims, as well as assistance to widows who are eligible to receive pensions.  Staff can also be helpful in locating low-income housing options, energy assistance, and other benefits or resources that may be helpful to residents of the 6th District.  

“Direct constituent service is a top priority of mine,” added Congressman Pallone.  “I always appreciate hearing from my constituents, and I encourage them to stay in touch, especially if we can be of any help.”

For help on any of these services or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact either of Congressman Pallone’s district offices:

Pallone Secures Over $332,000 for 6th District Residents in 2014

LONG BRANCH, NJToday,Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. announced that, in 2014, he has helped secure over $332,274 for constituents seeking assistance through his district offices.  His work on behalf of constituents includes help with Sandy related FEMA grants and claims, SBA loans, Social Security payments, and more.  Over the past year, Congressman Pallone’s constituent outreach representatives have made it possible for constituents to cut through red tape in order to receive money that is rightfully owed to them.

“Whether a constituent is concerned about a federal policy or needs help navigating the federal bureaucracy, I want them to know we’re here to help,” said Congressman Pallone.  “I am grateful that so many residents of the 6th District have turned to us for assistance this year, especially as we continue to recover and rebuild from Sandy together.  I hope that they continue to use my office as a resource.”

The funds secured by Congressman Pallone and his staff are part of a long list of constituent services that his district offices offer.  For example, constituents who have issues with their Social Security benefits, federal pensions, Medicare eligibility, and U.S. citizenship are eligible for help.  Additionally, Pallone and his staff frequently assist veterans obtain back pay, GI Bill benefits, VA disability claims, as well as assistance to widows who are eligible to receive pensions.  Staff can also be helpful in locating low-income housing options, energy assistance, and other benefits or resources that may be helpful to residents of the 6th District.  

“Direct constituent service is a top priority of mine,” added Congressman Pallone.  “I always appreciate hearing from my constituents, and I encourage them to stay in touch, especially if we can be of any help.”

For help on any of these services or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact either of Congressman Pallone’s district offices:

Make Your “Someday” Today: New Jersey YMCAs Come Together to Bring Resolutions to Reality

Local YMCAs Hold First-Ever Statewide Fitness Event on Jan. 10 to Promote Positive Personal Change and Good Health.

Shrewsbury, NJ – It seems nearly everyone has a “New Year’s resolution,” but statistics indicate that less than a quarter of these resolutions are kept.

Creating personal change takes effort, and support. To encourage individuals and families to make their resolutions a reality, YMCAs across the state have come together to host an Open House event at their local facilities on January 10.

“Everyone resolves to improve,” says Linda Ambis, Vice President of The Community YMCA’s Health and Wellness Center in Red Bank.  “We all say, ‘Someday I’ll get on a regular workout routine. Someday I’ll play sports again. ‘Someday I’ll have more time to spend with my kids.’  Our message is: why keep waiting? Local YMCAs are a place where you can do this today.

“We’re a community that support individuals and families in reaching their goals. This year, we’re taking things even further with a free, statewide event hosted by dozens of YMCAs at their own locations to promote healthy change.”

Ambis said The Community YMCA’s Family Health and Wellness Center welcomes individuals and families to an Open House, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 10. Tours of the facility will be available, and for those who decide to sign up for a membership during the open house, the Y is offering the month of January for free.

Because personal change can be difficult, Ambis noted, it’s important to take steps to make sure you stick with a routine:

>      Write it down: Write down exactly what you want to accomplish… and don’t hide it away your desk drawer! Post your goals in a prominent place where you’ll view them, and remind yourself, every day. Keep a journal of your progress, so you can measure yourself and keep yourself accountable.

>      Get comfortable with being outside your comfort zone: If change were easy, more people would succeed. Accept that change is difficult. Embrace the challenge.

>      Become active: Schedule into your day time for you and or your family to engage in physical activity.  Walk, swim, bike on your own or take an exercise class.  There is a social aspect to taking fitness classes which increases your probability for continued exercise.  Whether or not your goals are fitness-related, eating properly and being physically engaged is important to a healthy lifestyle.

>      Don’t do it alone: Difficult changes can become almost impossible when you bear the weight alone. It’s important to enlist support. A support system not only holds you accountable, it makes things more fun. Let others help you, and you’ll not only be more likely to accomplish your goals, you’ll foster stronger relationships in your life.

Community resources like the YMCA offer seniors, families, and others a place to gather and support each other in a healthy social environment. The YMCA is a nonprofit and believes all should have the resources to achieve health and wellness. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.

To learn more about The Community YMCA and the “Start Your Someday Today” open house, visit www.TheCommunityYMCA.org/YToday or call, 732.741.2504.

Make Your “Someday” Today: New Jersey YMCAs Come Together to Bring Resolutions to Reality

Local YMCAs Hold First-Ever Statewide Fitness Event on Jan. 10 to Promote Positive Personal Change and Good Health.

Shrewsbury, NJ – It seems nearly everyone has a “New Year’s resolution,” but statistics indicate that less than a quarter of these resolutions are kept.

Creating personal change takes effort, and support. To encourage individuals and families to make their resolutions a reality, YMCAs across the state have come together to host an Open House event at their local facilities on January 10.

“Everyone resolves to improve,” says Linda Ambis, Vice President of The Community YMCA’s Health and Wellness Center in Red Bank.  “We all say, ‘Someday I’ll get on a regular workout routine. Someday I’ll play sports again. ‘Someday I’ll have more time to spend with my kids.’  Our message is: why keep waiting? Local YMCAs are a place where you can do this today.

“We’re a community that support individuals and families in reaching their goals. This year, we’re taking things even further with a free, statewide event hosted by dozens of YMCAs at their own locations to promote healthy change.”

Ambis said The Community YMCA’s Family Health and Wellness Center welcomes individuals and families to an Open House, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 10. Tours of the facility will be available, and for those who decide to sign up for a membership during the open house, the Y is offering the month of January for free.

Because personal change can be difficult, Ambis noted, it’s important to take steps to make sure you stick with a routine:

>      Write it down: Write down exactly what you want to accomplish… and don’t hide it away your desk drawer! Post your goals in a prominent place where you’ll view them, and remind yourself, every day. Keep a journal of your progress, so you can measure yourself and keep yourself accountable.

>      Get comfortable with being outside your comfort zone: If change were easy, more people would succeed. Accept that change is difficult. Embrace the challenge.

>      Become active: Schedule into your day time for you and or your family to engage in physical activity.  Walk, swim, bike on your own or take an exercise class.  There is a social aspect to taking fitness classes which increases your probability for continued exercise.  Whether or not your goals are fitness-related, eating properly and being physically engaged is important to a healthy lifestyle.

>      Don’t do it alone: Difficult changes can become almost impossible when you bear the weight alone. It’s important to enlist support. A support system not only holds you accountable, it makes things more fun. Let others help you, and you’ll not only be more likely to accomplish your goals, you’ll foster stronger relationships in your life.

Community resources like the YMCA offer seniors, families, and others a place to gather and support each other in a healthy social environment. The YMCA is a nonprofit and believes all should have the resources to achieve health and wellness. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.

To learn more about The Community YMCA and the “Start Your Someday Today” open house, visit www.TheCommunityYMCA.org/YToday or call, 732.741.2504.

Review – Annie

david prown 120Seeing the remake of “Annie” wasn’t high on my movie watching list yet it fit the time slot. Knowing in advance that it was modernized and tweaked didn’t sway me one way or another. Big Jamie Fox fan and love how he can carry a film. Quavenzhane Wallis blew my doors off with her performance (at age 6!!!!!) in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” where she received an Academy Award Best Supporting Actress nomination.

My experience is that musicals rarely translate well to the big screen. I never saw “Chicago” on stage (only on screen which I liked) so I won’t count that one. I thought both “Rent” and “Dream Girls” were terrific on the screen but we are talking terrific songs and terrific performances.

I saw “Les Miserables” on stage in NY with the original cast that was simply iconic. So the transference to the big screen didn’t work for me at all.

Foxx played the modern day CEO of a Cell Phone Company (Daddy Warbucks equivalent) while Cameron Diaz played Miss Hannigan. Adding diversity to the cast provided the correct/right feel for this well know story. Yet there is not much good to say about this remake. Remarkably slow, forced, staged and just didn’t work.

The only magic of this film was whenever the focus was on Miss Wallis. She owns the camera whether speaking or singing (she can sing/perform!). Beyond that, this film is a bit anguishing. I guess it will do okay in the box office, but really doubt it will create much buzz, even among young girls.

Was pleased when that movie was over.

Review – Annie

david prown 120Seeing the remake of “Annie” wasn’t high on my movie watching list yet it fit the time slot. Knowing in advance that it was modernized and tweaked didn’t sway me one way or another. Big Jamie Fox fan and love how he can carry a film. Quavenzhane Wallis blew my doors off with her performance (at age 6!!!!!) in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” where she received an Academy Award Best Supporting Actress nomination.

My experience is that musicals rarely translate well to the big screen. I never saw “Chicago” on stage (only on screen which I liked) so I won’t count that one. I thought both “Rent” and “Dream Girls” were terrific on the screen but we are talking terrific songs and terrific performances.

I saw “Les Miserables” on stage in NY with the original cast that was simply iconic. So the transference to the big screen didn’t work for me at all.

Foxx played the modern day CEO of a Cell Phone Company (Daddy Warbucks equivalent) while Cameron Diaz played Miss Hannigan. Adding diversity to the cast provided the correct/right feel for this well know story. Yet there is not much good to say about this remake. Remarkably slow, forced, staged and just didn’t work.

The only magic of this film was whenever the focus was on Miss Wallis. She owns the camera whether speaking or singing (she can sing/perform!). Beyond that, this film is a bit anguishing. I guess it will do okay in the box office, but really doubt it will create much buzz, even among young girls.

Was pleased when that movie was over.