It is easy in our day to take the United Methodist Connection for granted. It is easier still to view “apportionments” as taxes. A variety of recent events not only challenge but also decisively set aside any sense that the connection is unimportant and that “apportionments” are just taxes. Together, they allow all of us a ministry reach in the name Lord that is far greater than even the largest church could accomplish alone. One of the early responders in West was Rev. Laraine Waughtal, the Central Texas Conference’s Disaster Relief Coordinator. Laraine is a trained and certified disaster responder. When she walked in to the Red Cross Center in West, her badge had UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) on it. The Red Cross official shouted, “Yes! UMCOR is here!” United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has a worldwide reputation for its wonderful work sharing the love of Christ in disaster relief. So too do many other Christian denominational relief efforts. Together they form a magnificent witness living out Matthew 25:40 where Jesus teaches us, “Even as you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” Even as she was traveling to West, Conference officials (Dr. Randy Wild & Rev. Kyland Dobbins and I) were working with UMCOR on coordinating relief. $10,000 in emergency funds has been released by UMCOR. This is combined with the incredible generosity of our member churches in their special “City of West” relief offering taken last Sunday. God bless you all for your kindness and extravagant generosity. But our connectional response of love, faith and hope does not stop there. Earlier in the week I had responded to Bishop Suda Devadhar of the New England Area with our prayers and support. Soon, we too as a Conference were the recipients of a flood of prayers and offers of support. The sense of the wider connection of the United Methodist Church was and is both palpable and concrete. We are making a conscious effort to change our thinking and terminology from talk about “apportionments” with connotation of taxation to the more accurate title “Connectional Mission Giving” (CMG). To the casual observer of those funds we divide them out, something in the neighborhood of 35% - 40% cover what business people would call overhead. (CTC’s percent of “overhead” expenses have gone down recently due to direct billing of Health Insurance and Pensions.) All churches and church organizations face such expenses. This includes the so called independent Bible Churches. The remaining 60% - 65% go to direct missional spending both in the Conference (Glen Lake Camp as an example) and to the wider world beyond (missionaries, hunger relief, evangelistic outreach, etc.) Connected together in mission and prayer, we are making a difference; even more “we are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I thank God for your faithfulness!