In March 2022, IU Health, with Bishop Trimble and The Cabinet, extended a generous $275 grant to the active and appointed clergy in the Indiana Conference. The expectations and guidelines surrounding it were simple: invest in yourself.

The letter to pastors offering the grant said, “We know that you have been faithfully serving through this global pandemic, social unrest, and complexities within the UMC, perhaps with minimal acknowledgment or adequate rest. Your Conference leadership would like for you to BE ENCOURAGED and claim a $275 grant for yourself! While this one-time grant will not provide an extensive chance for extended rest and renewal, we hope it is a seed for you to invest in fun for yourself.”

Whether it be retreats, vacations, special meals with children or grandchildren, or hobbies, the following are just a small sample of the ways God revived Indiana pastors through the Be Encouraged grant:

Jesse Mullins, pastor at Cicero UMC, was able to go on a fishing charter for walleye on Lake Erie with his dad.

Meredith McNabb, Associate Conference Superintendent for the Central District, used to funds to support a directed silent retreat at the Benedict Inn in Beech Grove, IN.

Tim Burchill, pastor at Carmel UMC, used the funds for a local day of rest doing a “Diner Soul Food Tour” in Hamilton County. He said, “It was a breath of fresh air and one of the most innovative and supportive actions I’ve benefitted from in my 30+ years of ministry. Thank you!”

Amy Lee, pastor at Rosedalle Hills UMC, used the funds to go skydiving.

Ronnie Bell, pastor at Cumberland UMC, used his grant to purchase a MIDI keyboard to make beats. “Do I know much about making beats? No, not really! It’s been a lot of fun trying it, however!”


Sandy McCloskey, pastor at Glenns Valley UMC, said the grant “came at a tough time in pastoring” and “challenged us to think bigger. We took our first restful vacation in five years!”

Elizabeth Gilbert, pastor at Union Chapel Indy, used the grant to experience the Indy 500 race with her husband. “It was so fun to connect with an experience that is so iconically “Central Indiana” and “Indianapolis.” We’ve been encouraged and refreshed by the weekend of festivities!”

Lisa Resler, pastor at Baker Chapel UMC, used the money to rent a cabin at Lincoln State Park with her husband, kids, and grandkids. This used to be an annual trip, but it had been years since their last visit. “Thank you again for this beautiful gift!”

Jolita Erbele, pastor at Fairland New Life UMC, used the funds to take a plane ride.

Jared Kendall, pastor at Munster Ridge UMC, used the grant to surprise his kids with a puppy from the local animal adoption agency. Cooper, a 12weekold chocolate lab mix, is a welcome, furry addition to the family after the loss of their family dog a year ago. 

Sean Johnson, pastor at North Judson UMC, used the funds to attend a weekend board game convention in IL, “Gaming Hoopla” that also fundraises for the Aurora Cancer Center. “Not only was I encouraged by spending a weekend doing something I love to do and find a lot of fun, but I was able to do so knowing others got to benefit as well.”

Esta Rosario, pastor at Hammond Woodmar UMC, used the funds to pay for a professional organizer who came to organize Esta’s basement, a source of overwhelm and discouragement. “When I came home from DCOM and saw the results, I cried. A huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.” 

Kristen Hanson, pastor at Geneva UMC, used the funds to attend a New Kids on the Block concert with her sister and spend a day at a spa. 

Ryan Goode, pastor at Hamline Chapel and Aurora First UMC, used the grant to spend a week hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

George Purnell, pastor at Mackey Salem UMC and Evansville Centenary UMC, went with his wife, Joyce, to a Cardinals baseball game. As a lifelong fan, this was George’s first time attending opening day at Bush Stadium.

Colin and Heather Cress, co-pastors of the 952 Circuit, used the funds to purchase new bikes for family fun with their kids and personal fitness. “The first day we got the bikes we rode an hour just ourselves and then went on a family bike ride!”

Hannah Wiswasser, pastor at Plainfield UMC, used the funds to purchase a giant stack of books, including several volumes rom Henri Nouwen.

Melissa Englehart, pastor at Dunlap UMC, bought new quality art supplies, replacing her worn out ones. Drawing as an act of prayer and devotion is part of her summer renewal leave plan.

Lauren Hall, pastor at Plymouth First UMC, used the funds for quality time with her daughter. The pair enjoyed dinner, movies, shopping at the mall, and the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Janelle Ohlemiller, deacon at Grace UMC, used the funds to purchase a one-on-one lesson in weaving. “Weaving has been a hobby of mine for a few years, and it gave me joy to invest time and funds into something I often struggle to prioritize.”

Anthony Stone, pastor at new Palestine UMC, used the grant to go backpacking in the woods.

Matt Sherrill, pastor at Carmel UMC, used the funds to go on a 100mile bike ride up the coast of Michigan with a good friend. “It was an incredible time of renewal, joy, and peace.”

With celebration and gratitude for the ways God sees God’s people and provides for them, Indiana clergy give a hearty “Thank you!” to IU Health, Bishop Trimble, and The Cabinet. Because of this gift, Indiana clergy have another reason to testify with Psalm 23 that God continues to lead all beside still waters and restore our souls.