Three 2020 and two 2021 Denman award winners announced
The Harry Denman Evangelism Award is a celebration. This award honors United Methodists who bring people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Each year, the Upper New York Conference works with the Foundation for Evangelism to recognize and honor one lay and clergy member for their commitment to consistently introducing others to the Good News of Jesus Christ—a commitment that even a global pandemic cannot break!
The award is named for the late Harry Denman, a lay person with decades-long, life-transforming personal ministry of evangelism.
Typically, these awards are presented at the Annual Conference each year. However, because of the time constraints and the needed digital format that COVID posed on both the 2020 and 2021 Annual Conferences, the awards were not presented. Instead, the 2020 and 2021 award winners will be recognized at their local churches.
Let’s celebrate these phenomenal individuals!
The 2020 clergy Denman award winner is Pastor Jose Rodriguez.
Pastor Jose is a church planter from Cuba where his churches grew both numerically and spiritually. Locally, he planted Casa de Dios, a Hispanic United Methodist Church in Syracuse. He also supervises church plants in Utica, Amsterdam, and elsewhere within the Conference. During a period when there was no church planter appointed to Amsterdam, Pastor Jose made contacts in the community and brought together the people who became the foundation for Restoration Ministry.
In his ministry in Amsterdam, Pastor Jose has provided food and warm winter clothing for immigrant farm workers and their families. He has given clothing and diapers to families with babies. Few Hispanic people in our area have cars or licenses, so he makes weekly trips from Syracuse to pick up and take them to stores in Amsterdam. His transportation includes medical appointments, hospital emergencies, and even to New Jersey for cancer treatments.
Pastor Jose knows that it is essential to actively show Christ's love if one expects a person to believe that Jesus loves them. He creates loving Christian communities where believers can support one another.
The 2020 laity award winner is Rick Fisher, Jr.
Rick is the engine behind the outreach and evangelism ministry at Unadilla United Methodist Church. He realizes the importance of relationship-building and dedicates himself to walking alongside others on their journeys, whether near or far from Christ. He is a tireless and selfless servant always pointing others to the Lord yet giving all the glory to God.
Using bilingual evangelism with his small Spanish-speaking community, he hears their concerns about deportation, finances, and housing and can guide people to appropriate resources providing a sense of comfort and peace.
Given the transportation issues of small towns and a rural community, Rick wrote a grant which provides funding for a transportation ministry enabling families to visit loved ones who are hospitalized or incarcerated. The ministry also delivers meals or groceries to those who are homebound.
Rick is also instrumental in several other ministries including Breakfast in the Basement, Music Ministry, Missions, and worship planning and leadership. In all his work, people are transformed by God's grace through shared meals and shared service, prayer, and agape love.
There is also a youth Denman Award winner for 2020—Nolan Carner
Nolan is a member of the Butler United Methodist Church. Nolan is a young teen and has been active in the church since the age of 4. From music ministry and mission projects to explaining to the congregation how the church apportionments support the Camp & Retreat ministry that has helped grow his faith, Nolan is an evangelist!
As the sixth generation to attend Butler, he has been taught how to respectively fill and dispose of the Communion Elements when the Eucharist is celebrated. He also helps to serve Communion. He acts as an usher when the offering is taken. He has taken on the role of mentor to a younger boy and is doing a fantastic job teaching him how to bring glory to God through service.
The age of the congregants at the parish are mainly over the age of 60. Nolan speaks to each in a caring way going out of his own comfort zone to help someone with doors, getting to their seats, and making sure everyone has a bulletin.
Nolan’s enthusiasm to help and to spread the love of Christ is contagious!
Both Denman Award winners for 2021 are clergy.
Della Ludwig is a clergy winner of the 2021 Denman Award
Della Ludwig is the pastor at a small local church, Newark Emmanuel UMC. Pastor Ludwig’s primary effort during the COVID pandemic has been a food ministry that has offered over 25,000 meals to members of the community, out of the kitchen at Newark Emmanuel UMC. The congregation’s identity in Christ continues to be life-changing and purposeful when they imagined there was little hope of the church surviving the downtrodden times of past years.
Every Tuesday through Friday since COVID began, Pastor Della has led her team of fewer than one dozen volunteers to plan, shop, procure, create, cook, and serve lunches to people who line up at the door in all kinds of weather and to hand out free hot meals to the hungry, and still abide by COVID protocols. During the holidays, over 150 Easter baskets, with ham, potatoes, vegetables, and candy, were shared. This is an extensive operation devoted to feeding the hungry.
People who were dispirited at Newark Emmanuel have found new life in the revived food ministry.
Sean Chanthasone is also a clergy winner of the 2021 Denman Award.
Sean escaped the country of Laos which was a democratic country at that time (mid-70s) but was taken over by Communist rule. Sean’s faith journey to know Jesus was influenced by evangelists, so he knows firsthand how important evangelism is.
Sean and many members of his family joined thousands to flee for their lives and landed in a refugee camp in Thailand. It was there that he met a Christian worker who began to introduce him and his family to Christ. This Christian man was an evangelist, but even more importantly he was kind, and loved them into the kingdom. He led simple worship services and Bible Studies there, and Sean and many in his family quickly chose to follow Christ. By the time his visa to come to America was cleared (a couple of years later), Sean was well established in his faith, and biblical knowledge. In addition, while there, he learned just enough of the Thai language that he has been able to communicate with not only Lao people here in the states, but also people who speak Thai.
Sean is a pastor at Endwell UMC and was also instrumental in creating the Karenni Good News (serving the Karenni population and New Hope UMC (serving the Nepalese population).
Pastor Sean has gone door-to-door in neighborhoods to establish relationships with immigrants of Asian, African, or Hispanic descent, both in the Syracuse and Binghamton areas of New York State. He not only establishes relationships but nurtures them as well. He cares for the whole person by helping those he comes in contact in whatever way he can and empowers others to do the same. He helps immigrants who don’t speak English to navigate needed services, for example getting driver’s licenses, getting to medical and other appointments, locating housing, and helping to furnish their new home. During the COVID pandemic, Sean provided transportation and assistance for dozens of people to receive their vaccinations.
These five individuals beautifully demonstrate the love of God to their neighbors in all places. Harry Denman would be proud!