Palestine Church Mobilizes 100+ for Outreach
October 12 will be the third Methodist Mission Weekend this year for First UMC-Palestine , where almost every church member – from child to retiree -- has an important ministry role to play.
Mission Chairman Danny Smith never knows what to expect when he makes a “construction call” on behalf of First UMC Palestine’s growing “Methodist Mission Weekend” program. One time he observed a faucet leak so severe it had rotted the home’s original vanity before creating a gaping hole in the floor.
Another challenging need involved helping simplify the living quarters of a disabled man who only had the use of one arm. “Thankfully, my wife Dorenda is a space planner and home interior expert and was able to organize the man’s living space while my team of volunteers installed grab bars in the hallways and created better wheelchair accessibility,” notes Danny, a retired structural engineer who heads up Palestine UMC’s ongoing ministry known as Methodist Mission Weekend.
The construction related mission outreach idea came from Rev. Bruce Hay several years ago, with organizational input from Melissa Brigman, who serves as Director of Missions for nearby Marvin UMC in Tyler, Tx.
Similar to UM ARMY, the ministry provides Christ-centered assistance with small repairs for low income, disabled or elderly homeowners in the area. “Over a year’s time, you will see about two-thirds of our congregation sharing their gifts to help others through this ongoing ministry. On the October 12 weekend, children, youth, UMW ladies and other members of all ages will be helping in some way to complete five work projects in our community,” he adds, “ranging from exterior painting to handrail installations and wheelchair ramp repairs.”
He is thankful that most supplies are donated by area suppliers or individuals, so the project doesn’t impact the church budget. He is also thankful that with 150 average worship attendance, that over 100 volunteers sign up via a 'gifts survey' to serve on work crews throughout the year.
The all-important personal side of ministry also occurs with client families when First UMC Palestine members share a devotional during the project picnic lunch on each worksite. Homeowners have a variety of needs. One older man really appreciated the help he received because he was unable to read or even spell the street he lived on.
Danny acknowledges, “Doing this kind of work gives us a new perspective on life, for sure. No matter what our ages and talents, literally everyone in a church has a gift, whether it is slinging a hammer, making a sandwich, or visiting with the clients and inviting them to our special wrap up service several weeks after a project is completed.”
The next Celebration Potluck Dinner will be held at the church fellowship hall in mid November where participants, supply donors, clients and church members meet to watch the ‘before and after’ pictures and celebrate together. Several clients have joined the church due to some tie to this outreach.
Discovering those relationships is the part volunteers enjoy most. “Since we work locally in a small town, we almost always find some kind of personal connection with our clients and each other,” notes Danny. “Our reputation for helping has a mushroom effect and we almost always leave a worksite with another need in hand.”
The Methodist Mission Weekend campaign does not stop with Palestine Methodists. “Since Pastor Bruce asked me to head this up, and share our model with other churches at an area meeting,” adds Danny, “I ended up creating a Do-it-Yourself notebook that should make it easy for others to start a ministry like this.”
The binder includes suggested job descriptions, an organizational flowchart, safety guidelines and forms as well as helpful checklists.
For a binder or additional information on how to start an outreach ministry for your congregation, contact Danny at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“There are special stories in all of these projects. One that comes to mind relates to a retired teacher who had us clear 1700 lbs of scrap iron from her property. When we returned with $1000 from the sale of the iron, she wouldn’t take it even though she certainly could have used it. She ended up donating it to her church,” adds Danny. And so goes the ripple effect of sharing the love of Christ with others, month after month, year after year.