Connection at its Best
When Houston-based Chapelwood United Methodist brings troops of teens to the northwest Texas town of Bullard, everyone benefits. These powerful partnerships across the miles are evidence of vital congregations doubling their ministry strength and building new friendships.
This long distance relationship that began five years ago has been called “a match made in heaven.” Josef Klam, youth pastor for Chapelwood UMC in Houston says he can see God’s hand in the making of a connective ministry partnership with Bullard UMC – in spite of the 188 miles between them.
“I believe God paired us together because I had several hundred youth that were enthusiastic about doing summer service work,” Josef explains, “and Bullard UMC was heavily invested in transforming their city and knew of many great needs -- so it was a natural connection.” Recently recognized with a Faith-in-Action Award for making a significant difference in their community, Bullard UMC covers the gamut of needs with a food pantry, clothes closet and an all-volunteer medical clinic that treats 900 uninsured patients a year. “We are able to share Christ almost every day as visitors share their prayer requests with us, or their stories as they wait to see a doctor,” adds missions coordinator Hazel Mason. “We have a reputation in the community for helping others, and we have Chapelwood to thank for helping us do so much more.”
She tears up at the mention of Chapelwood. “I have never met such wonderful teens and leaders who totally live by example and get a great deal of ministry done in a short time,” says Hazel. “When Chapelwood folks are headed our way, they bring so much love, it’s like Jesus is coming to town for a week.”
Adds Hazel, “What amazes me is that these students actually pay money to sweat and work and give of their time, and they don’t complain – in fact I have not heard that much squealing and laughter in many years!”
For the last five summers, some 300 Chapelwood youth and leaders hit the Bullard city limits to paint, build ramps, fix floors, do roofing and yard work to repair an average of 60 homes – all while praying and ministering to the families they are helping. Bullard UMC and other churches host the visitors, and even the school opens its doors to provide extra showers as needed. "Our ministries touch everyone which requires a real community effort," says Hazel.
“We did not consider a long term commitment at the outset of our connectional partnership,” adds Josef, “but year after year our ministry teams grew, the Bullard list of needs grew, and the projects forged new relationships with local city officials. When Hazel called last year and told us the mayor and city council were inviting us back for an Appreciation Week to honor our partnership, you better believe we were there! We have done a lot of projects in a lot of places, but this was special recognition born from true community impact.”
The other highlight from 2012, according to Hazel, was the team’s response to a single mom who had two special needs boys and a mobile home in shambles. “Chapelwood put a team together and raised the money to purchase her a new 18x60 mobile home and then came up here to build a pad and porch and install it with a septic tank,” says Hazel. Adds Josef, “Our team fell in love with this family, knowing that mom was struggling to provide for her kids. We even had leaders who wanted to sponsor the boys for camp at Pine Cove.”
Eleventh grader Alexandra Graham echoes that sentiment, saying, “Everyone in Bullard was so friendly and welcoming. I loved going back every year and seeing familiar faces. In our 5 years there, we really got to build a relationship with our host church. Working there was an amazing opportunity and I loved knowing that I was helping not only members of the church but also their friends and neighbors!”
What’s God going to do next?
The next big moment for Bullard UMC may involve a capital campaign to merge the food pantry, closet and medical clinic into one single building that would be easier to manage. “We have a long way to go, but know the church is growing. We will soon need these facilities so we want to think ahead,” says Hazel. “We need a single facility because we have waiting lists of people needing help in these tough times.”
Whether or not the troops from Chapelwood make it there every year, when they do, they are tremendously blessed in Bullard. Adds Josef, “Under the leadership of Rev. David Brasher, Bullard UMC has truly revitalized their community, and because of their faithfulness, we have been able to make a strong Kingdom connection that we will not soon forget.”
"Through partnerships, like the one shared between Bullard First UMC and Chapelwood UMC we've been able to bring together resources to meet needs that might have otherwise gone unmet. There is a great local appreciation for the positive impact which this partnership has had in our community. The church is better together. We are better when we partner together to do amazing things for the Kingdom of God, " says Rev. David Brasher, Bullard FUMC.
For more information on how to support this expanding community-based ministry, call Bullard UMC at 903-521-5711 or email Hazel at firstname.lastname@example.org.