Small Churches Demonstrate Big Hearts in Many Ways

2/13/2014

From Harleton to Port Arthur, many of TAC’s smallest congregations generously serve others in creative and big-hearted ways.
 
US military personnel across the globe are thankful for the faithfulness of a 75-member church in rural North Texas. Harleton UMC just launched a year-round program to send care packages to personnel deployed overseas. “I learned of a website called anysoldier.com that informs volunteers of soldiers’ specific needs, particularly those that do not get mail from home,” explains Rev. Kate Turner. “We have a very patriotic congregation with an active group of about 40 and each one has jumped in to help prepare these special shipments.” To publicize this effort to the community, the church posted a donation notice on their programmable sign at the street and items were immediately dropped off in large quantities. “Even the high school student council wanted to help,” adds Kate, “so we’ve had to dedicate an entire room of the church for our inventory.”

One overseas shipment contained food, another was filled with hygiene products and recreational items such as books – including Bibles -- and games will be next. “As we put ourselves in the shoes of these soldiers, we realize how we take for granted that we can run to the dollar store anytime, yet these folks are putting their lives on the line for us and may not even have enough shampoo,” Kate shares. She was particularly touched by the generosity that spilled over in donations to cover shipping costs. “We started out to do this as a Christmas project, but we are now excited to continue it all year round as a gratifying way to reach out beyond the church.”
 
Another way the church demonstrates its big heart for others is by conducting a Community Health Fair each year. “At our most recent event, we provided flu shots, diabetes education, healthy eating demonstrations and, most importantly, low cost digital imaging mammograms for about 50 people in a 3-hour event,” she adds. 
 
Bridging to the Community
Methodists from all corners of the conference -- from the top of Texas as far away as Port Arthur, Tx on the Gulf coast are taking their small towns and communities by storm by Investing in the young in their local schools.
 

After adopting Booker T. Washington Elementary school about two years ago, St. Paul UMC in Port Arthur is seeing fruits of their efforts to show God’s love to their nearest neighbors. “We had an open house at our church at the end of the last semester and hosted 158 students, teachers and grandparents on our church campus,” shares Reverend Patricia Wells Mayfield. “While it was a field trip for the students, it was a blessing for our members.” Children sang songs and left with a bag of goodies. “We are planning more ways that our members can serve the faculty and students at Booker T,” she adds, “including our Ace-It tutoring program at the church every Saturday during the school year and hosting the annual Christmas Concert featuring the Port Arthur Area Children’s Choir.” Next on the mission agenda, St. Paul will host the students’ Spring Concert.
 
Book Buddies and More

Members of First United Methodist Church, Malakoff: Edwina Carson, Billie Tustison, Darlene McMahon, and Carla Anderson are pictured with their “Book Buddies” from Allison Kimble’s first grade class of Malakoff Elementary School. The ladies have taken the challenge to “go beyond the walls of the church” and go into the community. The teacher praises this effort because she has seen a big impact on the children they are working with, not just their reading but also knowing that they have someone that supports and encourages them to learn. District Superintendent Sandra Smith is also excited to report additional book buddies from Cedar Creek UMC are working with students in their local schools.
 
She shares about one Northwest District story in particular that recently grabbed her heart. “St. James UMC in Sherman averages 36 in worship but now has a youth group on Wednesday nights with 30 students! Most of the students have no church affiliation but this event allows the church members to teach them the Bible, have fun with them and serve as positive role models,” she adds. “As I travel to charge conferences, I love learning about these great stories.”