Donate to COVID-19 Help for most vulnerable in the Texas Annual Conference
By Lindsay Peyton
The Texas Annual Conference has launched COVID-19 Help, a way to assist with the basic needs of individuals and families impacted by the pandemic, regardless of the church they attend. The conference-wide campaign provides personal needs for its members, by empowering pastors to give gift cards for food, personal hygiene, house cleaning supplies, baby needs and medicine.
“In a time of being isolated, here’s a way not to be isolated,” Rev. Robert Besser, director of Congregational Excellence, said. “We just can’t be together, but our communities and our churches are better together.”
And they can still work together to make a major impact, he explained. “Here’s a way you are able to help,” he said.
Donating to COVID-19 Help is easy – and can be done online or by text, mailed check or the mobile App. The donations will then be distributed to the pastors to distribute those in need in their congregations.
Those pastors will determine which store is most convenient and will then purchase the gift cards to share with church members.
Besser explains that the Conference empowers pastors to do what they wish they could to help families in financial crisis. “There are churches who have the means and abilities to take care of their families, and there are churches that don’t have the means,” he said. “This is a way we can help them out.”
Besser added that COVID-19 Help is not meant to replicate existing services. “This will not replace any of those,” he said. “This is for those who have fallen through the cracks, who are not able for whatever reason to get assistance.’
A combination of circumstances sparked the idea for Coordinator of Mission Field Development Rev. Artie Cadar. First, a number of families were coming to their local churches. They had lost their jobs and needed help.
At the same time, as Cadar was watching the news, a story stood out to him. A professional woman was telling her story about how all walks of life were now in need of help. Newscasters asked her how long it would take until she was completely broke.
“She said, ‘A month,’” Cadar recalled. “She’s a professional, educated woman. I thought, how are others doing? They were probably broke already.”
His mind dwelled on those who live paycheck to paycheck. “We need to do something,” he thought. “We may not be able to help everyone, but we can help who we can. We have to do something with the resources we can.”
Cadar reached out to Rev. Morris Matthis, director of the Center for Clergy Excellence. “It came directly from Artie’s heart,” Matthis said. “I was aware of the need and thought, this is exactly what we should be doing.”
In a number of the conference churches, he explained, there are members who can help those less fortunate in a time of crisis. “But a number of our churches are made up of folks who are vulnerable, who aren’t able to give,” he said. ‘That’s where this is important.”
Empowering each pastor is also key, because they are the ones who know which members need help. “The local church is often the first place people go for help,” Matthis said. “It’s their first line of defense.”
It’s an example of second mile giving, or going the extra mile to help others. “The idea here is to go above and beyond – and it just makes sense,” Matthis said. “It’s an opportunity for those who have the means to do something and who have the heart to do so to help someone who will never know their names. There’s a great beauty to that.”
Cadar and Matthis presented the idea to Bishop Jones and his cabinet on Monday, April 6. The next day, Besser and Cadar met to the iron out the details with Center for Connectional Resources director/treasurer Dr. Elijah Stansell and Rev. Carol Bruce, who will be his replacement when he becomes Central South District Superintendent.
The following Monday, they returned to the Bishop and council to present their plan, and it was approved unanimously. Then, COVID-19 Help went to the conference council on finance and administration for final approval. Now, the campaign is ready for action.
“We’re trying to move on this as quickly as we could,” Cadar said.
He added that the coronavirus pandemic mirrors other disasters where the UMC has stepped up in the past, as a conference, to help. “In something like this, just like in Harvey, we’re called to be the church, not just preach that we are,” he said. “And people are knocking on the doors of our churches asking for help. That’s why churches exist, to help the community.’
To learn more about ways to give, visit txcumc.org/covidgiving.
For UMC members in need, contact your senior pastor. Appointed pastors will need to fill out the form for assistance at txcumc.org/covidfamilyassistance or email .