Members of First United Methodist Church in Longview made the decision years ago to be a beacon of hope in their community.

What that looks like today is a church that has mission and relationship-building at the heart of all it does.

Last month, the church celebrated Mission Month with the missions of the church on display in every part of the building.

“This year, our Mission Month has evolved into the best possible thing. It’s wholistic. We have contribution opportunities, mission tables with every mission we are engaged in, tangible ways for people to engage and learn more and sign up,” said Senior Pastor Jay Jackson. “The whole place was decorated with missional outreach activities, receptacles for donations like food items and clothing and every week a different emphasis, but the breadth covered the entire sanctuary, fellowship hall and welcome center. Everywhere you went, something about missions was right in front of you.”

Janice Crane, staff outreach coordinator, said the church’s dedication to missions covers a wide range of community needs.

First UMC is involved in food distribution, clothing ministries, furniture ministries, Hispanic ministries and so much more. The church even hosts events that give members of the community the chance to create family memories.

The involvement of the congregation in these missions spans all age groups, she said.

“We had a display out and a little boy – a fifth grader named Cooper – came up and I and explained to him that through that ministry, there is something for all of us to do,” Crane said. “He looked very studious, and his dad said, ‘What do you think?’ then Cooper said, ‘Yeah’ and he went to build beds at Beds of Hope and he loved it.”

Beds of Hope, a non-profit started by one of the church members, builds beds for children who are placed in homes by Child Protective Services.

The young children at FUMC put together “bolt bags” and pick up scraps of wood at the build site. Older children and adults put the beds together and deliver them – complete with mattresses, mattress covers, sheets and blankets.

Member Mike Scott launched Beds of Hope before becoming a member at First UMC. When he and his wife joined the church they became involved in the church’s many missions, and the church became heavily involved in Beds of Hope.

“Mission is just in the DNA of this church,” Scott said. “Our church is just one of the most mission-minded churches I have ever seen much less been a part of. Our church just looks for things to do and ways to serve the community and we always have our eyes open.”

In the last eight years, Beds of Hope has delivered 1500-1600 beds to children placed by CPS in homes in Gregg County and all the adjoining counties with exception of Smith County, which has a similar program.

Scott said there is much joy in the process.

“The fellowship of a bed build day is awesome and then the blessing of the delivery is so special,” he said.

Carroll Greenwaldt, who is co-chair of First UMC’s Mission Team, said there is also tremendous satisfaction in the food distribution ministries of the church.

Each month, the church is involved in distributions at the Gregg County Fair Grounds and the church’s Beacon Center, which is also home to the church’s Hispanic worship service, Casa de Luz (House of Light) and other outreach ministries in the neighborhood.

The fairground distribution site, which started in 2020, recently reached 70,000 people served.

“It’s a God thing. It’s meaningful for people to give. We put food in hundreds of cars for people who have lost jobs or maybe they just came from chemo treatment,” Greenwaldt said. “They just keep showing up – the people with needs and the faithful volunteers.”

Ric Hawthorne, the other co-chair of First UMC’s Mission Team, said he encourages Christians everywhere to be involved in missions.

Hawthorne’s grandmother, mother, sister, son and other family members have a long history of serving others.

“It’s the greatest hands-on direct help there can be. When I bring people with me to do missions, they see the need and they are astonished and then they get this great feeling coming away from it,” he said.

For more information on mission ministries…..Beds of Hope….