The Connection At Work

Date Posted: 5/8/2014

When a neighboring church is in need, TAC churches are quick to lend a helping hand – even across conference lines. This week, First UMC, Bay City, and First UMC, Wharton, assembled a Southwest District crew to come to the aid of El Campo’s Wesley UMC to demonstrate Wesleyan connectivity in action.
In the Southwest District of the TAC, just 13 miles from First UMC, Wharton, stands a 127-year-old church in the Rio Texas Conference that has a strong legacy in the Texas town of El Campo. In fact, Cheryl Sewell gives much of the credit to El Campo’s Wesley UMC for influencing who she is today. “My great-grandfather was one of the founding members of this church, and I have attended all my life, except for a few years when I lived in Central Texas,” Cheryl shares. “When I stood up to make the announcement that several of our neighboring-conference churches were going to help build us a wheelchair ramp, I told our faithful 10 members that the Lord was showing us that there is still purpose for our little church in the corner of this community.”

When Southwest District Superintendent Jay Jackson learned El Campo Wesley, a small African American congregation made up of mostly elderly members, did not have the resources or the personnel to make needed repairs or build a wheelchair ramp, he activated the neighbor network to come to their aid.  Notes Jay, “We came to know about them through some conversations with their DS in Victoria through a property matter that involved their congregation and one in my district, Kendleton Newman Chapel UMC. As we talked, it became obvious to me that this might be an ideal opportunity for us to reach beyond the district and the conference to lend some assistance.”

Adds Jay, “Since we have several churches in close proximity on the edge of our district and conference in Wharton and Bay City, I feel this demonstrates the missional nature of otherness at work and these two SW District churches are both mission-minded congregations with a willingness to extend their resources to help this neighboring church. The Southwest District was happy to help fund this effort in an ongoing desire to foster cooperative mission and outreach beyond the local church.”

God provided a picture-perfect day in early May for the work to be done. “Without this ramp,” adds Cheryl, “two of our members did not have access to our fellowship hall, so this is a huge blessing for our little church in the corner of El Campo!”

Rev. Meredith Wende and Rev. Dr. Russ Munch were thrilled to be involved. “It’s an adorable church with historic and sacred memories,” Meredith shares.
 Adds Jay, “We hope this type of outreach will encourage others to join in similar mission work and perhaps become a part of one of these United Methodist congregations in this area. It also offers a model for external focus that we hope others will embrace.”