Meals -- and More -- in Maud
There truly is such a thing as a free lunch! The members of Maud UMC in North Texas have been providing free lunches – and much more -- to area children for many months. In fact, this partnership with community organizations has spawned a ripple effect of new ministry initiatives…and inspired a new “can do” attitude within the congregation. “When I first came to the church on June 7, 2007, we were averaging about a dozen in worship,” says Pastor Ross Hyde, “and I am thrilled to report that, as one very measurable result of our recent outreach programs, we now have 50-60 on a typical Sunday.”
He is personally energized by MUMC’s new “outward focus” inspiring renewed enthusiasm and new faces within the congregation.
“My nickname at church and around town is the Crazy Preacher or the Instigator,” he says, “but I don’t mind that a bit because it reflects our church’s new vision to think outside the box and see more people’s lives changed.” Adds Ross, “We can’t financially take the lead alone, but if we know of a need and we know of existing resources, we are going to do whatever we can to bring the two together.”
By partnering with the Texas Hunger Initiative and the Texas Department of Agriculture, the church was able to provide almost 4,000 free lunches to children of the Texarkana Independent School District throughout the summer, when the school’s free lunch program was inaccessible. Nourishing food was prepared at a local commercial kitchen, picked up by MUMC volunteers, and served out of the church fellowship hall. “When a dad pulled me aside to tell me his two jobs were still not enough to feed his family and thanked me for helping his child, I knew we were really making a difference,” adds Pastor Hyde.
A Small Congregation with Big Ideas
MUMC is seeking creative ways to let the community know they care. The success of the summer feeding program has inspired the idea of expanding to offer breakfast to students next summer, and it has revitalized the existing ministry of the Friendship Thrift Shop that was on the brink of closing just a few years ago. “For the first time in almost a decade, the store generated enough to provide a $2000 scholarship to a graduating senior this year,” Ross reports. Other new ministry efforts include an expanded scouting program, a rescue of the neighborhood library and a summer reading program. “Our small church was even able to adopt 52 kids last Christmas and we provided for a full list of their needs, not just one toy.”
At recent Charge Conferences, Bishop Huie challenged churches with the question, “Would your community miss you if you were not here tomorrow?” Pastor Hyde can emphatically say Yes, after putting several years of intentional energy into outreach ventures. “Youth that have never been in a church in their lives are coming to our youth group to participate in the Project Preposterous video Bible study and they are telling me this is the first time they have ever understood who Christ really is!” On another occasion, “A 10-year-old heard one of our volunteer servers was in the hospital and said, Tell her I’m praying for her.”
Pastor Hyde’s motto is: “Don’t say we can’t until we’ve tried. We’ll find a way to meet the needs we know about. We are providing jobs and second chances for troubled individuals, we want to expand our school supplies effort through additional grants -- and we rejoice in the fact that every member of Maud United Methodist Church is a part of something bigger in our community.”