Volunteers Change World in 1,500 Places

Date Posted: 5/24/2012

How many United Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? Probably just one. However, when it comes to changing the world, United Methodists proved, once again, the more the merrier!

On the third annual Change the World Weekend, May 19-20, United Methodists in more than 1,500 locations around the globe ventured beyond the walls of their church buildings, got involved in their communities and participated in a global push to fight malaria.

Folks in the Philippines got the ball rolling.

Since May 19 in the Philippines dawned 12 hours before daybreak in New York, members of First United Methodist Church in Baguio City had a head start on the weekend.

Raising money for local mission, the congregation sponsored 3K, 5K and 10K Runs for Mission — “fun runs,” trekking the community’s main thoroughfares. A companion event, “Wellbeing Day,” focused on healthy living through a medical mission program.

“The fun run primarily aims to raise funds for our mission outreaches in the highlands of Cordillera,” said member Ernani Celzo.

More than 200 runners of all ages participated. Tourists from Manila and Singapore saw the church’s ads on the Internet, Celzo continued, “and included the run in their itinerary as they visited the ‘summer capital.’

“This is the first time Baguio City First United Methodist Church joined any Change the World event,” he said. “Also, it's the first time in the history of the church to hold a fun run, an event big enough to be felt by the city.”

Demonstrating Christ’s love
Serving more than 8,000 miles from the Philippines, the Rev. Mike Slaughter inspired the Change the World movement through his book, “Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus.” He is lead pastor at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio.

Like many other congregations, Ginghamsburg Church knows how to “be the church” through far-reaching ministries. On May 19-20, volunteers from the congregation reached out through 10 projects as far away as West Africa. At its Tipp City campus, 257 volunteers measured, poured, sealed and packed 103,332 meals to ship to West Africa for famine relief. Middle-school students purchased and prepared health kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

At Ginghamburg’s other two campuses, 93 people served at a variety of project locations. They painted the home of a disabled neighbor, picked up litter, cultivated and planted a community garden and went on a prayer walk around the community. In Fort McKinley, Ohio, church volunteers painted and cleaned a firehouse donated to the church for community outreach.

“We remain committed to partnering with our United Methodist sisters and brothers around the world,” Slaughter said, “as we demonstrate the love of Christ to the least and the lost, changing the world together.”

In Lubumbashi, the second-largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Canda Kawanbwa used the day to host a dinner with the street children with whom she ministers daily. Similar outreach to vulnerable children was on the agenda in Tanzania. Churches in the city of Surat, Gujarat, India, and the village of Mangilao, Guam, also planned activities for Change the World.

Putting a face on the church

Michael Airgood reported from St. John's United Methodist Church in Lviv, Ukraine. “We celebrated Change the World Sunday by going to the park closest to our church building and passing out sandwiches and talking to people. We also set up picnic games and invited the neighborhood kids and their families to join us.

“This event is particularly helpful for our church because Protestantism is a small minority in Ukraine, and being out in the community helps us put a face on the Protestant church.” Airgood is a missionary with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Church member Volodya Prokip added, “Many people heard about us for the first time. It's good for us to show we are not a closed church; our doors are open.”

“We hope that changing our world begins on a street corner in Russellville,” Arkansan Patti Butler told a local newspaper. Her church — First United Methodist — offered a free breakfast and clothing giveaway on May 19.

And in nearby Dardanelle, Ark., First United Methodist Church focused on Imagine No Malaria, with a special offering throughout the month of May. “Everyone in the congregation,” the Rev. James A. Benfer said, “has been learning about the need and the importance of helping others. Our church extends much further than our church walls and even our own community.”

A community block party and concert provided a way for members and neighbors of Eastwood Memorial United Methodist Church, Caruthersville, Mo., to become better acquainted.

‘Every choice we make can change the world’

Creatures great and small benefited from the “Make a Change Day” at Hartsville United Methodist Church in Tennessee. Youth from the congregation, Angie Blackwell reported, worked at the local animal shelter “by cleaning the kennels, giving baths, playing with the dogs and cleaning the outside area. We also donated bags of dog food, bleach, paper towels, shampoo, pine (cleaner) and rubber gloves.”

In Longview, Texas, teens from First United Methodist Church had fun with a surprise laundry day. “Our youth are going to low-income neighborhood laundromats,” Courtney Harris wrote on Facebook. “They will supply detergent, fabric softener and change for the machines. They will also fold and iron (laundry).”

And Susan Gundelfinger Naslund noted that the congregation of Foothills United Methodist Church in La Mesa, Calif., would gather at the church for a brief worship service and then divide into mission groups to go into the community and effect positive change. Projects ranged from picking up trash in the parks to caring for both elderly shut-ins and school-age children, “as we do our best to be God’s hands in the world.”

Monroe United Methodist Church in Washington worked with Fryelands Elementary School to build a nature park. “We dug and barked in a 660-foot-long pathway,” said Elizabeth Coonan, “and prepared and poured cement pads to hold six tables to be used as an outdoor classroom. Next, we will be helping a member of our church and eight other families build homes through Housing Hope.

“Every choice we make can change the world and reach others.”

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Looking ahead

Start planning now for Change the World for May 18-19, 2013. Here are a few ideas:

  • Assemble relief-supply kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
  • Collect books for an elementary school or a homeless shelter.
  • Collect disposable diapers and baby wipes for foster parents.
  • Get involved in a prison ministry.
  • Have a brownie bake-off, a chili cook-off, a garage sale or a carwash to raise funds.
  • Join an ecumenical CROP Hunger Walk or Habitat for Humanity build.
  • Landscape a park or plant a community garden.
  • Mow lawns and do other yard maintenance.
  • Package meals for Stop Hunger Now.
  • Prepare and deliver sandwiches for homeless people.
  • Raise awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS and human trafficking.
  • Repair cars for people needing transportation to work.
  • Repair homes.
  • Sort and bag produce for the Society of St. Andrew.
  • Sponsor a health fair and an American Red Cross blood drive.
  • Write letters to members who cannot attend church because of mobility issues.

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