Grand Saline UMC Members Known as the Wesley Wonders

Date Posted: 3/13/2014

Being the hands and feet of Christ in Northwest Texas sometimes involves braving 100-plus degree heat to help at Wiley College, driving thousands of miles to advocate for the rights of children, and cooking and caring for community residents from 9 to 90.
In a sense, several members of First UMC, Grand Saline do mission work ‘under cover.’ Two women from the 275-member church serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for the rights of children in difficult situations. They must remain anonymous for the protection of this ministry and their youthful clients because they deal with the aftermath of abuse, divorce, parental incarceration, foster care issues and the like. “I am happy to report, however,” says Rev. Donald Brown, “that one of the children they helped last year went from foster care to full adoption, and was baptized as well.” The CASA Outreach Coordinator sincerely appreciates these recruits from First UMC, Grand Saline. “These two wonderful ladies advocated for eight children by volunteering 138 hours and driving over 2,600 miles to seek permanent solutions through the court system,” says Katherine Elliott. “Their hard work resulted in five children being placed in happy homes and they continue to work toward more of the same.”

Over one-fourth of the congregation is actively involved in a variety of ministry outreach activities ranging from the food pantry, library, local nursing homes, and hospital to the community Thanksgiving dinner. “We are involved in all four local public schools,” adds Donald, helping first graders learn to read, making meals for 250 on staff, and doing our part to prepare our preschool students for launching into Kindergarten.” One member provides many school supplies out of her own pocket, often before the need is even recognized. Grand Saline member and first grade teacher Kathy Caddel comments, ”Our students and staff are blessed by the FUMC volunteers in many ways. You should see the faces of the children when they receive new supplies that they would not otherwise have!”
Mission as Ministry
“My job is to train our many faithful volunteers into the mindset that what they are doing is Christian ministry, not just a good deed,” he says. Donald practices what he preaches by serving as President of the Grand Saline Ministerial Alliance and wife, Beth, a retired teacher, spends four days a week volunteering at one of the elementary schools. “First UMC is so integral to most everything that happens in the community,” he adds, “so we have a wonderful relationship with the local newspaper and get featured in stories quite often.”
“All I have to do is mention a need on Sunday and I have more help than I can direct,” adds Lay Leader Blair Currey. “It is such a joy to realize how many of our members help keep our small community revitalized.”
Two other seasonal outreach traditions for First UMC, Grand Saline impact many of the local residents, and bless the volunteers at the same time: one in the summer and one in the fall. “In July, braving 100+ degree heat, our youth joined with others from Cheatham Memorial First UMC and Russell Memorial UMC to conduct a mission project in Tyler,” adds Donald.
They worked in two places over 24 hours to help install a concrete block patio at the Wesley House at Tyler Junior College to allow the Foundation to serve students meals through the kitchen window.
First UMC’s fingerprint is on everything when it comes to the community. “Consequently, this enthusiastic commitment to outreach makes us one of the healthiest congregations I have ever been involved with,” Donald shares. Newcomer Tom Sisoian says it did not take him long to see that this church tried to see just how far they could reach into the community. “All of the ministries are focused outward, so I jumped right in when I joined and helped coordinate the Thanksgiving dinner. I have been a part of many churches, but none have had this legacy of graciousness like Grand Saline.”
Longtime volunteer Lynn Gray says the church is even discussing getting Wesley Warrior T-shirts. “We have such a cohesive congregation that would be sorely missed if First UMCGrand Saline went away,” notes Lynn. “We work with other organizations and people across generations and have the type of members that will meet a need in a matter of hours, once they know about it. We may be small but we are mighty.”