Together in Mission
Three teams. Three sites. Three days. This October, nearly 30 conference leaders practiced servant leadership at locations where the ravages of Hurricane Harvey are still evident some six weeks later.
This year’s ministry outreach marks the 10th year that the Texas Conference Bishop along with ministry ordinands, district superintendents, and Center directors have devoted action-packed days to mission work. “I believe we are the only annual conference that does this type of project on a yearly basis, which I feel is very significant,” says Rev. B.T. Williamson, assistant to the Bishop. “We started this in 2007 helping with flood relief in Iowa, and this time the floods hit very close to home so we made sure to have a presence in the three districts that were impacted.”
The teams greatly appreciated the preparation work of Rev. Scott Moore and his disaster relief teams. They coordinated the trailers, equipment, site selection and details for local congregations to host the teams. “A unique highlight from this year was sharing dinner with our host church each evening,” adds B.T, “and hearing local pastors reflect on how their congregations have ministered in the flooding aftermath.”
Having multiple teams in multiple locations required participants to make adjustments, but everyone made the most of the multi-faceted schedule. For ministry ordinand Silverio Sanchez of FUMC Beaumont, it was a memorable time spent doing life together: during bus rides to Dickinson and Anahuac, gutting homes and damaged churches, and reflecting and sharing stories that will not soon be forgotten. “On one day our team was helping at St. Peter’s UMC, built in 1839,” Silverio says, “and the next day we helped a church member in Dickinson that was a former drummer for The Who.”
Amidst the debris and hands-on projects, Silverio experienced a heartwarming deja vu moment that took him back to 2005. “I heard our Dickinson homeowner talking about playing in a band at Lakeview Conference Center and I realized I was the worship leader at that same camp 12 years ago!”
Silverio is grateful for the concentrated time with this extended group of passionate leaders as he approaches ordination next May. “It was physically challenging at times, and eye opening to realize some people are still without power or help,” he says. “Pastors certainly have a lot to say,” he adds, “as we all enjoyed conversing as we traveled, worked and ate together, and ending our day with communion each evening.”
Ordinand LyAnna Johnson traveled from New England to participate in the cabinet’s teambuilding outreach. Since she is currently on loan as a church planter in Worcester, MA in the New England Annual Conference, her views of Harvey were limited to electronic screens. “I was heartbroken as I watched the devastation and I hated that I wasn't there to help,” LyAnna says. “The cabinet day trips allowed me to be an active part of the recovery effort.”
Bishop Jones worked alongside each of the teams on Wednesday and shared from his heart at the closing worship and communion service. Whether they were in protective clothing covered in mud or sharing a meal, each team member appreciates the richness of the overall experience. “Part of the joy of the connectional system is the relationships that we have with our colleagues, and this project certainly deepened those bonds,” adds LyAnna.