UMC Churches Partner with 30,000 Youth to Serve Houston
By: Sherri Gragg
Every three years, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America holds a Youth Gathering of young ELCA people from all over the United States. During the week-long event, students participate in interactive learning experiences, Bible study, corporate worship, and service projects benefitting the host city for the conference. This June 27 – July 1, the ELCA Youth Gathering descends on Houston.
UMC Churches Partner with ELCA
Several UMC churches from the Third Ward, including the Rev. Linda Davis, Chairperson of the Economics Development Council Faith in Action Workgroup, are partnering with the ELCA, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities project to complete 130 service projects throughout the city of Houston. Davis serves as Senior Pastor of Boynton UMC, Houston. Students will participate in community cleanup and beautification, read to children, man the Houston Food bank and more.
Not only have Houston UMC churches heavily invested in the week-long event through donations and volunteer hours, students will serve at no fewer than 11 UMC churches. “We will have 90 students at Boynton UMC for each of three days,” Davis said, “They will work on a variety of clean-up projects in the neighborhood.” For one unique project, a 100-year-old member of Boyton UMC will teach the teens how to knit cancer caps.”
Service that Celebrates Houston’s History
The service projects have not only been thoughtfully chosen in regards to the city’s needs, but to provide an educationally opportunity for the youth. As participants work painting murals, cultivating community gardens, and refurbishing libraries and parks, volunteers from the Faith in Action Workgroup will be on hand to offer presentations on Houston’s vibrant and diverse history. One such project is Emancipation Park. “The kids are going to host a book fair at the park,” said Davis. “While they are there, they will hear the story of how four African American pastors, including Trinity UMC pastor Elias Dibble, purchased the park for $800.00.”
The office of Mayor Sylvester Turner has worked closely with FIA and the ELCA to focus on communities in need. The week of service will target five communities in Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities project. “The Mayor has given us carte blanche for City Planning, Waste Management, and Parks and Recreation to assist us,” Davis said.
Houston UMC youth will join their ELCA brothers and sisters in the week of service, including doing their part to further the literacy aspect of Bishop Jones’ “We Love All God’s Children” initiative by stocking libraries throughout the city with 100,000 donated books.
“This is huge,” Davis said, “When all of this came about I just knew it was too big for the United Methodist Church to not have a presence.”