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Called to Serve

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
Recently, 32 people from various backgrounds - of various races, numerous occupations, and even different languages – came together to be equipped for the ministry that God has called them to at the Texas Annual Conference’s Local Pastor Licensing School.

“This eclectic group of would-be pastors quickly became a community united around the goal of preparing them for God’s work. They spent time learning from some of the best folks around the Texas Conference. And during meals and breaks they spent time learning from one other. The work that God was doing beneath the surface was just as significant, and maybe more so, as the work being done in the classroom,” says TAC Local Pastor Licensing School Dean Mike Lindstrom.

And that classroom work is not for the faint of heart. Seminars in preaching, church administration, stewardship, self-care, evangelism, and many more subjects filled the six-plus days these pastors spent in the Central Building meeting room at Lakeview Methodist Conference Center. “These set-apart persons were asked to assimilate a great deal of information in a short period-of-time, and they did so with grace and eagerness,” Mike says.

At the end of the week, many were given their license to serve as pastors in a local charge, which is where we get the term ‘Local Pastor.’ These persons, affirmed in their calling by their District Committees on Ordained Ministry, began serving churches on, or in some cases, before the first of July.

“They have the right and privilege and responsibility to serve all pastoral roles – from preaching to the sacraments to administration – in their local charge. In that regard it is a limited role and different from an ordained Elder who can serve in pastoral and sacramental ways in any place at any time. Local Pastors have been an integral and important part of the Methodist Church since its beginnings in the late 1700s,” Mike explains.

Other students were affirmed as Certified Lay Ministers. This is a relatively new designation in the church, which does not give any pastoral authority to the person. Mike explains that Certified Lay Ministers do not perform the sacraments and rarely administer the life of the local church. “They may, however, fill a pulpit and offer a word as preacher,” he says. The Methodist Church recognizes them as having been properly trained and encouraged in this work when they are certified.

For more information about the Local Pastor Licensing School, contact one of the deans: Dr. Jerome Brimmage (jbrimmage@lufkinfirst.com) or Rev. Mike Lindstrom (mlindstrom@fumc-conroe.org).

Tour de Force

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
Over the last four years, certain churches in the TAC have been mysteriously growing because of the Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI). The TAC Center for Congregational Excellence has worked with 60+ churches of all sizes by providing “prescriptions” related to areas from vision and discipleship to communications and leadership.
This initiative succeeds by building on each congregation’s unique strengths via members’ input and coaching from proven clergy. “In recent months, we’ve been excited to have some larger congregations take the plunge into VCI,” shares Rev. Mike Tyson, VCI Director. Churches with over 350 members now in the process include Holy Covenant Katy, First UMC Katy, St. Mark’s in Baytown, FUMC Dickinson and Atascocita UMC in Humble. “These churches have the budgets, staff and lay leadership to get really good traction through the process,” he adds, “resulting in both spiritual structure and numerical growth.”
Motivation To Pursue VCI
Most churches would be ecstatic with three services and an average attendance of 450 each week, but Atascocita UMC (AUMC) had plateaued there for a decade when leaders considered VCI.  AUMC Rev. Deborah Proctor shares, “Our immediate community has been growing 30 percent, yet our membership has not grown.”
Stagnant growth was also the motivation for First UMC Katy to participate. “We are a 114-year-old congregation in one of the nation’s fastest growing zip codes,” says Dr. Dick White, adding, “so our church council understood the need for outside consultants and coaches to help us do ministry in a changing mission field.” 
VCI Accomplishments
  • Following successful hospitality and communication workshops, Atascocita UMC has added a staffed ‘Guest Central’ booth, clarified the vision statement and is currently defining the path of discipleship.  Notes Deborah, “We have also made great improvements in live streaming, made our website and campus more guest friendly, and have obtained financial consultation to streamline reporting and creative funding of ministries.” Next steps include initiatives with small groups and foundational classes.
  • After the VCI consultation weekend, First UMC Katy leaders launched a new focus, saying, “It’s not about us, it’s about them.” One team is moving forward to clarify the vision of the church while another team works on a third worship service geared to people not currently attending a church.
  • St. Mark’s Baytown has task forces focused on creating more consistent, accurate and engaging information. St. Mark’s also leveraged the TAC’s Birkman assessment tool to help staff members identify their leadership style. The team has already witnessed more cohesive support among staff and leadership.  Peter shares, “VCI gives us the direction, momentum and energy as we move together toward the common goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ.”
  • Holy Covenant is simultaneously working on all five VCI prescriptions. Rev. Fred Willis says, “We started by having thorough, overarching discussions about what we do well and not so well, and what we value. We are also addressing leadership gaps, by pairing longtime leaders with new volunteers.”
  • “The VCI self study helped us see ourselves more accurately,” shares Rev. Jack Matkin, FUMC Dickinson, “and the consultation weekend provided multiple opportunities for a large segment of our congregation to be heard. The recommended prescriptions confirmed what we knew we needed to do, but for one reason or another had not yet addressed.” Jack says the new vision statement resonates with the members and community: Real People, Real Purpose, Real God – Life under the Cross, providing more focus now and drawing more members to get involved.”
Coaching Perks
Pastors agree that one of the main benefits of VCI is meeting regularly with a trained coach. “This has been key in helping me stay on track and keeping us accountable,” shares Deborah. St. Mark’s leaders are thankful for the coaching of Dr. Chuck Simmons. Shares Peter, “He is respected by our leadership and has consistently emphasized the importance and centrality of God’s presence. His leadership style has inspired us to think outside the box, look at our future and grow deeper.”  Holy Covenant has experienced another benefit of having a coach. “Our coach helps clarify the wording in the consultation report on occasion,” explains Fred. “Rev. Steve Wende has been a very positive champion who is walking with us and bringing outside experience and thoughts. As a certified coach myself, I know this would cost $150-200 per hour under normal circumstances, yet it is part of the VCI package.”
Visible Results
One common result these congregations have all experienced thus far is an energized leadership base and more unified staff.  Fred sees excitement in the leadership ranks at Holy Covenant, as evidenced by consistently high attendance at task force meetings. AUMC strategically placed one staff member on each of the VCI prescription teams to improve consistency in future planning. Adds Deborah, “We’ve also noticed that our giving is higher than last year which I attribute to the more confident atmosphere.” Dick White says there is a notably positive “buzz” in the church and a strong increase in the numbers of visitors attending the five summer camps for children. Adds Dick, “This renewed focus on our vision is also motivating more volunteers to help. Most see change as being a good thing and they are ready to pitch in.” These, and other pastors feel it has been a good investment of time and money and they are surprised more churches are not involved. “When someone asked me how much it would cost the church to do VCI, my response was, ‘What’s it going to cost if we don’t do VCI?’ There is going to be a cost either way,” notes Dick.
To learn more about this impactful renewal process, contact mtyson@txcumc.org or mgreen@txcumc.org.

Two Powerful Weeks

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
After two weeks of togetherness at the annual Texas Youth Academy (TYA) in Austin, students and leaders alike are eager to share their ‘wow’ moments from an action-packed schedule that stretches their leadership muscles from sun up to sun down. Matthew Edison, member of Life in The City UMC in Austin, enjoyed his experience as a first-time mentor for TYA. Notes Matthew, “In recent years I have been impressed by the spiritual changes in our church youth that have attended this, so I was looking forward to being a mentor this year. However, my overall experiences have superseded my expectations as I observed these amazing young people sitting straight through seminary level lectures, grasping key concepts, processing these complex themes of doctrine, Christian heritage, and theology.” Matthew found himself looking forward to hearing the students’ feedback in the mentor groups each night. “I enjoyed hearing their prolific thoughts, questions and challenges – and seeing their desire to design and lead worship.”

Texas Youth Academy is one of the Emerging Leader strategies of The Texas Annual Conference, designed to cultivate relationships with young adults seeking to pursue ministry work. Year after year, students appreciate having this space and time to explore their calling. “TYA is a fantastic ministry experience,” says Noah Furr, Chapelwood UMC - Lake Jackson. “I hope this kind of resource is available for other conferences as, had I not been a part of the TAC, I would not have been aware such a great opportunity for youth. I enjoyed seeing and visiting with an array of students and adults. It opened my eyes to understanding that there are many people out there that are different from me.” 

The highlight for Haley Macha, Strawbridge UMC, was the opportunity to build community with her peers.I came thinking things were going to be awkward but we all became best friends on the first day of TYA. I expected the plenary sessions to be boring but they were actually interesting. We were told that the experience was going to be unique and indeed it was.”

Dozens of churches have been investing in the young by sending youth and mentors to TYA in recent years. Cassy Nunez, Renacer-Galena Park UMC, is thankful she was able to serve the students as a mentor. “Wow, the word Academy is so appropriate,” Cassy explains, “because TYA does an amazing job at making every activity in the schedule intentional -- from the morning prayer through breaks and even the meal times.” Cassy expected a type of camp in the city program, but was pleasantly surprised. She adds, “Texas Youth Academy is like a mini seminary-mission trip-intentional community.”

Most of the students really enjoy the arts and crafts sessions. “I had never created an art piece with the intention of being a spiritual practice,” Cassy shares. “The artists prepare every activity with such dedication to help the students hear what God is speaking to them; this is evident in each art piece.”

Participants thrived throughout the two-week session appreciating the daily themes, activities, and worship and a schedule that was easy to follow. “The diversity of the staff allowed conversations to go further into real life examples and it gave the students an opportunity to hear narratives from different people,” observes Cassy. Maya Malone  Blueridge UMC – Houston, gave it a thumbs up. “I enjoyed the sense of community and closeness we felt over the past two weeks,” she says, “and I am amazed at everything we have learned.”

Tell Two Friends
Cassy returned to her home church with plans to help get the word out for next year’s Academy. “I would urge pastors and youth directors to consider sending their youth to TYA. It is a program that will transform lives,” she says.

Geography and Theology

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
When it comes to the Bible, Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles insists that her SMU Perkins School of Theology students repeat and memorize the mantra, “All geography is theology.” A New Testament Professor and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, Dr. Clark-Soles will share many insightful revelations about how land matters in Bible contexts at the upcoming Houston Lay School of Theology. The Houston Lay School of Theology is sponsored by SMU Perkins in cooperation with the Texas Annual Conference and is hosted by St. Paul’s UMC at 5501 Main Street in Houston. This year’s event will be Saturday, August 19 from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Students will learn:
  • Why the disciples are known as Galileans
  • The location of the Decapolis and why it matters that Jesus ministers there
  • How ancient Joppa and modern Joppa intersect and why contemporary Christians should care
  • Why Jesus ministers at the Decapolis and why the Bible mentions that woman at the well is from Samaria
  • What is meant by Galilee “of the Gentiles” and why the author of Revelation calls Rome “Babylon”
As one who rarely misses a class, Beverly McMahan, longtime member of St. Paul’s UMC highly recommends setting aside time to attend this annual training. “Houston Lay School has been a very enriching experience and has provided me with excellent study opportunities.  The many different topics offered and highly qualified leaders have given me a better understanding of the Bible and myself as a Christian. I also enjoy spending the day with other students from around the area, and exchanging thoughts and ideas,” Beverly says.
St. Paul’s Houston has been hosting this event for over three decades and counts it an honor to provide the venue for the Houston Lay School. “What’s unique about this school is that it gives laity access to meaningful, faith-inspiring knowledge from seminary professors,” says Rev. Karyn Richards-Kuan, associate pastor of St. Paul’s.
Online registration will be available through Aug. 14, 2017. Childcare is available with advance notification. Interested parties should contact Priscilla Pope-Levison at popelevison@smu.edu before August 14. Registration includes the course and lunch. For more information call Mary Roberts at 214-768-2390.

Meet Tayler Johnson

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
Some 15 years ago, The Texas Annual Conference committed to cultivating vibrant, growing churches while investing in a younger generation through programs like the College Pastoral Internship Project. Students experience the life of a pastor for 10 weeks in the summer.

Q. How did you decide to become a pastoral intern?
A. I grew up going to church, but not understanding the value of a relationship with God. I quit going to church but later felt like something was missing in my life. A friend invited me to YoungLife, where I heard a story about Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners. It was in the verses of this story that I began to see how I had put God as the reason for my problems instead of the solution to them. I became heavily involved in YoungLife and then FUMC Corpus Christi, which became my home and community in late March of 2013. When I became involved in the Texas Wesley Campus Ministry, I really saw God working in my life and felt God call me to ministry while on a mission trip over spring break to South Padre Island. I heard about the Texas Annual Conference College Pastoral Internship Project (CPIP) from a friend who participated last summer. After some prayer and reflection, I felt as if this internship would give me the best opportunity to explore pastoral ministry.

Q. What kind of things are you doing this summer?
A. I am serving at FUMC Athens this summer and have had the chance to shadow our lead pastor in most everything he does. This includes: working on a back-to-school weekend for families in the Athens area as well as planning events to attract young families to our church. My lead pastor is very involved in the community, so I attend events around town with him to see how a pastor should be involved in their community.

Q. What is your favorite aspect of the internship? 
A. I enjoy building relationships with the congregation and finding ways that I can serve them in ministry. My favorite memory was a note I received from a little girl I had only known for two days. The note said, “Dear Mr. Tayler, Thank you for encouraging me and being my leader. But most importantly, thank you for being my friend.”

Q. What is this experience confirming?
A. I definitely believe this experience has been confirming my call to ministry. I have gotten to see both sides to what it means to be a pastor, but my heart continues to see that the joys outweigh the concerns.
Q. What’s next?
A. After this internship concludes, I will go back to Austin to finish up my last semester as an undergraduate student, followed by an internship with the Texas Wesley Foundation. I will enter seminary in the fall of 2018.

Q. Describe your preaching experiences:
A. I will preach several times and lead different parts of worship throughout the summer, including the opportunity to lead devotions at the Conference Chapel.

New Spiritual Directors

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
The Charis program recently held a graduation and commissioning service for 13 spiritual directors at FUMC Conroe. The Charis Spiritual Director’s Training Program is an ecumenical initiative of the TAC, teaching clergy and laity how to serve as a ‘counselor for the soul.’ 
Spiritual direction is the process of accompanying people on their spiritual journeys to help them tell their sacred stories. Charis helps spiritual directors go into a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit and offers a place to explore prayer practices and meditation.
Charis Coordinator Becky Oates says this experience is far more than just an academic study. The program combines the ancient Christian traditions of spiritual guidance with the Wesleyan spirituality that inspires the United Methodist faith. “Spiritual directors are companions with others on their spiritual journey, in a Christian tradition that began with Jesus,” Becky says.
Featured speaker for the graduation, Assistant to the Bishop Rev. B.T. Williamson, centered his remarks on the road to Emmaus story in Luke 24. He reminded listeners that those who encountered Jesus in that passage wondered who he was yet felt their hearts burning. “Identity is important to all who follow Jesus,” B.T. shares. “Each person must explore the question, ‘Who am I spiritually?’” He noted that even John Wesley struggled with who he was spiritually until his life-changing, heart-warming experience at Aldersgate. Spiritual direction, B.T. explains, is “a day-in, day-out way of life in which the spiritual director helps tend to others, serving as a companion and an instrument of God’s grace.”
The Charis board and faculty members anoint graduates with oil and prayers of blessing. “The laying on of hands was profoundly meaningful after three years of sacred journeying,” says one board member. “When the final graduate knelt before us, I found my fingers resting on her neck where I felt her pulse underscoring the words of the prayer. I was truly feeling the heartbeat of God.”
How the Charis Program and Its Graduates Serve the Conference
Charis graduates offer a quiet ministry of presence and service. Charis Board Chair, Rev. Glynden Bode, explains that a task force of United Methodist spiritual directors, all of whom had received their training through other Christian traditions, developed Charis. Choosing the Greek word for grace as the program name, the founders created a program rich in Wesleyan spirituality and launched training for the first Class in 2005. Today a total of 75 trained spiritual directors are available throughout the Conference.
While many Charis graduates offer one-on-one spiritual direction, they also help their churches and communities deepen the spiritual life with days of prayer, retreats, classes and studies. Dan Barcus of St. Stephen’s UMC in Houston says, “As a participant of the first class, I began an awakening of my spirit. My eyes and heart were opened to see God and the Holy Spirit as I had never realized.” Dan now teaches classes on spiritual growth subjects at his church, and at retreats.
After her Charis graduation, Lynn Staggs began offering spiritual direction through email. “What I like about this is the slow and gentle pace,” Lynn says. “Since I can’t see the person, I’ve learned to see and hear with the eyes and ears of my heart.” In addition, Lynn has led annual retreats for a church choir, and conducted days of prayer for various churches.Thanks to this training, she’s learned to be a holy listener for a sister with cancer who is facing the end of life. 
While many lay graduates find themselves serving in unexpected ways and places, clergy discover personal and professional enrichment in the Charis training as well. Class IV graduate Rev. Dan Gilliam, who pastors First UMC in Daingerfield, says, “I learned a great deal about preaching and teaching in seminary. The Charis training has taught me about listening – really listening – listening for that still, small voice of God, listening for and to the Holy Spirit directing me in my life and my ministry, and listening to and really hearing my parishioners.”
Charis graduates comprise an excellent resource pool for church leaders who are seeking to deepen spirituality within their congregations. For a list of trained spiritual directors and/or to learn who may be available to assist your church with spiritual formation activities, contact the Gathered Community Coordinator, Rev. Cindy Serio at 832-330-3973 or cserio@m-sfm.org
Class V Begins Next Month
Charis Class V will begin training in August 2017, with an opening retreat at Lakeview and monthly classes to be held at Rosehill UMC in Tomball. To learn more about the program visit the website: www.charis-txcumc.org Or contact Charis Coordinator Becky Oates: 713-562-8637or havenofrest@earthlink.net; or Charis Board Chair Rev. Glynden Bode: 281-222-4385 or glyndenbode@gmail.com

The 1025 Initiative

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
The inspiration for Perritte Memorial’s 1025 prayer movement came from Flood Gates by Sue Nilson Kibbey, a book handed to each church at Annual Conference in 2017. Interim pastor Barbara Robberson says, “In the 2nd chapter she writes passionately about a Breakthrough Prayer Initiative. Taking her lead  -- and the story of a church which adopted a specific time to pray each day based on their address -- we adopted this initiative, too.”
It started with the Perritte prayer team that meets every Sunday morning with the pastor. Prayer team members recited the book’s "break through prayer" while walking through the church. At various locations, they attached sticky notes bearing only four numbers: 1025. “Folks began to get curious about these notes, but only the prayer team knew their significance initially,” adds Barbara.
As both a church member and church secretary Susan Teekell had a unique vantage point as this unfolded. “On that initial Sunday morning, you couldn't help but notice multicolored sticky notes on windows, walls, doors and anywhere else they would stick! Since I am on staff, people began to ask me about the notes, yet I had no idea.”
During the week, as Susan walked her VBS students through their rotations, the kids asked her over and over what the number meant; church members and non-members, children and adults were mystified for weeks.
One Sunday, members found slips of paper with "1025" written on them sticking out of almost every hymnal in the sanctuary.  Shares Susan, “I decided to insert the number in 16 places in the bulletin, and for covered dish lunch, we printed "1025" paper tents for all the tables in the fellowship hall. It was hard to tune out because there were new incarnations of the number every week.”
 Finally in the third week, Barbara worked the 1025 mystery into the sermon and the secret was out. She challenged the congregation to commit to faithfully praying twice a day for God to break through in new ways so that Perritte could move forward in new and exciting ways to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Susan is in the church office at 10:25 a.m. on weekdays. “When the alarm on my phone rings, we stop whatever is happening in the office and pray. Sometimes it’s just me and other times as many as five are praying together to break through whatever might be holding Perritte Memorial UMC back from becoming the church that God needs us to be.” She adds, “In response to our prayers, God is showing us ways to break through our comfort zones of complacency and better serve Him.”
Prayer ministry member Judy Allensworth knows that the congregation no longer mirrors the multi-ethnic residents in its immediate mission field.
“We have struggled for years with the question of how to best reach out to our neighbors, convinced that God has kept us here for a reason,” Judy explains. Pastor Barbara had 11 people recently commit to accompany the pastor and music director to a local nursing home on the first Sunday of each month to lead worship and communion with residents. Others are beginning to serve meals in the homeless shelter very near the church. “I truly believe God will use this 1025 effort to help us show the love of Christ in our community in ways that will transform all of our lives,” adds Judy.
This creative yet simple idea gleaned from a book is now taking root at 1025 Durst Street and beyond. “It is really exciting for me,” Barbara shares, “when I am in Houston praying at 10:25, in the morning or night, to realize that up in Nacogdoches or a dozen other places, my congregation is praying at the same time for God to break through in new ways for our ministries.” 

Army of Students Renovate Crisis Center

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 00:00

U.M. ARMY volunteers helped out Anderson County Crisis Center recently.

See the article from Palestine Herald Press

Online Course: What it Means to Be United Methodist

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 00:00
An online course offered by UMCOM is designed for new United Methodists and anyone wanting to learn more about what it means to be a United Methodist. The course includes 4 modules that contain many interactive features. Each module takes approximately one hour to complete.

What it Means to be United Methodist is an open enrollment course; students can register for this class at any time. Students will have access to the online course for three months starting from the day of registration.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:
Identify the structure of the United Methodist Church
Identify the historical roots and beliefs of United Methodists
Identify the growth and core principles of Modern Methodism

What can I expect?
You will have access to the online course for three months starting from the day you register.
A course moderator will assist you with questions within the course.

See Additional Course Information

Third-Annual Pastoral Luncheon

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 00:00
St. Luke's UMC, Houston will be hosting their third-annual pastoral lunch on October 26, 2017.

When congregation members struggle with issues related to children in their care, they often turn to their pastors for support and guidance. It can be difficult when pastors are expected to have all the answers. This panel discussion equips pastors with ideas for what to do and where to turn when member needs are beyond the pastor’s scope. (Panelist details are in the attached.)
Previous feedback:
“The luncheon was very informative! I learned some very valuable information that will assist me in fulfilling my duties at my local church. The speakers revealed some very significant points about mental illness. The speakers were very knowledgeable, and gave considerable insight into this area of mental illness. Dr. Pace and the other members of St. Luke's are doing an awesome job!”
“All panelists had such heart! [My takeaway is] a lot of respect for the person suffering loss/grief. Gentleness, kindness was palpable, not "clinic mode.”
Format: interactive Q&A
Cost: $15
Attendees receive: Lunch, answers to questions, resource information and a completion certificate (not CEUs) offered to attendees at no additional charge
Register to attend at FinneganCounseling.org/pastorlunch beginning August 1st

Lay Ministry Opportunity: Houston Methodist Hospital

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 00:00

The Department of Spiritual Care and Education at Houston Methodist Hospital will offer a five session training course for new lay ministers in October 2017. Lay Ministers are gifted men and women from many different faith communities in the metropolitan area who commit to serve a minimum of one day a week for 2-4hrs on a consistent basis. If you are interested in volunteering alongside a professional chaplain to address the spiritual needs of our patients, primarily through empathic listening, please consider this opportunity. 

For more information and/or an application, please contact Chaplain Candice Richey-Womack at 713-441-1987 or clricheywomack@houstonmethodist.org.  Applications due August 31, 2017.

Sermons Around the Conference

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 00:00
The following links to sermons were selected at random. They are listed in no particular order.
Love Is…
First UMC, Bryan - Rev. Jennifer Webber
Why did Jesus Tell Confusing Stories?
Cedar Bayou Grace UMC, Beaumont - Rev. John Newsom
Family Reunion
Upper Room Chapelwood, Houston - Rev. Christian Washington
Marvin UMC, Tyler – Rev. David Dorn
Summer Smoothie: Faithfulness
Memorial Drive UMC, Houston – Dr. John Robbins
Want more? See a listing to links of video, audio and text sermons from around the conference at: http://www.txcumc.org/sermonarchives

Cross Connection Update

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 00:00

The Texas Annual Conference Cross Connection has received a face lift. If you noticed in your latest issue of our bi-weekly publication, we're sporting a new look! The layout is cleaner and allows for larger images as well as more options for content.

Check out the July 13 issue at http://www.txcumc.org/crossconnection.
Subscribe or update your e-mail address.

Impacting Human Trafficking

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00
Surprisingly, victims of human trafficking span all geographic and demographic markers. According to the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, there are more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas, including almost 79,000 minors and youth victims of sex trafficking and nearly 234,000 adult victims of labor trafficking.  Awareness about this epidemic has inspired many United Methodists in the Texas Conference to take action in recent months to support the yearlong fundraising campaign led by the TAC Center for Missional Excellence.
Racing for a Reason
Earlier this year the Southwest District raised over $68k to land a big punch to this alarming and oppressive trend. The district is awarding these funds to the work of Harvest House and Agape International.

In the Northwest District, Tammy Woodard at Bullard UMC and Martie Belt at the district office joined Rev. Joseph Thomas, Mount Vernon UMC/Pert and Neches UMC to raise funds via the Eat Fresh Fun Fresh event in Tyler and sent donations to the Conference office. “After 10 years in public education, I have a heavy heart for kids to know Jesus and to know him in an environment that is positive and uplifting,” shares Pastor Joseph. “If this race helped even one child get out of trafficking because of our efforts, then that is a victory for the Kingdom.”

This April, Lakewood UMC Houston raised $1,270 through Rusty's 5K Run 2017 to fight human trafficking. Over 100 women, men and children participated in this annual run in memory of their beloved pastor, Rev. Rusty Watkins. This year's proceeds went to benefit Redeemed Ministries. Lakewood has raised thousands of dollars for Redeemed Ministries through various fundraisers, and from the sale of drink coasters made by women rescued from human trafficking. Desirie Dougall, Operations Director for Redeemed Ministries says, "We are very grateful for this donation which helps us care for survivors who reside in the safe house as they receive counseling, art therapy, and equine therapy.” Additionally, Lakewood’s UMW Board also voted to send $500 from their garage sale profit to Houston’s Free the Captives organization. 

Pastors, such as Rev. Leah Hanks at Carthage UMC - are leading by example. “Human trafficking is an issue that has been on my heart for several years,” shares Leah, “so I participated in the Trail Run in our district because it seemed like something tangible I could do! I look forward to being involved in other events of this type.” 
Get Educated, Get Engaged

St. Paul's UMC Houston is teaming up with South Main Baptist Church for a Human Trafficking Awareness Van Tour on Sunday, September 10, 1:30-4:30 pm. Participants will be in 15-passenger vans driving around Houston, including a stop at Elijah Rising's modern-day slavery museum. Elijah Rising’s mandate in Houston includes driving the reality of modern-day slavery into the consciousness of our society via van tours of high-probability trafficking areas in Houston, Cypress and Katy. Each tour features visuals, testimonies from Elijah Rising’s knowledgeable staff, relevant statistics, and the urgent need for prayer. Details: http://www.elijahrising.org/van-tour-faqs/

FUMC in Nacogdoches invited Rev. Diane McGehee as our guest pastor for UMW Sunday and requested that she focus her sermon on human trafficking -- how it affects not only large metro areas but also towns the size of ours, and what resources we have to create awareness,” shares church member Colleen Abernathy. Diane and Rev. Jeff McDonald discussed ways the church could leverage a local charity run to raise awareness and funds for human trafficking. Their UMW chapter is donating bake sale funds of $800 towards Refuge of Light located in Tyler.
​UMW leaders of St. Luke’s UMC in Kilgore are recruiting other UMW groups in the North District to join them in helping Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch to minister to women freed from sex trafficking. Pat Rudy of the United Methodist Women thanked her associates, saying, “Your response to contribute over $2,000 to help fill Rahab’s Pantry was overwhelmingly generous. This made it possible for us to fill three large grocery carts and have funds left over to give to the Retreat.”  Adds Pat, “Watching the staff receive this food was like watching children opening Christmas gifts! This was a modern day miracle because you are following the example of Christ.” Additionally, a group from UM ARMY helped replace a roof and do some cleaning at Rehab’s Retreat, and “The Menders” group from Marvin UMC worked a week helping with painting and other projects. Rehab founder Teresa Richenberger adds, “We have so many Methodists helping our girls, it is just tremendous. Some groups provide monthly support, some have adopted a room and accessorize it, and some ladies even taught a crochet class for our girls. It was a great way to interact and love on them in a special way.” Teresa is happy to speak to groups anywhere, and excited to have Rahab’s Retreat.  

What Can You Do?
Regardless of age or residence, everyone can impact this issue.
Spread the word (raise awareness through conversations with children, and comments on social media)
Invest time or money
Pray for victims and organizations helping them
Provide pro bono legal work or help with aftercare
Sign up for a race in your area and fundraise with your church or district 

Award-Winning Volunteer

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00
Communication professional Tracy Torma tends to volunteer wherever her membership roots are planted. “I’ve helped my last three churches with their website,” she says, “and I’m excited to learn that my latest project with FUMC Palestine landed an Award of Excellence in digital communication from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Houston chapter.”

A team of church volunteers helped develop the new website last year with the assistance of Mustard Seed Studio, a graphic design firm in Houston specializing in affordable church website development. Tracy appreciates the input of her communication teammates: Jennifer Kimble, Joe Kimble, Barry Mace, Melinda Orsak, Amy Rigsby, Lisa Tang, Vibrant Church Initiative Coach Marilyn Wadkins and Monroe Walker who are thankful their contributions contributed to this honor.
Tracy, the founder of the consulting firm Torma Communications, has been an active member of IABC Houston for multiple decades and knows the significance of this award, particularly for a church. “This is a really prestigious honor, since major companies in town enter this contest, including Shell, ExxonMobil, University of Houston and all the major hospitals in the Texas Medical Center,” she adds. The Houston chapter of IABC is part of a global network of communication professionals with members in more than 70 countries.
Sharing her skill set comes naturally for Tracy, in spite of a busy schedule as a longtime entrepreneur and relatively new grandparent. Notes Tracy, “As Christians, we are called to use our talents. Mine happens to be in the area of communications and it is something I can share with my church to advance our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” 
 Her pastor, Rev. Alex Lupo says, “First UMC Palestine is going through Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI), which has provided us an opportunity to look at our church with fresh eyes. Our new website is the result of a careful examination of who we are and how we can help others in our community know more about Christ and this church.  I am very proud of our communications team that continues to work so hard on this effort.”
Turning Opportunities into Strengths
 “When a VCI team of consultants took a comprehensive look at our congregation’s image, leadership and programs, they noted that our digital presence did not represent the welcoming culture of the congregation,” she explains. “Our static website had a number of outdated events, was difficult to navigate and was not member- or guest-friendly, so the consultant report recommended revamping it.”
The key objectives for the project included:
1. Improve navigation and organization of the website. The new site features a simple design with easy-to-find information.
2. Increase traffic to the site by providing timely content. The new site has simple content management system that allows the church secretary to regularly refresh the site with new activities and photos. 
3. The website features sections targeted to the two key audiences: current members and prospective members. The main navigation bar at the top of the website features a First Time tab targeting newcomers. Additionally, current members are particularly excited about the new Outlook calendar of church events and activities, as well as an events section, and ministry highlights.
The Price is Right
According to Tracy, the volunteer team selected Mustard Seed Studio for website design and development, primarily for its simple, attractive design concepts and editing software, which enables a layperson to update website copy and photos easily. Members of the website team also helped populate the site with copy and photography which was donated, bringing the total cost to under $900.
"Too often churches don’t put enough emphasis on effective communication,” she says, “forgetting that a website is often the first impression a visitor has of your congregation. I encourage church leaders to evaluate their websites often from the eyes of a visitor who is seeking a dynamic congregation that’s making a difference. As a member of the congregation and a communications professional, I was very happy that the VCI team recommended a new website for FUMC Palestine. I believe it represents the life of our church and makes a great first impression on visitors who we hope will visit our church and become active members."
Tracy’s Top Five Tips: 
1. Build a volunteer team with some communications experience. Our team included a corporate writer, a local newspaper reporter and a nonfiction author, as well as several volunteers with no communications experience.
2. Select a digital communication firm to provide support. Our team narrowed our selections by looking at website portfolios and calling references to discuss quality of work. The most important factor to our selection was the ease of updating the content. 
3. Develop an outline that fits your congregation’s needs. We wanted a main navigation bar for first-time visitors that provided critical information, including a map to the church and a guided tour of our facilities. Because we wanted to promote our Preschool Program, we gave this a separate tab in our main navigation bar as well.
4. Populate the site with engaging information. Ask church leaders to provide information about their specific programs, but if possible seek a professional communicator to edit the information to ensure readability and consistency. Hire a professional photographer to come to the church one Sunday to take compelling photos of your church in action. Find a photography student at a local college or hire the news photographer at your local paper to get good photos at a more economical price, or, get a church member to donate the photographer’s fee.
5. Update the site regularly. Nothing is worse than going to a website and seeing outdated information. Update with photos and church activities on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Meet Denisse Peña

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00
Denisse Peña is one of nine students involved in the 2017 TAC College Pastoral Internship Project.
Some 15 years ago, The Texas Annual Conference committed to cultivating vibrant, growing churches while investing in a younger generation. An exciting vision was born through the Emerging Leaders Initiative with the goal of recruiting pastors for the future of the denomination. One of the four programs focused on this goal is the College Pastoral Internship Project that allows university students to experience the life of a pastor for 10 weeks in the summer. They shadow an experienced pastor in every aspect of ministry to truly understand church leadership.
Rev. Peter Cammerano, Chapelwood UMC Lake Jackson, is Denisse Peña’s mentor this summer and an avid supporter of the internship program for personal reasons. “I remember the kind faces each summer as I came back from seminary and attended Annual Conference.  I remember the time they took to learn my name, and to ask me about what ministry I had been involved in over the last 12 months. Those who invested in me as a seminary student made all the difference to me as I was deciding where I would serve in the United Methodist Church. I have found that the College Pastoral Intern Project has allowed me to return the favor of investing in new leaders.”
Peter explains that the College Pastoral Intern Project is a powerful way for the Annual Conference to invest in the young as they discern their call of ministry that starts at baptism and matures into a life of service in adulthood.
Q. How did your internship develop?
A. A native of Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, I graduated from Lydia Patterson Institute, the Methodist preparatory college in El Paso, TX in 2016. Then I was blessed to be an intern at Cypress UMC for several summers through the Lay Ministry Program. My friendship with Dr. Jerome Brimmage has been major factor in my internship this summer. I’m now attending Wiley College in Marshall, TX where my chaplain, Rev. Tabitha Rankin has encouraged me to pursue my call to ministry.
Q. What activities are you doing this summer?
A. I have been shadowing the pastors on pastoral care visits to hospitals, nursing homes, or residential homes. I’m also the coordinating activities with the youth and children at Lakeview, and helping with UM ARMY, Faith in Action, and local activities like True to Life Ministries in Lake Jackson. Finally, I have the chance to preach a chapel service at the conference office and at my host church -- to really experience being a pastor.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the internship?
A. I love doing missions and hanging out with new people, so Lakeview and UM ARMY have been the best two weeks so far. I’ve done both of these as a camper when I was the intern at Cypress UMC, but I’m getting such a different experience being an “adult” and I’ve loved every second of it.
Q. What is the most challenging part of an internship?
A. Having a pastoral role in a funeral the very first week of my internship was a challenge. Also, I’m finding the pastoral care hospice visits to be learning experiences but heartbreaking, at the same time.
Q. Do you spend very much time with the pastor?
A. I attend meetings with Pastor Peter throughout the week and work on worship planning. We’ve also set a time for a one-on-one pastor to intern talk to help me process everything that has been going on, and to learn and grow in my faith. We stay in touch even when I am out of the office.
Q. How is this experience helping you discern your call to ministry?
A. I am trying to figure out a way to combine my calling to ministry and a career in nursing.
Q. Can you share a story of where you see God at work?
I see and feel God more than ever during Lakeview camp and UM ARMY. During camp, I could see my 6th and 7th graders pouring out their hearts to God in worship. It was a privilege to see such young girls being so passionate about their faith. I also see God every day at Chapelwood in all the staff members and volunteers who are dedicated to sharing God’s love and grace with others.
Q. When this internship concludes, what’s your next step?
A. In the fall, I will be getting ready to begin my sophomore year at Wiley College. My goal is to get more involved at First UMC Marshall and help build their college student ministry.
Q. How many times over this summer will you preach?
A. Preaching the chapel service at the Texas Annual Conference Office on June 13th was my first experience with preaching, but afterwards Pastor Peter and I worked on ways to improve and I’m really excited and looking forward to preaching at Chapelwood July 30th as part of the summer sermon series.
Q. Have you met any other role models?
A. Lisa Michelle Wilson, children’s and youth pastor is a role model because of her strength and passion as a woman dedicated to ministry.
Pastor’s Perspective
Rev. Cammerano says, “Denisse is the third intern to serve at Chapelwood UMC, one of the other interns was a church member. “I was thrilled to learn that Chapelwood member Paul Meiller, after shadowing me for 12 weeks last year, is now completing his first year at Perkins and is a candidate for ordained ministry in our conference. I have enjoyed spending the summer showing each intern the joy in pastoral work, the places where they can stretch, and the difference the church can make in other’s lives.”
Peter enjoys watching their careers and spiritual journeys unfold. He adds, “The best part for me is to help them celebrate as they choose a path towards ministry and to walk with them as they seek ordination, graduate from seminary and take their own appointment in the connection. The College Pastoral Intern Project is a powerful way for the Annual Conference to invest in the young.”

Second Chance Ministry

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00
Atascocita UMC, Humble is helping rebuild lives and homes through a special mission called the Jubilee Project, which brings houses and former prisoners back to life. Run through the United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, the program gives former prisoners a second chance through employment and encouragement. Years ago, local UMC Pastor Thomas Hargis, a seminary friend of Atascocita UMC Associate Pastor Cameron Supak, started the Jubilee Project by taking a house that nobody wanted, hiring people in the community deemed "un-hirable," and turning the house into a job training lab. Rev. Supak takes a team to Ohio as often as possible.
This summer, the Atascocita crew worked alongside former prison inmates to install wiring, flooring and whatever the project manager needed. “Their real life stories were sometimes heart-wrenching,” shares Carol Bodin, Mission Chairperson for Atascocita UMC, “yet they still faced life -- with hope -- because of their faith in God.”
She adds, “This mission model of doing with instead of doing for, is front and center when it comes to showing love to our neighbors. The Jubilee Project even started Jubilee Farms this year to assist residents with access to fresh vegetables and fruit. In communities where grocery stores are lacking, diets can become laden with fast food, so this provides an opportunity to teach them how to work in a garden which is so much more empowering than just handing someone money or a bag of groceries. It sets people up for success.”
Carol’s heart was particularly touched by the stories shared by the Jubilee employees.  “When one Ohio man struggling with personal challenges had a bad day on our worksite and he was ready to walk off the job site. Pastor Thomas Hargis and the job foreman spoke to him, calmed him down and found him a new assignment on another worksite. No one called this man out for his actions, instead there was kindness and a genuine desire to help him succeed.”
Returning year after year gives several of the team members a feeling of continuity and accomplishment. Mission crewmember Diann Fulmer shares, “It was wonderful to see the home we worked on last year in its finished state, and participate in its dedication.” The team also put their hammers down on occasion to ‘do life together.’ As Dick Fulmer adds, “Dick Fulmer adds, “God was at work during our trip through our trip. We did Bible study together every day with Pastor Thomas and folks we worked along-side with had such deep knowledge and faith. It was inspiring to all of us.”
Atascocita UMC member Rick Cade says that his favorite part was working alongside the people in Jubilee as they work to get their lives back. “I worked with a Syrian refugee that did not speak English. He had just arrived in America with a wife and six kids and no one was interested in hiring him. Yet Project Jubilee did. He taught me how to tape and float sheet rock like an artist.”

Training Communities

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00
What does shalom look like in friendships? What does shalom look like in cities where there are significant barriers to racial reconciliation? Executive Director Matt Russell, Ph.D. ProjectCURATE, a social incubator founded by St. Paul’s UMC Houston is excited about his latest grassroots opportunity. “This is not another workshop or seminar on race relations,” he shares. “We are partnering with community organizations, Houston thought leaders, and UMC churches this fall to try something bold. “We want to see if it’s possible to nurture specific relationships within a group of multiethnic leaders and learners in this city. Our goal is to dismantle racial barriers while reconciling our Christian ideals.”
Through the upcoming Race & the Christian Imagination curriculum and cohort, participants collectively discerning how to respond to the harmful cultural norms with a gospel narrative that is rooted in improbable friendships.
The learning experience is designed to equip participants in core competencies for effective social engagement and collaboration such as:
  • Critical and Generative Dialogue
  • Reflective Action & Presence
  • Breaking the Cycle of Violence
  • Resolving Interpersonal Conflict
  • Developing Cultural Intelligence
Calling all Methodists
“We invite our UMCs across the conference to consider enrolling leaders in our Fall 2017 curriculum,” shares Matt. “Ideally, 7-10 leaders of your church could receive the training they need to expand their cultural intelligence, biblical discipleship and evangelism efforts, and their ability to engage their communities for the sake of the gospel of reconciliation.”
What is Involved?
  • Attend a monthly training and teaching from September –December.
  • Tuition cost is $100 per semester and $25 for materials per semester for those that can afford this amount. Scholarships are available via application, leaving just the $25 per person to offset the printing of materials.
  • Since attendance is crucial to the learning process, it is important that participants refrain from missing more than one meeting during the semester.
  • A workbook will be given to each participant as a point of reference for review and preparation between meetings. This workbook includes practices for reflection and empathy, as well as learning activities, such as journaling. In addition, videos will be available online for learning and interaction with other cohort members. The integration of the material into each individual’s life will depend on how much work they put into their time between meetings.
  • The September Dinner is yet to be confirmed, however all other sessions will take place from 9am – noon on September 16, October 21, November 18 and December 16
  • Register online before August 31st at http://www.projectcurate.org/join-for-2017.
The Woodlands UMC Hosts Conversations on Race and the Church
Rev. Michelle Manuel, The Woodlands UMC (TWUMC) Associate Pastor of The Loft worship community shares, “In the last few months I have felt pressed to just begin hosting conversations surrounding race in America and the church. With encouragement from Bishop Bob Hayes, this spring I hosted a small group book study on Divided by Faith by Emerson and Smith. The group was open to learning about their own privilege and learning from others.”
Energized to do more, the group birthed the “Can We Talk” summer series, which is open to the community. Over 70 people attended the first series in June to share a meal, watch and discuss a TED Talk.  “On July 27, Matt Russell and Cleve Tinsley will share about their experience with race and ministry, and field questions from the audience,” Michelle adds.
Michelle and her husband plan to be trained as facilitators to grow in their own understanding of privilege and race, and facilitate continued conversations and relationship building at TWUMC.
Matt welcomes additional speaking opportunities around this relevant topic. He adds, “We pray this cohort training, topic of conversation and method of facilitating improbable friendships will have the potential to transform and redemptively disrupt our cities and culture.”

Bubbles, Seeds and Heroes

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00
Thanks to Westbury UMC, there is a unique neighborhood in southwest Houston that is fostering trust building and friendships that cross boundaries of race, ethnicity, economics, and residential housing for the purpose of personal wholeness and systemic change. Under the tender loving care and passion of Rev. Hannah Terry, associate pastor of Westbury UMC and executive director of FAM, Fondren Apartment Ministry -- with 2,000+ low-income residents -- has grown from an experimental outreach to more of an intentional community and family. After five years of relationship building amidst languages including English, French, Kinyarwanda. Kiswahili, Nepali, and Spanish, it is reaching 501©3 status this year and expanding through new partnerships with other UMCs and an assortment of volunteers.
“All you have to do is drop over during one of our Community Nights and you will see firsthand that FAM teaches Houstonians a new way of living — relationally, communally, and consciously,” shares Hannah. Westminster UMC sponsored the June event by providing pizza, bubble pools, and a lesson from Plant it Forward Farms on planting watermelon seeds on the apartment grounds.
 Invited to photograph the most recent event, Sydnie Mares, social media manager for the Texas Annual Conference was a bit surprised by FAM’s unique family atmosphere initially. “When I arrived to volunteer, the children immediately greeted me in a way that was different than working in children’s ministries at my home church,” notes Sydnie. “This group truly felt like family -- even for a newcomer. One young girl was so comfortable that she even asked me if she could take a picture with my camera, so I showed her how. Other girls were blowing bubbles on their friends on the count of three to help me get the perfect shot.”
The children welcome new relationships. Ten-year-old Suzanne says, "The best part about community night is the fact that we have fun with each other, and we share, and we love each other like family!"
Sydnie encourages individuals and groups to get involved with FAM, saying, “So often when we talk about refugees, immigrants, and lower income families, we forget that the conversation isn’t hypothetical. The people affected are real. The children are beautiful, they like playing with bubbles and eating pizza, and they deserve all of the love that we can give them.”
St. Luke’s UMC and Memorial Drive UMC (MDUMC) are also among the list of loyal partners with FAM. Associate Pastor Ginny Tincher, MDUMC, is planning a one-night VBS type event with a Super Hero theme for August 2. “We are grateful to FAM for this opportunity to connect,” shares Ginny. “It’s easy for churches to become siloes and think we need to reinvent the wheel for all types of ministry, especially when it comes to outreach and the wider community. What MDUMC hopes to do in this season is open up our eyes to the beautiful ministry already happening throughout Houston, and to see how organizations and churches can better serve the kingdom by working in partnership rather than alone. I’m grateful for Hannah and the chance for our communities to build friendships and learn from one another.”
According to Outreach Director Alice King, the St. Luke’s members and friends from other faiths were blessed as Community Night volunteers. “None of our group had ever been to a place similar to Los Arcos,” shares Alice. “They were amazed at how much the children loved the activity of teaching their names to our group members. We learned that it is universal to want to know and be known. “
Hannah has observed the Los Arcos environment enriching individuals’ spiritual vitality by putting them in a place to discern their calling to a similar ministry. “As FAM works for justice by building empowered community through hospitality, mutuality, storytelling and inclusivity,” adds Hannah, “it is exciting to see visitors join us and realize they can virtually go on a mission trip right in their own city by watching what God is doing at the Los Arcos Apartments. What a joy to see our partners often experience Jesus Christ in a place they were not expecting to.”
Next Steps
Board members from St. Mark’s UMC and St. Paul’s UMC have worked over a year to secure the nonprofit status knowing that will boost FAM’s sustainability almost immediately. “We have had partners say they would love to donate to FAM and have their companies match those funds,” explains Hannah, “but their hands were tied in that respect when the ministry was through a church. This nonprofit, although it is a fresh expression of a traditional church, can now tap into new avenues of fundraising and grant writing particularly for the economic empowerment initiatives we offer through IEDA Relief & Literacy Advance of Houston.
“From the moment I walked into the property at Los Arcos Apartment Community, I was taken back to experiences of great love found through relationships I built in Guatemala and Kenya,” says Kristy Elmore, Director of Holy Friendships for FAM. “Our friends at Los Arcos have deep faith and a soulful peace that draws me in and makes me feel closer to God just being in their presence.”
“During FAM community nights we learn from each other and connect with each other by showing up and sharing love. Sometimes I start to over think plans for the evening, and I remind myself that it is God's night.  We try to stay open to the surprises and plans that unfold. To slow down and be present to God's work is a great gift and we welcome others to join us.”
To volunteer or partner with this unique ministry, contact kristy@westburyumc.org. Be sure to follow the FAM Facebook page to get involved with this awesome community.


Students Develop Perseverance

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 00:00
When leaders find a need, they lead. Texas A&M and Blinn College student leaders with the A&M Wesley Foundation have persevered -- through rain delays and other obstacles in recent months – to finish a service project at Lee Chapel UMC, Bryan.
Students started refurbishing Lee Chapel UMC, a small African-American congregation last November, with the help of the Open Arms Sunday School class from A&M UMC. “As we worked to repair siding and paint the church,” recalls Ben Sinclair, Wesley Foundation program assistant. “It began to rain, so we had to leave it unfinished. Over the next few months, we planned two more workdays to finish up the work, both of which got rained out!” Summer school student leaders had better luck finishing the project in June.
“The most difficult part of the project was the 40-foot steeple, which needed some work.  We had a few brave souls get up there and make it look much better,” says Ben.
Rachel Tindall, Texas A&M Class of 2020 really enjoyed getting to learn about construction work while helping fellow Methodists. She says, “I got to use scaffolding for the first time during this project, which was a bit scary but also rewarding. Projects like this are a good way to push my boundaries and find versatile ways to give and serve. “
Colby McCahah, Texas A&M Class of 2019 explained that his biggest challenges were getting up early and working in the sun all day. Emma Kate Batchelor, Texas A&M Class of 2020, shared that she loves doing mission work in her own backyard. “There are plenty of people who need help right in our community,” she says. “It was fun to bond with other students from Wesley as we worked and sweated together.” Jessica Watson, Texas A&M Class of 2020, adds, “Working for six hours in the Texas summer heat is always a challenge, but seeing improvements made the project well worth the hard work.”
Ben witnessed leadership development at work. “Groups of students would take on part of the building and take charge of getting it finished,” he says. “The A&M Wesley group has a lot of natural leaders.  Our students are quick to respond to needs they see in our community. Most young people would not give up their Saturday to go paint a church, but our students looked forward to the opportunity to work.  They see the many ways they have been blessed by God and they are eager to bless their neighbors in a tangible way.”