|Texas churches reach out in faith and justice|
William Ford talks about his internship work with
low-income children in the Dallas area during a presentation at "Living
Faith, Seeking Justice," an international conference sponsored by the
United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Nov. 12, 2007 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)
"I love my job. I love my job. I love my job," declared 22-year-old
Elspeth Allen of her full-time job that pays $11,100 a year and
overloads her with work but generates "blessings beyond measure."
Allen was one of six young people who stood before United Methodists
from around the world at a conference on justice ministries and talked
about one that has changed her life forever. As part of the "Living
Faith, Seeking Justice" conference Nov. 1-4, participants visited
churches active in justice ministries in the denomination's North Texas
Annual (regional) conference.
Allen is an intern at Project Transformation, a nonprofit organization
supported by Dallas-area United Methodist churches that matches young
people seeking to grow in their spiritual journey with children in
Delores Orta puts "sweat equity" into her Habitat for Humanity home in
Fort Worth, Texas.
The ministry started as a summer camp and has grown to include a
year-round internship that provides homework assistance, health and
nutrition education, a hot meal and extracurricular activities in the
after-school program for more than 200 children.
"Some of these children don't have anyone who cares," Allen said. "If
not for Project Transformation, my kids wouldn't do well in school.
Serving these kids has taught me so much. I see small changes everyday."
"This program makes such an impact on your life when you are in your
early 20s," said Nathaniel O'Dell, 22. "This is a hard time in our
lives. We are in the middle of many transitions, and they offer us love
and support and are building us up as leaders."
Eric Lindh, executive director of the program, said living in community
with each other is part of the experience. Volunteers from different
churches bring the young interns food each evening, and they attend
worship services and other events to help them on their faith journey.
Of the 95 interns participating in the 2007 summer program, 54 percent
said they are more likely to pursue a vocation in a ministry-related
field; 63 percent said they are more likely to continue to serve the
needs of low-income communities; and 98 percent felt better equipped to
understand and serve the needs of low-income communities, according to
Faith and justice in the world
The site visits to local churches and ministries were held Nov. 2-3
during the conference sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Church
and Society, the denomination's social action agency.
The visits included trips to see community reformulation ministries,
restorative justice ministries and initiatives working to transform
their community through art, culture and leadership development.
Before enjoying a homemade Mexican enchilada lunch prepared by La
Trinidad's United Methodist Women, the group visited the future home of
Delores Orta, a single mother of five. Her new home is being built by
Habitat for Humanity, and many United Methodist volunteers have worked
on the project.
Chuck Rives greets Orta at her Habitat home. The single mom hopes to
move in by Christmas.
"I raised five kids in a not-so-very-nice house," she said. "It was a struggle. This is the first house I will ever own."
Orta worked fulltime at a local plastic company for 12 years making
$8.50 an hour. She supplements her income by working part time at a day
care center. Until she qualified for a Habitat home, Orta said "having a
house was impossible. I never could afford the taxes, mortgage and
Orta and her youngest daughter hope to move into her new 1,600-square-foot house by Christmas.
Cynthia Rives, a United Methodist laywoman from Stephenville, Texas,
said the Scriptures, stories and experiences shared at the conference
remind her there is work to do in her own community.
"In my community, immigration is an issue, education, health care ... I
think that is true not only for my community but for my district and my
conference," she said. "Those issues are the same for everyone but we
gain strength and courage by coming together."
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
The Rev. Lloyd Nyarota, Zimbabwe, Africa: "Sharing of experiences give you strength."
Cynthia Rives, Stephenville, Texas: "They speak a story I don't hear in my local church."
Albert Aruna Trye, Sierra Leone, Africa: "It is good to feel accepted and appreciated."
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Living Faith, Seeking Justice
United Methodist Board of Church and Society
North Texas Annual Conference
Habitat for Humanity