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Men’s agency seeks mentors for kids of incarcerated parents

Oct. 3, 2005

By Rich Peck*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Several regional conferences of the United Methodist Church will begin recruiting men and women to serve as mentors of children of incarcerated parents.

That is one result of a decision by the Commission on United Methodist Men to accept Big Brothers Big Sisters as an affiliate organization.

Meeting Sept. 16-18, the 23-member commission was told that over 2.5 million children nationwide face a 70 percent probability of following a parent to prison at some point. That percentage can be lowered if people of faith mentor the children.

A recent study by the organization found that a child with a caring adult is 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school and 46 percent less likely to start using illegal drugs.

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The Rev. W. Wilson Goode Sr.
The Rev. W. Wilson Goode Sr., former Philadelphia mayor and champion of the program, noted there are “many programs to help those in prison, but there are few viable programs to address the specific needs of the invisible children.” He named the mentoring program “Amachi,” an African dialect word meaning, “Who knows but what God has brought us through this child.”

In the program, adults are to befriend the children with whom they are matched; they are not to serve as counselors. They are not replacement parents, “saviors,” or “fixers” of the child. The relationships are supplemental to the parent, caregiver, teacher, neighbor and Sunday school instructor. The program is based on the idea that the child’s gifts and assets will be drawn out through a friendship and shared experiences with an adult.

Larry Coppock, a staff executive with the commission, says that at least one annual conference in each of the five U.S. jurisdictions will be asked to launch an Amachi program. Following a background and reference check of the volunteers, Big Brothers Big Sisters will match one adult with one child.

In the affiliation agreement, the organization will work with local United Methodist congregations in compliance with the procedures established by a General Conference resolution designed to reduce the risk of sexual abuse of children and youth through training and support.

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Larry Coppock is a staff executive with the Commission on United Methodist Men.
In other business, the commission:

  • Learned that Gil Hanke, president of the commission, offered the help of United Methodist Men to rebuild the U.S. Gulf Coast region. Ron Sarver, president of the South Central Jurisdiction of United Methodist Men, recommended that men work through the Louisiana United Methodist Storm Center, housed in the Louisiana Annual Conference area offices in Baton Rouge, or comparable centers in Mississippi and Alabama.
  • Learned that a May youth mission trip is set for the Philippines and a second “Colors of the Church” 2006 trip might be switched from Zimbabwe to Tanzania. Three more trips are scheduled for 2007 and 2008.
  • Agreed to extend the search for a new top staff executive until Dec. 15 and asked Bishop William W. Morris to continue as the interim general secretary.
  • Approved a plan to recruit district and local church coordinators to raise funds to provide copies of Strength for Service to God and Country, a book of daily devotions, to members of the armed services prior to deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. The commission will also give the books to United Methodist Volunteers-in-Mission teams and Salvation Army emergency workers.
  • Received a final report from former top staff executive Joseph Harris, now an executive with the church’s Oklahoma Annual (regional) Conference. Harris urged the commission to secure its own operating budget and to use World Service monies for central conference and specialized ministries. No action was taken on this recommendation.
  • Agreed to give a posthumous John Wesley Award to Scott Powell, a United Methodist scoutmaster from Alaska who was killed when a dining hall tent pole hit a power line during the National Scout Jamboree last July.

*Peck is communications coordinator for the churchwide Commission on United Methodist Men.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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