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Change the World sows seeds, reaps blessings

 
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3:00 P.M. EST May 17, 2011 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)



B.J. Elder, a volunteer reading tutor from First United Methodist Church, Franklin, Tenn., listens to Keyla Hoyos, 8, read during the Change the World weekend.  The congregation has an ongoing relationship with La Casa de mi Padre Church for whom they offer language and reading tutoring.  A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.
B.J. Elder, a volunteer reading tutor from First United Methodist Church, Franklin, Tenn., listens to Keyla Hoyos, 8, read during the Change the World weekend. The congregation has an ongoing relationship with La Casa de mi Padre Church for whom they offer language and reading tutoring. A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry.
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Change the World, a weekend of simple acts of kindness, led to truly changed lives.

Just ask Kelly Dyer, a single mom working her way through nursing school. When her friend told her about a free gas giveaway at City on a Hill United Methodist Church in Wood-
stock, Ga., she couldn’t believe it.

“Wow!” she exclaimed. “It’s a huge blessing.”

Dyer and her daughter had been driving 25 miles each way to attend another church. Then the cost of gas shot up. They could not afford the trip.

Along with free gas and water and an offer to pray with recipients, Kelly and the other single mothers got an invitation to church.

Kelly and her daughter went to City on a Hill the next day. “I want to be a part of this,” she said. “You just feel Jesus when you walk through the church.”

Already she has signed up to assist with vacation Bible school. “I don’t have a lot (of money) to give,” she said, “but I can help provide a safe, positive place for children to learn about Jesus.”

In 15 countries, United Methodists reached out to their neighbors through more than 2,000 projects. The occasion was Change the World weekend (May 14-15) and the ministries were as varied as the participants were.

‘Life is good’

Some were young, like Peyton Kidd of Odessa, Texas. She has been involved in church all of her 10 years.



Market vendors in the East Africa Conference show a thumbs-up or “sign of te” in reaction to seeing  teams of youth and adults helping them collect garbage during a Change the World event.  A UMNS web-only photo by Grace Nakajje.
Market vendors in the East Africa Conference show a thumbs-up or “sign of te” in reaction to seeing teams of youth and adults helping them collect garbage during a Change the World event.
A UMNS web-only photo by Grace Nakajje.

On Change the World weekend, she helped to buy shoes for children who have none.

For weeks, members of Highland United Methodist Church had collected new shoes for people in their community who do not go to school or other public places only because they are barefooted.

“We bought multiple pairs of shoes, and we decorated flip-flops,” Kidd said. On Change the World Sunday, she and her church friends lined the shoes along the aisle leading to the altar “so it looked like the shoes were walking.”

Two thousand miles away, in New York, volunteers from Cobleskill United Methodist Church wore crimson T-shirts that proclaimed, “Life is good.”

So were the deeds the intergenerational group accomplished. They gardened, painted, sewed, visited older adults and designed greeting cards.

“When we think of Jesus,” said event chair Brian M. Hayes, “we don’t recall the hours he spent at the temple so much as the time he was out in the streets. (There’s) no question that Jesus would rather see us putting words into action.”

Ann-Marie Frank helped feed the volunteers. “There are times when you feel a real sense of belonging,” she said. “This was one of those times.”

Another member, Libby Hammecker, recalled a “worlds-colliding” moment as she worked with a gardening project.

“I was able to share my personal communities — my church and my home and my work, all in one happy place.”

Sowing seeds around the world

Hammecker saw “seeds being planted in a very real sense, more than the corn and potatoes and asparagus, seeds of potential relationships … that may not have had the opportunity to form in any other way.”



Volunteers from Cobleskill United Methodist Church in New York wear red T-shirts while building a raised planting bed that is wheelchair accessible.  A UMNS photo courtesy of Cobleskill United Methodist Church.
Volunteers from Cobleskill United Methodist Church in New York wear red T-shirts while building a raised planting bed that is wheelchair accessible. A UMNS photo courtesy of Cobleskill United Methodist Church.
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Some of those seeds also were sown on the other side of the globe— in L’viv, Ukraine.

Taking a no-strings-attached approach, United Methodists in Ukraine gave flowers and stuffed animals to strangers. The idea was to share Christ’s love with people who often don’t understand grace. Many recipients expected to be asked for money.

“What I remember the most,” said Tanya, one of the volunteers, “is that people who looked quite angry at what was going on around them … when we actually were giving them something, their facial expressions changed. In those moments, you really felt like you were changing the world.”

Change the World also had an impact on the Asian Rural Institute, a longtime United Methodist partner in northern Japan, which sustained major damage in the March 11 earthquake.

While the institute’s classes resumed in the home location May 2, repairing the facilities will continue for months. Still, Jonathan McCurley, a United Methodist missionary assigned to the institute, was eager to use Change the World to celebrate the community spirit that has prevailed since the tragedy.

“Usually in April, we have opening ceremonies,” he said. “Because of the earthquake, we are in the middle of getting ready for opening ceremonies. As Change the World weekend begins in the United States, it will be the end of the first day (of classes) in Japan, and hopefully, we will be finishing up our community dinner.”

A message of hope and love

Building both relationships and houses characterized the Change the World experience at Trinity United Methodist Church in Denver, Colo.



City on a Hill United Methodist Church volunteers Terry Rose and Paxton Nayman wave to passersby, directing them to the annual Single Mom’s Gas Giveaway event. The Woodstock, Ga., congregation donated more than $7,000 in free gas this year. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of City on a Hill United Methodist Church.
City on a Hill United Methodist Church volunteers Terry Rose and Paxton Nayman wave to passersby, directing them to the annual Single Mom’s Gas Giveaway event. The Woodstock, Ga., congregation donated more than $7,000 in free gas this year.
A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of City on a Hill United Methodist Church.

Member Don Lewis was part of an interfaith team that built a Habitat for Humanity house for an Ethiopian family.

At the start of the day, he said, “the house had a floor and two exterior walls. Before long, the house physically and mentally became a home under construction for Gebi and Jaware and their five children.

“Gebi and Jaware were there also working all day long, shoulder to shoulder with the team. By day’s end, the remaining two exterior walls, three interior room walls and garage walls had been assembled and installed. At 4:30 p.m., when we began to put away our tools, the rain was falling on a home. A home for Gebi and Jaware.”

The Rev. Ann Mann is serving in her first appointment at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, Calhoun, Ga. Her little congregation distributed 100 ready-to-fill grocery bags for a community pantry.

“I am thrilled that The United Methodist Church is embracing the concept of taking the message of hope and love outside our four walls,” she said. “If we want to reach the next generation of Christians, we must be willing to take our message to the streets.

“We can do that when 12 million Methodists join hands. Praise God for our connectional system!”

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., 615-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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