Mission/Outreach News

Click here to see previous editions of the Mission newsletter, "Focus on Mission".

ZOE - A ministry of empowerment

After the Nets - Now What?

As a founding partner of Nothing but Nets and then Imagine No Malaria, The United Methodist Church has been fighting to end malaria since 2006. Thanks to the UMC, millions of bed nets were sent to families in need in sub-Saharan Africa. Together we have made amazing progress against the disease. Millions of children are alive thanks to the mosquito nets, health education and care –

But now what?

Mark LaBranche, President of Lewisburg College and member of the Alabama West Florida Conference, introduced Jim and Lesley Cooper of FUMC Montgomery and Alecia Glaize of Fairhope UMC to an empowerment program called ZOE. This summer they traveled with Mark and Mona LaBranche to Rwanda to check it out.

Rwanda is a small, poor mountainous country in East Central Africa of 11 million people. Unlike the United States, there are few social services available. Consequently there is no safety net for orphans in Rwanda. There are thousands of orphans living on the streets, in the villages, and the countryside. Children aged 12, 14, 16 are taking care of their brothers and sisters as best they can. These small families have no shelter, food or direction.

ZOE offers an opportunity for orphans and vulnerable children to have a chance at life through a three-year empowerment program. Using a model developed in Africa by Africans, ZOE gathers these orphan families who have been identified by the government into mutually-supportive working groups. They do not receive charity. They do not receive gifts. They are loaned funds to develop businesses that will support their families. Those loans are paid back into a group fund that is used to help others.

ZOE teaches those orphans in the working groups about hygiene, safe food practices and how to become financially, socially and economically independent. By the 2nd  year, the families in the working groups have begun businesses and are earning enough money so that they can feed and clothe themselves. By the 3rd year many of those families are hiring others to work for them.

For three years, ZOE stands behind them with life skills training and resources. At the conclusion of that 3-year program, the ZOE kids support themselves. They will never need charity again. Group members work together to pull one another out of extreme poverty and into a sustainable future. After three years, they have moved from beggars to bosses, from being a problem to being a solution ... all while living in their own community and knowing God’s love. ZOE’s empowerment program served over 28,600 children in 2015 in seven countries: Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Guatemala.

While visiting Malawi, well-known author and preacher, Adam Hamilton said of the program: “Children ten, eleven, twelve years old are raising 3, 4, or 5 siblings.” In ZOE working groups, “these children come together to encourage each other, care for each other, bless each other and administer to each other. I was blown away by what I saw.”

If you are interested in learning more about ZOE, contact Jim and Lesley Cooper at 334-284-2667 jimnlesleycooper@gmail.com or Alecia Glaize at 251-236-1108 alecia.amanda@gmail.com.


Open Doors Resale Store

Creating Community, Meeting Needs, Supporting Local Ministries

November 10, 2016

The Open Doors Resale Store celebrated its second annual Customer Appreciation Day Saturday with free food and a massive 50% off sale. While the store appreciates its customers, the people of the Mobile District are deeply grateful to those who make Open Doors such an incredible success. Since its grand opening, Open Doors has contributed over $204,000 to area ministries, including: Dumas Wesley Community Center, United Methodist Inner City Mission, Babies First, the University of South Alabama Wesley Foundation, Metro Jail Ministry, El Lugar de Gracia, and West Wilmer Mission Church.

Open Doors was launched by the Mobile District under the leadership of Reverend Charles Fail, who continues to serve as the Director.  The Store has built a strong reputation in Mobile, even receiving the coveted “Nappie Award” for best local thrift store from the popular Lagniappe newspaper. In October, they had their highest grossing week to date, an amazing $11,000. Because of the store’s ever-growing success, the store’s manager, Audrey Bryan, believes their 2016 contribution to area ministries may top $100,000!  

Bryan credits the generous donations of goods, and the hard work of volunteers and staff for the store’s success. A core group of 30 volunteers serve weekly, dramatically increasing the proceeds available for distribution. Bryan noted how volunteers feel blessed by their service, becoming a family that loves and supports one another. This sense of community is expanded as regular volunteers get to know regular customers, some of whom drop in more than once a day, and others several times each week.  For their part, customers celebrate the hospitality of the volunteers and staff, as well as the quality of the goods and very affordable prices.

Thank you Open Doors for your hard work and generous support of God’s work in the Mobile District!  We are grateful for your tireless service and for all the ways you bless the people of our community.

Open Doors Resale is located at 4125 Government Boulevard. You can help this worthy effort by volunteering, donating items to sale, shopping, and spreading the word to your family and friends. To find out more, contact Audrey Bryan at 251-661-5661.




A Partnership for Mission


Our Partnership with the Red Bird Missionary Conference continues to develop and grow. To read more about this partnership and what it entails, visit www.awfumc.org/redbirdpartnership.

Churches throughout the conference have already been strengthening relationships with their partners. Here are some wonderful stories already:

Covenant UMC in Dothan, received Pastor Steven Riddle of Beverly UMC in February to learn more about their Celebrate Recovery program. Following his visit to Dothan, Covenant UMC sent Steven to the 2015 CR Summit in Murfreesboro, TN. This is an excerpt of Steven's letter to Covenant after this Summit: Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity.  [Covenant] has already impacted one life in a powerful way (mine) and I believe that through your generous efforts many, many more will be impacted through this one ministry.   …    By the way the worship sessions were amazing. They really recharged my batteries for ministry. As a pastor I don't get many opportunities to just sit in the pew and be fed and boy did I get fed. This couldn't have come at a better time and I feel very blessed to have been a part of it.  Covenant will continue to encourage and support Steven and the Beverly UMC congregation as they strive to bring Celebrate Recovery to the Red Bird missionary Conference. 

Ozark First UMC sent a team in July to Beverly UMC to help them with their Vacation Bible School program. They also served with the ladies at the Red Bird Mission Senior Center on the Beverly Campus in separating the polyester fabric from the cotton, which they use for quilting. They also worked on a foot bridge over a creek. Les Perrault of Ozark First UMC said, "We felt it was a great partnership with Red Bird and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the people of the Red Bird community."

Several churches of the Montgomery-Prattville district sent a team in July to the Red Bird Conference. The team served with the people of Middle Fork UMC to put a new roof on their building. They also helped lead a Vacation Bible School at Jack's Creek UMC. Read more about their journey to Kentucky here.

The Baypines district will be sending a team in October to work with their partner churches. 

The Red Bird Conference also brought a mission team to Pensacola in March 2015 to work with disaster response. Their team spent a week up on a roof and laying flooring for families affected by the flooding from 2014.

For more details about becoming part of this partnership, contact Susan Hunt at susan@awfumc.org or 334-356-8014.


Dan Godwin commissioned as Missionary at Annual Conference


For the first time in recent history, the Alabama-West Florida Conference has commissioned a missionary at its own annual conference session. Rev. Dan Godwin was commissioned as a missionary as part of the Commissioning service on Tuesday, June 3, and will be serving in Ecuador. Click here to read more about Dan and his work.

Previously, missionaries were commissioned by the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), far removed from their own annual conference and friends. Last year, the GBGM started this new practice of having missionaries commissioned individually instead as a group. Missionary Services executive Judy Chung said that “being commissioned in the annual conference reinforces the sense of local support for the missionary while offering the community the opportunity to connect with a person who is representing them in our global Connection.”

Patti Clifford, Executive Secretary for Missionary Selection and Accompaniment of the GBGM, was on hand to participate in Dan’s commissioning.

To read more, click here and here.


QuadW Missional Internship

The QuadW Missional Internship is now taking applications for the summer of 2014! Over fifty openings are available in Mobile, Montgomery, Kansas City, and Pine Bluff (Arkansas). This challenging experience is an opportunity to be the Church, making a difference in some of our most challenging inner city communities. Interns will help design and lead ministries that impact children as well as the broader populations in each neighborhood. They will experience intentional Christian community as they live together, worship together, study Scripture, and support one another in the journey of faith.

Interns are also trained as missional leaders who model a missional-incarnational understanding and practice of Church. By “missional-incarnational” we simply mean a Church that follows Jesus' command to “Go” and a Church that embraces the model of Jesus to enter the messiness of the world around us. We go as a “sent people” to bear his light, bearing the Good News in word and deed. Most interns describe this as one of the most challenging experiences of their lives and also one of the most rewarding. The internship offers a $2000 stipend plus room and board.

Applications can be submitted online at www.quadwmi.org. Applicants must have completed their freshman year of college and be no older than twenty-five years old.

The Goals of the QuadW Missional Internship:

1. To provide a life-changing experience for interns.
2. To serve alongside those in struggling communities.
3. To help congregations reconnect with their own neighborhoods.


"As an intern I was exposed to the needs of the Mobile area and compelled to make a difference. The training and intense study of material and the Word of God prepared me for service at Taylor Park (Inner City Mission) and St. Francis Street United Methodist Church. Taylor Park hosted a summer program for over one hundred and twenty youth. My team served as educators, mentors, and spiritual role models for all of these youth. There were very tough times and challenges that we faced while serving but God humbled us and allowed us to make a difference in the lives of many. I am truly grateful for the small group studies and worship that kept me encouraged and focused on a daily basis. Over all this internship not only focused to reach out to those in need but intentionally promoted growth in our relationships with Christ." (Porsche Holland)

"It scarred me for life, in the best possible way." (Wesley Anderson, who met his wife Charsy in the internship)

“I came here cynical about church, but I’ve realized that if I’m not doing what I want I want the church to do, then I’m the same kind of hypocrite I always complain about. At the beginning of the summer, I felt like God was calling me here to help the world, but God called me here to wake me up! I think many more students could use that. …. This summer has been amazing. I am new. I have learned. I will remember, and apply this for the rest of my life.” (Stephanie Bamberg)

"Through my experience at QuadW, God broke, molded, and remade both me and my ideas of what it means to follow Jesus. I am now on track to become a pastor in the United Methodist Church, and I have the QuadW Missional Internship to thank for that." (Rhett Butler, now in seminary at Duke)


Alabama Rural Ministry Seeks Summer Staff

Are you looking for a meaningful summer opportunity where you can experience and share Christ’s love in service to others? Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) is seeking young adult Christians with a heart to serve the “least of these” and to work with youth groups coming to do home repair or work with our summer day camps. Be forewarned, the work is demanding. The hours are long. Time off is rare. Where’s the reward? God will move in your life like never before! You will meet incredible people who are ON FIRE for Christ and youth who are really excited to hear the news you have to share. You’ll experience diversity and love by joining a new community of peers, youth, families and children. God will test you and sustain you as you learn to see and serve others through the eyes and love of Christ! If this sparks a desire for you serve in this way, to be a missionary in Alabama for two months, then we ask you to prayerfully consider joining our team. Each staff member receives a $1,700.00 base scholarship, and is given the opportunity to raise their salary to $4,000.00 through individual fundraising. Compensation also includes a $20/week stipend, housing, travel reimbursements and most meals. Check out ARM’s website at www.arm-al.org. Here you will find Summer Staff Applications, pictures and more details about our ministry. We are currently accepting the applications and conducting interviews for these positions. Please contact Kim Dixon if you have any questions, Kim@arm-al.org

Alabama Rural Ministry’s (ARM) mission camps are filling up FAST!!! Don’t miss your chance to serve with our home repair and day camp ministries. ARM offers camps and opportunities for groups to do missions in rural communities of Alabama. We host junior high, high school, college, and adult groups from all over the United States for week long, extended weekend trips, and weekend retreats. ARM has three objectives: 1) Extending Christ’s love to underserved families through home repair. We feel all homes should be safe, warm, and dry. 2) Building relationships that cross cultural, racial, and age barriers. We work closely with the homeowners to learn their stories and build relationships. 3) Providing Christian education, academic education, and a Christian witness to children at our day camp. ARM can only meet these objectives with the help of groups, like yours, that are willing to show Christ’s love with their actions. If you are interested in serving with us please check out our website www.arm-al.org. Here you will find information, registration forms and a breakdown of our costs. If you have any questions contact Kim Dixon at Kim@arm-al.org or at 334-501-4ARM



“Stop Hunger Now” comes to Union Springs First UMC

(Susan Hunt)  Union Springs FUMC’s fellowship hall was turned into a food assembly and packaging facility for a few hours one Sunday afternoon this past fall as dozens of church members and community partners packaged 20,000 meals together. This special mission project was working with Stop Hunger Now, an agency that works to feed hungry people around the globe. According to its website, Stop Hunger Now is “an international hunger relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other life-saving aid around the world.” 

The church members worked together to mix rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and a flavoring mix into a small bag. The bag was sealed and boxed, ready to ship. One bag of packaged food contains 6 meals and costs $1.50, or 25¢ per meal. After a short time of training - and overcoming the trepidation of wearing hair nets - the volunteers got busy and worked hard to package that many meals in just a few short hours.

Rev. Matt O’Reilly, pastor of Union Springs FUMC, noted that this project was a great way to get people to be hands-on in Mission work. He said, “Most of our folks cannot go to Africa, but they can make a meal.”

It took some creativity and hard work for the church to raise the $5,000 required to pay for the meals. One youth in the church, Jordan Wadsworth, raised $1,325 on her own through bake sales. Church members contributed the baked goods and Jordan sold many of them in front of the AmeriFirst Bank in Union Springs.

(Jordan Wadsworth, center, packages meals with other volunteers at Union Springs UMC)

The Union Springs FUMC congregation also involved 6 or 7 other churches in the community in the project. Those other congregations made financial contributions as well as having several volunteers participating in the packaging itself. 

This was the second year in a row for Union Springs FUMC to participate in a Stop Hunger Now packaging event. A small team of people from the church organized the efforts for fundraising, publicity and community partnerships, but it took the entire church and community coming together to make it possible.

Stop Hunger Now works with international partners that ship and distribute the meals in-country. Due to the ease of assembly and transport, meals can be shipped to areas in crisis. The food stores easily, has a shelf-life of five years, and transports quickly.

The majority of Stop Hunger Now's meals supply school lunch programs. Providing a hot meal during school gives parents an incentive to send their children to school. Through receiving a primary school education, the cycle of poverty can begin to be broken by leveraging change in many other issues including education, maternal health, childhood mortality, gender equality and combating HIV/AIDS. 

Other churches in the Alabama-West Florida conference have also held "Stop Hunger Now" packaging events, including Prattville First UMC, and most recently First UMC Montgomery on December 12. 

Click here to see pictures of the packaging event at Union Springs FUMC.


UMVIM Recommendations approved at Jurisdictional Conference

At Jurisdictional Conference at Lake Junaluska, NC, July 18-20, delegates approved two recommendations related to the United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM-SEJ). One encourages a UMVIM Awareness Sunday and the other encourages coordination of all mission teams through UMVIM. Both recommendations were approved overwhelmingly.

REQUEST 1: The first request encourages local churches “to observe Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM) Awareness Sunday annually on a date to be determined by the annual conference or local church. UMVIM Awareness Sunday calls the Church to celebrate those who have served in short-term mission and the work of UMVIM throughout the world. If the annual conference so directs, an offering may be received and used by the annual conference Volunteers in Mission program.”

REQUEST 2: The second request encourages all short-term mission teams “to coordinate through the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Southeastern Jurisdiction Office. Short-term mission teams are encouraged to follow 'best practices' as outlined in the UMVIM Team Leader Handbook, which include having a trained team leader, complying with their annual conference’s Safe Sanctuary policy, registering with UMVIM SEJ, developing spiritual disciplines for the mission, and serving with an UMVIM project."

For more information about UMVIM and UMVIM projects, and how your church can work through UMVIM for your short-term mission teams, please contact Susan Hunt at 334-356-8014 or susan@awfumc.org.

You can read the entire requests and rationale by clicking here. They are on pages marked 91 and 92.


Mary Ellen's Hearth at Nellie Burge Community Center set to open in Montgomery

(Debbie Dobbins, LGSW, Executive Director, Nellie Burge Community Center) - Since 1904 the Nellie Burge Community Center has been a ministry of the Methodist Church. Over the years many programs have been provided from the center and programs have changed as the needs of the community have changed; but the Nellie Burge Community Center has always served under-served women and children.

On August 1, 2012 Nellie Burge will open a new ministry, Mary Ellen’s Hearth, a transitional housing program for homeless women and their children. In Montgomery alone there are over 600 homeless people and about half of that number is women. Ten percent of the homeless are children. The staff and Board of Directors of Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge are determined to decrease the number of homeless women with children in Montgomery. The new ministry is named after Mary Ellen Bullard. Mary Ellen Bullard lived to serve and held every lay position imaginable within the United Methodist Church from Director of Christian Education at the local level to Executive Committee of the World Methodist Council. One of her greatest passions in Montgomery was the Nellie Burge Community Center. The Board of Directors is proud to honor her legacy by naming the new ministry Mary Ellen’s Hearth.

As the Executive Director of Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge, I receive about a call a week referring a homeless mother with children to us. Most of the calls are from agencies that are working with the mothers but recently I received a call from a homeless woman. She had a small child and was pregnant with another one and had nowhere to live. I told her we would like to help but we were not open yet. This woman, in desperation, said “why won’t someone help me?” That statement breaks my heart, not only for this woman but for all the women living on the streets with their children. I have heard stories from other professionals about women living in their cars while they were pregnant because they had nowhere else to live. 

Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge is not a handout. It is transitional housing where women can live for up to 2 years while they receive training in budgeting, housing, safety, parenting, GED, and life skills so they can live self-sufficiently when they leave the center. They will find jobs, go to school, save their money and learn how to live on their own. We feel we are following the example set by Peter and John in Acts 3: 1-10 when they told the lame man they had no money to give him but instead healed him. When they healed him, they were giving him what he needed to earn his own money. That is what the staff at Mary Ellen’s Hearth will do: empower the mothers with the skills to live independently. Mary Ellen's Hearth offers hope, help and healing to homeless women and children throughout the River Region. We offer hope by providing life skills training. We offer help by providing transitional housing. We offer healing through Christian love and support. The goal of MEH is for the families we serve to leave us within two years – their dignity and self-respect restored – prepared for a life of independence.

Please visit our website at www.nellieburge.org and be sure and click on the video tab to watch our video. Also, if you are on Facebook, please “like” us. You can call me at (334) 264-4108 if you would like to talk about Mary Ellen’s Hearth or would like for me to speak to a group about this new ministry.

{Click here to see the local CBS news story about the opening.} 

2011 Martin Serves Annual Alternative Fall Break Trip

(Brandi Belcher, Martin Methodist College Services Coordinator) - This fall break, six Martin Serves students and two staff chaperones decided to spend their break a little differently. As many remember, 500 tornadoes devastated Alabama this past April, and so our students took a trip down to the suburbs of Tuscaloosa in Hale County to do relief efforts. Hale County is the third-poorest county in the United States, and experienced ten of the tornadoes from April 25th to the 28th. The Serves group served in cooperation with the HERO Project, which stands for Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization. HERO is a grassroots organization that works to end rural poverty for a predominantly African-American populace, and recently has begun an initiative in partnership with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for those displaced by the tornadoes.

The Martin students and staff spent their fall break working on a house for the Fields, a family of three that had been living in a trailer at the time of the tornadoes. When the tornado struck, the family was lifted off the ground inside of the trailer, thrown about 75 feet, and dropped on the ground. Jackie, the mother, had a severe arm injury and Elvis, her husband, suffered a broken hip. Their 18 year old son, Elvis, Jr., has repressed all memory of the tragedy and pretends that it never happened. Construction began on their new home mid-September and should be finished just in time for Thanksgiving. The Serves group did interior work, such as grouting and cleaning tile, caulking, painting and hanging doors, painting trim and doing touch-ups. They also made friends with local stray dogs that kept the group company.

The group stayed at Eutaw United Methodist Church which provided wonderful hospitality, and the students and staff enjoyed fun and fellowship. Dr. Ed Trimmer, the director of the Cal Turner, Jr. Center for Church Leadership, and Brandi Belcher, our Martin SERVES coordinator, arranged the partnerships with Eutaw UMC and the HERO Project through Susan Hunt (United Methodist Alabama-West Florida Conference Director of Mission, Advocacy and Ethnic Ministries) and Charles Walters (United Methodist Alabama-West Florida Conference Tornado Response Coordinator). Our goal is to visit Hale County again next year to serve with the HERO Project once more and to also visit the Fields family in their completed home.


Pensacola UM Community Ministries:

(Pastor Joe Mullen) Pensacola United Methodist Community Ministries continues to expand services to the needy. Recently, a registered nurse was assigned to PUMCM through an agreement with Escambia Community Clinics. The nurse will do baseline vital assessments such as blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar and patient education. She will also make referral appointments to collaborating physicians and clinics. 

Pastor Francisco Castillo has delivered a bank of computers that are programmed to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to our education department. The Hispanic worship services continue to expand on Sunday afternoons at PUMCM. Thanks Francisco and Cecelia! 

2010 brought 29,000 to our outreach! We continually solicit your prayers and donations to PUMCM. We are taking Jesus to the streets! 

Exciting changes are taking place at Nellie Burge Community Center in Montgomery 

(Scott Key) In 1904, the women of Court Street Methodist Church reached across social, economic and racial boundaries "to minister to the lives of needy women, children and families in North Montgomery through Christian principles." The Board of Directors at the Nellie Burge Community Center is honored to continue that commitment as they shift their primary mission from a day care center to an emergency and transition shelter for homeless women with children. We will name this new mission of Nellie Burge Community Center “Mary Ellen's Hearth,” honoring the lifelong commitment of Mary Ellen Bullard to the needy women of the River Region and across the Alabama-West Florida Conference. 

Mary Ellen’s Hearth will be a 24-hour emergency and transitional shelter for mothers and their children who are homeless due to economic hardship, family crisis, divorce, eviction, and severe shortage of safe, affordable housing. We eventually plan to house 9-15 families which could be up to 60 full time residents. The average stay will be six to eight months, although they may stay as long as two years. The primary goal is to foster independence and help the residents gain the life skills necessary to prevent future chronic homelessness, and do this in a loving Christian setting. This training will include courses in finance, parenting, nutrition, and adult education as needed on a case by case basis. Families may stay at the shelter until they are able to find permanent housing as long as they follow the rules, are actively seeking housing, working, and taking part in the programs and services. Our outreach case worker will help these families maintain their independence. 

Volunteers from Montgomery churches and organizations have already begun to make the transition. The Young Adult Sunday School Classes from FUMC Montgomery performed 120 hours of service work on Sat, Feb 5. They filled a 40-foot dumpster in only 3 hours and helped prepare the Center for a "garage sale" to recycle serviceable items to other not-for-profit day care facilities and nurseries, and finally to in-home day care providers. The $2500 we made on the March 12th sale paid for the paint and the painter we hired to prep for and oversee the Great Day of Service Project on March 26 when 40 volunteers painted over 14,000 square feet of the downstairs living areas. Their 160+ hours of service saved the Center $13-15K in painting costs. The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery recently granted the Center $30K to refurbish and furnish 4 of the rooms for residents. 

The Board is excited about the new mission, but please keep them in your prayers. There are still funding issues to address, but they hope to have women and children off the streets and in the program this fall. If you'd like more information, please contact Board President Scott Key, 334-717-6476, oskey4428@aol.com