Click here to see previous editions of the Mission newsletter, "Focus on Mission".
(DWCC) Dumas Wesley's transitional housing program, Sybil H. Smith Family Village (SSFV), provides up to 24 months of housing and supportive services for families experiencing homelessness. In February, SSFV welcomed its FIRST single fathers, Ryan and Dustin, along with their small children. Both families were referred from Family Haven, the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama's emergency housing program.
Ryan and his little girl have been homeless for 3 years. He lost his job due to a work injury and things began to go downhill fast. He fell into depression after he lost control of his finances and housing.
Dustin and his family bounced from state to state, staying with family after losing his job. A veteran with a long work history in the construction business, Dustin states, "I'll own up to my mistakes. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. After I was let go from my job, I made a lot of bad choices. It started a snowball effect which led me and my family into homelessness."
Both dads agree they never believed their life experiences would include depression and despair; sleeping in their cars, campgrounds, and motels; being abandoned by their wives; and raising children on their own, all while battling the challenges of homelessness. "Three weeks ago my family was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. We were accepted into SSFV. If it weren't for this program, who knows where we'd be," said Ryan. "I remember the first day I stepped into my apartment. I almost had a panic attack. We were in a safe place with the opportunity to regain my independence and be the father my daughter deserves," said Ryan.
Ryan and Dustin will be working with a case manager on individualized case management plans including life skill classes like: parenting groups, budgeting, consumer credit counseling, crisis counseling, and job training. Both are excited to get back into the workforce. Ryan has 15+ years experience as a cook and is working to obtain his GED. Dustin has 3+ years experience as a structural fitter. "I will take advantage of all the classes SSFV offers me. I want to be able to support my family and make sure I don't make the same mistakes," said Dustin.
Homelessness does not discriminate. Whether you're a single mom, single dad, or a complete family living in poverty, homelessness is often the result of a complicated mix of factors that force families to choose between shelter and other basic needs. Last year, SSFV had an 88% success rate; 30 families exited the program and moved into permanent housing. SSFV is able to house up to 17 families at a time. Currently SSFV has 15 families and 32 children housed in the program.
Click here to learn more about Sybil H. Smith Family Village
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 email@example.com or Alecia Glaize at 251-236-1108 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 email@example.com or 334-356-8014.
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.