(Kara Witherow for the AWFUMC) - Whether on the plains of Auburn, in the Black Belt of West Alabama, or the deserts of Iraq, there’s one thing in Rev. Lisa Pierce’s life that doesn’t change.
Her passion to serve.
For decades, the driving force of Rev. Pierce’s life has been serving others.
An ordained deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church, for more than two decades Rev. Pierce has faithfully lived out the calling she first felt as a sophomore at Auburn University.
As a former Wesley Foundation director at the University of West Alabama, a lieutenant colonel in the Alabama Army National Guard, as director of Alabama Rural Ministry
, and as director of Lee County United Methodist Disaster Response, Rev. Pierce epitomizes what Jesus said in Matthew 25: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Gifted in relational ministry with a heart for those in need, Rev. Pierce uses her gifts, graces, and talents to engage in the community, advocate for others, and make disciples and Christian leaders.
“Lisa has a heart for those who are living in impoverished situations and wants to provide safe and dry housing for all folks as well as advocate for helping people to understand poverty more and break the cycle of poverty,” said Rev. Ashley Davis, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Alabama-West Florida Conference. “Lisa’s just amazing.”
With a degree in animal science, Rev. Pierce initially thought she’d live out her calling by working with animals. But God had other plans, and upon graduation, she began serving as the Wesley Foundation director at the University of West Alabama.
“My calling was very broad; it was just a calling to service,” Rev. Pierce said.
While at West Alabama, she was reminded of the spring breaks, winter breaks, and summers spent serving in home repair ministries and, after much research and prayer, Alabama Rural Ministry
was launched and welcomed its first four work teams.
“It’s been this experiment that’s been going on ever since,” she said.
This “experiment,” now in its 21st
year, has served hundreds of families like Ms. Matthews, a grandmother living on a fixed income who adopted her two grandchildren. When her roof began leaking, Matthews saved money and hired a roofing contractor to fix it. But she still had interior damage she couldn’t afford to repair. Alabama Rural Ministry
heard her story and wanted to help.
During the ministry’s twelfth annual “No More Shacks-No More Blue Tarps” fundraiser, Rev. Pierce slept in a tiny, one-room shack with just enough space for a mattress. With open windows and a roof that leaked, the building was Rev. Pierce’s home for five days and five nights.
The fundraiser netted nearly $120,000 to help families in Lee County repair tornado damaged-homes and help end substandard housing in Alabama. Matthews is one of the homeowners who will be helped.
In March, after deadly tornadoes tore through Lee County and destroyed and damaged hundreds of lives and homes, Rev. Pierce was named Lee County United Methodist Disaster Response Director.
Her compassion, coupled with her proven ability to work with under-resourced communities and build strategic community partnerships, made Rev. Pierce an obvious choice, Rev. Davis said.
“We want The United Methodist Church to be the hands and feet of Jesus and offer hope and reconciliation. We want to do everything we can to offer hope and healing,” she said.
In Lee County, where 242 homes were destroyed, 157 had major damage, and another 260 had minor damage, there are still nearly 200 families whose homes were destroyed or suffered major damage who were uninsured or underinsured. Those with unmet needs are being helped by Rev. Pierce and her three case managers.
It’ll be an 18-month to two-year process, but the team is building relationships, helping people access resources, and advocating on homeowners’ behalf.
Rev. Pierce’s faith drives all she does. Living out the greatest commandment – to love God with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love her neighbor as herself – and the Great Commission – to make disciples – are her life’s focus.
“What I do and what we do is a response to Christ’s love,” she said.
For Rev. Davis, Rev. Pierce is the perfect combination of compassion and strong leadership, the person you want with you during difficult times.
“To borrow a Brené Brown quote, Lisa is somebody who has a soft front but a strong back,” she said. “And maybe more than anybody I’ve ever experienced, Lisa just portrays Jesus.”
For Rev. Pierce, she’s simply loving people, loving God, and following Him.
“I feel like I’ve lived into my calling.”