A Moment for Mission
“When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then … joint heirs with Christ.” —Romans 8:15b-17a, NRSV
When Deborah and Josue Alvarez decided to move back home to Tennessee in 2016, the Rev. Cherie Parker invited Deborah to lunch. “We talked and talked,” Alvarez recalled. Parker, then serving Hillcrest United Methodist Church, Nashville, told her, “I wish we had a food bank at Hillcrest. So many people in the community need help.”
Alvarez had assisted with the food bank at her San Antonio church. “Tears just welled up in my eyes,” she said. “Here was Cherie confirming what I already knew in my heart.”
The Hillcrest UMC Community Food Bank, working in partnership with Second Harvest, was launched in November 2016. “On the first day,” Alvarez remembers, “we served one family. Last month, we served 350 families. The food bank takes many volunteers to operate. We spend 100% of all donations on food.” Other community churches and groups support the food bank, which is open twice a month.
As anticipated, the COVID-19 pandemic increased food insecurity. By May, Alvarez said, “We had changed the way we deliver our food to the families, switching to a drive-thru food bank.” Volunteers, wearing gloves and masks, loaded trunks with fresh produce and food boxes.
Hillcrest also provides weekly backpacks for a refugee ministry, as well as supplemental food boxes to low-income seniors once a month.
On Women’s Ministry Sunday, United Methodist churches celebrate their outreach with women and the ways volunteers like Deborah Alvarez and her team enrich mission.
Loving God, as joint heirs of Christ, help us to bear witness to God’s amazing love and grace. Enrich our ministries with, for and by women. In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost — Mighty God, our comfort and our strength: we have been navigating through this pandemic with anxiety and isolation. We have lived in fear of disease, death, and not having enough. Yet, we are here, offering our gifts to the work of your kingdom and reminding ourselves of the glory about to be revealed to us. Remind us that we are your children, that we are your heirs. Remind us that your plan is not bondage or decay but a love that will save us and free us. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen. (Romans 8:12-25)
Women at Manchester United Methodist Church in Missouri love being in mission, and COVID-19 did not deter them.
“A ministry team of ours supports the local nonprofit Epworth Children and Family Services,” said Autumn Dennis, director of missions. “The historic, Methodist-affiliated organization was originally an orphanage put together by Methodist women’s groups. Normally, this ministry is about 20 people making monthly lunches and hosting parties for children in supportive and foster-care placements.”
During the pandemic, they adapted the ministry. Women prepared or ordered meals and delivered the food to local nonprofit partners. Recipient agencies unloaded the meals from a volunteer’s car.
“The volunteers are motivated by a love of children, a desire to keep them fed and healthy during the crisis and a desire to help them feel loved,” Dennis said.
As your congregation observes Women’s Ministry Sunday, consider what your church already does with and for women. Then go a step further by finding new ways to include all of God’s precious children.
— Barbara Dunlap-Berg, freelance writer and editor, retired from UMCom