2:30 P.M. EST April 14, 2010 | SAN DIEGO (UMNS)
Volunteer Martin Moss from Foothills United Methodist Church wields a paintbrush in La Mesa, Calif., during “Impact San Diego.” UMNS photos by John Gordon.
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Take five United Methodist congregations; add a dash of inspiration, a pinch of imagination and 750 eager volunteers in red shirts, and you have “Impact San Diego,” a successful Rethink Church event.
People of all ages from the congregations and the community gathered Sunday, April 11, to receive and complete their assignments.
“We broke it down to three areas,” said the Rev. Christian DeMent, event coordinator:
- assisting older adults in their homes,
- working at elementary schools and
- improving the environment.
Outdoor lovers gravitated toward repairing homes and doing yard work for the elderly; tackling cleanup at lakes and parks; landscaping church campuses; painting, planting gardens and beautifying grounds at schools; and installing fences at a wildlife refuge.
Volunteers who preferred to work indoors wrote cards and letters to the homebound, the military and missionaries, and served meals to children and adults struggling with poverty.
Children especially liked assembling health kits for local outreach ministries, creating placemats for a homeless shelter, making toys for a non-profit dog- and cat-rescue organization, and providing socks for people in poverty worldwide through the Sox-in-a-Box program.
“I love the church, and I just want to help,” said Matthew Naslund, 15. Joining church friends, he painted, washed windows and took out trash at a nearby school.
Dorothy Relaford, 83, did her part as well. “I sang in the choir at the opening worship service and looked out at the congregation. All those red Impact Community T-shirts were so inspiring,” she remarked.
After singing, Relaford reported to the Casa de Oro School, which her four children attended 50 years ago. “I took my grabber and picked up trash,” she said. “Others planted flowers in window boxes.”
Pruning dead growth during “Impact San Diego” is part of the “job” of Ken Lange from Foothills United Methodist Church.
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Lianne Moss, her husband and their two teenagers are active Foothills United Methodist Church members. “It was so incredibly enriching to be there,” Moss said.
She and three other volunteers went to the home of a woman, 93, referred by Meals on Wheels.
“It was obvious she loved gardening, but her yard was a jungle,” Moss recalled. “We had fun pulling weeds and clearing a pathway so this sweet woman could enjoy her garden again.”
As the day concluded, the volunteers gathered at a shopping mall. A jazz band provided entertainment, and community groups shared information “to offer other ways people could serve on an ongoing basis,” Relaford said. A restaurant donated 20 percent of its proceeds to provide camperships for needy children and youth.
The sea of red shirts was an attraction, Moss said. “Strangers stopped me and said, ‘I see your shirt. I love it. Tell me more.’ It was awesome.
“One young lady had just moved to the area and said she was looking for a church home,” said Moss. “I told her all about my church.” The YMCA director approached Moss about involving Y youth in a similar event.
“It brought the whole church—young and old, traditional and contemporary—together as one big family,” Moss added.
‘A church doing something’
While evangelism wasn’t the primary goal, “Impact San Diego” drew attention to the denomination. “I think people identify The United Methodist Church as a church that is doing something,” DeMent said.
Kylie Greaves holds a puppy up for adoption during Foothills’ project to make pet toys for Second Chance Dog Rescue.
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San Diego was one of three U.S. cities where Rethink Church events were held April 11—the others being Little Rock, Ark., and Topeka, Kan. Rethink Church is a United Methodist movement designed to remind people that church is not just a place but a way of living—following Jesus’ example, serving those in need, engaging in community and calling the world to more faithful life.
Cooperating with secular organizations was a plus, he said. Secular groups “were pleased with our openness to working with them.” While the congregations already were involved with many of the community organizations represented, “Impact San Diego” invited people to serve in different ways.
“For us to provide a volunteer base,” DeMent said, “helped the secular organizations financially.”
DeMent is one of three clergy serving the 1,300-member Foothills United Methodist Church. Members are planting a new congregation, and DeMent hopes to make new connections with the community through a follow-up event. “Many volunteers said they would like to do this more than once a year.”
He was quick to credit a United Methodist Impact Community grant with helping “to get the word out. We flooded the community” with advertising, he said. The grants are provided through United Methodist Communications.
“Impact San Diego,” he continued, showed “our apportionment dollars at work ... making a difference in our community” and engaging in mission.
Andrew Naslund, 12, summed up his experience. “It was a great opportunity to go out and be God’s hands in the community because that’s what I think the church is about.”
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications.
News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 or email@example.com.