Someone once asked Maudine Holloway where she learned to pray. She responded with a story.
"When I started school," Holloway explained, "I walked five miles to the nearest bus stop. When the bus driver dropped me off after school, I had to walk through wooded areas. It was scary. That's where I learned to pray. Walking through the woods!"
Raised in a rural Baptist church, she said, "I grew up in a community of sweet, loving ladies." Many adults didn't know how to read. So as a child "in my mama's house," young Holloway read Scripture and taught Bible lessons to four or five older women.
Holloway's childhood dream – to become a teacher – came true, but not in the conventional sense.
She has spent a lifetime teaching, not in a classroom, but in her community. Teaching people that they can have control of their lives – and that they deserve it. "Our folks can do anything anyone else can do," Holloway said. "They just need a chance."
As a young adult, Holloway was involved in Haven United Methodist Church in this city of 22,000. In 1968, the newly created United Methodist Church launched the Black Community Developer program, and shortly thereafter, the congregation sent an application to the North Alabama Conference.
In 1971, Holloway joined the second group of community developers. Her mission? Enabling the community to become sensitized to the needs of the poor and to participate in public and private advocacy for the disadvantaged.
"I started from scratch," she said, "walking door to door. I asked people, 'What do you need?'"
In the early days, Holloway paid for program expenses out of her own pocket. For the first three years of Holloway's assignment, the General Board of Global Ministries sent $500 per month, and the host church kept a portion. But it was better than nothing.
"I went from no money to $366.17 per month to serve about 900 people," she said. "Our budget began to climb." Today the annual budget is $135,000 for a ministry that reaches 6,000 per year.
When Holloway started as a community developer, "Anniston was pretty racist," she said. "It still is and always will be. You just have to pick up your feet and go on."
In 1980, Holloway's office moved to First United Methodist Church, Anniston. There it stayed for 33 years. In 2013, Carpenter United Methodist Church closed, and the conference gave the property to Community Enabler Developer Inc.
From the beginning, Holloway recognized the need to tell others about her work. She visited churches and colleges across the annual conference.
She honed her skills by studying community organizing at Northeastern University in Chicago, where she made the dean's list.
Whether the issue was alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, hunger, illness, poverty, unemployment or something else, Holloway has seen the value in teamwork.
After almost half a century as a community developer, Maudine Holloway is filled with gratitude.
"I'm just proud God has allowed me to work through the church," she said. "I've touched people, not for me, but for God. It's been a very great experience.
"I'm proud of my journey."
Barbara Dunlap-Berg, retired from United Methodist Communications, freelance writer and editor living in Carbondale, Ill.
One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, Human Relations Day calls United Methodists to recognize the right of all God's children in realizing their potential as human beings in relationship with one another. The special offering benefits neighborhood ministries through Community Developers, community advocacy through United Methodist Voluntary Services and work with at-risk teens through the Youth Offender Rehabilitation Program.
When you give generously on Human Relations Day, you encourage ordinary people to have a voice in changing the world. Give now.