At least a dozen Holston congregations -- and probably many more -- joined other United Methodist churches from the United States to Zimbabwe in serving their communities and fighting malaria April 24 and 25.
"Change the World Weekend" was organized as part of The United Methodist Church’s Rethink Church initiative. For months, churches were encouraged to do something to build their communities while raising money for bed nets to fight malaria in Africa.
Three Morristown District churches joined for a spring project initiated three years ago, but that happened to coincide with the denomination's new effort, according to the Rev. Scott Layer, associate pastor at First Morristown United Methodist Church.
"It began with a simple idea: What if our church on one day worked together to show the people of Morristown the love of God in a practical way?" Layer said. "We have 13 adult Sunday school classes and we have encouraged each class as well as the youth and children's groups to do something to show people that Christ loves them."
This year, Liberty Hill UMC and Trinity UMC joined with First Morristown UMC to carry out a total 23 projects, Layer said. On Saturday, April 24, Church members washed windshields at Weigel's, gave a free cookout at a housing project, delivered homemade baked goods to nursing homes, and potted plants for apartment dwellers.
They also delivered handmade quilts to cancer patients, and a group of children lined up outside a soup kitchen to hand out candy and Christian books after lunch.
"What impressed me this year was the higher level of engagement, risk taking, and creativity of the group members," Layer said. "I already heard people talk about what they will do next year."
Other Change the World activities in Holston:
- The Wesley Foundation at University of Virginia College at Wise participated in the Great American Clean-Up. "We picked up trash along Main Street and collected two bags of trash and a tire," reports student Allie Robinson. "It was important to do because part of the function of a Wesley Foundation is to not only minister to students on the college campus, but also to participate in the community."
- Munsey Memorial UMC of Johnson City District set up an "Imagine No Malaria" display for its April 23 Senior Fair with opportunity for donations. Munsey youth spent Saturday at the Coalition for Kids. "We planted flowers, pressure-washed picnic tables, and washed the school buses and vans," reports Tiffany Wingrove. "We had fun in fellowship, laughter, and the sunshine."
- St. Mark UMC in Knoxville District gathered Friday night to watch the malaria-preventive video, "When the Night Comes." Youth then slept in tents on the church lawn as part of the "Sleep Out to End Malaria" effort, according to Youth Ministries Director Ashley Garren. The congregation took a special offering for malaria nets on Sunday morning.
- First Bulls Gap UMC of Morristown District planned a "Random Acts of Kindness" project for Saturday. Church members handed out flowers and bags of candy and opened the doors for shoppers. On Sunday, the church took a special offering for Nothing But Nets.
- Burks UMC of Chattanooga District worked at St. Andrews Center to prepare a community garden, build benches, and paint and clean rooms.
- Church Street UMC of Knoxville District partnered with the Knoxville Leadership Foundation to replace roofs on homes.
- First Surgoinsville UMC of Kingsport District hosted a movie night to raise money for nets.
- The Wesley Foundation at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville participated in the C.R.O.P. Walk and raised money for Nothing But Nets.
- Christ UMC in Chattanooga District worked with the Big Brothers Big Sisters to encourage the congregation to volunteer.
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