District Roundup: Johnson City hunger, Kingsport construction, Maryville homeless

District Roundup: Johnson City hunger, Kingsport construction, Maryville homeless

Three Kingsport District churches give money to build Gwiria UMC in South Sudan.


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JOHNSON CITY: Youth 'not OK' with hunger

Youth at Wesley Memorial UMC are focused on hunger -- but not their own. "They are learning about hunger, how God feels about it, and what they can do about it," says Gary Ihfe, director of youth ministries.

On Feb. 4-5, youth joined in the Souper Bowl of Caring, an interfaith ministry coordinated on the day of the nation's most publicized football game. On Saturday, about 10 youth sorted bulk food into family-size portions at Good Samaritan Ministries. On Sunday morning, 15 youth greeted worshipers with soup pots for cash donations and large barrels for canned food. They collected $820 and 332 cans for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.

Youth will continue their exploration at noon on Good Friday, April 6, through 6 p.m., Saturday, April 7, when they push away the pizza for World Vision's 30-Hour Famine. "Part of their efforts includes a 30-hour fast from all food," Ihfe said. "Another part includes raising donations to help children all across the world who are starving." The group set a goal of raising $8,000 for World Vision. They'll also spend Friday night sleeping outdoors in a box to help them emphasize with the homeless.

"Nearly 8,000 children under age 5 die every day because of hunger-related causes," the youth's fundraising web page states. "That's one child every 10 seconds. And we are not OK with that."

KINGSPORT: Offerings build new church in S. Sudan  

In September, Kingsley UMC and Hermon UMC raised more than $20,500 to build a church in South Sudan, with the help of memorial gifts and donations from individuals in Kingsport and Knoxville.

On Palm Sunday, April 1, the congregation at Gwiria UMC dedicated their new church building, a gift from their east Tennessee sisters and brothers at Kingsley, Hermon, and also Mt. Carmel UMC.

"We had a joyous celebration," said the Rev. Fred Dearing, South Sudan District superintendent. "The people could not stop praising as we opened and dedicated their new church building. It was packed full. The engineer donated 10 chairs and a pulpit. We processed from the thatch-roof church building to the new church building. 

"Small churches can do great things together," Dearing said. "Kingsley/ Hermon and Mt. Carmel really blessed the people and community." (See photos on Facebook.)

In late January, the Rev. Joe Barber, pastor at Kingsley/ Hermon, traveled to South Sudan with Holston's 16th mission team to the area.

MARYVILLE: Holiday homes for the homeless

First Maryville UMC is one of 30 churches that partner with Family Promise of Blount County. About 12 of those are United Methodist congregations.

First UMC is a "host congregation," which agrees to house homeless families overnight for one-week periods, while "support congregations" provide meals and supplies. During the holidays, it's sometimes difficult for busy church members to commit to cooking dinner or spending the night in the church for their Family Promise guests, says Charles Brinkley. Not so for First Maryville UMC. 

"Christmas was an incredible experience for our families," Brinkley said. "Not only did our congregation provide exceptional hospitality and unconditional love, they took on an extra week so the families would not have to move on Christmas day."

First UMC hosted four families, providing gifts as well as meals and lodging. Each family had a Christmas tree in their bedrooms (converted Sunday school rooms) and joined in church activities such as caroling and the live nativity scene. The parents received Wal-Mart gift cards and shopping opportunities to select gifts for their children. Gifts from the congregation to family members varied and included new beds, a laptop, dental services, a utility bill deposit, car repair, Bibles, and stocking stuffers.

On March 11-18, First UMC hosted three more families and was similarly blessed, Brinkley says. "Two of our former guest families came back and volunteered as evening hosts. One of our former guest families is now regularly attending our church."

See also: "Homeless family finds help in Blount County" (Knox News Sentinel, 2-27-11)

Holston Conference has 12 districts, and we're intentional about sharing news from each. Send your news and photos to thecall@holston.org, and keep up with Holston each day at Facebook.Holston.org.