Emanuel UMC spends second Saturdays serving

9/4/2010

This summer, homeowners in the Brunswick area have been given a helping hand by good Samaritans from Emanuel United Methodist Church.

The good Samaritans are part of Emanuel UMC’s Second Saturday Servants ministry, a local missions outreach of the church.

On the second Saturday of each month, men, women and children come together to help those in need.  They meet in Emanuel UMC’s fellowship hall at 7:30 a.m. and then go out into the community to mow lawns, paint houses, repair leaky toilets and more.

The idea for the ministry came after a sermon series, one that challenged the congregation to become a more mission- and outreach-oriented church, was preached.

“(The church) decided we would become an externally focused church instead of an internally focused church,” said Bill Brock, a Second Saturday Servants ministry leader and member of Emanuel UMC.  “We decided to turn our focus to the community.”

The church, under the umbrella of South Georgia’s New & Revitalized Congregational Development efforts, has been working to change their reputation in the community.

“We’ve been working hard … to figure out what the needs in the community are and to see what resources God has given us to meet those needs,” said Rev. Carl Barnhardt, pastor of Emanuel UMC.  “Of course, in these economic times we don’t have any more money than anybody else, but we have our time and we have ourselves.”

It’s the ministry’s outward focus that first attracted Emanuel UMC member John Thomas.

“It’s a good opportunity for anonymous servitude,” he said.  “It gives you an opportunity to learn how to serve without expecting anything in return and know that God is going to get all of the glory for everything we do.”

Thomas, who participates in the Second Saturday Servants ministry with his wife Traci and children John, 13, and Isabella, 9, says that serving gives him an opportunity to live the lessons he’s teaching at home.

“That’s what I’ve been teaching my children – that we do this not so somebody can look at us and say, ‘Thanks for helping us,’ but so that somebody will say, ‘Hey, look what God is sending these people to do.’ That’s an important lesson I want my children to learn.”

Yard work and minor home repairs make up the bulk of the work done by Second Saturday Servants volunteers.  The ministry caters to the elderly, sick, disabled, those who aren’t able to do the work themselves and those who simply can’t afford to hire someone.  When possible, though, the homeowners pay for the materials used.

Anyone, no matter their age or skill level, can find a way serve in the ministry, leaders say.  Those unable to do manual labor minister to homeowners by talking with and listening to them. 

“Lots of times we’ll take more people than are necessary to do the actual physical labor,” said Rev. Barnhardt.  “The extra people who have a spiritual gift of listening, encouragement, or helps, they will engage the homeowner in conversation and listen to their story. That’s been a big benefit, especially for those who have minimal contact with other people.  They have someone to listen to them.” 

Benefits are seen on both sides, by those served and those serving.  With two worship services, not everyone who attends Emanuel UMC knows each other.  Working side-by-side gives them the opportunity to meet, share stories and get to know one another.

“It’s helping the ‘one body, one mind’ concept inside the church,” Rev. Barnhardt said.

Thomas agrees.

“We’re all working together,” he said.  “You really can’t help but to get to know the people you’re working with. You might see the person each week in church, but you don’t know much about them. But when you’re scraping the side of a block wall you naturally talk and get to know them.  I think it builds a tighter community inside the church that promotes a better image to everybody outside the church.”

Thomas’ wife Traci, Emanuel UMC’s youth and children’s director, appreciates the spiritual growth she sees in her own children as a result of their participation in Second Saturday Servants. 

“My kids are excited to go,” she said.  “They love it.  They love being able to do something for someone else.  For me, I love being able to see that spiritual growth within the children.  They’re seeing that there are people out there who have so little, much less than they do, and they yearn to go out there and help. I love to see that.” 

When church congregations serve the community, Traci Thomas sees God become real to others.

“We are becoming the hands and feet of Christ, doing what God has called us to do and making God real to others,” she said.  “We’re coming together and being the church that God has called us to be.”

Ministry leaders invite other congregations to join their efforts.

“It’s not that we have a lot of folks who have a lot of skills, we just saw a need around the community,” Brock said.

 --By Kara Witherow, South Georgia Advocate editor

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