Mondays are marvelous with Willacoochee UMC and Beulah UMC
Every Monday afternoon, a diverse group of about 70 children from Willacoochee Elementary School bound off the bus and swarm the grounds of Willacoochee United Methodist Church.
They are participating in Marvelous Monday, an after-school program run by Willacoochee UMC and Beulah UMC.
Begun by former pastor Rev. Eddie Morrison, who now serves at Winona Park United Methodist Church in Waycross, the program has continued to thrive under the leadership of Rev. James Duvall, who was appointed in June to Willacoochee UMC and Beulah UMC.
Upon its inception about six years ago, Marvelous Monday had fewer than 20 participants. Through the years, the roster has grown to include more than 100 children and averages 70 each Monday afternoon.
Boys and girls, preschoolers through sixth graders, Hispanic, Caucasian and African-American –all gather together each Monday to worship, fellowship and play.
They are children from all walks of life, in a variety of different situations, but Marvelous Monday brings them together.
Rev. Duvall and another volunteer arrive at Willacoochee Elementary School every Monday afternoon to pick the children up when they are dismissed from school. Using a bus and church van, it often takes two to three trips to transport the entire group to the church.
Upon their arrival, the children sign in, are fed a snack, and are led in a time of singing. From there they split in half and either have craft time or listen to a Bible lesson. Afterwards, they play soccer, basketball and other games and activities until their parents arrive.
It takes 12 to 14 dedicated volunteers from both Willacoochee UMC and Beulah UMC to make the Marvelous Monday program run smoothly, Rev. Duvall said.
And, while the program uses Willacoochee UMC’s building and grounds, both churches pitch in to volunteer and contribute financially. Two volunteers prepare 80 sandwiches per week; others teach crafts, lead singing, handle the paperwork, and more.
At the beginning of each school year, parents register their children as Marvelous Monday participants. Over the years, community residents have grown to associate the ministry with the church, and vice versa.
“Parents seem grateful that we’re providing this ministry,” Rev. Duvall said.
Celeste Bray, who volunteers each Monday alongside her husband Charlie, said that parents and children approach her in public to talk about the ministry.
“Parents will stop me in the store and tell me that their children love Marvelous Mondays,” said Bray, who has served with the ministry for four years. She also sees that the program is making a difference.
“I can see a positive influence on these kids from when they started to now. They have really responded to having positive influences in their lives and having people that are there for them and help them.”
The children are not the only ones who love Marvelous Monday. Volunteers’ lives are being impacted, as well.
“It brings us closer, and lets us see the needs in our community that we might not otherwise see and know about,” she said. “It changes the way I feel about the community.”
Rev. Duvall agrees.
“When you’re working with this many kids, you have to learn patience. I think all of us have grown in our treatment of all different kinds of people. People grow through the experience of serving. And the children are growing more cooperative and learning to play and work together despite their differences. They’re also getting to know some Christian adults, and I think that’s part of the important thing. Hopefully this is building a foundation for them that they can come back to that they might not otherwise get.”
--By Kara Witherow, South Georgia Advocate editor
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