By Linda Morrow*
Across the generations, across the miles, across the district. What can happen when people reach out in the name of Jesus to feed others? In late February 2023, nine rural and small-community United Methodist churches in the Southern Hills District found out. These congregations coordinated efforts and built community to raise funds for and pack 4,800 rice meal bags that will provide 28,800 meals to hungry families in war-torn Ukraine.
What began as a plan to conduct an intergenerational spiritual formation and mission event at New Concord United Methodist Church spread across the district as other small churches caught the vision for collaborating in this project offered through the Midwest Mission near Springfield, Illinois. Three churches and the Epworth Center mission site agreed to host meal-packing events.
The collaboration began weeks before the meal-packing event as congregations and individuals worked for six weeks to collect the $9,600 ($2/bag) needed to purchase rice meal packet supplies. Two families at New Concord UMC, one with two primary grade children and one with two high school seniors sponsored their first ever “.5K” to help raise money for the Midwest Mission rice meal project. Using both social media and word of mouth, they raised a total of $600 toward the $9,600 goal. The youngest in the congregation are now asking how soon they can host the next “.5K” to help do Jesus’s work.
Between February 18 and February 25, the Midwest Mission supply trailer, hauled by volunteers from two of the churches, traveled among New Concord UMC, Smith’s Chapel UMC, Old Washington UMC, and the Epworth Center in Bethesda. At these sites, a total of 155 volunteers from the nine churches and two area high schools worked a total of 1,184.5 hours to pack the rice meal bags. Volunteers ages five through 90 enthusiastically and energetically worked together to accomplish a common goal that no one congregation would have been able to achieve on its own.
Frequent comments included “We had no idea we could do so much together;” “It’s so fun when old and young alike can get to know each other better;” “I get so overwhelmed about how I can possibly make a difference. Today I made one;” “When can we do this again?” and, the most common refrain, “We are so blessed.”
*Linda Morrow is a certified lay minister and a member of New Concord UMC in the Southern Hills District.