Five people, two genders, five church homes (as far as 300 miles apart), one pick up truck, and almost six days of being together all adds up to the United Methodist connectional ministry at its very best. To what do I refer, you ask? UMARMY (United Methodist Action Reach-out Mission by Youth).
As a pastor and a properly vetted elder in the United Methodist Church I know and repeat the mantra that we are a “connectional” church. I say it even though I know defining it can be a challenge. The reality is, I cannot always tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it. And I saw it this past week (which, by the way, is why there was no blog post for last week. I was BUSY).
We had 119 people from 9 United Methodist Churches come together and spend the week in the First UMC of Nacogdoches, Texas. We slept in classrooms on cots and air mattresses; we ate our meals together in the mornings and evenings; we played together and prayed together. And it all happened as if we were family coming together for a week-long event. We didn’t all know each other but we knew we were connected, and that was enough.
I had a team of four youth with me. I was the Work Team Adult. I wasn’t there to do the work, I was there to help the youth do the work – and they did. At one point we were working on a home refurbishing and upgrading a wheelchair ramp and I went to help the two young ladies who were working on the railing. I think they were more bothered by my help because it slowed them down! So, I went back to what I was doing elsewhere.
The highlight for me was not doing the work, it was driving back and forth to the site and driving for a drink break at lunch time. I found myself in a vehicle with four teenagers who had never met until Sunday evening and yet they talked and worked and enjoyed each other like they were old friends. I guess that’s where I really saw the “connectional” side of the United Methodist Church. They had a common bond, they had familiar stories, and they were working as much FOR “their” church as they were working WITH other churches.
It was a great week, and it continues to be a blessing to me even today. It was the United Methodist Church in action being a light of hope in the world. I thank God for the work He allowed us to do together, and I thank God for the United Methodist Connection found in a UMARMY work camp.
Thanks for letting me ramble on a bit about the week I had. I know the details are sketchy. The best way to understand would be to go to UMARMY yourself one day – adults and youth all have a place.
Holy high-five to you, Mike