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Annual gathering offers pick of opportunities to 'be the church'

Annual gathering offers pick of opportunities to 'be the church'

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Annual gathering offers pick of opportunities to 'be the church'

May 13, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0290}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — The "One Body One Spirit" 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event features not one, but five mission opportunities that allow attendees to be the church in Lakeland. Some will happen during the four-day event, but others will take place before annual conference convenes.

Florida Conference clergy and laity will gather June 2-5 at the Lakeland Center for the annual gathering, but organizers are hoping delegates will arrive one day earlier to roll up their sleeves and volunteer for a variety of worthy projects coordinated by Celebrate Jesus, the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center (SRC) and Habitat for Humanity.

DAYTONA BEACH — United Methodists attending the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event June 3-6 here and who participated in the Celebrate Jesus mini-mission June 4 get to know area residents at the Family Fun Day held June 5 on the beach. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #04-0035.

Through Celebrate Jesus, volunteers will take to the streets June 1 to visit neighbors in the area of downtown Lakeland surrounding Wesley United Methodist Church. Normally, a Celebrate Jesus mission is a weeklong effort during which local churches reach out to their community with help from a visiting team of laity and clergy coordinated by Celebrate Jesus.

That same day SRC will pair volunteers with Rebuild Polk After Disaster to repair Lakeland-area homes damaged by the 2004 hurricanes. And Habitat for Humanity is offering volunteers the opportunity to work on the sites of homes currently under construction.

After volunteering during the day participants are invited to a "Come as You Are" supper buffet at 5:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Lakeland, to share their experiences from the day's activities.

Karen Taylor, executive director of Celebrate Jesus, said she is encouraging people to arrive before annual conference because she feels it's important for the church to have a positive impact on the community when it comes together.

"We would like for people to spend some time sharing Jesus through word or action to people who need encouragement," she said. "We think it will be a fine day."

The Rev. Al McGowen, pastor of United Methodist Temple in Lakeland, said Celebrate Jesus volunteers will gather at his church to receive maps of the area surrounding Wesley United Methodist Church, the neighborhood volunteers will be visiting.

"Isn't it great that we can have a huge impact on Lakeland when we come together to do the business of the church?" he said. "It's a golden opportunity. I hope people will take advantage of it."

Peggy Garcia, manager of the SRC, said she is hoping some delegates will opt to help Lakeland-area residents who were affected by last year's hurricanes.

"Our efforts will help the neediest of the needy," she said. "We help people who are often the forgotten, people who have fallen through the cracks and have nowhere else to go."

Garcia said volunteers will help with minor home repairs, such as retarping a faulty roof or rebuilding a porch.

The Rev. David Adams, a retired elder of the Florida Conference, is helping coordinate the project with Habitat for Humanity.

LAKELAND — Volunteers from First United Methodist Church here work on a home being built by the Lakeland Habitat for Humanity. Photo courtesy of Lakeland Habitat for Humanity, Photo #05-0164.

For more than 25 years Habitat has helped low-income families achieve the dream of owning a home. Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat constructs and rehabilitates simple, decent houses with help from the prospective homeowner and family members. Habitat houses are sold to the families at no profit and financed with affordable, no-interest loans. The homeowners' monthly mortgage payments are used to build additional Habitat houses.

A Habitat volunteer since 1993, Adams said the Lakeland Habitat for Humanity has built more than 40 homes.

"A lot of people don't have the opportunity to get their home in the standard or traditional way," he said. "Habitat offers that opportunity to a responsible person, who is regularly employed, by requiring them to perform hundreds of hours of sweat equity."

Adams is appealing to delegates to do a little sweating of their own in any of the mission opportunities available before annual conference.

"The opportunities give delegates a chance to help out in some hands-on projects," he said. "This gives people more to do than talk about doing the right thing. We not only have to talk the talk about being followers of Jesus Christ, but walk the walk."

Pre-registration for the June 1 mission opportunities is important so coordinators can plan for the number of interested volunteers. Information about the mission opportunities, along with a registration form, is available on the Florida Conference Web site at

In addition to the June 1 opportunities, delegates have a chance to participate in mission activities taking place during the conference. Children's Harvest will be assembling more than 1,000 backpacks with school supplies. A total of 5,000 backpacks will be distributed among the state's at-risk children and youth. More than $50,000 was collected for Children's Harvest at the 2004 annual conference, and a portion of this year's annual conference offering will also go toward the ministry. 

Assembly of the backpacks will take place in the Lakeland Center near the main concourse beginning June 2 in the afternoon. Volunteers will work until the project is completed. Local church groups that would like to help may contact the Rev. Troy Ray at 386-252-0156 or Delegates do not need to pre-register and may gather in the area to help at their convenience.

ORLANDO — Luis Salgado, a member of Christ Hispanic United Methodist Church here, loads sweet potatoes onto a pickup truck during a Potato Drop sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew (November 2001). Church members used the opportunity to canvass the neighborhood, offering residents free potatoes and information about the church. Photo by Michael Wacht, Photo #05-0165.

The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) is also providing a mission opportunity during the event called a reverse potato drop. Instead of bagging potatoes brought in bulk to a specific location, called a potato drop, delegates will be bringing potatoes already bagged. SoSA is asking delegates to purchase a five-pound bag of potatoes and deposit it in a marked bin at the Lakeland Center June 2-3. The organization will give the potatoes to food distribution charities that feed people in the Lakeland area. No pre-registration is needed. Registration is automatic when delegates bring a bag of potatoes, according to organizers.

SoSA is a gleaning organization that collects produce and fruit that cannot be sold in stores because of inconsistencies in shape or color. The food would otherwise be left in growers' fields or homeowners' yards to rot or be plowed under after harvest. SoSA is also an Advance Special.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.