Delegates reach out to Lakeland community during mission events

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Delegates reach out to Lakeland community during mission events

June 2, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0305}

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

LAKELAND — Gray skies didn’t darken the spirits of volunteers who turned out for mission events that kicked off the “One Body One Spirit” 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event.

On a rainy June 1 — a day before the conference officially convened — volunteers participated in two mission projects that enabled delegates to be the church in Lakeland. They hit the streets visiting residents in the downtown Lakeland area with the evangelism ministry Celebrate Jesus and worked on a house being built by Habitat for Humanity.

Volunteers were scheduled to lend a hand to homeowners affected by the 2004 hurricanes through the Florida Conference’s Storm Recovery Center, but too few volunteers signed up for the project. Those who did were referred to the Habitat for Humanity work site where they and the other volunteers helped a future homeowner by hammering nails and installing insulation on the site of a home under construction.

LAKELAND — The Rev. David Adams (right) helps the Rev. Fawn Mikel install insulation at a Habitat for Humanity home under construction. The Habitat site was one of two pre-conference mission opportunities available to delegates, offering them a chance to reach out to the Lakeland community. Photo by Janice Buchholz, Photo #05-0170.

The Rev. Fawn Mikel, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Pompano Beach, said volunteering for Habitat, and any mission activity, is her favorite aspect about ministry.

“Jesus called us to do this,” Mikel said as she nailed insulation to the infrastructure of the house. “This is making a difference in someone else’s life.”

Mikel said she thinks the mission opportunities before annual conference were a good idea.

“I think this should be our primary focus,” she said. “This is what we’re supposed to be about — being the arms, hands, feet of Jesus.”

Mason Dorsey, a member of Azalea Park United Methodist Church in Orlando, said he also enjoyed the opportunity to serve at the Habitat site.

“I would do this next year,” he said. “I would like to just tell people to get out there and do it (volunteer).

Mary Lou Wilkinson, a member of Burton Memorial United Methodist Church in Taverner, said she wanted to volunteer because “it’s the right thing to do.”

“When you volunteer, it can be in someone else’s community,” she said. “It doesn’t always have to be in your community.”

Wilkinson’s husband, Jerry, said volunteering is a good thing because “you never know when you might need help.”

The Rev. David Adams, a retired elder of the Florida Conference, was pleased with the number of volunteers who turned out to work on the house despite the unpredictable weather.

“These people are pretty determined,” said Adams, who has volunteered with the organization since 1993. “They would have come if it was snowing, raining or whatever — that’s good.”

Adams said volunteers were ready to be put to work in a variety of jobs to get the house ready to meet building code regulations. He said volunteers have been enthusiastic about working on the existing site, but the real excitement comes from watching the frames and the walls of a house go up during construction.

LAKELAND — Delegates pray with a family while visiting residents in an area near downtown Lakeland. Volunteers went door-to-door in the neighborhood as part of the Celebrate Jesus mission opportunity, one of two pre-conference mission events. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0171.

“I think it would be great if we could start a house during annual conference,” Adams said, adding the Lakeland Habitat for Humanity has built more than 40 homes. “There is nothing like the experience of watching the walls go up. That way, non-delegates could work throughout the week.”

While Adams was thinking about what the future might look like for the organization during annual conference, Linda Adum was thinking about the series of storms that hit the Lakeland area in 2004. She had originally signed up to volunteer for Storm Recovery Center projects.

“I just wanted to see what I could do,” said Adum, a member of St. James United Methodist Church in Tampa. “I’m sure that people must be in need if they put out the call for help. I know if I needed help, I would welcome it. That’s why I came.”

The Rev. Jack Kelley, a retired minister, said he came to Lakeland a day early because he wanted to volunteer with Celebrate Jesus for a second time. Celebrate Jesus volunteers visited neighbors in the area around Wesley United Methodist Church and invited them to a free block party Sunday afternoon at the church.

Kelley spent time at Adair Park speaking with Mike and Clara, two people who are homeless.

“I think this is a great thing,” he said, as rain fell around the covered pavilion. “I’m just sharing Jesus with my two friends here.”

LAKELAND — The Rev. Jack Kelley (left), a retired minister, visits with two new friends while participating in the Celebrate Jesus pre-conference mission event. Kelley urged the pair, both homeless, to look to Jesus and never give up hope as they struggle to get back on their feet. Photo by Janice Buchholz, Photo #05-0172.

Kelley turned to Mike and encouraged him to accept Jesus Christ into his life by praying a simple prayer.

“I’ve done that,” Mike said exasperated. “And we’re still on the streets.”

“Don’t give up,” Kelley said. “Just keep praying and don’t give up.”

The Rev. Gordon Van Namee, pastor of Salem United Methodist Church in Havana, said he also encouraged a woman not to give up.

“People were very, very receptive,” he said. “It was an amazing feeling. I met this woman who you could just tell was tired, weary. She wouldn’t go into the church with me, but I went in and got a bottle of water for her. I gave it to her and told her to go and thirst no more. It’s just a beautiful thing.”

Delegates who missed the pre-conference mission activities still have time to volunteer.

The Florida Conference Children’s Harvest will be filling more than 1,000 backpacks with school supplies starting June 2 and ending when all of the school kits are completed. The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) is holding a reverse potato, asking delegates to purchase a five-pound bag of potatoes and deposit it in a marked bin at the Lakeland Center June 2-3. SoSA is a gleaning organization that mobilizes volunteers to glean surplus fruit and produce from homeowners’ yard and growers’ fields, basing its work on the traditional Biblical practice of gathering crops that would otherwise be left in the fields to rot or be plowed under after harvest. SoSA will give all the potatoes to food distribution charities who feed hungry people in the Lakeland area.


This article relates to 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event.

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

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