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Church Angels help neighbors who 'fall through the cracks'

Church Angels help neighbors who 'fall through the cracks'

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church Angels help neighbors who 'fall through the cracks'

Dec. 9, 2005  News media contact: Tita Parham*  
800-282-8011   Orlando {0410}

An e-Review Feature
By John M. De Marco**

WELAKA — Shirley Drake Jordan and her husband, Joe, retired to Florida, but immediately put themselves to work starting Angels on Assignment at their church, Georgetown United Methodist Church. The ministry works to meet the needs of people facing a variety of hardships. Photo courtesy of Shirley Jordan, Photo #05-286.

Shirley Drake Jordan and her husband, Joe, moved to peaceful Welaka, Fla., intent on retiring. They achieved that goal, but with the added blessing of putting themselves to work for a ministry that helps those who find themselves facing hard times.

The Jordans lived in Ohio, where Joe was a State Farm insurance agent and Shirley was a journalist, before retiring to Florida. They are a "very young 70," Shirley says, and live near the St. John's River, 10 miles from the nearest grocery store.

They worship at Georgetown United Methodist Church, located halfway between Jacksonville and Orlando. The church comfortably seats 94 people, but averages 100 in worship, which Jordan says "is a wonderful problem to have."

The church's unusually good attendance (when compared to most United Methodist churches) isn't its only distinguishing achievement, however. The church is also the launching pad for Angels on Assignment, a ministry that mobilizes the church's mostly blue-collar retirees to address human needs in a manner reminiscent of the early chapters of the Book of Acts.

The Angels adventure began when the Jordans visited Mt. Vernon, Ill., in 2004 and learned of a large United Methodist church with a food pantry ministry called Angels on Assignment that distributes thousands of dollars' worth of vouchers. While the Jordans knew their small Georgetown church couldn't duplicate such an effort dollar-wise, they realized "we could make a difference in our church and our community."

After returning home, Shirley decided to start a similar ministry and secured permission from the Illinois church to use the Angels on Assignment name. She even received a donation from one of that church's members. "We were determined to prove a small church can do a monumental task when the need arises," she said.

The new ministry was organized in December 2004, and by Jan. 1, 2005, it was already receiving requests for assistance.

"We agreed to take on any and all tasks requested of us," Jordan said. "If it was simply beyond our means we would find another group to provide the assistance needed. We wrote guidelines, but agreed to hear and discuss each case on its own merit."

So far the members of the Georgetown church have been able to meet a wide variety of needs.

The church received a call from a teacher at an adult education facility who was calling on behalf of a young couple whose child suffered from a condition in the rheumatoid family that causes bleeding under the skin and joint pain. The couple was able to get coverage for prescriptive medications, but the child also needed non-prescriptive medications.

"They were simply out of funds and sleeping at a friend's home on a mattress on the floor," Jordan said. "We stepped in and purchased gift cards to Wal-Mart, where they could not only get the needed meds, but diapers and clothing for this precious 20-month old little girl, as well."

On another occasion a young couple appeared in the Welaka area, displaced by one of the many hurricanes that have hit the state. They had a few clothes and a small tent.

"We secured them a tent site in one of our many fish camps, furnished them with clothing and paid for groceries at a nearby store. The owner of the fish camp agreed to let them work and move into one of the cabins. Seems one good turn deserves another," Jordan said. "While in our area they attended our church services regularly,"

One of the church's families also "fell on hard times" when the father was unable to work following an injury, according to Jordan. The ministry gave the family emergency funds and money for school clothes because it was close to September and back-to-school time.

Angels volunteers have also made countless trips to doctors' offices and chemotherapy treatment centers. "Once in a while we get a middle-of-the-night call and someone always responds," Jordan said.

Jordan keeps a running journal of deeds requested and performed. By mid-summer 2005, she had filled three pages of the log using one line for each request. The ministry has shopped for groceries, cooked meals, driven countless people to doctor's appointments and, on occasion, even power-washed a couple of mobile homes.

"We try to not give cash to a person, rather supply gift certificates for food or other necessities, but on a few occasions we have given funds to people. My husband says, 'It is better to commit the sin of commission rather than omission.' So far, we have not been conned or scammed once," Jordan noted. "We have helped those in our own membership, we have helped neighbors and we have even gone into neighboring towns to help where the need fell between the cracks of other organizations."

GEORGETOWN — Georgetown United Methodist Church recently had to start a second service because its average worship attendance of 110 exceeds seating capacity. Shirley Drake Jordan says members "support and are enthusiastic about our Angels on Assignment outreach." Photo courtesy of Shirley Jordan, Photo #05-287.

The Georgetown church treasurer helped the ministry get moving with a $500 donation. "Any time we have an expense-filled month, all I have to do is stand up in church and say the funds are getting low, and we are blessed with donations," Jordan said.

"Now, you must realize, this is a small, not wealthy church," she added. "Yet, the parishioners are generous to a fault. And it seems the more the Angels do and the more we give, the more we receive."

Jordan says they occasionally receive a thank-you note along with a small donation from someone the ministry has helped. "What a blessing to be able to do God's work," she said.

A core of 20 persons has formed the Angels ministry during the past year. This spring the church plans to rotate half its members off the team and bring in a fresh set of volunteers to prevent burnout. "It's a lot of driving and outreach. We've done most everything that's been asked of us," Jordan said.

The ministry group includes snowbirds who continue to stay active in a similar capacity while attending their out-of-state churches. Each time the ministry group meets, Jordan offers them a question: "Have you been touched by an angel today?"

Jordan is a lifelong writer and co-owner of a small publishing house called Two Friends Publishing. It specializes in anthologies, two of which have been used by St. Augustine's Flagler College for an honors English class. It also helps beginning writers by publishing poetry, short stories and essays. Its Web site is


This article relates to Outreach Ministry.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant.