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Church brings Christmas to 'invisible' of society

Church brings Christmas to 'invisible' of society

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church brings Christmas to 'invisible' of society

Dec. 20, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0591}

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**

H. Jackson Brown Jr. said, “Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.” Harvest United Methodist Church in Bradenton organized a special Christmas outreach to people who often go unnoticed in our society: migrant workers.

“There are a lot of needs. We want to reach out to the neighbors in our community who sometimes seem invisible,” said the Rev. Steven Price, co-pastor of the church.

Children of migrant farm workers decorate cookies at a Christmas party coordinated by members and volunteers of Harvest United Methodist Church in Bradenton. Photo courtesy of Harvest United Methodist Church, Photo #06-489.

Just before Christmas Price and his wife, the Rev. Catherine Fluck Price, also co-pastor of the church, and 150 of the church’s members and volunteers threw a Christmas party for families of migrant workers living at a nearby farm.

An estimated 500 people participated in the activities, which included face painting, soccer games, piñatas, crafts, story-telling, Christmas cookie decorating and a visit by Santa. The congregation also collected and gave away approximately 400 Christmas presents to the families.

The migrant worker outreach originated with the adoption of a single family in need. Catherine Price says she remembers phoning the manager of nearby Schroeder Manatee Ranch, a 27,000-acre working ranch, and asking if there was a farm worker family the church might help for Christmas.

“He had just the right family in mind: a single woman with two kids and a sister living with her. Her husband had just been killed in a car accident a few months earlier. She had expended all her savings on funeral expenses,” Price said.

The Prices spoke with the mother and then shared the need with the congregation. The church collected gifts, including a bicycle decorated with a big bow, and delivered them to the family Christmas week.

The ministry continued to grow as the church adopted more and more families of workers at the ranch, which employs many migrant worker families. The church also began reaching out through the Big Brother/Big Sister program. All these endeavors eventually led to the migrant worker Christmas party outreach for families at the Falkner Migrant Camp in Myakka City.

Harvest United Methodist Church member Bill Pretyka shares the Christmas spirit with children from the nearby Falkner Migrant Camp attending a Christmas party coordinated by the church. Photo courtesy of Harvest United Methodist Church, Photo #06-490.

“One of the members of our missions team, Debbie Hage, knew of the camp and made contact with them to present the idea.” Steve Price said. “They welcomed it and worked with us to distribute the sheets which collected the specific family information and wish list of presents. We had approximately 150 church members (adults and children) volunteer to help with the party where we estimate approximately 250 children and 180 parents attended. The day was wonderful … and I feel that Harvest was blessed just as deeply as the migrant families.”

Catherine Price said she hopes outreach projects like this share the Christmas spirit and love of God.

Bert Panganiban, Harvest United Methodist Church’s communications director, says the Falkner Migrant Camp is a partnership between farm owner John Falkner and the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program.

“The county is home to an estimated 18,000 farm workers and their family members in the county’s $150-million-a-year agriculture industry,” Panganiban said. “The opportunity to welcome migrant students and their families through ministry and fellowship will be an important part of enriching our community with diverse cultures.”

Steve Price agrees: “There is no doubt in my mind that we will continue to work closely with the Falkner Migrant Camp to help the families who work there in many other ways.”

Harvest United Methodist Church is located at 14305 Covenant Way, Bradenton. It can be reached by phone at 941-907-7333.


This article relates to Missions and Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a freelance writer based in Beverly Hills, Fla. His columns appear in the Naples Sun Times newspaper and Faith & Tennis magazine.