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"Actions Speak Louder" photo contest winners named

"Actions Speak Louder" photo contest winners named

The winners of the first Florida Conference photo contest, “Actions Speak Louder,” are:

  • Elisa Groendyke, First UMC Port St. Lucie, category of church average weekly attendance over 125;
  • Tom Christmas, First UMC Reddick, category of church average weekly attendance under 125.

The contest subject category was community outreach and service, and the purpose was for local churches to show how they are making a difference in their communities. Photographers ages 12 and older submitted entries through the conference Facebook page, and voters determined the three finalists in the two categories.  The winners were selected by conference judges.

Below are the winners and short back stories on the photo content.

Tom Christmas, First UMC Reddick, church with under 125 AWA

First UMC Reddick mission team members from left to right: Jim Mayes, Rochelle Highbunk, Arron Jusuits, Kaylee Jetter, Pastor Russell Clark, Noah Scarpetta, Barbara Wood, Drake Christmas.  In the chair is Kayla Trapp, who was built two wheelchair ramps by the team.  -Photo by Tom Christmas

“This was the most rewarding and hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most spiritual thing I’ve ever experienced,” said Tom Christmas about his church’s first ever mission project and the biggest event First UMC Reddick has ever had.

“It was the first time our church experienced what it was like to serve and to be served.”

His winning photo is of mission team members and one of the church members who benefited from their work, KaylaTrapp.

This past summer’s mission work was collaboration between First UMC Reddick and Saint Stephen’s UMC of Arlington, Texas.

Reddick’s pastor, Russell Clark, and Saint Stephen’s pastor, Aaron Wood, “grew up together in Trinity UMC in Arlington.  We’ve been friends since the fourth grade and went on mission trips together,” Pastor Clark said.  The event was two years in planning.   Twenty youth from Reddick, 20 from Saint Stephen’s and 10 to 15 adults worked a long week on six projects.

All six projects were for church members, according to Christmas.

“We built Kayla 2 wheelchair ramps, and we built her grandparents, Bob and Lois Gilliam, and her great-grandmother, Eva Haff, a wheelchair ramp.  We provided Linda Billiot and her daughter, Monica Tudorache, with a new sealed tin roof and replaced a patio deck for Monica's kids--Monica moved in with her mom because of the bad economy.  The team completed extensive yard work for Carolyn King and her brother Danny Rou, who has cerebral palsy, and we built a horse hay shed for the Stirrups & Strides Therapeutic Center for those with physical, mental, and emotional challenges.  The director, Betty Gray, is a member of our church,” he explained.

Elisa Groendyke, First UMC Port St. Lucie, church with over 125 AWA

Pastor Wayne Williams, First UMC Port St. Lucie, rode his bike 153 miles to raise money for the church. -Photo by Elisa Groendyke

At one point, “it was pouring down rain with thunder and lightning” the early October day that Pastor Wayne Williams  rode his bicycle 153 miles to celebrate his 60th birthday, to raise funds to support church community outreach projects and to raise awareness in the community about the importance of outreach, according to Elisa Groendyke.

Groendyke’s winning photo—snapped in between deluges—is of Pastor Williams during his bike trek throughout St. Lucie County.  He raised $38,000 for the church.

“Our pastor wanted to show that he was not old at 60, and he thought it was an excellent way to get the church and the community involved” in community outreach, she said.

“He biked all over the county.  We had five rest stops with over 100 church and community members cheering him on.”

She added that some community members gathered at random intersections along the route to cheer on Pastor Williams.

According to Groendyke, the funds were raised for facility improvements in some of the church building areas that provide room for outreach projects.  Church outreach projects she mentioned include events around Easter and Halloween that are open to the public, a food pantry and “Sara’s Kitchen,” which feeds persons who need a meal on Monday nights.

“You could definitely see God at work that day,” Groendyke said.  “People held up posters to honk if you love Jesus, honk if you love Pastor Williams, and people all over the county were honking.”


The conference will present the winners’ churches with a video production package in January that includes:

  • Toshiba Camileo X200 HD 1080p Camcorder
  • 2 - Transcend 16 GB SDHC Class 10 Flash Memory Card Polaroid
  • 72" Photo / Video ProPod Tripod W/Carrying Case
  • NEWER CN-160 Dimmable LED Video Light
  • Azden WMS-PRO Wireless Microphone System Audio-Technical
  • PRO24CM Stereo Microphone with Camera Mount.

“We will be following up with many contestants for the stories behind their photos,” said Gretchen Hastings, managing director of Connectional Relations.  “There are many, many inspirational stories about community service and outreach that churches can share with all of us.”

The conference will be posting other “Actions Speak Louder” contestants’ photos on our Facebook page and our Where I Saw God photo page (@whereisawgod) to highlight their churches’ community outreach and service.