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Loving like Jesus: Trinity’s anonymous Barnabas encouragement ministry

Loving like Jesus: Trinity’s anonymous Barnabas encouragement ministry

By Jessica Brodie

AIKEN—For the past 11 years, a secret society of neighbors at Trinity United Methodist Church has been quietly reaching out to the congregation, cheering them on in times of joy and offering comfort in times of sorrow or illness.

Their members are entirely anonymous—for years, reportedly not even the pastor knew who was a member of the group—and they take great pleasure in loving like Jesus, no thanks required.

The group reaches out across all areas of the church, from the seniors to the youth to the adult Sunday school classes and more, praying and then taking a name or names of people to “adopt” for the month. Then they get to work, preparing a love basket, making a prayer shawl or buying a gift card or other thoughtful individual present tailored uniquely to their “adoptee’s” current situation. Finally, they dispatch their special treat courtesy of a delivery person, who has pledged not to reveal the name of the benefactor.

“It touches you in ways you can’t describe. I get choked up even talking about it; it’s so God sent,” said Danny Herring, who has received Barnabas care packages over the years both for his heavy workload as chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee and during his two knee surgeries. “They don’t want to be thanked; they just want to take care of the people around them.”

Now more than a decade in and stronger than ever, Barnabas volunteers hope their story will encourage other UMCs in South Carolina to consider starting a ministry much like theirs.


A Christ-like ministry

The person responsible for bringing Barnabas to Trinity 11 years ago said the idea came from a close friend who had a similar group in her church.

“It began to lay on my heart: this is something that could really benefit Trinity,” the coordinator said.

The Rev. Rodney Powell was the pastor at the time, and the coordinator said that when he heard the news, he called it the most Christ-like ministry he could think of, giving it his full blessing and endorsement. And just like that, the Barnabas ministry at Trinity was born.

They gathered 12 people representing various aspects of the church and got to work. One of the first people they encouraged was a family whose toddler had recently been diagnosed with cancer. The news was devastating, and Barnabas began to pray about what they could do to encourage the family. They ended up putting together a family package with a children’s movie, popcorn, sodas and snacks, along with a card expressing their love and concern.

Over the years, they’ve encouraged so many people at Trinity, from a teenaged girl diagnosed with diabetes to recent graduates, widows, shut-ins, new babies and a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s. Four times a year, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day and Easter, they also reach out to residents of nearby nursing homes, sending little packages of cheer during times these residents might feel especially lonely.

“Anything from balloons to flowers, to baking small loaves of pumpkin or banana bread, sending an apple and a knife, paper goods for the holiday—something to say we remember you, we love you on this holiday, and we miss you,” the Barnabas coordinator said.

They do all the cards themselves, creating them on the computer and personalized for their “adoptee” with the Barnabas signature.

And all of this they do without any funding from the church; it is totally self-sufficient.

Trinity pastor the Rev. Lee Phillips Jr. is newly appointed to the church, and he said the ministry has even encouraged him; he and his family received notes and cards from the Barnabas group before they even moved to Aiken.

“It makes me feel good to know there are folks who are willing to do this and not seeking any praise or reward … but loving in way to give the praise to God and Jesus,” Phillips said. “Jesus talks about loving one another ‘as I have loved you.’ … They are loving as Jesus loved.”


You know you’re remembered

Ann Robinson has been encouraged by the ministry a few times, back when she fought a battle with cancer in 2007, and more recently, when she broke her hip and was in rehabilitation for three and a half weeks. One of the gifts she received, a Willow Tree angel, still sits prominently on a shelf with other treasured items.

“It’s very uplifting, makes me feel like someone really cares,” Robinson said about the cheer she’s received. “You know that you’re remembered.”

Mary Jo Herring has been encouraged both during her retirement and when she experienced knee and hip replacements. She and her husband do not have family nearby, and she said the ministry makes them realize their church really is their family, too, that you’re not going through this time alone.

She received a prayer shawl during her hip replacement, and she said it brought her extraordinary comfort.

“It was a godsend; when I put my hand on it, I would feel not only the closeness of my church family, but it would remind me God is with me no matter where I am,” Herring said. “It just makes me feel comfort in knowing I have a church family that really cares.”

Churches interested in starting a similar ministry are welcome to contact Trinity’s Barnabas team. Write Barnabas Ministry, c/o Trinity UMC, 2724 Whiskey Road, Aiken, SC 29803.


  • What a great way to share Christ’s love. Thanks for sharing. God Bless You. Jill

  • I am so inspired by this ministry. In a world that seems , sometimes, to emphasize the negative, this ministry of loving anonymously,
    does ,indeed, love as Jesus loved !

  • Hello Friends:
    I am a member of First United Methodist in Colorado Springs. Your ministry intrigues me and if you could, please email me information on how to start a similar ministry. Our church is in the middle of downtown and while we have many outreach ministries, we do not have this type of encouraging ministry. Thank you for your response. God bless all of you. Helen

  • This is so amazing. When my father had a stroke and had to be placed in a nursing home, no one from my UM church reached out to me at all. Not even my Sunday School class. I would have given anything for an encouraging word, a hug, or even a pat on the arm. I no longer attend church because of this.

    • Jess, that is such a sad thing. I feel your sorrow in your words. But don’t stop going to worship God in His house because of the callousness of the people there. If you are no longer comfortable there, try out some new churches. Have fun with the process! Worship God in regal ceremony with the Catholics! Jump and shout out with the Full Gospel crowd! God is there in all of them and He speaks to you in different ways. So, if you need to, change churches, but DON’T ABANDON GOD! HE CERTAINLY WON’T ABANDON YOU!

    • I am so sorry that your church did not reach out to you in your time of need. Please don’t let that stop you from attending church & getting your needs filled from God. Find a new church family. I just know that there is one out there just waiting for you. I don’t know where you live but I am certain you can find a different church, it might take a little bit of “church shopping” but you’ll know the right one after you’re there. I will put you on my prayer list that you find a new church family. Hang in there, God is waiting for you 🙂

  • What a beautiful and caring ministry! Please send the information needed to get such a group organized and going. Thank you for sharing!!!

  • This is so wonderful. Please send me more info on Barnabas (and history of the name!) Bless you for blessing others!

  • Thank you for your caring healing hearts. What an amazing way to share God’s love to others.

  • I really am excited about this ministry and would like more information. I am a member of Pikeville United Methodist Church and would like to start this ministry here in Pikeville, TN.

  • What a testimony to God’s love at work in our world! This ministry could be alive and well in every church; praying that it will continue and spread showing the love of God through His Son to all. Blessing to those who serve and pass it on.

  • we have a prayer shaw ministry. I would like your program guidelines on implementation.

    Barbara williams

  • This is amazing! What a beautiful and caring ministry! Please send the information needed to get such a group organized and going. Thank you for shairing.

  • Could you please send me the information you have on starting this ministry? God bless you and your church. Thanking you in advance

  • This is an excellent ministry. I’ll join when I am asked [without attribution!

  • Lovely ministry.

    Please send share any information on this ministry, how to start ,etc.
    Thanking you for sharing.

    God Bless

  • What a wonderful ministry. Our small Methodist church in rural KY is trying to implement this type of ministry and would love some pointers on how to get started and encourage members of our church to participate.

  • Love this idea and how it is used to pray for a family or person and then to “act” and do something to help that person(s). Praying that God will help us move in this direction.

  • This is just what we need, and a grand way to serve. please send me information on how to begin, to organize and the history of how you chose the name “Barnabas”.

  • A friend of mine posted a link on facebook to this story and it touched me. I would love more information about it. Please send me any you may have thanks.

  • There is no better love than sharing the love of Jesus. I too would like more information on your ministry. I would like to start a Barnabas ministry in our community. Blessing and prayers to you all. As Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

  • Our Sunday School class at Prospect Street UMC in Marion Ohio is very interested in this ministry. Could you please email more information to me? Thank you.

  • I think that is very admiral to show love and remain anonymous I think it’s sometimes human nature . To expect a praise . Would like for you to she more with me . Thank you

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