By Jessica Brodie
ANDERSON—They started out simply as “fellow church members”—a quick wave or a nod in the pew, knowing each other by sight but no deeper.
Now, thanks to the fellowship fostered in a witty email chain and hard work doing side-by-side hands-on mission work, they’ve become a family.
It all started when a group of people at St. John’s United Methodist Church came together in 2016 to help repair homes in the community through Rebuild Upstate, a nonprofit based in Greenville that does home repair and rebuilds for elderly, disabled and low-income people across the South Carolina Upstate.
Today the 35 men and women get together several times a year to build ramps and also do minor home repairs, including roofing, flooring and light electrical work.
“The voicemails are heartbreaking,” said Chip Reaves, who helps coordinate the effort at St. John’s. “One disabled veteran in his 70s lives alone in a manufactured home, and his floors had rotted through. Another lady, her utility bill was over $700/month. Rebuild Upstate replaced her windows and doors, and now her bill is $90/month!”
Before they all started working together in mission, Reaves barely knew the other people on his team, but now, they are fast friends, and their camaraderie and good-natured teasing spurs on their work.
St. John’s pastor, the Rev. Kitty Holtzclaw, said their email chains are hilarious—filled with ribbing about who is getting coal in their stockings at Christmas or how together they put the “fun” in dysfunctional.
“Some of these folks wouldn’t really interact with each other if they didn’t participate in this, but they have become a little congregation-family within the church,” Holtzclaw said. “I wish I could come up with some good adjectives for them to capture their spirit, but you can feel the love.”
And love is truly what is behind all they do. Reaves said they all feel passionate about doing what they do, serving others and spending time together helping people in need, just like Methodism founder John Wesley encouraged.
“There are so many things we don’t realize,” Reaves said. “A lot of the houses you see on the street look normal on the outside. You wouldn’t know the guy in that house can’t use his kitchen because the stove is sinking into the floor.
“This is what we’re called to do, what we’re supposed to do. And it’s so easy! Just get a group together, spend the day and share fellowship, and you can see the benefits to the homeowner. It’s such a small thing for us and so big for someone else.”