A night to celebrate missions: AC2017 service lifts up bike, homeless, disaster response efforts

By Jessica Brodie

GREENVILLE—South Carolina United Methodists spent an evening in a service celebrating a variety of missions embraced by the Annual Conference, from disaster response to homes for the homeless to bikes for people in need.

Led by the Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby as worship leader, the mission celebration service lifted up the hard work of the countless volunteers who donate their time, skills, prayers and dollars to help these efforts and more.

“It’s a celebration about what it means for us to walk by faith in paths of service around the state and around the world,” Hudson-Jacoby said.

South Carolina United Methodists have always been mission-focused, said Disaster Response Coordinator Matt Brodie, but this year they have gone above and beyond to help people in desperate times of need.

The Tuesday service celebrated the three largest undertakings the conference has engaged in recently: the disaster recovery effort, as well as the two conference-wide mission opportunities for this year: the Homeless Initiative and the Youth Bike Initiative.

“Hundreds of people have been helped by South Carolina United Methodists through these three efforts, and tonight we lift up the people willing to be God’s hands and feet,” Brodie said.

Video vignettes of the three missions were displayed onscreen, featuring testimonies and visuals of the work.

Two musical acts performed throughout the night: the praise band from Advent UMC, Simpsonville, as well as Jasmine Lee, a Gospel praise and worship singer. Lee is the daughter of the Rev. Reggie Lee, congregational specialist.

Midway through the service, South Carolina’s Erica Oliveira was commissioned as a missionary.

“Erica, we rejoice that you have chosen to devote this time in your life to Christian mission,” Bishop Jonathan Holston said during the commissioning; he was joined onstage by the Rev. Sonia Brum and the Rev. Sara White. “The call of God is always profound, and our response can be no less extraordinary. In the varied ministries in which the Holy Spirit will lead you, you will testify to the infinite love of God in Christ Jesus.

“Such a vocation confers a great privilege; it also lays upon you a solemn responsibility. What you have pledged alone with God in consecrating your life to this service, we ask you to repeat publicly.”

The whole evening reflected the theme of Annual Conference 2017: “We Walk By Faith, Not By Sight.” The three missions celebrated were as follows:

The Homeless Initiative

The Homeless Initiative is a partnership between the conference and Homes of Hope, an Upstate nonprofit that provides low-cost houses for homeless families in need. The homes are energy-efficient and designed for a small family, which will at first rent the home at low cost and later will be able to purchase the home if they wish. The homes are built by men who have graduated from a Christ-centered shelter program of addiction recovery in a specialized job training opportunity.

Youth Bike Initiative

For the Youth Bike Initiative, youth in each district were tasked with collecting 100 new and gently used bikes for people in need, plus $1,000, for a total of 1,200 bikes and $12,000 conference-wide. One thousand of the bikes would be sent to people in need across the globe through Bikes for the World, with the remainder given to those in need locally through the South Main Chapel and Mercy Center in Anderson and the Triune Mercy Center in Greenville.

South Carolina has made its goal and then some, Lynch said—as of June 2, 1,453 bikes had been collected for Bikes for the World, which sealed and shipped the third container that day, in addition to the bikes that have already been given to Triune and South Main. More than $12,000 has been donated to cover shipping costs and more.

“It’s awesome—we’re pretty excited about it,” Lynch said.

Disaster Response

South Carolina was devastated in October 2015 by a massive flood that swept through the region, impacting eight of the 12 districts in the annual conference. One year later, South Carolina was swamped again, this time because of Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall on the coast. Countless United Methodist volunteers stepped up in a number of ways to help people get food, water, shelter and other assistance. In the initial aftermath, early response teams deployed to tarp roofs and muck out homes. Long-term disaster response teams stepped in next, and they continue to work hard to get people back in their homes. Many people are still displaced.

Tuesday night’s offering supported Imagine No Malaria, which was the 2016 Annual Conference initiative. Nearly $14,000 was collected.

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