By Jessica Brodie
One pastor’s ordination project has reignited a passion for home repair in the two rural congregations she pastors.
For many years, Johnston and Harmony United Methodist churches, in Edgefield County, had a vibrant home repair ministry, but as the years passed, enthusiasm waned. But when the Rev. Amanda Richardson became pastor, she began talking with her church members, and an idea began to swirl.
As a provisional elder, Richardson is required to do what is called a “fruitfulness project,” creating or reigniting a ministry in the church or community where she serves. A longtime volunteer with Salkehatchie Summer Service who developed her own passion for home repair ministry when she was 14, Richardson began a series of discussions with a likeminded local Baptist, Joel Jolly, involved with home repair ministry.
“He said, ‘I have a few homes you can look at,’” Richardson explained.
With a few others, including South Carolina Conference disaster recovery volunteers Ward Smith and the Rev. Mike Evans, Richardson took a look at the homes. They decided the work was something they could probably do and began to put a plan together.
They applied for approval from United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, secured a congregational development grant through the Greenwood District and began to recruit volunteers and other funding.
This summer, it all came to fruition when Johnston and Harmony UMCs hosted the Edgefield County “Summer Mission Project” July 25-29.
That week, more than 50 volunteers from Johnston and Harmony UMCs were joined by helpers from Leesville, Edgefield, Ninety Six and other communities, restoring five homes all in the name of Jesus.
Richardson called it “connectionalism at its finest.”
“It was amazing to see how God just helped it come together, from collaborating with people in the conference as well as in the community and even outside the conference,” Richardson said.
Trenton, Edgefield, Johnston and Harmony UMCs pitched in to provide lunch each day that was delivered to the work sites. UMVIM’s Early Response Team loaned a trailer to the effort, and even Greenwood District Superintendent Dr. Stephen Love came one day to tour the homes and lend a hand on-site.
Two of the homes belonged to church members, one from Johnston and one from Harmony. The other three came through Jolly. Health issues had left one homeowner unable to do extensive exterior work, including yard work, painting, and porch step repair, so volunteers pitched in with paint, weed-trimming, tree removal and woodwork. At another, a doublewide manufactured home, a roof needed replacing as well as repair on two existing decks, while at another they put back steps onto a home that had none, created ceilings in a home that had only rafters, and much more.
Richardson said the work was not only helpful to the homeowners but a blessing to her congregations.
“We’re hoping to do this every year now,” she said.
Swallowing back tears, she shared how the look on one homeowner’s face moved her profoundly.
“Her hope is restored,” Richardson said. “To me, that’s what doing projects like this is about—that’s what making disciples of Jesus Christ is about. It’s caring for your neighbor, showing them mercy and loving them.”