Stepping up to the challenge

Advent raises $265K for homeless through Christian Miracle Mission

By Jessica Brodie

SIMPSONVILLE—In what the Rev. Michael Turner calls “an overwhelming but wonderful” response to a church-wide challenge, Advent United Methodist Church raised $265,000 for the homeless this Christmas.

“I’m as proud as I can be about the way they responded to the challenge to love our neighbors as ourselves,” Turner told the Advocate. “It is really, really exciting to think of all the possibilities now before us.”

Advent had challenged its congregation to cut their Christmas spending in half, then give the other half to the Christmas Miracle Mission Offering, which will be used to build or remodel a home to be used as transitional housing for homeless families via the Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network. It was a leap of faith for the church, which normally uses their Christmas offering for the operating budget; in 2013, the offering was $18,000.

Raising $265,000 shows the church stepped up in a huge way, Turner said.

“People kept trying to get me to say a number beforehand, what’s our goal, and I said our goal is for everyone to cut their spending in half and bring the other half so we can love our neighbors as ourselves,” Turner said. “I didn’t want to give a number because I didn't want to limit us.”

Internally, “I was thinking anything under $100,000 is going to be disappointing, but I wouldn’t have thrown out $265,000,” Turner said, noting the large sum means the church will now be able to do even more for the homeless.

In addition to building, buying or renovating a transitional house for their partnership with GAIHN, Turner said they’re now planning to do more houses, also exploring partnering with Homes of Hope in Greenville, which among other missions provides safe, affordable and energy-efficient housing for low-income or homeless families or individuals.

“We want to be sure we use what God has given us to make the biggest impact possible,” Turner said.

Turner said the Christian Miracle Mission really resonated with his congregation. Not only was it an opportunity to embrace Matthew 25 and the Great Commandment, but it was also a way to keep Christ’s birth as the focus of Christmas.

“I think as Christmas approaches every year, I think there are people who want to resist the commercialism and all that stuff but don't know how, and this gave people the opportunity and the plan to be able to do that,” Turner said. “Even children were excited to be able to do it.”

One member of Advent, 6-year-old Henry Hughes, even told his out-of-town grandparents to participate in the Christian Miracle Mission when buying gifts for him.

Tony McDade, GAIHN executive director, said what Advent has done is “truly remarkable.”

“They tied this very carefully into the discipleship motif—loving others as yourself—and I think people heard that call and responded. But who would have thought $265,000,” McDade said. “It's the best of what congregations can do when they’re mobilized. They certainly caught the vision about giving.”

McDade said GAIHN is incredibly honored to partner with Advent in this adventure and noted that now, Advent’s creativity will be able to match their generosity.

“They have an opportunity here that is unique, and they’re already finding innovative ways to multiply or maximize this generosity to create housing options for homeless families,” McDade said. “Even though the housing will be short-term in nature, that is a vital step for most families toward leaving poverty and homelessness once and for all.”

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