Surprise! S.C. United Methodists win big on Oprah

By Jessica Connor

Two United Methodist women are pinching themselves after receiving thousands of dollars in prizes—including a brand-new car—on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Active UM volunteers Martha Thompson, who attends Mount Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington, and her daughter Beth Moore, who attends Advent UMC in Simpsonville, were among more than 200 do-gooders in the audience as the “queen of talk” honored these special invitation-only viewers with everything from an iPad, diamond earrings and a Coach purse to a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle.

“I’m still on cloud nine hardly believing it is happening,” Thompson told the Advocate, laughing. “I can never say ‘I don’t win anything’ anymore!”

“It’s too hard to believe we really got a car,” Moore said. “We’re both still really shocked over the whole episode.”

The show, “Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things, Part 2,” aired Nov. 22 and was a surprise follow-up to the first giveaway that has become an annual tradition for the talk show host. None of the audience members knew they would be receiving any of the gifts and had simply been told they would be viewing an Oprah Show taping.

“It was surreal, so exciting–like having children and getting married all over again,” Thompson said.

It all started in the summer, when Winfrey announced she would end her show this season after a 25-year run and invited viewers to tell her about their favorite Oprah Show ever.

Moore, an avid fan, e-mailed that her favorite show was one about the work Winfrey had done in starting the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Moore was especially touched by the gratefulness of the children, most notably the video showing the children running after Winfrey’s airplane.

In the e-mail, Moore, an intake coordinator at the nonprofit Hope Reach, mentioned that she had been to Tanzania, Africa, on a church mission trip. Advent UMC supports Full Dimension Ministry, which helps Tanzanian children through a clinic, school and other Christian outreach. Moore also mentioned that her mother had been to Zimbabwe, Africa, through United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.

A couple of weeks later, a producer called Moore to interview her, and then in early November, she received an e-mail saying she had been chosen to be an audience member at the Nov. 16 B taping, and that she could bring a guest.

Moore invited her mother, and the women were thrilled at the opportunity.

“We had no idea what it could be about,” said Thompson, who just expected to watch a regular show.

But when the two arrived and were chatting in line with the other audience members, they started to realize that nearly everyone they talked with was a volunteer or missioner. Yet they knew Winfrey had already done her ultimate giveaway that morning – and she never did two giveaways.

They were in for a huge shock.

The audience entered the room and saw a plain set – just Winfrey in a chair. And Winfrey kidded them, asking whether they were upset to learn the prior audience had received all those fabulous gifts. A few women admitted to Winfrey they were, frankly, a little jealous.

All of a sudden, transformation! A Christmas ornament rolled out, the curtains opened, snow shimmered from above, and a huge gift-themed set was before them. The audience went wild, and Winfrey was giggling, hollering, “I got you! I played y’all like a fiddle. That was good!”

Indeed, it was good. Thompson, Moore and the more than 200 other audience members received gift after gift after gift of Winfrey’s favorite things.

“It was a wonderful surprise,” Thompson said.

Moore said the experience humbled her.

“I didn’t deserve that by any means – it was just one trip to Tanzania, and I wrote in,” she said.

But it reminds her of the gift we all receive from the Father.

“We don’t deserve such an abundant gift from God, but we just receive it,” she said. “And that’s just what Oprah said – she said, ‘I do this show because I love giving, and I hope you’ll receive this as a gift. It’s yours.’”

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