Methodist youth leaves mark on Wesley Campus Ministry

When Woodland UMC’s Makai Byrd came up with his Eagle Scout project idea to work with the nearby Wesley Foundation campus ministry, he had no idea the impact his efforts would have among fellow Methodists.

His project to enhance the center’s grounds brought new life into a ministry that had struggled during the pandemic.

In March, Byrd, a Life Scout in Woodland’s Troop 109 in Rock Hill, reached out to Methodist Campus Minister Charlie Farnum for project ideas.

“I had initially wanted to improve a volleyball area on the Winthrop University campus,” Byrd said. “But driving by the center, I felt like it was a place where I could partner with other ‘Friends of Wesley’ to create a great project.”

Farnum shared with Byrd, a South Pointe High School junior, that COVID-19 had been hard on the Wesley Foundation. Farnum was new in the position, having come aboard in summer 2020. Winthrop students had vacated campus the previous March, and many of the ministry’s active students had graduated. Opportunities to recruit new students had been limited, and necessary COVID-19 restrictions had made making connections more challenging.

Byrd and Farnum worked on a plan to address several ministry needs that the Wesley Foundation Board of Directors quickly approved. The ambitious project plan included enhancing an outdoor gathering area, improving accessibility at the rear of the facility, and addressing exterior signage challenges.

Byrd tapped the foundation’s friends list, local United Methodist churches, friends of scouting, Woodland’s church family, and others for donations to the project. His first workday on May 15 drew 17 people, including Woodland United Methodist Men, scouts from Troop 109 and Byrd’s friends and family.

Multiple workdays later, and with the hands-on involvement of approximately 30 individuals, the project’s greatest impact may be in the center’s improved accessibility. The project’s stone steps and well-defined walking path in the backyard have pleased groups that meet at the facility.

“We have really enjoyed the safety of using the steps to get from the parking lot to the building without falling or slipping,” said Rock Hill District United Methodist Women President Crystal Barrs.

The group made a mission gift in Byrd’s honor to acknowledge his efforts.

Farnum noted similar appreciation from The Welcome Table, a local congregation that worships at Wesley on Sunday mornings.

“I shared with Makai how grateful they are for the work he’s doing,” Farnum said. “He’s making a difference!”

Byrd worked throughout the summer to complete the project in time for Winthrop’s return to fall classes. Numerous donors contributed to the project, and their generosity more than tripled Byrd’s initial donation goal.

The excess funds will provide additional improvements and allow the Wesley Foundation to continue its service to college students and the local community.

Byrd, now a high school senior and soon-to-be Eagle Scout, reflected on his accomplishment.

“I hope my project will be remembered as one that helped the ministry live out its slogan: ‘Open. Authentic. Community.’”

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