Small Church Builds Big Ministry for needy families

By Annette Bender

MOSHEIM, Tenn. – John Waddle remembers visiting two needy families his Sunday school class adopted at Christmastime 2000.

The furnishings were sparse. The children were hungry. The parents didn
't know how they would pay the next electric bill. "It just makes your heart bleed," Waddle said.

Waddle and his classmates at Mosheim Central United Methodist Church were also appalled that a local food bank restricted the number of visits that families could make. The class decided to take action.

"Any church is going to help people at Christmas," Waddle says. "We wanted to do more. What we were doing was not enough in our Christian life."

Today, Mosheim Central UMC – a church averaging 60 in weekly worship attendance – operates a ministry center supplying unlimited food and clothing to needy families at no cost. The Morristown District church is one of 31 congregations in the denomination receiving $5,000 grants from the national Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty Task Force.

The new ministry known as Mosheim Community Center opened in September 2001. News of the $5,000 grant came during an exciting week in March when a chili benefit supper raised $3,000, quickly followed by a $2,500 donation from Modern Woodmen, a not-for-profit life insurance organization.

Months earlier, the congregation had been inspired when the town of Mosheim – population 1,754 – donated its former library building to the outreach effort. The original plan was for the building to be sold as a computer store.

"Me and the aldermen decided that an outreach center would be good for the community," said Mosheim Mayor Billy Myers. The 1,000-square-foot building is provided rent-free; the church pays for utilities.

Since the center opened nearly a year ago, organizers have recorded 250 visits from families requesting food and 395 visits for clothing. The center has also paid 60 months of rent, 110 electric bills and three gas bills.

The people hear about the outreach center through word of mouth, says Waddle. "They have their own little channel, these people do. They know where to get help. You don't have to advertise."

The situations vary from family to family: "The husband might have kicked the wife out with the three kids, or the wife might have left the husband, or the husband might have got sick and can't work," Waddle said. "It's just the kind of thing that goes on everywhere."

Supplies and financial assistance come from community groups including churches of other denominations and civic organizations. Mosheim Central UMC gives the center $400 each month and supplies five to six volunteers for each of the two half-days the ministry is open each week. Mosheim Town Hall also has Waddle's phone number for emergency situations.

Whenever Morristown District Superintendent Richard Patterson visits Mosheim Community Center, he's been impressed by how the volunteers themselves have benefited from the ministry.

"They share with me how they have enjoy the experience of seeing the church at work, helping in the lives of others," the Rev. Patterson said. "It blesses them to be able to bless others."


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