By the Rev. Cathy Mitchell
JOHNS ISLAND—The missions ministry at Wesley United Methodist Church is expanding, and the church is thanking God for the partnerships that made it possible.
In 2016, Wesley started “Temple Take-Out,” a mobile ministry that provided meals to Tent City, a small homeless encampment located in an area along Meeting Street in downtown Charleston under the I-26 overpass. Allan Woods, a partner from another denomination, provided frequent medical care, food and other necessitates to the residents of Tent City; introduced Wesley’s pastor and ministry chairs to the residents; and informed Wesley about the safety issues to be considered.
Preliminary visits to the camp with Woods to familiarize the residents with Wesley involved walking the camp and getting to know the residents. Wesley members felt honored to be welcomed, as they understood the camp was their home, and guests should be invited. They began to build relationships with the residents, learn their stories and become comfortable with fellowship as they were invited to play horseshoes with them on one of their delivery days. Wesley delivered on Sunday, since most soup kitchens are closed on Sundays.
Shortly after Wesley began the deliveries, Tent City residents had to relocate per city orders. Thankful that many would be assisted in finding housing, Wesley quickly revamped and turned “Temple Take-Out” into a mobile feeding ministry for economically disadvantaged persons 65 years or older, as well as disabled persons on Johns Island and Wadmalaw Island.
The ministry now serves more than 50 persons.
This summer, Wesley embarked on a local Volunteers in Mission ministry in partnership with Johns Island Presbyterian Church’s CHIP Ministry. The ministry is named by its founder, a former interim pastor of Johns Island Presbyterian. This ministry helps the church’s neighbors on Johns and Wadmalaw Islands stay in their homes by providing much needed repairs to their homes—repairs that could not be afforded by the owners.
Members volunteer to work on these projects for as little or as much time as they are able. Johns Island Presbyterian provides funding for the ministry, and Kiawah Cares provides materials. Johns Island Presbyterian works through the week, and for the first time, this summer, Wesley’s VIM team partnered with Johns Island Presbyterian and continued the work on weekends to share in project completion. Wesley’s team included youth ages 14 and older.
The latest project included drywalling of a home that had been severely damaged by a leaky damaged roof that the homeowners could not afford to repair. The family had to be temporarily relocated until repairs could be completed.
Both Wesley’s Temple Take-Out and local Volunteers In Missions have built stronger relationships with the community, helped the membership build closer relationships with one another, as well as whet the ministry’s appetite for missions outside of the United States in the future.
The church has been fully alive this summer as Wesley also completed Year Two of its Summer Enrichment Program, Camp Hi Hopes. Camp Hi Hopes offers an eight-week, full-day camp for economically disadvantaged children. The program is designed to keep the children engaged in learning, especially in areas they were weak in during the school year.
The children enjoyed weekly field trips. The low weekly enrollment fee allowed low-income families to enroll more than one child, and in many cases allowed brothers and sisters ages 6-12 to be kept together during the day. The program served more than 30 children and had a waiting list. Thanks to the generous donations of one annual private donor, the program was able to enhance this year’s program with the addition of a Hispanic teacher, who taught the children Spanish, and the program was able to enroll its first Hispanic camper.
Extreme excitement occurred when the campers learned karate classes would be a part of the curriculum taught by Theraun T. Mixon, chief instructor/owner of Japan Karate Institute, James Island. Karate classes taught the children about respect, dignity, honor and discipline.
In addition to these ministries, Wesley Outreach Ministries has instituted a Senior Companion Ministry, which offers supportive services to the elderly, sick and shut-ins to meet their basic needs, run errands and provide respite to caregivers. This ministry helps seniors live more independently in their homes.
Because of community partnerships, the kingdom of God grew on the Sea Islands more than Wesley could have ever accomplished alone. Wesley thanks God for its brothers and sisters in Christ who have partnered with them and encourages other churches to not be limited to ministry possibilities because of inadequate resources, but to be willing to share in ministry with others.
We are reminded of a quote by Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Mitchell pastors Wesley UMC, Johns Island.