Turning worship into work-ship through mission

By John W. Coleman

Engaging members’ hearts and hands, two mission-minded churches did what might be called work-ship on two Sundays in October. They moved easily from doing heartfelt worship to doing hands-on work, leaving their comfortable sanctuaries to go prepare and package food for the hungry and perform other mission activities.

St.John’s UMC Ivyland: R.I.S.E.

St.John’s UMC in Ivyland, near Richboro, celebrated R.I.S.E. Sunday (Rejoice, Involve, Serve, Engage) on World Communion Sunday, Oct. 1, after four months of preparation. The congregation gathered for one early service, rather than the usual three. Then, after singing a rousing, unifying theme song, more than 180 enthusiastic members—youth and adults—dispersed to various rooms and got busy on five different projects.

The largest contingent participated in a systematic process of preparing 13,824 highly nutritious, carefully packaged meals through Rise Against Hunger. Formerly called Stop Hunger Now, the hunger relief organization coordinates the packaging and distribution of food and other life-changing aid to people in developing nations.

A noisy roomful of members wearing protective pink hairnets worked in well-orchestrated teams, carefully measuring meal contents, preparing and heat-sealing packages and ultimately surpassing their goal. But first, St. John’s raised over $4,000 to purchase all the materials.

Other members assembled 92 “Necessities Kits,” containing donated hygiene and first-aid products, gift-cards and other useful items, plus caring notes written by St. John’s youth. The kits would be given to homeless, runaway and nomadic youth in Bucks County by the local Synergy Project.

Still others made six sleeping bags for local homeless neighbors. And another group of members made over 40 pillowcase dresses, a popular gift to be sent to girls in Africa.

“We’re a mission-driven church, but we want more members to move from just writing checks to getting involved in mission hands-on,” said Ruth Portzline, a Certified Lay Minister. “We want people to see Christ in us, but we also want our members to see Christ in other people.” She assisted project coordinator Alison Beale and the Rev. Janice Puliti, pastor, in this major effort.

Doylestown UMC: Feed My Starving Children

Doylestown UMC, also in Buck’s County, drew wide participation for its anti-hunger work-ship project on Sunday, Oct. 29. More than 430 people showed up for the 8:15 AM service and then spent the rest of the morning at Delaware Valley University. There they prepared nutritious packaged meals for Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), a non-profit Christian organization “committed to feeding God’s starving children…”

Over 6,200 children die daily from starvation and hunger-related illnesses, reports FMSC. Ending that crisis has been a passion and a “big dream” for Kevin McPoyle, a Doylestown UMC member, businessman and one of the annual, community-wide, weekend event’s organizers.

This year’s ambitious overall goal was to package over 1 million fortified meals, each containing rice, soy protein, powdered vitamins and dehydrated vegetables. McPoyle wanted to involve his church this time. The Rev. Mike Murphy, Doylestown UMC pastor, was looking for a big mission project for the church; so, he supported efforts to promote this one churchwide.

“We provided the largest shift of any group of volunteers on Sunday, said McPoyle. The overall goal was surpassed, and the church’s contribution was to package more than 105,000 of those meals. That amount would provide a daily meal to 288 children for an entire year,  he said.

“The feedback from our members was phenomenal,” McPoyle recalled. “When I asked them if they had fun, they all shouted ‘Yes!’ So, we’re going to do this again in 2018.”