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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Rome First UMC builds relationships while providing services to those in need

    May 7, 2024 / By Pastor Sherry Mahar, Rome First UMC / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    In November 2022, Rome First UMC received a grant from Peace with Justice which was used to support our Five Loaves Ministry and launch Saturday’s Bounty. The Five Loaves Ministry provides boxes of food for people in need; those in poverty, disabled veterans, and the elderly. We seek to impact everyone physically by feeding their hunger and spiritually by offering prayer, Scripture, and a greeting from a friendly person of faith. 

    Saturday’s Bounty is a food ministry that provides a weekly hot meal at the church for those in need throughout the community. In addition to the meal, we build relationships with those that come through with time spent in fellowship, engaging in conversation, and offering prayer for those who want it. 

    Positive outcomes from these ministries have allowed us the ability to build relationships as we share God's love with the people who come to Five Loaves and Saturday’s Bounty. Another has been presenting the opportunity to plant seeds by sharing our faith, offering prayer, and inviting people to attend church and church sponsored events and activities. Several have responded and one young woman, Jennifer, recently joined the church. She was homeless, jobless, and struggling with addiction when we met her. 

    Jennifer recently shared her testimony. “Over the past few years, I had been living in despair. The lowest I thought I could get. However, things did get worse. One Thursday around noon, I saw a table with fruit and water being given out as part of a program called Worship Without Walls. That was the first time I met Pastor Sherry and a few others of the congregation. When I came over, I started talking with Pastor Sherry and she offered to pray for me. She prayed a sincere prayer for me and invited me to attend service on Sunday. I did not go. My lifestyle didn’t blend well with church. However, I did need Jesus and God in my life desperately. A few months later, I saw the Worship Without Walls and Pastor Sherry again. They were handing out socks and some other toiletries which I did need. Pastor Sherry prayed for me again about the negative situation I was in.” 

    “Shortly after her prayer, the place I was staying in was sold and the new owner gave me less than 24 hours to move out. The owner promised to put my stuff into a storage unit, but that did not happen when she realized it would cost her more. I then had less than an hour to come up with the money to pay for the storage unit. As you might guess, I couldn’t do that. Some of the stuff went to the dump, including things my deceased mother had given me, which reduced me to tears. She also said she would hold on to some of my things, especially a suitcase filled with special pictures and mementos of my mom, and other important paperwork. About a month later I found out it had all been thrown out by someone else. Yet again, I broke down. That was the end of October when I officially became homeless. I couch surfed at different people’s houses for a few nights each. I soon ran out of places to stay. 

    “In December I went into rehab to get clean and build a better life. It actually did work for me. Shortly after I came back from rehab, I saw that Worship Without Walls was in their usual spot. I went hoping Pastor Sherry would be there. She wasn’t this time. The people that were there gave out toiletries and fruit and they invited me to Saturday’s Bounty at the church for lunch. Being that I was homeless, I was pretty hungry, so when Saturday came, I went for lunch. As lunch was going on, one of the church members made a huge box of food for me. It was awesome, especially since I needed to stay with a friend again, surfing couches. I was so appreciative of the food box, not only for me, but I also had something to share with the people letting me stay with them. 

    “As I talked to the people at Saturday’s Bounty, I was again invited to attend church on Sunday. Because of all the help they’d offered and how much they’d helped me over those months, I really couldn’t say no. I showed up on Sunday. It was Easter Sunday. I sat with the one person I met at Saturday’s Bounty along with his wife. Pastor Sherry looked at me throughout the service. At the end of it, she came over and gave me a big hug and told me she was happy to see me. She even remembered my name. These outreach programs and the church have not only helped me, but they brought Jesus and God back into my life. I’m not only grateful, but Pastor Sherry’s prayers were answered and I am now clean and stable and much happier. I’m no longer in despair. I’m now glad, not mad, to wake up every morning. I now have hope.” 

    Other positive outcomes from the ministries have been that several people who received food, words of encouragement, and love have come full circle to help both Five Loaves and Saturday’s Bounty grow- reaching and touching more lives. Serving together, they have even become a form of church. We have been learning as we grow and continue to learn as we move forward. One of the learning curves was getting the word out about Saturday’s Bounty.  

    Our advertising was not getting to the vast homeless population, most of whom do not have cell phones, internet, are not on Facebook nor do they read the paper. Posters were posted around as well, yet it was a challenge reaching people. We have found that for most of the people needing the information, they have been reached most by word of mouth along with a reminder flyer with the details. Getting the word out this way showed the size of the homeless situation in our area. In response, we have been collecting camping equipment and other items and bringing it all to the homeless community, along with food and an invitation to the meal. Another challenge has been learning how to talk to people who are either under the influence of drugs or alcohol or are struggling with mental illness. We continue to learn and grow.  

    To apply for a Peace with Justice Grant, click here and to give to this Special Sunday to benefit a local Upper New York church, donate here.

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."