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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Tommy boldly living his way forward

    September 4, 2018 / By Erin Patrick, Church Planter

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on individuals and churches throughout the Conference who are boldly living their call. Tommy is one of those individuals.

    The ROAD is a New Faith Community that reaches people by creating a place and sense of belonging through being relational community that is open to all levels of faiths that affirms, loves, and accepts everyone; no matter how diverse. We seek to provide opportunities for people to build relationships with themselves, with us, with others, and with God.

    Through one of our ministries, we met two friends named Tommy and his mentor Suzanne who were looking for a place of belonging on Fridays. They checked out our Open Street Communion where we offer free lunches, waters, communion, and prayer. Tommy is an individual with special needs and works with a mentor several days of the week. When asking him about how he became the way he is, a young man with a traumatic brain injury, he said with innocence yet strength; “God made me this way.” Since we met about a year ago, Tommy and Suzanne have been joining us downtown nearly every week.

    He began coming down, learning what our community was like, and how he fit into it. Once he felt comfortable saying “hi” to people and worked on how to do so, he started handing out the free lunches to others, and offering awesome words of encouragements such as, “Welcome to Tommy’s diner, please have a free lunch, thank you, and have a great day and MANY MANY MORE!” In the beginning he loved offering hugs to everyone, but he and Suzanne worked hard on finding alternative ways to positively interact, bringing us to a new tradition of fist bumps! In the past few months, Tommy and Suzanne began taking some time during their week to decorate the bags that we put the lunches in! Since then, they have inspired others to do the same, and today there are at least 20 individuals and mentors in the special needs community that decorate the bags we pack. Unknowingly, Tommy’s passion for helping people created more opportunities for others to help people!

    Tommy has an amazing gift of being able to catch on to what emotions you are feeling. One time, a lady was passing by and instead of saying his normal, “Welcome to Tommy’s diner - would you like a free lunch today,” Tommy simply asked, “Ma’am, what is wrong, do you need a hug?” As mentioned, we normally try to fist bump instead of hugging, but at that moment - the lady broke into tears and mentioned that she needed a hug for sure! She proceeded to tell Tommy about her struggles and before leaving mentioned that she was not sure how she would have made it through the rest of her day if he had not been there for her.

    The rest of us had not noticed the pain behind this woman’s eyes, but Tommy just knew, and he was not afraid to love a stranger. Suzanne and I teared up. Tommy has become a smile and source of encouragement that others on the street look for now.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."