About 5 years ago, Epworth United Methodist Church in Indianapolis took a serious look at their missional efforts. At the time, members likely would have said, “We support missions.” However, the leadership wanted to be intentional about providing opportunities for members to participate in missions.
According to Pastor Rodney Frieden, there had already been a regular rhythm of service within the congregation with a common interest in fighting hunger and poverty. Groups had been collecting food donations for local shelters and serving alongside Gleaners Food Bank, Mid-North Food Pantry, and Society of St. Andrew.
“Hunger is something that everyone can relate to and understand,” Rodney said. “Everyone goes grocery shopping, and sees that cost and opportunity to serve hungry people.”
To build on its momentum, Epworth UMC decided to come alongside these members who were already serving and establish a focus on fighting hunger locally, nationally, and globally.
Last week, members at Epworth UMC, from ages 5 to 95 years old, packed over 20,000 meals to be donated to local food shelters in Indianapolis. The church partners with Pack Away Hunger a few times per year and invites small groups to sign up for times to serve. Throughout last week, twelve small groups came together to pack nutritious meals.
Each November, preschool classes participate in their own Pack Away Hunger event. With the help of adult volunteers, the children measure rice, soy, veggies, and nutrient mixes into bags, and learn about how they can help children their age thrive.
Rodney says that the kids are filled with joy and can’t wait to tell people about their experience. “What better lesson to teach a 4 year old than nobody is too young to serve and help somebody else.”
Epworth UMC partners with the Jubilee Project, located in Eastern Tennessee, which is dedicated to helping with food and water needs in Hancock County, one of the lowest income areas of the Appalachian region.
Recently, members at Epworth UMC took up a special collection of resources and delivered them to Tennessee. While there, they heard about the work that the local missionaries are doing.
Epworth UMC supports Mission Guatemala. Recently, members had the opportunity to participate in a virtual mission trip with Mission Guatemala, during which they learned about the community and how their support helps children and families grow.
Epworth UMC also partners with St. Mark’s UMC in Zimbabwe, the home church of an Epworth UMC member who came to the United States as a refugee. The money that is collected helps St. Mark’s UMC distribute rice and beans to their community as they are experiencing a drought or famine.
Loving, Growing, Serving
Epworth UMC’s focused efforts on fighting hunger for the last 5 years has energized the congregation in their mission statement of “loving, growing, serving.”
Focusing on hunger and poverty has allowed for momentum to continue to build around service. Rodney said that members are now able to share stories of how they have directly helped local, national, and global communities by giving their time, money, and resources. He is hopeful that the next 5 years will continue to bring more opportunities to love, serve, and grow.