Mission in Action
Ubuntu Service Day at Assembly
Five women diligently scrubbed the exercise room in the recreation center of the Epworth Children and Family Services in Webster Groves, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, Mo.
“I came to work,” said Gloria Wesloh of Princeton, Minn., when asked what motivated her to volunteer to sanitize exercise bars and mats for youngsters. “I love to do mission.”
Ms. Welsoh was one of nearly 600 women participating in the Ubuntu Day of Service on April 29, the eve of United Methodist Women’s 2010 “Faith, Hope, Love in Action” Assembly, April 30-May 2 in St. Louis. Ubuntu, or “I am because we are,” is a Zulu word affirming each person as a part of the community.
“United Methodist Women went to their Ubuntu assignments ready to serve and full of joy!” said Marva Usher-Kerr, Assembly planning team member and coordinator of the Ubuntu Day of Service. “Whether they were cleaning lots or assembling health kits, they really put their hearts into their work. They let Christ shine through them. It was a good day.”
The Ubuntu volunteers worked in 17 nonprofits in the St. Louis area, including two United Methodist Women national mission institutions -- Epworth Children and Family Services and Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, across the Mississippi River in East St. Louis, Ill., where women from Arizona, Kansas, New York and Michigan stacked school supplies, sorted clothing and weeded the garden.
Putting mission into practice was the answer from all the women volunteering at Epworth and Lessie Bates Davis, when asked why they had signed up for playing with children, cleaning, gardening or performing chores.
Marsha Sloan of Nome, Alaska, paused under a bush alongside a building on the nine acres of Epworth’s campus to reflect on the experience. “I live where we benefit so much from the work of volunteers,” she said. “I wanted to do something for people in another community.”
Ubuntu Day volunteers’ efforts provided needed services to the institutions and represented a basic commitment of United Methodist Women.
“Reaching out to others is what United Methodist Women does,” said the Rev. Anita Hahn of Six Lakes, Mich., who had brought her young daughter Lisa along, as she cleaned a garden plot at Lessie Bates Davis.
“United Methodist Women is important at every level of our operation,” said Kevin L. Drollinger, the executive director of Epworth Children and Family Services for the last 15 years. “The organization owns the land at our main campus, and members serve on our board, form the core of our volunteers and are on the staff. United Methodist Women is a part of who we are and enable us to help young people.”
Founded in 1864, Epworth has a staff of 200 and touches the lives of 600 teens on any given day through its residential, transitional and independent living programs. It offers emergency services, special education and an “aging out” component for young people transitioning to adult life.
Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House provides services for children, senior citizens, families and low-income housing in St. Clair County, Illinois.
Elliott Wright is a freelance religion news reporter and former communications officer for United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.