GUMC Wins the 2018 Abundant Health Award
Keeping the church spiritually healthy is a full-time endeavor because it provides coping mechanisms for members' overall good health. Grace UMC holds two worship services each Sunday. It is evidenced that the teaching and preaching have changed the lives of long-term members, as well as new members. An attempt is made to be inclusive of all age groups in our worship experiences. Our Sunday school classes have qualified teachers that are helping develop our adults and children in a very spiritual way. Evangelism is reaching out to our communities for unchurched people, and Grace is developing those who are already members through Reclamation Ministry, Disciple-Making Ministry and Tribal Leader Ministry. An attempt is made to ensure that members are not absent and hurting without our knowledge. Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a weeklong event that provides Biblical teaching and social activities, as well. Prayer services, Bible studies, regular worship services, and emphases on fasting and praying are some of the best medicines in the world. Provisions are made for lay servants and lay ministers, as well as interested parishioners, to go into nursing and assisted living facilities, private homes of the sick and shut-ins, and hospitals to bring the work, serve Communion, and share messages of good news. The fellowship feeds their souls spiritually and also takes away feelings of being alone. Moreover, transportation is provided to bring the more mobile residents to church services and special programs. Youth and senior citizen programs focus on Bible studies, prayer, as well as other programming activities that promote spiritual wellness.
There also are programs and ministries that place emphases on the physical health of members of the church. Sunday School, Children's Church, Vacation Bible School, Equestrian Camp, and Teens for Christ focus on good nutrition for healthy bodies and serve menus that support those studies. The liturgical dance programs emphasize exercise as well as different ministries that provide group exercises and Zumba activities. There are ministries that focus on the physical well-being of infants and their teenaged mothers in different facilities and homes. Other ministries have fed and clothed the homeless, been very active in working with Martha's Table to provide nourishment, provide workshops dealing with the physical well-being of women, men, and children impacted by domestic violence, human trafficking, cancer, diabetes, and substance abuse, as well as other diseases. Moreover, health fairs, where screening and undertaken, concentrate on good nutrition and healthy bodies. The church, on an ongoing basis, provides services of food, clothing, exercises; screening for high blood pressure, diabetes, body fat; and communicates information through workshops, presentation, church bulletins and forums to keep the church physically healthy.
Grace UMC also has ministries that provide strong mental health activities that can improve the quality of life of people. Ministries focus on African American boys and men in understanding mental illness that causes depression and anxieties. Moreover, school-aged youth and teens are offered safety nets from violence, physical and cyberbullying, and peer pressures. Caregivers for Alzheimer's relatives are afforded services denoting resources, coping mechanisms, and care support. The grieving and bereaved have emotional support ministries dealing with preparation for funerals and afterward the feelings of loss of loved ones. Community and church youth who have incarcerated parents or are witnesses of domestic violence are provided gifts and cards at Christmas as a means of emotional support for stigmas and traumas they experience in their young lives. The church's reaching out to the sick and shut-ins on a regular basis by telephone calls, cards, and visits give them emotional stability in knowing that they are not alone and never forgotten. Lastly, the veterans' ministry, recognizing that many veterans lack knowledge about resources relating to post-traumatic stress, disabilities, and debilitating health issues, meets monthly and provides encouragement and support for getting appropriate services.
Grace promotes an understanding of the interconnectedness of all aspects of health either locally or globally through mission ministries and educational programs/workshops. Whereas much focus is on the local health needs of our church and community, we recognize that as Christians we do not operate in a vacuum. Our brothers and sisters may be sitting in the church pew next to us, but they may also be across the oceans in Haiti, Puerto Rico, or Africa. The Center for Disease Control states that disease knows no borders, and in today's interconnected world, diseases can spread from an isolated, rural village to any major city in as little as 36 hours. Diseases such as the Zika Virus, Ebola; e-coli, traumas, injuries and displacements, and deaths from hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and tornadoes; effects of drugs being trafficked across the borders; sexually transmitted diseases from human trafficking and HIV impact the quality of life of both local, national and global citizens. Grace UMC, through mission work and educational programs, promotes an understanding that America and Fort Washington, MD are not isolated from the world's diseases and problems.
As a means of celebration, share significant stories of persons impacted by this work.
(Missions both in Haiti and Uganda)
The Teens for Christ, a youth group at Grace ranging in ages from 10-16 years, gets involved in mission programs. One that was extremely meaningful was Shatter the Silence on Domestic Violence, which one teen described as, "It will never be forgotten." While it was an early morning running event, the teens had a wonderful time bonding with each other and fellowshipping with others. They learned a great deal about the statistics, signs, and resources affiliated with domestic violence. They heard the story of a young lady that was abused at home as a child by her dad, and continuously beaten by her husband as an adult, who almost killed her, BUT one day she found GOD, and the victory story began.
The Married Couple"s Ministry (MCM) had the blessed opportunity of feeding the homeless on Saturday, November 25, 2017, on behalf of McKenna's Van, which is a part of Martha's Table. Martha's Table and McKenna's Van provide food for the homeless 365 days a year. The leaders of MCM exclaimed, "We were able to provide meals to approximately 50+ people on that evening between the two vans. With delightful hearts and humble spirits, we served food to these individuals in Washington, DC (NW) at three designated locations."
Mission Work in Haiti. Vernon Hammett is a missionary who travels to Haiti each year to provide help for the Haitians in any way he and the group can. At Grace UMC, he is affiliated with the Busy Bees Senior Ministry, and they helped him fill a drum of specified size with items needed. A coordinator of the church worked with the Busy Bees and the entire church community to collect health and clothing items to support the effort. Hammett and a mission team from Lott Carey had 22 people, with 16 having never served in foreign missions prior to this one. They ranged in ages from their mid-twenties to eighty-plus years old. He was "super excited" to serve as their mission lead. He said, "I wanted them to get a taste of the glory I have experienced serving here in Haiti for the past 6 years, particularly what God has shown me during the last five weeks at Mission of Grace in Carries. I look forward to ushering them into the joy of serving God on the mission field and I take that responsibility seriously." During the afternoon, he served with the teams which went to the Children of Grace. He described, "We spent time holding babies, blowing bubbles, and playing card games and dominoes with the older children. Bossy little Ms. Julie saw me and said, 'Mr. Vernon, push me on the swing!' It wasn't exactly a request, but you could guess where I spent a majority of my time. (Julie is pictured in a white and pink dress)." After a tour, a few of the mission group got the opportunity to serve at the soup kitchen. The 22 servants were broken into smaller teams and headed out in different directions in the afternoon. Hammett explained, "The men ended Monday's missional activities by leading Bible study. The entire team ended each day recapping their experiences. The theme for our recap was 'How did you see or experience God today as you served?' I thoroughly enjoyed listening to how God revealed Himself to these servants on a nightly basis."
Cancer Support. The Grace United Methodist Women (UMC), collectively and individually, lift up the ongoing impact of cancer on individual women and their families in the church. The UMC, three years ago, gave each cancer patient and survivor a knitted blanket with their names written on them, and they were honored at the UMW meeting. One young woman, a survivor for 7 years, had learned of her cancer in her late 30's, had undergone a mastectomy and had reared three young children during the progress. With tears in her eyes, she accepted her blanket, thanked the women for their support, and gave God the glory for bringing her through. Another woman in the group has battled cancer for over a decade and has undergone numerous chemo treatments as her cancer goes into remission and then resurfaces. She gratefully received her blanket and commented that no one fully understands what it means to have cancer unless you have experienced it. She stated that she needs the support, motivation, and encouragement on an ongoing basis. When told by someone that God is using her as a role model because of her resolve, strength, and faith, she laughingly stated that she wanted God to select another role model and give her some peace. Another UMW member lifts up cancer survivors and those who have died at church services during the month of October, which focuses on cancer as a health issue. During each service, cancer survivors light candles in memory of those who have died or in support of survivors. Cancer survivors are given the opportunity to share their testimonies of how they are overcoming or have overcome. Their testimonies are touching and encouraging as they share the impact of cancer on their lives and the lives of their families. Men are also encouraged to get checkups because cancer does not affect just the women.
Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention
Over the years, the United Methodist Women (UMW) has held two open forums on Domestic Violence--one inviting all women of the church to participate and one inviting all ladies in the Washington East District to become involved. Grace recognizes domestic violence is a serious problem and seeks positive solutions by inviting professionals from the department of human resources and the Prince George's County government to educate its members on the role they can play in identifying and curbing acts of domestic violence. This issue impacts all genders, races, ages, and financial backgrounds. It is often described as the "silence" in our midst. The UMW brought in speakers to its meetings to discuss domestic violence and the need to speak up and out. In order to help women and children leave abusive homes, often with only the clothes on their backs, UMW partnered with a community organization, My Girlfriend's House, to sponsor a "pocketbook drive" to collect and fill pocketbooks, usually new, with necessary toiletries and personal care items. We discovered that not only are the poor among us being domestically violated, but women living in the more expensive suburban homes are also victims of domestic violence. Shepherd Cove's Homeless Shelter also partnered with UMW to support this drive. The Teens for Christ, a youth group at Grace ranging in ages from 10-16 years, supported an extremely meaningful endeavor called Shatter the Silence on Domestic Violence by participating in the Domestic Violence 5K Run/Walk." Domestic violence impacts children, as well as adults, and they are never too young to understand.
Another area of violence and abuse inflicted on younger women relates to human trafficking, which also relates to physical and sexual abuse. The United Methodist Women has sponsored workshops bringing in speakers from the Prince George's County local government, Fort Washington Hospital, and local police departments and community organizations. We made sure teenaged girls were involved in the presentations because they are most at risk. We were surprised to realize that Prince George's County is an active spot for human traffickers, and the most vulnerable victims are being enticed by promises of cell phones, compliments/approval, and money. The Grace Training Institute hosted a seminar on human trafficking, and representatives from the state and county participated in sharing information. Delegate Tony Knotts presented a citation to Grace UMC, on behalf of State Senator C. Anthony Muse, for its initiatives in providing public awareness to this human rights issue.
Nutrition and Wellness
Grace UMC has ministries that support healthy bodies through exercise, wellness, and good nutrition. Appointed by You Liturgical Dance Ministry gives dancers the opportunities to regularly exercise their bodies as well as spiritually minister to the congregations through dance. Practice is held on a weekly basis, and dancers stretch, bend, jump, bounce, step, and twirl in preparation. The Busy Bees Ministry holds regular meetings to keep seniors mentally and emotionally engaged. They have also hosted workshops on alternatives to drugs, such as herb-based supplements. During our VBS, a meal is fed every day to participants with an emphasis on nutritional value. Even during our week of Equestrian Camp, the Colgate Institute spends a day at the camp assessing the needs of our campers to ensure they have healthy teeth. Grace has a Nursing Ministry, which assures that if health issues arise in the church, professionals are on hand to assure rapid responses. The nursing resources include blood pressure machines, diabetic testing items, Band-Aids, gauzes, and emergency forms for each member of the congregation. Once a year on a Saturday in May, a "Fun, Fit, Family Bicycle Ride and Walk" occurs for the ultimate in exercising the body. Bikers ride from Indian Head to White Plains for a total of 13 miles one way. Walkers are also encouraged to hike the easy-to-walk flat terrain. The TIME ministry has held a health fair with a focus on good nutrition and health screenings with emphases on heart health, diabetes, cancer, blood pressure, high cholesterol, and autism. TIME partnered with Fort Washington Hospital that performed the screenings and showed the appropriate portions to eat on a daily basis, as well as what foods to eat and avoid if diabetic. TIME ministry has also scheduled some exercising classes for all age levels that will be held on Saturdays.
Volunteers in Mission Trips for Aid or Relief
UMCOR: The Outreach Ministry at Grace works with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in making health-care kits for victims of disasters, such as the recent Hurricane Maria victims in Florida and Puerto Rico. Additionally, Grace has collected money to send to UMCOR humanitarian efforts on a regular basis.
UMW. In continuing its mission work towards supporting women and children, the United Methodist Women over the years has sent money, usually to United Methodist churches located in the disaster areas, to give help to Hurricane victims from Hurricane Katrina in Atlanta, to more recently for Hurricane Sandy victims, where UMW sent $1,000 to a United Methodist Center in Rockaway, NY. The members additionally provided support to Hurricane Maria victims in Florida and Puerto Rico by their individual contributions to the Conference's UMCOR program.
Haiti Relief Effort. As mentioned earlier, Grace UMC partnered with Vernon Hammett, a missionary who serves in foreign missions for giving support to Haiti since its last disaster on up to present day. During this time, with the help of Lott Carey, Alfred Street Baptist Church, and Grace UMC, he has filled eight drums with donated items…everything from clothes to shoes, disposable diapers, medical supplies, toiletries and other needed items--more than 1,200 pounds. Additionally, one Grace UMC member sponsored the education for 4 little school girls by paying for their schooling for one year in Haiti. The 22 members accompanying Hammett attended Bible studies and went to a construction site to help build a house. The missionary group was encouraged to work alongside the natives. Since they were serving to help them with various projects, the group waited while the men got set up. After they were organized, Hammett's group was assigned the task of moving cement blocks into position so they could be used to build the walls of the house. Hammett stated, "The work was hard and arduous, but the team served with enthusiasm. Later we invited the young people in the mission to join us for a period of constructive fun and an afternoon snack. They had a ball making jewelry for themselves and creating whirly things which we gave to the young children later in the week. The goal on this day was to spend time getting to know each other and, judging by the smiles and hugs which were freely given, I would say we accomplished that goal." Later, they began packaging food which was distributed in the village to needy families. Each of 20 families received a delivery of rice, beans, dried fish, tomato sauce, spaghetti, meal, flavoring, and spices. This food would last a family of five to six for at least a week. Families also received over-the-counter medications, toiletries, clothing, and other needed supplies.
Uganda and Ghana. A Grace UMC member, Phyllis Harris-Bronson, partnered with the DHR Mission team and provided spiritual and physical support in Uganda and Ghana. A group of 20 persons visited an orphanage in Uganda in 2018 and donated toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, Vaseline, soap, washcloths, Band-Aids, alcohol pads, new underwear, shoes, and clothes. They have also visited a Methodist orphanage in Ghana on two occasions and provided toiletries, new underwear, and flipflops. They spent quality time talking and playing with the children. This mission work is ongoing and has involved other areas such as Puerto Rico, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, where on two visits they laid a stone road so that they could bring in a mobile health van to clean teeth, administer antibiotics, injections for infections, check for eye diseases/vision, give toothpaste and toothbrushes, combs, shampoo, soap, washcloths, and deodorant.
James Curtis, Jr. James Curtis, Jr., an active member at Grace, is a community service-oriented worker. His passion consists of a food ministry. Although it appears that he is a one-man organization, this ministry is accomplished by several men of Grace and their friends. Their mission is to help those in need to receive food for the nourishment of their bodies. A local grocery store and an entrepreneur provide vegetables, meats, fruit, and fresh bread for the ministry, which supplies needy church and community members. The project originated with the church's seniors, the Busy Bees, who "shopped for groceries" following their devotion and Bible study on Wednesdays.
Mr. Curtis distributes food to church members and the community as needed or on a temporary (emergency) basis. Emergencies may consist of either unemployment or underemployment. Mr. Curtis and his team have consistently helped community families who are unable to pay household expenses and buy food. One family had been unable to feed four teenage children nutritiously or consistently; the contributions made it possible to provide food to the man's family, for over six months, as he was awaiting a disability check. It is examples like these that keep James Curtis and his group steadily driving his truck from church to church—from one home to another home—leaving good nutrition along the way.
Feeding Students at Wesley Seminary. The United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Men join forces on an annual basis to provide a home-made, nutritious meal for the divinity students at Wesley Seminary in Washington, DC who are left at the school during spring break when dining hall facilities are not available. On a specific Saturday, the men and women cook—bake, roast, fry, and toss—to supply dinners for the students on campus, around 25 of them. Meals and paperware are packed on the church's bus headed for Wesley, and church members set up tables of food in one of the college's conference rooms, complete with television sets on the wall. The divinity students come in, eat and fellowship with church members, and a great time is had by all assembled. Whatever is left over is packed up by students to take to their dorm rooms to enjoy on another day.
CREATING COMMUNITY HEALING NETWORKS
Alzheimer's: Grace's Alzheimer's Support Group remains faithful to its calling to serve caregivers of dementia-related individuals. Caregivers and loved ones attend the meetings as they have a need and or as they are able. The group welcomes all in need of support, prayers, strength, encouragement, available resources, and education about the disease. GOD has blessed this support group to be a "model" for potential support group leaders. Another component of the Alzheimer's Support Ministry is the annual Walk to End Alzheimer's. The walk is the association's largest fundraiser, nationwide. Grace's team, Faith Hope Love, began its participation in the fundraiser in 2004 as a part of the ministry, "Walking in the Light of Grace." Its first team of 39 members ranked number 1 among the Southern Maryland teams, and now the walk team members have grown over the years to as many as 146. For the past three years, Faith Hope Love has raised the largest amount of money--$120,000—to advance Alzheimer's research for a cure, education and support services. While research is ongoing, the team continues to pray that the Healer will heal the land of this dreaded disease.
Home Away from Home. There are many reasons to rejoice at Grace about the Home Away from Home Ministry, which has remained active and effective for two years. This assisted living facility is in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and it houses 5 residents. Teams composed of two persons go into the assisted living home for a devotional hour (11:00 am-12:00 noon, only) on a bi-monthly basis. The intent is that lay servants, lay ministers, and other church volunteers will visit and share Scripture, read from "The Upper Room" in a Bible study session, have prayers, sing songs, and share stories with residents. Communion also is served. Residents find it a blessed experience, and the volunteers feel equally blessed. Transportation is provided for the more mobile residents to attend church for worship services and special programs. This ministry has produced two residents who have committed themselves to God and committed to starting afresh and new.
Grace's Angel Care (GAC). Grace Angel Care is sharing the good news and going beyond the walls of the church into the community. Members of Grace visit a nursing home, Genesis Healthcare-LaPlata, MD Center, on the second Tuesday of each month to provide a one-hour worship service for the residents. Additionally, GAC provides a worship service on the fifth Sunday of each month at Genesis Healthcare-Bradford Oaks in Clinton, MD. The residents, mainly seniors, are always so pleased and blessed to be a part of the worship service. GAC provides a spiritual experience to those who are unable to attend church services regularly. It also allows Grace to share the Word with those who may not know Christ. The service is filled with a message of hope, prayers, testimonies, songs of praise, and provides a joyful time glorifying the Lord. This hour of worship and fellowship allows the residents to share events in their lives and give their appreciation and gratitude for all the blessings bestowed upon them. One female resident rededicated her life to Christ, and three other residents' birthdays were recognized, at the LaPlata Center in December. Previously, others have done the same. This fellowship is a spiritual connection full of compassion and praise to God with our brothers and sisters.
Seed of Hope. The Seed of Hope has provided 16 years of service at Grace and is still going strong! The first Seed of Hope group meeting was held on Saturday, March 30, 2002. Meetings were started through a ministry, but they are now an official AA meetings registered with the Washington Area Intergroup Association (WAIA). The men and women participants come from the local and neighboring communities, and they meet Saturdays from 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM. There are no dues; the group is self-supporting. The only requirement for membership is to have a desire to stop drinking. The meeting's format is Open Discussion (OD). All are welcome, but per AA tradition, all who share must confine their discussions to their issues with alcohol. The AA Mission Statement as found in the preamble is followed, focusing on its primary purpose, which is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. Membership at the weekly meetings continues to grow with attendance of 15-20 per meeting, and many newcomers are being sponsored into a new way of living, through the spiritual 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
TIME Ministry. The Mission of TIME Ministry is to assist in promoting an improved mental health well-being in an environment and approach that will always be supportive, discreet, and non-judgmental in nature. The newly formed TIME Ministry rolled out to Grace on September 2017. Recognizing that historically, talking about mental health challenges in communities of color has always been taboo, TIME wants to tackle the issues head-on and offer a safe-haven for those who are members of the church, as well as the community. Thus far, TIME has tackled cyberbullying amongst our youth; Black men versus depression; and domestic violence awareness, just to name a few. On November 18, 2017, the Ministry held its first Annual Mental Health Fair, which proved to be a great success. Speakers from all walks of life shared testimony, personal battles with mental illness and stories of triumph. These types of events assist in promoting community understanding of mental health challenges, along with tolerance and acceptance of people living with said challenges, to foster healthy conversations. Just as one would get a check-up for a vehicle, a mental health check-up is also in order and should be part of our regular routine. Having a productive life includes a healthy mental state. TIME's mantra is: "It is 'TIME' to make a change and live the life God would have for you. It is 'TIME' to be transparent and finally heal--from the inside out." While TIME does not claim to provide all the answers, if problems of a more serious nature arise, it will recommend the person to professional resources.
Bereavement. The Bereavement Ministry provides resources and a support system for bereaved families, and it coordinates and supports funeral services held at Grace. Guidelines and procedures for funeral services are provided to make the process easier for grieving families. This ministry meets directly with the families prior to the funeral to ensure that any assistance needed is made available. Continuing to meet their needs, the Bereavement Ministry meets the families at the church on the day of services and continues a support system throughout the funeral. This ministry realizes that giving grieving families this type of guidance and support takes away some of the stress they are feeling.
Grief Share. To lose a loved one is the greatest loss anyone can experience. One's life has been turned upside down, and it feels as if a part is missing. The very real and human response to such a loss is to grieve. Grace is proud to announce for the first time that it has created a ministry designed solely to help people understand that grief is normal, it is natural, and it is necessary. The Grief Share Ministry facilitates the grieving process of having participants who have lost spouses to understand the 7 stages of grief. They are led to understand that grieving is a natural process and healthy and that each person grieves differently. Stifling and denying grief makes a person's mental state unstable. A support group is necessary because one cannot do it alone, and there is no need to do it alone. If one suffers mentally, it destabilizes one's physical health. This ministry meets once a month and has afforded the opportunity for grievers to meet, fellowship, eat, and share with other members and connect in so many rewarding ways. Grace's doors are opened additionally to friends of Grace who have experienced the shock of the loss of a loved one. If Grief Share determines that a person's grief is unrelenting, the facilitators will direct them to additional professional help. Recently, the second component of this ministry was added. In the past, the ministry has served spouses who have lost a spouse to death. Now we have established "Sharing in Grief" to offer support to anyone who has lost a loved one.
Grace's efforts continue to help persons/families grow in their faith, gain a better understanding of who God is and create a discipleship pathway.
Grace UMC makes a concerted effort to meet the health needs of all our members through the areas above. We rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us as we develop and initiate new ministries. As stated earlier, it is evidenced that the teaching and preaching have changed the lives of long-term members, as well as new members. A strong faith walk takes members beyond just going to church on Sunday mornings and helps them realize that church goes beyond four walls. A healthy person—spiritually, physically, and mentally—is able to help others, as well as self, to experience health through faith, awareness, understanding, and resources.
For youth and adults, small group activities, such as prayer service, Sunday School, Bible Study, Vacation Bible School, and various ministries provide them opportunities to grow deeper in Christ and help develop disciples for the transformation of the world. Adults and youth are involved in mission work on a local and global basis, and they regularly visit the sick and shut-ins. Some of these residents have joined Grace and/or have asked that Grace provide their funeral services when they pass. Christian acts of love carried out to enrich the spiritual, physical, and mental health of family, friends, and strangers and will enable them to see Christ in others. As we carry out the Three Simple Rules of John Wesley to "Do no harm," Do good at all times," and "Stay in love with God," we live out the Bible, love God and our neighbors, and take opportunities to offer Christ to others. Attendance and membership are growing at Grace, as the love of God and the love of fellow Christians are being emphasized and implemented.