St. Joseph team makes Cincinnati their mission
CINCINNATI, Ohio -- “Who is your city light?” asked the director of “Awaken the City” (ATC), the urban mission hosted by Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio (The Rev. Dr. Tim Bias, former senior pastor at Peoria First UMC, is now at Hyde Park). Citing Matthew 5:14, Associate Pastor . Sarah Thomas asked the question of 16 volunteers from the St. Joseph UMC (Iroquois River District), part of a 50-person contingent which spent a week working on a variety of mission projects in the Queen City.
The St. Joseph group was divided into two teams which spent time at eight different agencies. Mission work included caring for handicapped children; salvaging, cleaning and preparing school supplies; gardening; moving furniture; serving in a food/clothing pantry; assisting staff at a day camp; spending time with senior citizens, and even “telemarketing.”
The first urban missionary team from St. Joseph supplemented personnel at Stepping Stones, an agency for mentally and physically disabled children and youth. The second crew helped pack meals on wheels, and “telemarketed,” which meant calling area churches to invite their leaders to a kickoff meeting for the first statewide anti-fraud campaign in the nation--focused on senior citizens.
The gardening and day camp work were carried out in the “Over the Rhine” neighborhood of Cincinnati. According to the local NBC TV affiliate, “Over the Rhine” is the most dangerous neighborhood in the country. But when the ATC saints hit the streets, the drug dealers backed off.
The Rev. Mark Harris, pastor of the St. Joseph UMC and an ATC saint, reflected on what his flock learned during their week of service: “They learned that many of the folks who live in Over the Rhine, don't want to be there and are really good folks. They learned that drug dealers don't know what to do with ‘fish out of water’ middle class folks who walk up and talk to them! They learned that many of the children in those impoverished areas aren’t thugs, but smart kids who want so much more for their lives. They also learned that adversity brings out the best in people. They worked hard; they slept on strange beds; they did things that were way out of their comfort zones…and they had a great time doing it!”
Connie Jamison chairs the St. Joseph church’s Mission Committee. She and her husband, Jim, worked together at ATC. When Connie asked Jim to describe his experience at Stepping Stones, he laughed, “Have you ever tried to herd cats? That’s what it felt like trying to keep track of all those kids!”
Connie has been urging the church to “go on a mission trip” for a number of years. Asked why, she replied, “It encourages support and involvement of the entire congregation. It challenges an individual to serve Christ by serving others. It also promotes a deeper sense of ‘family.’”
And who was her “City Light?” During evening worship, Connie lit two candles for Amy and Becky, directors of the Wesley Mission in Over the Rhine. She chose them “for being white in a very rough, black community...and loving them all.”
Other participants from St. Joseph included Steve, Susan & Corey Thompsen; Allison Rose; Hunter Harris and mom Joanne; Judy Howdyshell; Jody Bentley; Steve & Ed Warns; Jimmy and Justin Paden; and the Rev. John M. Kraps.