Lisa Guilliams awarded Denman Evangelism Award
PEORIA – For Rev. Lisa Guilliams, evangelism is about connecting people to Jesus Christ. But she acknowledges that often times words are not the best medium for it.
“What we have learned over the past several years at (Granite City) Trinity is that the spoken word often has to take a back seat,” she said. “As St. Francis of Assisi often said, ‘Preach the Gospel…use words only necessary.’ It is that quote that represents the building block upon which we have begun to revitalize Trinity UMC.”
Guilliams was honored by the IGRC Evangelism Committee with the 2013 Harry Denman Evangelism Award during the John Wesley Fellowship of Illinois luncheon June 6. The awarding somewhat unique in that Guilliams won the Denman Award as a layperson in 2003 for her work with children at Trenton UMC while employed in corporate America. That year, Guilliams responded to a call to ministry that led to her ordination in 2011.
“Lisa and her story have inspired and led me to examine my own personal ministry passions,” said Alan Abert of Alton Main Street UMC, who nominated Guilliams for the award. “With her counsel, we have launched our own summer feeding program in the Alton-Godfrey community. We are following her model in bringing together spiritual gifts with my own congregation to become a branch of her TWIGS program and this summer we already anticipate providing more than 10,000 meals to the children of the Alton community.”
Her district superintendent, the Rev. Gary Wilson agrees. “Lisa not only motivates her church, but she motivates other churches and her community,” he said. “She is an inspiration to all of us.”
The birth of TWIGS
In 2003, Guilliams was appointed to Granite City Trinity UMC. Early in her ministry there, she posed the question, “What is the greatest need in the community? How might we show the love of Christ in a tangible way?”
Guilliams said it would be a six-year journey to answering that question. “The greatest need didn’t begin to ‘show its face’ until 2009,” she said. “A simple two-question flyer that was circulated around the neighborhood came back with, “We are hungry…we need help with food.”
The church got acquainted with a retired couple five houses from the church who were raising their seven grandchildren due to “tragedy in the family. “They were struggling to put food on the table,” Guilliams said. “On one occasion, we took them sacks of groceries when they literally had one can of vegetables in the house and when two of the little ones came to help us carry it into the house, the one grabbed a bag of sugar and the other a box of cereal and with that the little girl looked up at her grandpa and said, ‘it’s gonna be a good day papa; it’s going to be a really good day.”
And then a drive by a grade school which was providing free meals through the school year provided impetus for the church to become involved in a summer feeding program.
“At the center of everything we do is the desire to feed God’s hungry sheep,” Guilliams explained. “Outreach programs started five to six years ago are now vehicles to feed the children of the community.”
The Family Tree House
There are five components to the Family Tree House:
- FIGS (Fellowship Involving Granite Seniors) – meets twice a month for hot meal, fellowship musical guest or special speaker and includes a meal on Thanksgiving Day for those who have no place to go. Currently serves 160.
- TWIGS – a free summer lunch program that runs Monday through Friday which began in 2011 and fed 2,500 at four locations. Funding was all donation and grants and staffed by volunteers. In 2012, the number of sites increased to 12; and six locations in Alton through the Main Street UMC branch. In addition, a basic bag of food is provided to every family every other Friday. Another partnership was forged with Edwardsville St. John UMC, as well as with the mayor’s office, city council, township supervisors, police and fire departments, Shriners and park districts. During the month of April, TWIGS competed and obtained a $20,000 grant from the Walmart Corporation which will provide major funding for the 2013 feeding program.
- SEEDS – Begun in January 2012, children are fed a hot breakfast on the last Saturday of every month as well as having a variety of activities for the children. A program geared toward moms called “Basic Cooking on a Budget” is being offered on a monthly basis, providing families some basic budgeting for food expenses and helping them know how to cook instead of relying on higher priced packaged foods. The cooking program will also have a coupon and recipe exchange component.
- ROOTS – Starting in late summer 2012, a food and necessity cellar located at the church’s outreach house will be focused on families living in a 10 to 12 block radius of the church. The cellar hopes to assist those who have no means of transportation. Funding will come through grants.
- The BRANCH – Catering to the community’s youth and feeding is a part of the ministry.
“One thing is certain: we are not in charge,” Guilliams said about her journey. “We are just asked to hold on tight and enjoy the ride. Recently, we have come to realize that ‘feeding empty bellies is the beginning to feeding empty souls.’ And my prayer is, ‘may it be so, Lord, may it be so!”