Serving our Local Mission FieldEmail This Share This Tweet This
by Dr. Ron Swain, Executive Director of First United Methodist Church of Georgetown’s Getsemani Ministry Center
The Right Questions
In 2012, our church took a step that would change the course of our ministry. We set aside time to imagine our future and what we imagined took us out into our mission field in ways we had not previously considered.
This fruitful experience reshaped our goals and ministry dreams. It stemmed from much prayer and study, including answering the questions raised in Gil Rendle and Alice Mann’s book Holy Conversations. Their questions were so compelling, we determined answering them would guide our decisions.
Who is Our Neighbor?
In search for an answer to this question, we spent an entire day touring a one-mile radius around the church. There were folks on the visioning team who did not know our neighbors in southeast Georgetown. We met people who had no affiliation with First UMC. Many were in low economic income categories and many did not speak English as their first language. We had an awakening of sorts, realizing for the first time that these were our neighbors. This was our local mission field. We needed to know them, serve them, and be in relationship with them.
What is God Calling Us to Be and Do in this Mission Field?
One early interaction with our newfound neighbors was to create a tutoring ministry with a nearby elementary school. Many of those youngsters lived near the church but had little, if any, involvement with our congregation.
Our Helping Hands tutoring ministry was led primarily by church volunteers, but some community volunteers joined with us. Together, the volunteers would walk kids from the school to our church on Tuesday afternoons to participate in tutoring sessions. Over time, we introduced those youngsters to other aspects of the church such as our facilities, music, and worship settings. As the program evolved, we created ESL classes for their parents, helping them to become more literate. We also provided a meal prior to classes and childcare services.
Additionally, each month and during Spring Break we also hold relationship-building, community events in the Quail Valley neighborhood in southeast Georgetown. It is a great way to meet more of our neighbors and support our community.
What Needs Exist in Our Mission Field?
Our vision to serve our mission field took another step when a local church property became available. Through a loan with TMF we were able to purchase the property. We now use it as our Getsemani Ministry Center in the middle of southeast Georgetown.
Soon after this purchase, we reviewed the Georgetown Health Foundation’s Southeast Georgetown Needs Assessment and used it to inform our next steps in providing ministry, services, and programs from our new center. A Getsemani Visioning Team reviewed all of the ten critical community needs and three areas surfaced as our focus:
- Health and wellness education
- After-school and summer enrichment programs for middle school students
- Post-secondary readiness and college-readiness programs for high school students
With this in mind, we shifted our work to these areas. Getsemani is now envisioned as a place of hope and love for our neighbors – a place where lives can be transformed.
Who Will be Our Partner?
In order to provide ministry, services, and programs we needed staffing, so we applied for a grant with TMF and we got it! The grant we received will support my full-time Executive Director position, as well as a full-time bilingual Program Coordinator for the next few years.
My long-term, 25-year hope is to break the cycle of poverty in Southeast Georgetown and to improve the life opportunities for individuals and their families. Our observations and experience tell us that it takes a generation to eliminate poverty, and we are carving out that path by creating a culture where education is a priority. Through our tutoring ministry, after-school and summer enrichment programs, health and wellness education, and post-secondary services to high school students, we are creating a pipeline for fruitfulness and achievement. Our projected outcomes will include improved health, nutrition and wellness, improved academic performance, and increased access to college opportunities, job placements, and employment opportunities.
While TMF has partnered with FUMC Georgetown over the years in different ways, I am greatly appreciative of their partnership with Getsemani. Their financial support has been instrumental, but I think the confidence they have in our ministry has made the biggest impact. TMF believes in our ability to make a difference in the lives of individuals and families in southeast Georgetown; they have invested in this work, and we are grateful to have such a partner by our side.