An Unexpected Introduction
Last fall, TMF Counsel and Area Representative Tom Stanton had the chance to visit with Sherrie Tipper and Pastor Rita Hotz at FUMC Jonesboro. Tom introduced them to a woman named Nancy Elizabeth West, a woman who was passionate about supporting missions and had a heart for Jonesboro, TX. In fact, she was so committed to their church she was gifting them a portion of her estate to be used to reach the community. Upon hearing Nancy’s story, Sherry was moved to tears.
…but this was no normal introduction. Nancy wasn’t in the room. She had passed away in 2007.
Nancy was born on November 10, 1910 in Waco, TX. She moved to Jonesboro when she was nine, graduated from UT in 1932 right in the middle of the Great Depression, worked as a medical technologist using her chemistry degree, ran her family farm, and amassed a modest fortune along the way. As a single child with no heirs, she decided to share part of her estate with the church she loved.
In the late 1890’s, FUMC Jonesboro was the central figure in its church circuit. Nancy grew up in the church’s heyday. She watched it flourish as a young person and supported it with donations for stained glass and pews as she grew older. Few realized she wanted to continue this support after her death.
“It was such a beautiful moment to learn about this woman’s love for our church,” Rita shared. “When Nancy was growing up, it was an integral part of the community and we are hopeful that we can bring it back to that community focus.”
Of course, the 1890’s are long gone. This is not FUMC Jonesboro’s heyday anymore.
Like many churches in poor, rural communities, it has declined. Only four people attend the church on an average Sunday, and yet, they reach 18 to 20 youth each week. By partnering with a youth leader who needed space, the church has given youth, fourth grade and up, a place to belong and be discipled. Additionally, they are researching the possibility of creating a food pantry to feed the hungry and considering how they could create a van ministry to help older adults get around town.
Their size has not limited their vision, and Nancy’s gift is an encouraging reminder that God can multiply their efforts in ways they had not envisioned.
“This endowment will help us support these ministry ideas,” Rita said joyfully. “We want our ministries to build relationships between the congregation and the community. Nancy was so supportive of the community, and we are incredibly grateful we get to continue that heritage of community partnership.”