Melinda Folse Smoot
With a nod to the familiar turn of phrase that also served as the title of a 2008 George Strait hit, this brand-new weekly column will feature stories of the Grace, Faith, and Transformation to be found in the love of God through Jesus Christ in the First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth faith community.
On Tuesday, February 16, FUMCFW Lay Leader and Board of Stewards chair Kyle Wagner sent out the following email to his Board of 80-something First Church leaders.
“Given the dramatic and dangerous conditions we in North Texas currently find ourselves in, I ask that everyone who reads this message take an opportunity to evaluate what they have (or don’t have and need). There are hundreds of thousands of people without power and heat.
I’m taking a lot of requests for firewood and or any heat-generating products. If you have extra or know of where some can be procured at the current moment, please contact me and I will be happy to help coordinate with anyone — whether you have it or need it.”
Within a few hours, the firewood began to pile up in the West Parking Lot, and an email went out to the entire church staff encouraging them to reach out to church members, friends, or neighbors in need to let them know that, thanks Kyle and his wife, Cye, a cord of firewood was stacked in the West Lot, along with a supply of Duraflame starters.
Director of Children’s Ministries Mark Burrows agreed to help with the loading and unloading as people came to pick up wood and as more wood arrived from a growing circle of volunteers. “It’s amazing how much wood was given by non-members,” Kyle said. “Some ministry just needs a kick-start, I suppose, and momentum does wonders. We collectively identified a need, we tasked the Board of Stewards members and surrounding faith community to respond the best they could, and they outdid themselves – even when they were personally struggling.”
The more wood that accumulated, the more people wanted to give. In turn, the volunteers were able to spread the word that we had more, and then more people came. “They looked to themselves, then their friends and neighborhoods, and it spread from there,” Kyle relates. “Hans Grim started the ball rolling by asking if anyone knew where he could get firewood. He NEEDED wood (he was considering burning some furniture “never liked those chairs anyway,” then read that varnish would produce toxic fumes so wisely decided against it.). Once Hans got some wood, he came back for more — and then began delivering wood to those who needed it on his road back to Aledo.
Kyle says that several people, some not even church members, arrived with firewood. Barbara and Wes Alderete, after dealing with bursting pipes in their own home, went back the next morning to pick up wood and deliver. Mitchell Moses reached out offering to personally deliver firewood right to someone’s doorstep.
Sometimes you don’t know whether the good you do actually does any good. And sometimes you do. Yesterday Kyle sent another email, thanking all who participated in locating, loading, delivering wood to the supplies in the West parking lot. “Together we were able to help a lot of families in our community stay warm,” Kyle says, adding that the gathering/distribution – albeit on a smaller scale – continued on Thursday.
“We simply used the network we had in place in our faith community to communicate and pass along information. Word of mouth got the job done. And, quite honestly, it’s been eye-opening,” he added.
In addition to the wood-gathering and distribution, First Church volunteer Linda Kennedy shared the information she had just received about the teaming up of the City of Fort Worth with Med Star to do wellness checks for people who are running out of oxygen or necessary medications. “If you know of anyone who might be in this situation (or might be soon), please consider looking into this,” he encourages. “If you are able to pass along any pertinent information to me, I will help facilitate getting it to the appropriate group(s).”
Linda Murphy, Director of the First Street Methodist Mission, who had been in contact with officials with the city and at local agencies let the group know that most urgent need they’ve located is at the Presbyterian Night Shelter’s Women’s Center for items including towels, lanterns, flashlights, and diapers.
On a smaller scale across our First Church Faith community, people offered up spare bedrooms; those with power or gas-powered stoves and cooktops ventured out to stores and bought up loads of food to cook and deliver to people in need. Linda Kennedy started a Facebook fundraiser for Presbyterian Night Shelter. Dr. Len Delony and his wife, Beka, offered Bob and Mary Weathers, a room in their home because of health issues and electricity outage; Emily and Tim McDermott took them groceries and hot soup.
Paraphrasing Mister Fred Rogers (and our own Mister Mark) advice that in scary times we need to look for the helpers, Kyle said in a subsequent email to the FUMCFW Stewards, “You, my friends, are helpers. Even in the midst of your own difficult circumstances – be it lack of heat/electricity, not enough water, too much water coming out of the wrong places – you continue to find ways to give back to your community.”
Kyle says that this whole experience impacted his faith in terms of how “do unto others…” brings about good that, in turn, feeds our belief in humanity. He says he was also amazed at the reach and ripple effect of this one seemingly simple act of kindness. “Although there were quite a few “first-level” people we were able to help with our direct communication of firewood availability,” he adds, “it was amazing how we were also able to loop in 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th level connections that made us really “reach” people.
Taking this reflection into “normal times” Kyle says that this experience underscores how important it is to work together to identify what the needs of people are — and then to collectively figure out the best way we can help.
“My faith grows every time I see people going out of their way to help each other,” Mark concurs. “I try to do what I can to inspire others in my day-to-day work. Then something like this week happens. So many of our church friends reaching out to help anyone and everyone they can. They make me want to be a better person,” he adds. “It blows me away.”
Melinda Folse Smoot is a writer, editor, collaborator, and content strategist. In addition to her work for FUMCFW, she has a deep passion for telling stories that make a difference. With a focus on faith, grace, hope, and spirit for faith-based organizations and other clients, Melinda is always on the lookout for people with inspiring stories to share. If you have a story of faith you’d like to share, please contact Melinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.