ROCKINGHAM — “We live out our mission statement, ‘Love God, love others, love the world,’ but now feel especially challenged and called to expand our horizons on this third part — love the world.”
That’s why Allison Farrah, associate pastor of First United Methodist Church in Rockingham, says she wanted to embark on a mission trip to Haiti. She and Senior Pastor Mike Sykes plan to be in the poverty-stricken nation from Aug. 5-13.
Historically, First United Methodist has been more involved with hands-on mission projects on the local level, said Farrah.
“We celebrate a rich history of offering financial support to worthy mission efforts around the world,” she said. “Our United Methodist Men and Women hold fundraisers throughout the year for the sole purpose of offering support to a variety of local, national and international missions projects. Our regular operating budget also supports missions through our apportionment giving to the United Methodist Conference. Our history shows that we have given generously of our financial resources but we haven’t, at least in recent history, sent work teams out, nationally or internationally, for hands-on, short-term mission experiences.”
Sykes first got the idea to go to Haiti after meeting the Rev. Butch Huffman of the North Carolina Missionary Conference. Sykes invited Huffman to speak to the church one Sunday and Sykes described him as having a sense of energy and enthusiasm.
Sykes and Farrah both agreed that after Huffman’s visit to their church, it seemed like perfect timing.
“Since I’ve been in this church, we’ve prayed that God would open a door. We had to be patient,” said Sykes. “We knew this was the time. We asked the congregation what they would like to see more of as a church and missions kept coming up. Some of the best times in my ministry have been in missions and seeing lives changed.”
The two Rockingham pastors will join a group of about 15 to 20 people from the main team of First United Methodist Church in Fuquay-Varina to work with the folks from the Ryan Epps Home for Children in Michaud, Haiti on the home, school, new homes or community building being constructed. The community building will also double as a church, clinic and trade school.
Sykes and Farrah will also be taking with them rice, beans and oil for Haitian families that would otherwise go without. They helped raise $5,750 in order the purchase the items.
The Quilting for the Community group at First United Methodist made more 50 bags to carry the rice, beans and oil. This Sunday, the quilting group will officially dedicate the bags to the church by presenting them to Sykes and Farrah.
This year’s trip, the pastors hope, will lead to more ventures to Haiti and other countries in the future.
“This meaningful experience will serve as a pre-trip, so that we will have the tools necessary to equip our church to send a work team to Haiti in July of 2015,” said Farrah.
Church members seem excited to get involved with next year’s mission trip, Farrah said, as people from high school to senior citizens have expressed an interest in going. Sykes said there are five who have already given the thumbs-up for going and at least a dozen more that have plans on making the trip.
“We’re excited about this, serving people so far away,” said Sykes. “It’s an excellent way to serve God’s grace and give back to people who are really in need.”
Farrah called it a strong sense of call and added,”Often times, folks are resistant to go or to send because they feel, there’s enough to do right here around us. The message we, as ministers and leaders, have gently been communicating is that our call, as the church — the body of Christ, is not to ‘either/or’ but to ‘both/and.’”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674.