Originally published July 21, 2014.
Folks at Huntington's Evangelical United Methodist Church have decided that charity begins at home and the mission field is their own backyard.
Many of the church's members spent last week serving some of those needs in their own community.
Pastor Dr. Marti Lundy says it's the second year for "Mission Huntington" week, after the project was well received last year by local residents.
"We had a long tradition of going outside the community to do mission trips," she explains. "Last year our church board said, ‘You know what? There's lot of need right here. Let's do this right here in our own community.' They had such a wonderful time. They loved doing it. There's a lot of need."
More than 90 people volunteered their time throughout the week, from ages 2 to 70 and older, some taking time off from work. They tackled numerous projects, including working at the New Life Meal Ministry, serving at Love INC, visiting shut-ins, pulling weeds and landscaping, making home repairs and construction, working in the community garden and sewing tote bags for the Huntington Literacy Coalition. They even hosted a free community cookout at Hier's Park and served up hotdogs, chips, cookies and drinks.
The church was aided in its mission thanks to a couple of grants it received, one for $500 from the Huntington County Community Foundation and another for $750 from the United Methodist Women of the Indiana Conference.
The United Methodist Women grant provided the cost of meals and expenses for college-age volunteers; the church provided meals each day for the rest.
In the past, the church has sent missions groups to Washington, D.C., Redbird Mission in Kentucky and West Virginia. But Lundy says Mission Huntington has been so successful the church has decided to make it an annual event. Serving on the mission field at home has been a blessing for both those who have given as well as those who are on the receiving end.
"We had folks last year who said they had grown up here, they had grown up in this community all their lives, but they finally felt like they were a part of the community because they had served in the community," she says.
"That was a very powerful thing for them to realize that being a part of a community means we help each other out."
One group of men converged at the Kornexl home in Huntington on Tuesday, July 15, to help with projects around the house, including finishing a roof over the couple's deck, trimming bushes and doing other landscaping chores.
Sam Wright, an English teacher at Riverview Middle School, said he heard his colleague, Sue Kornexl, and her husband Brian needed help after discovering Brian was diagnosed in March with ALS (Lou Gehrig's) disease.
"Sue and Brian shared some of their needs with us right at the close of the year at a faculty meeting and in all honesty, I and most all of us were unaware of Brian's pending battle with ALS," Wright says. "I got to thinking about it. I actually went home and, in tears, talked to my wife Brenda about it, and she, being the wise lady that she is said, ‘Well, that's a perfect Mission Huntington task.'"
Four men packing tools, ladders and muscles went to work, putting their hands to the task in demonstration of their faith and love, Wright says.
"One of the things that we're focused on in scripture is we are commissioned as disciples of Jesus Christ to go and show and share the love of Jesus Christ, and this is the way we've chosen to do that," he says. "This is what we're supposed to be doing."
The Kornexls have had to revamp their home with a wheelchair ramp and a handicap-accessible bathroom. Sue Kornexl describes being on the receiving end of Mission Huntington as "overwhelming," but also much appreciated. She says it shows the quality of community of spirit demonstrated by the people of Huntington.
"It has been a godsend, quite frankly, to have the outpouring of people just asking to do some of the smallest of things, but for them to come over and dedicate part of their time and their summer ... Our hearts are touched by all the love and support of the community," she says. "That their church would consider us to do this - we are very blessed. There just aren't words to show how grateful we are."
Complete caption: Aidan Wright (left) and Dick Michel work on trimming the bushes at Brian and Sue Kornexl’s home on Tuesday, July 15, as part of Evangelical United Methodist Church’s “Mission Huntington” week. More than 90 people participated in the week-long missions project, centered in and around Huntington.