Epworth’s Missions Program is a comprehensive, hands-on outreach program where volunteers from churches across the state can come to Epworth to do mission projects close to home and close to their hearts. Whether for a few hours or a few days, mission projects at Epworth meet facility and program needs for the children at Epworth, increase volunteers’ understandings of Epworth’s ministry, and create the space to deepen discipleship in Christ.
“In getting to personally know the children through my volunteer work, I have come to respect them in so many ways for their strength and perseverance,” said Heather Rogers member of Chapin UMC after helping refurbish Waddell Cottage. “In their eyes you can still see hope when there could be darkness.”
For residents, Epworth’s 32-acre campus is a safe, peaceful and loving community where children’s needs come first. With over 25 buildings on campus (including 10 cottages, a health center, classrooms, church, gym, dining hall and more) and plenty of shaded green space and playgrounds, each area is designed to meet and provide for children’s needs. However with 180 residents each year coming and going, maintaining and beautifying these areas is an on-going task.
How a Mission Project Works
Epworth’s volunteer coordinator, Beth Robinson, helps groups identify their capabilities and matches groups with current campus needs. Mission leaders then come to campus two to three months in advance to plan their project details. They then return to their congregation to solicit support. Each group raises its own funds to pay for the project and provides the volunteer hours and materials necessary to complete the project. Along the way, Epworth staff helps guide the process.
When the day comes for the mission to start, groups meet at Epworth and the facility staff helps kick off the project. Groups staying multiple days are offered overnight accommodations on campus, meals in the dining hall and suggested activities for any “down-time” during their stay.
“The staff was very accommodating and welcomed us with open arms,” said Sandy Hager, Bethany UMC, Summerville. “The maintenance crew continually provided us with assistance. Our every need was taken care of.”
Something for everyone
Epworth’s mission projects can be catered to the size and skills of the group. For advanced large groups, doing full cottage makeovers and other large projects can be a great opportunity to involve a wide variety of church members over the course of a weekend or even a full week. For smaller and/or novice groups there are shorter projects like painting walls, planting flowers or helping with cleaning and organizational needs.
“It was important to me that these girls have a cheerful and welcoming place to stay…a place they would be happy to call home,” said Joan Beck, New Beginnings UMC in Boiling Springs. “Also, I wanted them to know that our church family loves them and supports them as they strive to further their education, and I knew that this project would be a visual reminder of that love and support.”
A Gift for the Children
Every mission project at Epworth is designed to improve the experience of the children who call Epworth home.
“It’s so cool,” said a young boy from Clinton Cottage after Bethany UMC, Summerville completed a week-long renovation. His case manager, Andrea Cox, agreed. “The boys love having a new gaming section, and the work-space cubbies have been so practical for homework and crafting. The boys have taken pride in their new area and they are reminding one another to keep it clean and to keep their shoes off the new couch cushions and table—just as the women from the church taught them. The room truly feels inviting and comfortable. We are so grateful!”
If you are interested in learning more about the Epworth Missions Program, please contact Beth Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-256-7394, or visit www.epworthchildrenshome.org.
Volunteers from First UMC, Isle of Palms, have made eight mission trips to Epworth since 2009. One of their faithful volunteers, Wayne, remembers his first visit fondly.
One day, a young child came quietly into the room where we were working, open-eyed and obviously curious as to what we were about. She looked around and then asked me, “What are you doing?” I replied that we were working to make the room a nicer place for her. She hesitated a moment and asked, “You’re doing this for us?” With tears in my eyes, I replied, “Yes.” She left without any further comment. The next day, she came back – that time with several friends and I was moved to recall Jesus’s phrase from Matthew: “…when you did it for the least of these…you did it for me.”