Asmall church can be impactful on its members, it’s community – and it can also use the United Methodist connection to make a difference for people thousands of miles away.
Scott’s Chapel United Methodist Church is partnering with Zacarias Manhica UMC in Inhambane East, a new church plant in Mozambique with an average attendance of 130.
A historically African-American church in Hannibal, the 33-member congregation averaged 18 in attendance last year. They are a family church for many of their members, with lineages that stretch back across generations.
“Dianna [McLeod], her mother is a longtime member, her daughter is a member, her granddaughter is a member, and that’s just one family,” Senior Pastor Rev. Linda Spawn said.
Mission and outreach is an integral characteristic of Scott’s Chapel UMC. Their familial ties allow them to participate in a variety of outreach programs.
As a congregation, Scott’s Chapel UMC is active in neighborhood Cub Scouts, community athletic programs, the homeless ministry Loaves and Fishes, and Heifer International, to name a few. Mission is woven into the DNA of the community, making their choice to partner with the Mozambique Initiative a natural decision.
“The Mozambique Initiative is a partnership between the Missouri and Mozambique annual conferences which seeks to transform communities and people for Christ. Examples of the ministry are sister-church relationships, safe water wells, seminary sponsorships, education and health initiatives, and the construction of chapels and parsonages,” Mozambique Initiative Coordinator Craig Stevenson said.
It was at annual conference in Springfield that Rev. Spawn attempted to sign up for information regarding a partnership.
“Last June at the annual conference, I went to the Mozambique Initiative table. I signed some papers and I thought I was asking for information about a partnership. In the first part of October, I got a letter saying, ‘Thank you for partnering with this church!’ and I thought, oh no, what have I done,” Spawn said.
After a brief period passed, and thoughts of withdrawing were gone, Spawn decided to take it to the congregation.
“There was just hardly any discussion. I did play a video about the Mozambique Initiative. I remember everybody saying, we have to do this – we need to do this. There was no hesitation,” Spawn said.
Spawn attributes their new partnership to God, noting that “He works in mysterious ways.” Other members of the congregation, however, recognized the generosity they had recently experienced.
“We have had a lot going on. We asked for a grant for a new roof and that was approved. We asked for a grant to get the new technology and that was approved. It’s just like, we were just being approved all the time,” member Dianna McLeod said.
“We felt like, as a church body, it was our turn to give back to somebody. We have been there, we know what it’s like to be at the bottom of something and work your way up.”
Other members noted the welcoming spirit of Scott’s Chapel UMC, attributing their participation to the power of fellowship.
“I’m relatively new to the church here. The Lord was helping me find a church to attend,” member Sharon Walley said.
“I was just drawn to this church, and with our congregation being as small as it is, everyone is so welcoming. I came back another Sunday and another Sunday. The closeness I’ve found here, when this was brought to us I thought, ‘If someone else in another country can find that closeness, I want to help them in whatever way I can. It’s been given to me and I would be pleased to return that.’”
Scott’s Chapel UMC completed their commitment for 2017 and has already submitted their commitment for 2018, in full.
“We went ahead and paid for this year early. We just thought, the Lord will provide,” Spawn said. Scott’s Chapel is actively exploring ways to connect with their sister church. They are already preparing to fundraise for their partnership in 2019.