July 31, 2013

By Cameron Ward

If you have driven through the northern side of downtown Columbia within the past few weeks, you may have noticed Rev. Meg Hegemann, pastor at Wilkes Boulevard UMC, leading groups of youth along the same path walked by many members of Columbia’s homeless population. The walk is roughly two miles, and it gives the walkers new insight into the resources available to the homeless community, as well as how hard it is to access them. 
    
This is part of a new ministry started by Wilkes Boulevard UMC, who is known locally for ministering to low-income and homeless residents of Columbia. In addition to the Poverty Walk, they also serve as the host site for the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen, which serves a meal every night, and the Room at the Inn shelter this past January and February. 
    
Wilkes Boulevard UMC is just one of many United Methodist Churches working to educate people in poverty on various levels. The Poverty Walk educates people about poverty and homeless on a local level, whereas the Office of Creative Ministries’ Poverty Simulation gives participants an idea of poverty on a national level, and this year’s Mission U Social Action study is on global poverty.
    
The Poverty Simulation is an experience designed to give attendees an idea of life in a low-income family. The goal of the simulation is to highlight just how hard it is for those near or below the poverty line to survive in our own country. Participants are placed into families, each with a different structure and resources, and must find ways to make and manage their money throughout the simulation. In about two and a half hours, participants experience four 15 minute weeks, a discussion about the hardships families experience in the simulation, and how they compare to reality, and learn ways to get involved and make a difference in their own communities. 
    
Participants of both the Poverty Walk and the Poverty Simulation find the experiences “very eye-opening” to the extent of poverty in our communities. If you would like to get your church or community involved, these events are great starting points to get people excited for ministering to the needy in your area. 
   
To schedule a poverty simulation or find out about simulations near you, contact the Office of Creative Ministries by email at office@umocm.com, and contact Rev. Meg Hegemann about the Wilkes Boulevard UMC Poverty Walk by emailing pastormeg@wilkesblvdumc.org.