When a woman from Ecuador involved in “Sazon para el Alma” had brain surgery, volunteers from the local United Methodist church that hosts the program supported Marianna Tandayamo and her daughter, Jessica, with meals, transportation, prayer, and other support.
The program, which means “Seasoning for the Soul” in English, is a project of PlumbLine Fellowship, a multicultural new church start within Narbeth United Methodist Church, located in a suburb of Philadelphia. Part of the funding came from a $10,000 Ethnic-In-Service Training grant from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry last year.
GBHEM is accepting applications for the Ethnic-In-Service Training grants through July 31. To learn more or apply, visit www.gbhem.org/eist. Eight to 10 grants are awarded each year to programs that recruit, train, and retain ethnic United Methodist persons for leadership positions in every level of the church and its ministry. Funding for the grants comes from contributions to the World Communion Sunday Special Offering, observed this year on October 7.
The Rev. Lydia Muñoz, pastor of both churches, said the program includes a monthly gathering for immigrants, as well as counseling and other assistance to families suffering from trauma due to the move to a new country, violence that they faced in their home country, extreme poverty, and the many relationships that are lost when families are torn apart by immigration.
“The monthly gathering provides a sense of family and belonging, which in our work is one of the biggest needs in our area in terms of health and wholeness. These meetings are also a way of introducing or re-introducing faith into the lives of these individuals. We sing songs of faith and courage as well as cultural songs,” Muñoz said. She said many immigrants who have become citizens and successfully adjusted to life in the United States want to encourage and support more recent immigrants.
“We are too alone in this country, and I’m not just talking about immigrants. I’m talking about everybody. People are hungry for relationships,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz said the program has supported about 12 families fairly intensively – providing counseling, arranging legal assistance, transportation, and other support. In addition, PlumbLine has a food bank that serves about 50 families each week. The entire congregation, about 40 people, is involved in some way in the program.
“Currently we have one seminary intern who is serving with us and we continue to partner with La Puerta Abierta, a nonprofit that offers mental health counseling for immigrant families free of charge,” she said. Also, students from Temple University, Eastern University, and Drexel University are among the volunteers.
While the program initially served the Latino/a community, it has begun to draw immigrants from other countries. A woman from Trinidad came to the food bank and one of the volunteers invited her to the gathering, which has also begun to draw African immigrants. An Asian-American deacon and an African American lay person – who is the liaison with two universities — are among those working to expand the reach of the program beyond the Latino/a community.
Another program that received a grant in 2011 is the Project H20, a ministry of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Jackson, Tenn.
This program, also called the cotillion, works with young women who are in high school to build their confidence, leadership, and social skills.
“The development of leadership skills is perhaps the most evident change,” said Tarra R. Slack, the project director. “A spirit of helpfulness has grown in these young ladies such that they take on tasks in and around the church with a smile.”
Many of the young women volunteer as needed with various projects and participate as acolytes, choir members, vacation Bible school volunteers, and other activities.
The project curriculum includes topics such as health and physical fitness, sexual abstinence, dress and hygiene, tutoring, current events, critical thinking, conflict resolution, self-esteem, etiquette, and money management. All participants are required to perform 40 hours of public service volunteer work, and participate in various cultural and social activities.