Thanksgiving blessings


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor


D.J. Cousins played a game of checkers on an unseasonably warm day before Thanksgiving.


While the next several days were projected to be warm, Cousins knew colder days were coming. So while Cousins played checkers, volunteers at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church searched through donated items to find him a coat.


“Hanging out here you can enjoy yourself,” said Cousins. “It’s all right.”


Cousins was one of about 60 Jackson street people who spent a few hours on Nov. 22 at Galloway eating soup, taking showers washing clothes and picking up a few needed items. It was all part of “Thanksgiving in Jerusalem” sponsored by the church.


Pam Meek, director of missions at Galloway, said the idea for the event grew out of a church staff meeting. Someone asked what the church would be doing for Thanksgiving and plans for the day evolved.


“It went great,” Meek said, “We had a little over 60 street people come through. They had the option of taking a shower, getting their clothes washed, getting a coat, something to eat, gloves, socks and things like that.”


Galloway pastor the Rev. Ross Olivier said Thanksgiving in Jerusalem reflects what the congregation wants to be.


“I believe our ministry with the poor is a reflection of Galloway’s mission statement: ‘revealing heaven on earth,’” he said. “It was, quite simply, what authentic Wesleyan Methodism is meant to be, the gospel enacted in acts of personal piety, public charity and prophetic justice.


“I look forward to the day when moments like that are seen as acts of normalcy rather than special events. Thanksgiving in Jerusalem was an enlarged version of such a ministry that takes place at Galloway daily.”


The event’s name comes from the church’s commitment to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). Activities are divided into three categories: Jerusalem (in and around the building), Judea and Samaria (greater Mississippi and agencies) and the Ends of the Earth (missions in Honduras and South Africa).


In addition to the street folks, about 50 volunteers took part. Clothing was donated and then sorted by the missions team; the music department handled washing clothes. The youth prepared hygiene kits, and others cooked or served soup and desserts. Many church members dropped off items.


Meek said the church’s guests seemed to appreciate the gesture.

“They were just glad somebody opened the doors and said come on in,” she said. “One guy said he felt so safe. That’s what we want them to feel.”


As Meek moved around the Galloway fellowship hall, she spoke to many of the guests by name. Galloway offers sack lunches once a week and hygiene kits once a month to street people. Many visit the church regularly seeking help with various problems. Meek meets with many of them.


“They’re my guys,” she said. “They have such different stories. If we had been dealt different cards, it might be me (in their situation).”


Olivier said Galloway is thankful for the opportunity to serve its guests.

“We need to thank God whenever the poorest of the poor are in our midst,” he said. “The Bible explicitly tells us (Matthew 25:31) that they, more than any other act of Christian discipleship, connect us to Jesus. It is we who must thank the guests who accepted our invitation, much more than we deserve their thanks. It is in this ministry of Jesus that the vast chasm between our hell and God’s heaven can be breached: Lazarus and Dives (Luke 16:19-31) is a story that warns how the roles of rich and poor will be reversed unless we live compassionately and generously.”


Meek said the goal is to make Thanksgiving in Jerusalem an annual event. Plans are in the works for a special breakfast during the week before Christmas.