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Cathi Griswold, co-chair of the North Central Thanksgiving Ingathering for the Webster City site remembers participating in the Ingathering as a child growing up in the United Methodist Church. When asked if she and her husband, Scott, along with another couple, Gary and Nicole Chamnes, would take the lead with the project three years ago, she didn't hesitate because she knew that thousands of lives would be changed in Iowa and afar.
On November 7, 2015, Asbury United Methodist Church hosted the 2015 Thanksgiving Ingathering on a beautifully crisp fall morning. This was the 15th year Asbury UMC has hosted and the first year they moved the event outside. Thirty youth and about half as many adults bundled up and greeted cars and trucks as they lined up outside the church. A table of hot chocolate was set up to keep them all fueled with warmth and sugar. Baked items and hot coffee for the volunteers was available in the fellowship hall downstairs.
Pastor Jeff Flagg, youth leaders, church members and volunteers helped and directed, but most of the heavy lifting was done by the group of youth who had spent the night at the “youth lock-in”. “The kids involvement and all the kits [that are donated],” is what Cathi loves the most about volunteering with the Thanksgiving Ingathering.
The youth spent the night at the church and a neighboring rec center—swimming, playing pool, participating in games and learning a bible lesson. They all slept on the floor of the church and supposedly got a “couple of hours” of sleep. Breakfast was bright and early at 5:30 a.m. because preparation for the Ingathering needed to begin.
Tables were set up with supplies for re-boxing the kits and donations for United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Iowa Nigeria Partners (INP). Teams of volunteers manned each donation station—school bags and kits, birthing kits, health kits, and sewing kits—where donated boxes were emptied and broke down. Then kits were checked for accuracy (only packed with items requested) counted, re-boxed, marked and loaded into the waiting truck that would leave sharply at 11:00 a.m. headed to the Greenfield site then to Altoona. In March, everything will be shipped to the UMCOR Depot in Louisiana.
Upstairs, outside of the sanctuary, were check-in tables and display booths for the Iowa Nigeria Partners, Self-Help International and the Personal Energy Transportation Project (PET) with folks on hand to answer questions about the missions supported by the Ingathering.
The worship service was led by Pastor Jeff Flagg and began at 10:30 a.m. where Fran Mueller from Self-Help International and Barb Johnson from PET reported on how their missions are helping those in need around the world.
“Self-Help International is helping people to help themselves to eliminate poverty,” Fran told those attending the worship service. The most important thing to those Self-Help International has worked with, she has been told is, “that you cared enough to come”. One of the things Self-Help does is work with a cooperative of farmers in Ghana and Nicaragua to teach them better methods which in-turn increases yields and decreases starvation and poverty.
Barb Johnson from PET International reported that over 70 million people around the world are leg disabled due to birth defects, disease, and casualties and that without help, they have to crawl in the dirt. The PET Mobility project reflects the love of God by bringing the gift of mobility and dignity to those in developing countries who are unable to walk. She described how the newest devices are made and demonstrated how they are used for both adults and children.
North Central District Superintendent, Rev. Harlan Gillispie also shared how the connectionalism of the Thanksgiving Ingathering starts from the local church and spreads around the world. The service finished with communion and singing the hymn, “Here I Am, Lord.”
The Webster City site Thanksgiving Ingathering wrapped up the busy morning with lunch and fellowship for everyone involved. The youth finished up by proudly making signed posters totaling their contribution—30 youth, 35 hours, 546 boxes for UMCOR and 49 Boxes for INP. Their happy faces, heavy lifting, and hard work was appreciated by all.
Click here to see photos from the Webster City Thanksgiving Ingathering.