By Sarah Naron
CROCKETT – In an effort to perpetuate the goal “to provide Christ-centered missions that serve people in need and promote spiritual growth and leadership development in youth and young adults,” approximately 155 members of the U.M. ARMY (United Methodist Action Reach-Out Mission by Youth) marched into Crockett Sunday, June 10.
The group is being hosted by the First United Methodist Church of Crockett, where they will be staying until Sunday, June 16.
According to Todd Harris, Direct of Student Ministries for Christ Church Sugar Land, the organization – which celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier in the month – consists of students from youth groups across the nation.
“They converge on a town that has need, and all of our materials are paid for by the students; they pay to come on the trip,” he explained. “The churches host us for free. All the work is done for free. If somebody can donate, we absolutely let them; we are a 501(c)(3), so we do take donations.”
Harris explained that the sole requirement an individual must meet in order for their home to be serviced by the U.M. ARMY is providing proof that they are the owner of the house, as the organization does not work on rentals. Jobs such as electrical, plumbing and roof repair are not eligible.
According to Harris, Crockett has an extensive history with the U.M. ARMY.
“They have been hosting every year,” he said. “I think this is, like, their 10th or 12th year in a row. We also do a winter U.M. ARMY, and they had one here over Christmas break about two year or so ago. So, Crockett gets a lot of teams coming through.”
Along with Harris’s church, five other churches from Bryan, Galveston and the greater Houston area are present in Crockett this week. Students have been divided into groups and assigned to one of 34 work sites.
“Nationwide, there are – I think it’s 187 camps this summer with close to 5,000 participants,” Harris added.
In addition to completing home improvement projects, the U.M. ARMY hopes to get to know the members of the community through fellowship during its time in Crockett.
“Thursday night, at 7 p.m., we invite the whole community to come out (to FUMC Crockett),” Harris said. “The students will be doing worship, and we’ll just celebrate.”
The homeowners for whom the U.M. ARMY have worked throughout the week will be speaking to the community about the experience, and Harris said clients who have benefited from the organization in previous years are welcome to share their own stories.
Among the projects being completed by the organization this week is the construction of a wheelchair ramp at a residence in Crockett.
“Everybody pitches in, and we just – it happens,” said Robert Coffman, the adult leader of the group working on the ramp. “We enjoy it. It’s great to have these kids out here, willing to volunteer their time and share God’s love.”
When venturing out to see the progress being made on the wheelchair ramp Monday afternoon, the homeowner described the U.M. ARMY’s efforts as “amazing.
“It’s amazing to see kids this young helping disabled people or anybody who can’t do for themselves,” he said. “You don’t see kids doing what they’re doing nowadays. It’s good to know there’s some kids out there that like to help and want to help. I like what they’re doing. They’re doing such a good job.”
Students in the program cited the relationships established between participants and clients as one of the best parts of participating in the U.M. ARMY, as well as getting to venture into another community to meet new people and spread the Word of God.
“I was questioning it really hard,” said one student when describing the first U.M. ARMY trip he embarked on. “Like, paying to come work didn’t make any sense. But I came that first year, and I loved it. I come every year now.”
Another student echoed the sentiment, adding that her only previous experience was the “junior high version” of the program in which mission trips last for only a weekend as opposed to a full week.
“And then, you’re like, ‘Okay, a whole week of this? How am I going to handle it?’” she laughed. “And then, you get there, and you’re in the middle of your first week, and you’re like, ‘Okay, can this be longer? Can we do two weeks?’”
According to Brooke Tigtig, an employee of the Harvest United Methodist Church of Sienna who is in Crockett serving as an adult leader throughout the week, the students are not the only ones who benefit from being a part of the U.M. ARMY.
Throughout each of the U.M. ARMY’s trips to Crockett, the participants are frequent visitors of the Ace Hardware store located on 1st St.
“We’ve dealt with the U.M. ARMY for about 15 years,” said store manager Charlotte Kimball. “We have a donation that we make – whatever you charge, and there is an account already set up. At the end of the process, we then donate five percent of what you’ve spent here to the U.M. ARMY.”
In addition, Kimball said her family are longtime members of First United Methodist Church of Crockett, who sponsors the U.M. ARMY during its visits.
“We’re delighted that there are young people that are working within the community to help us better the community for people who can’t help themselves,” Kimball said.
For more information on the U.M. ARMY, including how your church can become a member, visit www.umarmy.org.