Going Is Where It's At

by Rev. Dale Hensarling and Rev. Joe Hoover

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It was Thursday morning, June 11, 1998. A phone call was made to the Rev. Evaline Gomez, pastor of a Native American Congregation in Bennington, Oklahoma. A church of few members, a need for a fellowship hall, and a desire to serve on the part of three churches in Louisiana led to the call. Plans had been made for us to bring a work crew of thirty adults and youth to work for four days, during which we also planned to operate a Vacation Bible School.

When the phone was answered, the voice in Oklahoma did not sound at all hopeful. She was afraid that the church was not ready for us to come and that there would be no children. Maybe we should cancel our volunteer mission? The response was quickly made: "We are coming anyway. God will provide. We will go out and find the kids to come in."

On Sunday afternoon June 14th, a strange assortment of vehicles -- trucks, Jeeps, sport utility vehicles, trailers, RV's, and a church van -- converged on the parking lot of Love Chapel United Methodist Church in Haughton, Louisiana. Some of those gathering were from the Ringgold and Castor United Methodist Churches.

Men, women, children, and teens were driving to Oklahoma to work outdoors and indoors (without air conditioning) -- scraping and painting to redeem an old building from destruction, and trimming, dry-walling, and texturing the interior of a new one. They were not paid to do this work. They traveled at their own cost and gave their own time freely. Were they crazy?

No, they weren't crazy -- they were faithful! Faithful to a Lord who said, "Go into all the world," and "As you have done it unto the least of one of these, you have done it unto me." Well, "all the world" included the White Sand United Methodist Church and "the least of these" certainly included a small, elderly, mostly female, Native American congregation.

This gathering was the culmination of a conversation a year before between Volunteers In Mission staff members in Oklahoma and the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. These conversations gave birth to the idea that the two conferences might work together on projects within each state, in other states, or even beyond national boundaries.

As a result, two pastors, Dale Hensarling of Love Chapel UMC and Joe Hoover of the Ringgold-Castor UM Charge, decided to take the challenge to their congregations. The trip followed a lot of prayer, planning, and fund-raising.

Since building relationships was a major focus, we arrived looking forward to getting to know the people in Bennington. The fear for the Vacation Bible School melted as we had ten children the first day. By the final day, a church with no children had a VBS program with twenty children.

The work crews did a good job -- finishing much more work than we had planned to do. The trip was a success. Lives had been touched by the love of Christ. Our relationship started, we are considering another trip to finish the building and help the congregation.

Maybe you would like to be a Volunteer In Missioner. Crazy? Maybe. But it was our experience that as soon as we returned home we were ready to go again.

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume VI, Part 8, August 1998.

Copyright 1999 Dale Hensarling and Joe Hoover. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.