ARUMC Disaster Response Update – March 14, 2022

On December 10, 2021, a tornado ripped through northeast Arkansas affecting Newport, Trumann, Monette, Leachville, and Augusta.

The very next morning, the ARUMC coordinator’s executive disaster team drove the path and then shared word about the extent of the damage via the Volunteers in Mission & Disaster Response – Serving Arkansas & Beyond Facebook group.

Within 48 hours, early response teams were on the ground doing early assessments to check on the survivors and assist with food, information, etc. In Trumann, the ARUMC team along with the Christian Aid Ministries, joined with the Baptist team to clear vegetative debris.

On December 16, Sheri Matthews, ARUMC coordinator, attended a Ministerial Alliance meeting in Trumann. “This group of pastors are a great asset for this community. They have worked extremely hard to make sure that the survivors are taken care of,” shared Mathews.

The Trumann mayor organized a “work” day for December 19, and about 500 volunteers showed up to work.

The week after Christmas, the collective responding organizations hosted a Multi-Agency Resource Center. They came together under one roof to provide resources to make it easier for survivors to get the help needed.

At this point, the relief phase was deemed over and during this transitional time, the ARUMC teams were allowed to step back and take a breath because the survivors were safe. They worked in the background to raise money, find volunteers, and resources to begin the phase of recovery.

In mid-January, FEMA opened three Disaster Relief Centers that included 8 FEMA employees, 4 Small Business loan officers, and a few local resource representatives like churches, and an unemployment officer. These centers were open for 45 days.

The long-term recovery phase has begun and the ARUMC team is still recruiting case managers that will help guide the survivors in their journey to a safe, new future. Requests for assistance are coming in from survivors and the long-term recovery process should take place over the next 12-18 months.

On Sunday, March 6, 2022, storms moved through the state with winds up to 120 miles per hour leaving thousands of Entergy customers without power. There was some damage in the areas of Dover and Walnut Valley and communication is continuing for assistance.

If you or anyone in your church would like more information on how you can support or serve on the ARUMC Disaster Response/Volunteers in Mission teams, please contact Sheri Mathews, ARUMC Coordinator, at

Small Church Doing Big Things

Small Church Doing Big Things

Amy Ezell

Director, Center for Communication

Founded in 1836, Manchester United Methodist Church was one of the first Methodist churches established in southwest Arkansas. Sitting in Clark County about 9 miles from Arkadelphia, today’s Manchester UMC is different from yesterday’s church in many ways, but it still serves as a farming community hub and continues to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Left to right: Les Kent, Rodney Grant and John Haltom, all members of Manchester UMC

“I’ve never served a small country church before,” shared Dr. Russell Breshears, who was appointed by Bishop Gary Mueller to Manchester and HSU Wesley in June 2021. “Manchester is out in the middle of the country – in the pine woods, and especially since Covid hit Arkansas, the people are so hungry for connection and opportunities to serve. The hospitality and service to others here is just unreal, as they learned from their ancestors before them.”

Today’s Manchester is made up of generations of farm families from this area, including some who work as EMTs and volunteer firefighters. Manchester UMC has a long history of being a hands-on mission church, while working hard is not a new concept for them. “It was a little disconcerting one time, when several members got up in the middle of my sermon and left,” shared Breshears. “But I found out later that they were all answering a call for an emergency.”

A familiar story in rural churches, the members of Manchester never fail when it comes to helping a neighbor. Casseroles are delivered within an hour of finding out someone is sick.  Chickens are fed when owners are sick or on vacation. Decks are built, yard work is done, and now you can add trash pick-up to the list of service to community by the good people of Manchester.

Pictured left to right: Rodney Grant (member), Dr. Russ Breshears and Les Kent (member)

Lately, when passing through Manchester, you will have most certainly seen church members, Les Kent, Danny McClain, John Haltom and Rodney Grant picking up litter alongside Manchester Road. Approximately 50 bags of trash were picked up last week along this highway and Mr. McClain picked up more than 30 bags of the littered trash all by himself.

On Facebook, Mr. Kent shared, “At least for now Manchester Road is clean from its beginning all the way to the church! Mission accomplished! A small church doing big things!”

Indeed, Mr. Kent, you all are doing big things, indeed.

To learn more about Manchester UMC, you may join their Facebook group found here. Rev. Russell Breshears is the pastor and the church is located at 898 Manchester Road, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, 71923. Sunday School classes begin at 10 a.m. and Worship begins at 11 a.m on Sundays. All are welcome to be part of this church family!

Bellefonte UMC of Harrison is Celebrating its 150th Year in Ministry

Bellefonte UMC of Harrison is Celebrating its 150th Year in Ministry

Amy Ezell

Director, Center for Communication

Bellefonte UMC of Harrison is celebrating its 150th year in ministry. Their means of worship are casual, extending a true ‘come as you are’ spirit. With their blend of traditional and contemporary modes of worship, Bellefonte has a place for every walk of believer.

Bellefonte currently has about 10 people who worship in-person and averages 18+ people online. In addition, one of their tithing members worships online with them each week in Virginia.

Although the church has always been service-oriented, this small but mighty congregation lead by Pastor Susan Kramer is taking community outreach to greater heights.

When their practice of serving a weekly meal halted due to Covid, they tried another approach. The people of Bellefonte installed a Blessing Box, offering discreet and immediate access to a variety of non-perishable foods and personal necessities. Members refill the box three times a week with donations from the congregation and community at large.

Other outreach ministries include their frequently replenished Lending Library and monthly screening of a Christian movie for entire families. This event nurtures fellowship among everyone in town, members and non-members, while providing refreshments to all who come.

Pastor Susan Kramer’s passion for ministry is apparent. She leads with a servant’s heart and does not shy away from modern avenues of community care. Bellefonte UMC’s mission to feed the hungry also feeds the heart of Christ. The people of Harrison are undoubtedly in good hands.


These days, there is so much story sharing that is anxiety-ridden, shallow and lacking hope. We are thrilled to be able to offer the Great Reconnection; a collection of stories about vital congregations who are making disciples for Jesus Christ, that are equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.

Do you have a story to share?  Please send it to with any photos that we may share.

Texarkana United Methodists Deliver Valentines for Community Helpers

Texarkana United Methodists Deliver Valentines for Community Helpers

Package contents were donated by Texarkana FUMC members and were prepared by the children’s ministry.

Rev. Jaimie Alexander, lead Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Texarkana wanted to share some Valentine’s Day love with the community, and determined that some forgotten workers for the dual cities should be the recipients of this love.

On Valentine’s Day, Rev. Alexander, Rev. Robin Roark, Associate Pastor, and Penny Arnold, member, delivered 161 packages with goodies to the City of Texarkana sanitation employees and Waste Water Treatment employees.

“No one ever thinks about us and we are here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” shared a Waste Water Treatment employee, who was so surprised by the gift.

Each package was prepared by The Power Pak, which is a children’s ministry for 2nd through 6th graders at Texarkana FUMC. “The children put together all of the packages and we blessed each one this past Sunday during worship,” added Alexander.

Each package was packed full of snacks donated by members of the congregation, a Valentine’s Day message of thanks and information about the church.

Rev. Alexander and Rev. Roark were also able to share Valentines with the construction workers at the new Arkansas State Police headquarters next door to the church and employees of a local refrigeration company.

Rev. Alexander added, “God used a sanitation employee picking up trash in my neighborhood to birth this outreach to persons in our community. The congregation very enthusiastically supported this ministry and contributed so much to help fill gallon size bags of nuts, snack crackers, cookies, candy, power bars, and more. Our desire is to not to just go to church, but to BE THE CHURCH as we share the light and love of Jesus Christ in our community.”

Honoring Native American Heritage

Honoring Native American Heritage

By Amy Ezell

Director, Center for Communication

Rev. Dan Read

Each November, Native American Heritage Month is a special time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Natives. This time is set aside by United Methodists as an opportunity to reach out to indigenous groups in our communities and to learn about—and from—our Native sisters and brothers.

The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church is rich with Native American clergy and lay heritage.

Rev. George Odell, senior pastor of West Memphis FUMC, learned of his Native heritage through doing a study in genealogy. He learned that his ancestors immigrated to America from Canada. Rev. Odell is part of the Algonquin Nation.

Rev. Dan Read, pastor at Greers Chapel UMC and Stephens UMC, is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a federally recognized sovereign nation.

“Everyone in my family has been a registered tribe member going back to the final Dawes roll. Membership in my tribe is not based on blood quontum, but on lineage to an original Dawes roll member,” shared Rev. Read.

In October, a group of Arkansas United Methodist clergy and laity convened in Oklahoma City with the Oklahoma Indian Conference for the 5th annual Immersion experience. The purpose of this event was for those attending to learn more about Native American history, context and its unique perspectives.

Provided by Rev. Dan Read: This document was signed by Pierre Durant, the grandfather to Cassie Durant (grave photo). This document is the treaty of Doak’s Stand that ceded a portion of Choctaw land in Mississippi for most of western Arkansas. Unfortunately, Rev. Read’s Durant ancestors were not allowed to settle in the land.

Attending from the Arkansas Conference were Rev. Walt Garrett, Associate Pastor at Benton FUMC and his wife, Kenda Garrett and their daughters; Rev. Art Torphy, Associate Pastor at Village UMC in Hot Springs Village and his wife, Susan; Nechi Fullerton, of Canvas Community Church in Little Rock; and Paul and Belinda Jones of Benton FUMC.

The group from Arkansas visited the First Americans Museum that just opened in September 2021 and offers an experience of the collective histories of 39 distinctive First American Nations in Oklahoma. They also visited Standing Bear Park, Museum and Education Center in Ponca City, which honors its six area tribes: Osage, Pawnee, Otoe-Missouria Kaw, Tonkawa and Ponca.

Immersion concluded with a visit to the Sovereign Community School that emphasizes Indigenous culture and traditions to students while challenging the next generations to understand and affirm their roles as citizens of Native nations; activating and empowering healthy indigenous leaders and citizens of this country’s first nations.

“The closing ceremony was a very powerful experience that included cleansing and blessing with sage, fire and feathers,” shared Nechi Fullerton, member of Canvas Community Church.

When asked the purpose for himself, his family and two church members attending, Rev. Walt Garrett shared that “it was totally Holy Spirit-driven.”

“What began as an issue with no potable water for two days in Benton during the winter storm in February has now turned into a mission emphasis on water-insecurity issues on Native lands,” shared Rev. Garrett. “So far, we (Benton FUMC) have worked with the United Methodist Four Corners Native American Ministries in New Mexico to build 15 above ground water tanks… and we are planning a mission trip to Chewey, Oklahoma in mid-June to assist the Native community with water insecurity there,” he added.

With a desire to learn more about supporting indigenous heritage and community, connections made through the Native American mission focus of Benton FUMC are how Garrett became part of the Immersion experience.

The grave of Cassie Durant, Rev. Dan Read’s 3x grandmother, who was the first generation of his family born in Oklahoma. Her parents traveled the Trail of Tears.

When asked about how he currently embraces his Native heritage, Rev. Dan Read shared, “I have grown closer to my Native heritage over the years through my native friends from college, and my genealogical research.”

Recently Rev. Read has begun making regalia which is the traditional and often sacred clothing, accessories and artifacts worn or carried during various ceremonies.

He explained that, “Each piece (of regalia) has significance and is used by Powwow dancers with feathers that hold great significance among Native Americans. The hawk and eagle feathers are the most revered as they carry prayers high in the sky to the Creator.”

“Feathers are often given to honor accomplishments,” shared Read. “And by federal law, feathers of all native migratory birds cannot be bought, sold, or bartered with. They can only be possessed by Native Americans and gifted to other Natives.”

Rev. Read proudly shared that he is currently waiting for eagle feathers from the National Eagle Repository that he looks forward to giving to his daughter, Alyce, for her graduation and other accomplishments in life.

To learn more about Native American History Month, visit

To learn more about the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, visit

Written by Amy Ezell with contributions by Nechi Fullerton