Breaking free
Jonesboro ministry helps men conquer their vices

Men from the Breaking Bonds program pose for a group photo after working with Arkansas State University in Jonesboro for the day. || Photo provided by Casey Turner

According to pastor Casey Turner, there are two ways to look at the past mistakes in your life.

“You can either look at it as a curse and allow it to keep you where you are, or you can look at it as a blessing and training to minister to those who have not yet hit rock bottom,” Turner said.

Turner is the director of Breaking Bonds Ministry in Jonesboro. Together, with his wife Tiffanie, Breaking Bonds help the community and Craighead County in breaking free from addictions such as drugs, alcohol, anger, and food.

“God put it into our hearts to start a ministry that not only taught the freedom that is in Christ but also to help others by teaching life skills through the word of God,” Turner said. “…We truly desire to teach people that there is a better way.”

Breaking Bonds Ministry is a dual treatment facility through their outreach ministry and their residential ministry, which began about a year and a half ago.

“My husband and I have the desire to those that are struggling and are at a point in their lives where they want to turn their lives around, but just don’t have the resources for that,” Tiffanie Turner said. “We have both gone through an addiction, and we know what it is like to be at rock bottom and not have the tools you need or to not have the resources available to help you pull out of that.”

Casey Turner said he and his wife met in 2009, at the end of a long season of drug abuse.

“Tiffanie was in drug court, battling to keep her freedom, and I was still in my addiction,” Casey said. “We were together a year when we turned our lives over to Jesus Christ, and that’s when everything began to change.

“As we grew together in the Spirit, we felt called to be testimonies of what the Lord can do in your life when you surrender all to him.”

Today, the couple has two children, and Casey serves as a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Jonesboro and is a business developer for “one of the largest glass manufacturers in the United States.” He said he and his wife just bought their first home and he recently received his driver’s license back after 13 years.

“I can tell you this, what it took me 26 years to destroy, only took God five years to repair,” Casey said. “God is mighty for tearing down the strongholds of bondage that we carry in our lives.”

The group gathers for a regular Bible study at the Breaking Bonds house. || Photo provided by Casey Turner

The residential ministry for Breaking Bonds is a seven-month program, during which, men go through discipleship training. The men must come to a Tuesday night worship service and interview to be received into the ministry.

“They are learning how to be a part of the church and becoming productive members of society by learning life skills here,” Casey said.

Part of the program includes life skill training, such as parenting classes, financial classes, marriage classes, resume training, work skills training, and business classes. By the last month, Tiffanie and her husband work with the men on an exit plan.

“We have found, they can complete a program, but if they don’t have a positive atmosphere to go back to, they aren’t successful,” Tiffanie said. “So we try to put that in place before they ever leave.”

Tiffanie, who serves as the chief operating officer for Breaking Bonds, said the residential program is for men, 18 years or older, but the Turners said they are working toward having a women’s facility in the future.

“It is an opportunity to show the grace we have been given,” Tiffanie said. “And that’s what we really try to do. We try to be their accountability and teach them a new way to live.”

Tiffanie estimates in the almost two years since the program started there have been 80 to 100 participants. She said one of their first graduates is now in seminary in Kentucky.

“We are helping the poverty-stricken communities in Craighead County break through to a better way of life,” Casey said. “By helping them find jobs, develop positive life skills and give assistance where it is most needed.”

For Breaking Bonds Ministry, the outreach program is an opportunity to minister and “to be His hands and feet.”

“People who have been in church, but have drifted away for whatever reason, we have seen them get plugged back in,” Tiffanie said. “And those who didn’t ‘fit in,’ we have seen them come into a service and end up staying.”

Part of their outreach includes a free meal every Tuesday night before worship services at the church, a feed the hungry outreach about four times a year, where the ministry provides hot dogs, passes out Bibles and prays with people.

“We do jailhouse stocking for the inmates every year at Christmas,” Casey said. “The bags include socks, Bibles, information about the ministry and stamped envelopes so they can write their families.”

Tiffanie said they make almost 400 stockings every year.

Casey said they rely entirely on donations to “continue to offer such a refuge for men with addiction.”

“We truly need support from the community,” Casey said.

For more information, visit www.bbministriesinc.org.

Planting the seeds of success: How a simple community garden grew into more than anyone imagined

Residents and volunteers of Stepping Stone Sanctuary pose for a photo outside of the shelter’s community garden. || Photo provided by Jeff Weaver

Daniel Shuburte was homeless and a drug addict when he met Jeff Weaver with the Stepping Stone Sanctuary in Trumann, Arkansas.

“He helped me get off the streets and got me off drugs,” Shuburte said. “I stayed at the ministry for about eight months, and he helped me get the job at Aaron’s, where I am currently the account manager.”

Shuburte was one of the first men to come into the ministry to work off his community service hours. According to Weaver, he ended up becoming a resident.

“He has a huge success story,” Weaver said. “He came off the streets, and I begged the store to give him a chance and a job, and he has worked his way up to manager. He is our very first success story.”

Shuburte said, at first, it was a hard adjustment, coming off the drugs. However, he noted Weaver kept him busy, “instead of spending my days out, doing nothing.”

“It has meant a lot,” Shuburte said. “Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would still be on the streets. It means a lot to me.”

He thanked the ministry for not only his recovery but also his faith.

“Faith had a lot to do with it,” Shuburte said. “Being surrounded with those type of people, it really helped me. Knowing that there are people that want me to do better, it drove me to do better.

Stepping Stone Sanctuary, located at 912 W. Speedway, serves as a homeless shelter, food pantry and soup kitchen. It started as a community garden, but within a year, the shelter was built.

“It has grown into a massive thing,” Weaver said. “It has gotten unreal, to be truthful with you.”

About four years ago, the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church challenged its churches to become more involved with the community as well as help reduce the number of hungry children in the state.

“The first thing that was said, ‘Let’s start a community garden,’” Weaver, who is the lead pastor at Trumann First United Methodist Church, said. “Immediately, our people jumped up, and in like three days, we had the city involved.

“The city donated basically a whole city block, where they tore down a bunch of houses, and they donated that for us to use as a community garden.”

Weaver said within a week, they broke ground and started planting a garden. He said the plan was to start small, but “we started big.”

“The first year, we handed out like maybe 1,000 pounds of vegetables,” Weaver said. “The need was so big, we built a little produce stand, and we would bag up the vegetables.

“People were lining up to get those bag of vegetables, and the line got as long as the whole block. We were running out of food.”

Mary Lewis Dassinger said Weaver’s ministry is more or less an off-shoot of the 200,000 Reasons Mission, in which she is the project coordinator.

“Jeff decided to plant a community garden to provide fresh produce to families in need and from that community garden, he has created an enormous ministry,” Dassinger said. “He also works to provide food for the children on the weekends and provide community meals.”

The 200,000 Reasons Mission is an initiative of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church and began in 2014.

“When this initiative started, an estimated 200,000 kids faced food insecurity, and as of May, that number has been reduced to 163,700,” Dassinger said. “We love Jeff’s story, his heart and his compassion.

“He sees a need, and he meets it. He keeps working and has this energy that many people don’t have. He is really an inspiration.”

The sign marking the location of the Stepping Stone Sanctuary community garden, a ministry of Trumann First UMC. || Photo provided by Jeff Weaver

Bishop Gary Mueller with the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church said Weaver’s vision was to care for the hungry and the homeless people in Truman.

“Feeding hungry kids is an important part, but the whole ministry is trying to deal with a much bigger issue,” Mueller said. “It just happens when people are open to God’s love and are headed the same way, we can do important work.”

Dassinger said Mueller was responsible for the initiative after wanting a common mission and having members put their faith in action to have a real impact in the state of Arkansas.

“Methodist churches in every county are doing something to help feed hungry children,” Dassinger said. “For some, it is just making a donation to the food bank or pantry, but for others, it is providing food for the weekend for students to take home in their backpacks. Some are offering community gardens, cooking skills, financial and budgeting skills.

“…Jeff is a bright star in all of that with the Stepping Stone Sanctuary, showing the impact that small churches can make in large ways.”

A year after opening the garden, Weaver became the chaplain for the Trumann Police Department, and while working with the officers, he got to see the need for the homeless.

“I actually found a tent city,” Weaver said. “We have a lot of abandoned homes in Trumann, and we had people sleeping in those abandon homes.

“We saw the need real quick to do something to help these people.”

Within two months after forming a committee with members of his congregation as well as people from other churches, Weaver found a building and opened a homeless shelter.

“We didn’t know how we were going to fund it; we were going on faith,” Weaver said. “We started working, and people started giving us donations. Columbia Forest donated all the plywood and lumber that we could possibly use to build new walls, and people gave us mattresses.”

This is the third year for the shelter and Weaver said while the numbers run up and down this time of year, the shelter can hold up to 60 people. Residents don’t have to pay rent, but they do have to attend church on Sundays and provide that day’s bulletin as proof.

“I think it is a great place,” Shuburte, who now serves on the ministry’s board, said. “If you take it seriously, and take Jeff seriously, he will help you.

Produce is collected outside of Stepping Stone Sanctuary. Donations are used to supply food to residents as well as the ministries soup kitchen. || Photo provided by Jeff Weaver

“It helped me a lot. I had nothing. The Methodist church and some of the people in the community provided me with clothes, food, and work. They taught me work ethics and helped me get a job.

“I’m proud that I was able to be there. It changed my life.”

Weaver said so many people have jumped in to help them, including other churches in the area.

“I used to have to do all the pickups, but now we have church members going and picking up the food, and we have had a huge increase in our church attendance,” Weaver said.

Weaver is in his eighth year as pastor at Trumann First United Methodist Church. He now serves as the chaplain and a part-time officer for the Poinsett County Sheriff’s Office.

“I have never seen something grow and grow so fast,” Weaver said. “What we have acquired in three years has been mind-boggling — it grew too fast.

“We outgrew our finance; we have to hustle to get grants. Now we have recurring grants, and those are enough to pay our bills.”

Weaver said this was a ministry that was started by faith.

“We had no money when we started this,” Weaver said. “We just knew there was a need, so we prayed about it continuously.

“If this is your will, tell us what to do, and we will be your hands and your feet.”

Warm clothes for cold months: Hempstead County Closet provides everyday necessities for county residents

The Baby Room provides clothing, shoes, and even toys to parents who want to give their toddler the amenities they need. || Photo provided by Angie Kidd

One of the biggest questions prior to the opening of the Hempstead County Closet in Hope, was how was it going to be filled.

“That was the scary part of it,” Sarah Carrillo, co-coordinator for the closet, said. “People would ask us, ‘Who is going to fill this house? I know this is a good idea, but I don’t know if y’all are going to be able to fill a house with enough stuff.”

However, despite how scary it was, Carrillo and her cousin, Angie Kidd, prayed about it and “left it in His hands.”

“[God] has filled this house,” Carrillo said. “There have been so many groups involved and so many donations; we are literally the hands and feet of Christ.

“Through every denomination, all the way across, it is awesome to have a common goal that everybody is working towards. It was definitely a God thing, but it was also a community thing, led by Him. It is just amazing.”

The Hempstead County Closet is a nonprofit that assists families and children with clothes, necessities and other items. Kidd said it is for everyday necessity items including pajamas, warm coats, comforters, blankets, and pillows, as well as hygiene products. She said the response to the needs of children in the community has been overwhelming.

“This was a dream Sarah and I both had a year before it was put into place,” Kidd said. “God has continued to put everything and every person in the path to make this succeed.”

The house is open to parents who are in-between jobs, foster families, or families who have been through a traumatic experience such as a house fire or other disasters.

“We are doing for Him, working for Him and we are working for His children,” Kidd said. “God is showing us that there is hope and love.”

The house, which is located at 601 Hwy 355 West, opened Aug. 1. The building itself belongs to Spring Hill United Methodist Church and was previously used as the church’s parsonage and as a rental house. Kidd, the wife of pastor Revel Kidd, said they live in the town and don’t need the house.

“We needed a purpose for it and it just all went perfectly,” Angie Kidd said.

“It was completely a God thing,” Carrillo said. “Angie and I had talked and had been dreaming about it, and it really felt like God was laying this on our heart.

“I have young children, and when I look and see how extremely blessed they are compared to the kids beside them, it breaks my heart. There should be a way to help all these kids.”

Carrillo said she has three children, all under the age of 14.

“We just don’t want kids to be left behind for any reason,” she said. “We want to help meet those needs and fill in the gaps.”

Current needs for the closet include:

  • Quarters for the laundromat (a continuous need)
  • New socks for men, women and children
  • New underwear for men and women
  • Coats
  • Clear Plastic Storage Totes
  • Pillows
  • Sheets for twin beds and cribs
  • Blankets for twin beds
  • Diapers, Pull-Ups and Depends

For more information or how to donate, visit the Hempstead County Closet Facebook page. For families in need, it is by appointments only, according to Kidd.

“We sit down and figure out how much of what you need and we keep a record of who uses it and what they receive,” Kidd said. “So we don’t run into someone abusing the system.”

Kidd said the Department of Human Services – DHS – might send a family to them or a family can contact her on their own. So far, there have been close to 60 families that have come through, and she said they have been contacted a lot more frequently as of late.

Kidd said they have also worked closely with The CALL in Hempstead County, which just opened Oct. 28.

Laura Bramlett, the family support coordinator for The CALL in Hempstead County, said when they were planning on opening their branch, Kidd and Carrillo offered the house to help foster families.

“Normally, when The CALL opens, it has what is known as The CALL mall, and that is virtually what the closet is,” Bramlett said. “Foster parents can come and get clothes, formula, diapers and whatever else they may need.

“It is just a place to get it for free instead of going to a store.”

The Men’s Room of the Hempstead County Closet provides clothing to boys and men in need of a new shirt or warm jacket for the winter. || Photo provided by Angie Kidd

Bramlett, who is currently a legal guardian for an 18-year-old girl, said she has used the closet to get two new pairs of shoes for her daughter.

“They are constantly in contact with DHS and finding out the needs of the children in the area,” Bramlett said. “Once we are able to train our own foster families, we will use them a lot more.”

Bramlett’s husband, Daniel, is the lead pastor at First Baptist Church in Hope. She said while they were living in Texas, they were foster parents for two years, but are not currently licensed for Arkansas.

“One of the best things about this closet, is that so many different churches are working together, it has been exciting,” Bramlett said. “God is bringing together the churches – no matter the denomination – together to meet the needs of children.”

Carillo said they are following something that God laid before them and getting to watch Him work. She also said meeting people has been rewarding.

“Seeing a child hug a T-shirt or a pair of pajamas like it is Christmas morning is pretty awesome,” Carrillo said.

Kidd said there has a tremendous outpour from Hempstead County.

“This is only due to the love and compassion of people of Hempstead County uniting together to make this happen,” Kidd said. “It has been and will be such a blessing to so many. Sarah and I are the coordinators, but we have several volunteers that assist us with serving in the closet.”

As cousins, Kidd and Carrillo have always been close and worked on several projects together.

“To do this with her has been so awesome,” Carrillo said. “It is something we have talked about for the past year and felt Him leading us to it.

“To see it actually bear fruit is amazing.”

United Methodist community coffeehouse serves up hot drinks, friendly faces in Arkansas

A Java Shake (pictured) and a Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte are just a few of the delicious coffee drinks served up at Holy Grounds. || Photo provided by Holy Grounds Community Coffeehouse

In February of 2017, a small group of volunteers from Forrest City First United Methodist Church traveled to Tanzania to work with local missionaries who have planted churches in the area. During their trip, they met some of the preachers for those planted churches. It was there where Maurica Dooley came up with the idea for a community coffee house.

Dooley, a member of the church, said one of the pastors is majoring in theology and graduates from school this year. The church has pledged to pay his tuition.

“Part of what we are hoping to accomplish with this coffee house is for the proceeds or profits to go towards our partnership with the missions in Tanzania,” Dooley said. “So we want to be self-sustaining and actually make a profit.”

Holy Grounds Community Coffeehouse, located at 620 E. Broadway, opened in January and is found inside a newly remodeled parsonage house.

“It got to a point where we either needed to tear it down or do something with it,” Dooley said. “So many of our members didn’t want to tear it down.

“So we were trying to come up with something to do with this building, so we came up with this coffee house idea.”

The house is roughly more than 100 years old and has 12-foot ceilings and wood floors, according to Dooley. Last year, the church celebrated its 100th anniversary and held a capital campaign to raise money for maintenance for the church as well as the remodel work for the coffee house.

“We exceeded our goal actually quite a bit,” Dooley said. “We had several maintenance things for the church, but we also used the money to make the house into a coffee house.

“That’s what paid for that.”

Forrest City United Methodist Church’s pastor, the Rev. Dixon Platt, said whoever was in charge of remodeling the house did a fantastic job.

“It was a group effort,” Dooley said.

Dooley, who volunteers at the coffee house, said they reach out to the community and are a presence in the city through the coffee house.

“It is for people who wouldn’t necessarily enter through the front door of our church; this was sort of like a backdoor idea I guess,” Dooley said. “It is an outreach to the community for people who don’t have a connection to a church.”

a Delta BLT with pimento cheese, one of many tasty offerings at Holy Grounds. || Photo provided by Holy Grounds Community Coffeehouse

She said there had been a couple of people that had come to visit the church that were initially introduced to it through the coffee house.

“We also have a pay-it-forward jar for people to put their change in,” Dooley said. “Then when underprivileged people come in and don’t have enough money to buy a coffee or a sandwich, we use those funds from the pay-it-forward jar to give them a sandwich, coffee or something like that.

“We have a few regulars who come get a sandwich or something, and that may be the best meal they get that week.”

The idea of the pay-it-forward jar came from their full-time employee, Janet Peckham. Dooley said she is a “God-send.”

“She is awesome and a perfect fit,” Dooley said. “We have volunteers that help during the rush, and we also have a part-time employee that relieves her when she needs it.”

The coffee house is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is open until 6 p.m. on Wednesdays to accommodate the church crowd. The restaurant offers sandwiches, soups, cakes, and muffins and has different specials each week. The coffee house gets its beans from Westrock Coffee Company, which operates its own mission by using direct trade with the farmers who grow the beans. For more information, visit www.holygroundscommunitycoffeehouse.com.

“The community has really embraced it,” Dooley said. “They are very tickled to have a coffee shop in this town.

“Before, the only coffee offered around here was from McDonald’s. So it has been very well received and very supported by our community.”

Platt said the coffee house gets many customers coming off the interstate.

“They have stopped by for coffee or whatever they might want to pick up,” he said. “We are centrally located downtown, directly across from the post office.

“It is a food establishment, and those are hard to establish, but we are doing well.”

The coffee house has housed several committee meetings such as the downtown revitalization committee and other groups, according to Platt.

He said Briuana Green, who graduated from Forrest City High School and graduated from Harvard University recently, held a book signing for her book, “The Fall.”

“Our small groups from church use it after hours because it is a quieter spot than most,” Platt said. “We also have local artists display their artwork in the building.”

“A young man from our church has sat with his guitar and done a set,” Dooley said. “It has been very nice, and it is open for all kinds of people or anything the community would like to use it for.”

Holy Grounds Community Coffeehouse is located at 620 E. Broadway in Forrest City, Arkansas. || Photo provided by Holy Grounds Community Coffeehouse

Platt said the church’s mission statement is to, “Make disciples of Jesus Christ by bringing people in, building people up and sending people out.”

“Holy Grounds is part of making that mission happen,” Platt said. “I think God was working in and influencing the ministry from the beginning when the seed was planted in Tanzania, then through the planning, to the fundraising, to the remodel and now through the menu, the service, the volunteers, and the staff,” Platt said. “Each one of those steps has potential pitfalls, numerous pitfalls, but God works and influenced the dreamers, the planners, the donors, and now the operators.

“Holy Grounds is reaching people inside and outside the church including our neighbors in need who stop by for a meal, a coffee, and a friendly face.”

Service, love, opportunity: More than 100 years of educational achievement at Lydia Patterson Institute

Lydia Patterson Institute students listen intently to their teacher during a class at the Institute. || Photo courtesy of the Lydia Patterson Institute

There are 322 students currently enrolled at the Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Texas, and around 90 percent of those students live in Juarez, Mexico and make the daily trek — about a two-hour walk — on a regular basis.

“As I observe the drive these students have to make their lives and those of their families’ lives better, I have come to the realization that these children do not take this opportunity for granted,” Ernesto Morales, the principal at Lydia Patterson Institute, said. “Some students will be here at seven in the morning to work hours that are required for the scholarship they have been given.

“Some of those same students will be here late into the evening for student activities and sports. Any free time after school will be used for homework and studying.

“When we think of determination, I can think of few instances where I see more.”

Stephen Coburn, the Northwest District Superintendent for the Arkansas Conference, traveled to El Paso to visit the Institute last year. He had the opportunity to go to the border and walk with the kids.

“Their day starts at 4 o’clock in the morning in order to get to the border,” Coburn said. “The students that I had an opportunity to interact with are very committed to their education. They are just like students here in the United States.

“They are eager to learn, hopeful for the future, dreaming dreams and trying to pursue them.”

The Lydia Patterson Institute dates back to 1913 and is the only institution of the United Methodist Church that sits right on the border, just a few blocks from the U.S. and Mexico border in El Paso. It is also the only institution that predominantly serves Hispanics and is supported by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, according to Socorro De Anda, the president of Lydia Patterson Institute.

“We are a middle school and high school, grades 7 through 12,” De Anda said. “Seventy percent of our students cross the border every single day, and half of those students are U.S. citizens living across the border, and the other half are Mexican students that have student visas.

“Our mission is to help students that might not be able to continue their education because of a lack of resources or a lack of opportunity.”

De Anda said in the late 1800s, there was an influx of Mexican people coming into south El Paso, fleeing from the Mexico Revolution and settling in southern El Paso. She said those families had children of school age, but they were not allowed in the schools in El Paso, because the schools were for residents only.

Students pose for a group photo during a volunteer project at the Institute. Every year, 98 percent of graduating seniors at LPI go on to attend college. || Photo courtesy of Stephen Coburn

Lydia Patterson, who was a member of what is now Trinity-First United Methodist in downtown El Paso, took it upon herself to travel to the barrio and teach English and the Bible to these children in their homes. When she died, her husband gave $75,000 to the Methodist Church and asked that a school be built in memory of his wife.

“We bring them here, we teach them English, and we put them through high school, and we send them off to college,” De Anda said. “We are sending about 98 percent of our seniors to college every year, and many of them go through United Methodist colleges or universities that work with us.”

She said the minute a student enrolls at LPI, “we start training them.”

“You are not here to graduate high school and go to work,” she said. “You are here to go to college.

“Their mindset from the very beginning, that’s what they are going to do. When the time comes, if they can’t afford it, we are going to make sure they go to college.”

“These kids are like any other kids anywhere in the United States,” Coburn said. “They are just teenagers, normal kids trying to get an education, but they work hard.

“The commitments they have to make is just incredible. One hundred percent of their graduates go on to college somewhere. They have very high academic standards.

“Talking to the kids, not one student complained about how hard they have to work. They were just grateful for the opportunity.”

Currently, the Lydia Patterson Institute is undergoing a capital campaign to raise money for renovations for the school and build a new chapel. De Anda said the school has outgrown its current chapel.

“The buildings were built in 1960 and are more than 50 years old, so they need to be renovated,” she said. “We need to make sure the school remains here for the next 100 years.

“… We have to have two chapel services because we don’t fit in our old chapel. I want a place where we can worship together under one roof.”

According to the website, the existing facilities will be stripped to the bare structure and rebuilt to the latest standards, including “updated lighting, information technology and accessibility needs.” The new chapel will also house a dining area, specialized classrooms and student gathering areas, according to the website. For more information, visit www.lpi-elp.com.

The school holds chapel services on a weekly basis, and the students are required to take Bible classes are part of their graduation requirements.

“This is a place where one feels like you are making a difference,” De Anda, who has been the president for 26 years, said. “You are making a difference in the life of a student; you are changing their life.

“I have a background in finance, and people ask me why I gave that up for a nonprofit, and I always say, ‘I don’t think I made that decision. I think somebody up there made it for me.’

“I feel like I can make a difference in the lives of our students and sometimes their entire families.”

Mackey Yokem, the grants administrator for the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, said LPI is “basically a college prep school for young people in the El Paso area.”

“We have been involved with them in raising money,” he said. “We don’t have input in their operation, but just help provide a major capital campaign.”

He said the Institute is trying to raise $15 million, including $500,000 from the Arkansas conference, and are probably a third of the way there.

“Their overall campaign, which is spread across the eight states of our jurisdiction, still has about a year to go,” Yokem said.

Bishop Gary Mueller of the Arkansas Conference expressed the need to support the Lydia Patterson Institute in their fundraising campaign.

“We, as Arkansas United Methodists, are called to create vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world,” Bishop Mueller said. “By supporting the Lydia Patterson Institute, we are answering this call. Join me as we learn more about this powerful ministry in the upcoming months and how we may further support the work being done to change young lives each and every day.”

Michael Roberts, the senior pastor at Conway First United Methodist Church, said he had the opportunity in 2017 to experience the school first-hand. He was impressed by their mission and their work in the community.

“I was impressed with the number of students who do go to college and graduate from college,” Roberts said. “… I was very impressed by the work ethic of the students and their willingness to get up early in the morning and make their way to the border.

“It takes a lot of commitment to do that. They are motivated by their education and the possibilities and opportunities that it is going to give them.”

Lydia Patterson Institute students work on classroom assignments using tablets provided by the school. || Photo courtesy of the Lydia Patterson Institute

LPI is not a seminary school, but it does offer what is known as the Lay Ministry program. with 25 students currently enrolled in the program. The program affords students the opportunity to preach, lead worship, and serve in churches and communities both locally and around the country.

Karla Delgadillo, a student at LPI, was assigned to Conway First Methodist Church as an intern last year. Roberts said she was one of several students that came to Arkansas that summer.

“We were blessed to share life with her and experience her culture through her,” Roberts said. “She made presentations at the church, but she also went to a leadership institute at Hendrix College.

“She wasn’t here to work, necessary, but she was here to share her life and experience life in the Arkansas Conference.”

Morales said LPI holds firm in the belief that “we are here to demonstrate Christ by how we love and serve.”

“Many of our students serve as interns in churches across the country and also make missionary trips to other countries to serve in whatever capacity is needed,” Morales said. “Our student activities participate in helping the needy both here (in El Paso) and our sister city, Ciudad Juarez. Service and love, coupled with educational opportunity, make up the philosophy of Lydia Patterson Institute.

“God is definitely at work in the lives of these students and their families.”