Fighting Hunger Through PhotosTwo Pastors Use Photography Passion to Raise Money for 200,000 Reasons

Fighting Hunger Through Photos
Two Pastors Use Photography Passion to Raise Money for 200,000 Reasons

The Revs. Rodney Steele and Stephen Coburn are more than just clergy members who serve the Arkansas Annual Conference office as District Superintendents; they’re also skilled photographers who capture the beauty of nature and God’s creation in stunning still images.

Steele — who retired this year and previously served as the Southwest District Superintendent — and Coburn — who is currently the Northwest District Superintendent — have been good friends for years. Their photography has mainly been more of a hobby than a way of making a living.

But recently, the two decided to put their photo skills to good use, and have been holding photo exhibitions in Rogers, Arkansas, raising money for various causes through the sale of their prints.

One of their big projects has been raising money for 200,000 Reasons, a ministry of the Arkansas Annual Conference dedicated to reducing and eventually ending the number of hungry children in Arkansas.

Coburn has so far held three shows at Hark and Herald Co. in downtown Rogers. Through these three shows, he has been able to raise about $2,500 for 200,000 Reasons.

At this year’s Annual Conference, Steele and Coburn setup a booth where they sold prints of their photos as well as signed the photos for those who wanted them to be autographed.

“We raised just over $2,000 during conference,” Coburn said. He said his personal goal is to raise $6,000 for 200,000 Reasons in 2019.

The money raised for 200,000 Reasons will be used to provide meals for hungry children in Arkansas.

Steele has also used his breathtaking photos of Arkansas landscapes and U.S. National Park scenes to gather donations for 200,000 Reasons, but he is also raising money for a passion project that is close to his heart.

“I’ve raised $6,000 towards the $9,000 needed for a freshwater well in the North Katanga Annual Conference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Steele said. “While in retirement, I hope to raise the remaining $3,000 needed for a freshwater well as well as continue raising money for 200,000 Reasons.”

Coburn’s next show will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 at the Arkansas United Methodist Foundation Building in Little Rock, Arkansas. Steele will be showcasing his work the weekend of Nov. 15 at Hark and Herald Co. in Rogers, Arkansas.

You can check out some of Coburn and Steele’s work below. Click on an image to zoom in.

Home Repair Mission Assists Residents in Rural Community

Home Repair Mission Assists Residents in Rural Community

Paul told his disciples to sew the seed and let God take it from there. That’s the drive behind Russ Terwilliger and Bud Leach’s Adona and Wye Mountain United Methodist Parish Home Repair Mission.

Leach and Terwilliger assist the community by building wheelchair ramps and laying down hardwood floors in trailers.

“We don’t do it for any kind of specific gain or purpose in that sense, other than to show His love and give some indication that God has not forgotten about them,” Terwilliger said. “We want to them to know that there is someone out there who really cares about you.

“Coming to church is not necessarily the only response to our mission. A lot of people who live in the places we have to help are pretty self-sufficient and alone, and I think sometimes they like the idea of being alone.”

Terwilliger said he doesn’t think he is called to bring people to church but instead is called to express God’s love and leave it at that.

“I feel called to do this,” Leach said. “I told my pastor, I feel kind of guilty because I get something out of it also. I don’t know if I’m doing it for the right reasons, because I love the carpentry work – so I guess we all win.

“I love to help people. The people we work for really need it and can’t afford it. We’ve got two small churches involved in this, and they finance us pretty well if a person can’t do it themselves.”

Leach said they never charge for labor or anything like that, “We just go out and have fun doing it; that’s what we do.”

Terwilliger said while they are filling a practical need, they are also serving a spiritual need.

“We are meeting with people, praying with them and talking to them,” Terwilliger said. “For most people, they are in a place where family or their church have not been helping them, and they are in a place they need to know somebody cares about them.

“Seeing them respond to somebody helping them is really touching. In essence, we are encouraged, and I think this happens in this situation a lot; our hearts are encouraged a lot more because it is just a great experience.”

Richard Gifford, the pastor at both Adona and Wye UMC, said there are four pragmatic ingredients to its fruitfulness and they are grounded in prayerful guidance of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.

“First, the churches in the Horizons Parish are increasingly growing into an identity and culture of class-meeting-based mission stations,” Gifford said. “Our campuses are not destinations for the community. They are launching points for watching over one another in love beyond the parking lot. They are catapults for the mission to our neighbors.”

Second, Gifford said he is increasingly focused on meeting the real needs of real people who live in their mission field.

“We are the only county in the district experiencing a net population decline, and we are the only county in the district with widespread rural poverty,” Gifford said. “Real people who really live in our mission field live in unsafe homes that adversely affect their health, education, vocational opportunities, and overall well-being.”

Third, Gifford said the women, the men and the students who are making the Horizons Parish home are increasingly embracing the Christ-like virtues of generosity, loving and serving.

“We are blessed with a community of women, men, and students, like Russ, who aren’t afraid to get sweaty and dirty,” Gifford said. “Because people are willing to invest themselves in our mission, our staffing expenses are low.”

A wheelchair ramp built for Mark’s Chapel UMC in West Little Rock shown to the left is similar to the ramps that Russ Terwilliger and Bud Leach build for the Adona and Wye Mountain United Methodist Parish Home Repair Mission.
|| Photo provided by Richard Gifford

Fourth, Gifford said in addition to generosity with time and expertise, the folks who compose the Parish generously invest material in our mission.

“Many of our Parish households don’t exceed the median income for Arkansas, however they are good stewards of what they have and are generous with it,” he said. “That makes it possible for us to really love Perry County in ways that many churches our size only aspire to.

“Great people genuinely committed to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, bent to the guidance of the Holy Spirit; that’s what allows the home restoration mission to Perry County to bear fruit.”

Prior to working with Leach, Terwilliger worked with a guy in Russellville for the Help Network. He said it was an organization that paid people’s utilities and helped them find jobs.

“There were also a lot of people that needed practical help, and that’s where I started, and I did that for 10 years,” Terwilliger said. “When I came here, and found out that Bud wanted to do the same thing, we just talked about what our vision was, and it was pretty close to the same thing.”

Terwilliger said he is not much of a carpenter, but most of the stuff that they do is basic. He said they mostly tear out floors and put in new floors – nothing highly skilled.

“I’m a big ol’ guy, and my knees are worn out,” Leach said. “But even though (Russ) is a little older, he is in fantastic shape. He can get down to the cracks and crevices, and he’s a lot better on the PR side of it.

“I love people, but I’m not a real big talker. He’s really good talking to the people. But don’t get me wrong, he’s also good at helping me.”

Leach said recently they replaced 90% of the floor in the trailer of this one woman’s house. He said she had no way of repairing it, so she appreciated it big time.

“She was so sincere and grateful that it just sort of got to me,” Leach said. “That one probably stands out to me as much as any we have done.”

Terwilliger said that even though it is not required, he likes to ask people to donate to the church.

“We don’t make it a priority, but we really recommended a donation or something, because unfortunately, if people get something free, they tend to think it’s worthless,” Terwilliger said. “… Materials of a typical job cost about $300, and we don’t use anything but treated wood, because it lasts longer than the trailer or whatever we are working on.”

Leach, who was a builder for more than 20 years, said they will always use treated lumber that will not rot, even if it gets wet. “That way, they don’t have to deal with it again for 15 or 20 years,” he said.

“The fruit we see in changed lives, both our neighbors and our own, is encouraging,” Gifford said. “My Parish pastor partner, Bill Nowell, and I often muse with one another how blessed we are to serve a loving, generous, mission-minded people who have made reaching our mission field a passion.”

Room 29:11 Cares for Foster Families in Morrilton

Room 29:11 Cares for Foster Families in Morrilton

Sirina Robinett said she has never seen a path so clear.

“I used to be sad about the church, not really sure where I belonged, but God put me in the church, the Methodist church, and now it is clear,” Robinett said. “I consider myself Methodist now — this where we need to be.

“It fell into our lap in such an obvious way.”

Robinett said she comes from a Baptist background, and she said right away what stuck out to her when she went to the Methodist church was how family oriented the church was.

“If there was a need, they were pretty much aware of it, and the church was immediately on it,” she said. “The congregation loves helping out those needs.”

Robinett is a member of Morrilton First United Methodist Church and is the founder of the Room 29:11 ministry, which provides supplies for foster care guardians.

“It turned into something we couldn’t have imagined, and we took the concept and ran with it,” Robinett said. “One of my coworkers found herself in a difficult situation with her daughter and was going through some rough times with drug addiction, and her granddaughter ended up in foster care.

“The steps to go through guardianship are almost impossible to do by yourself, and she didn’t have a lot of extra resources,” Robinett said. “Within a few days, they are up for adoption, and you may or may not see your grandchildren again.

“She would have been up for adoption if she had stayed in foster care. The family is united differently now because she has been with grandma.”

Sirina Robinett, middle, receiving a Walmart committee grant for Room 29:11. Robinett was presented the check by Dalton Grimes (left), her son-in-law, and her grandson (right), Hunter Grimes. || Photo provided by Sirina Robinett

When senior pastor Katie Pearce first arrived at Morrilton three years ago, people started talking to her about the house next door and how it was primarily used for storage for Christmas decorations, and other things for the church, but it was mostly filled with a lot of junk.

“We had two groups in the church,” Pearce said. “One side believed the house was worthless and another who saw the potential and an opportunity to use it for something other than a storage shed.

“Once we presented the idea for the promise house, there was almost no discussion. It was very clear this is why we have this house.”

Pearce said the house got started when “we had several families in our church who were foster parents or hoping to adopt.”

“The amount of clothing, diapers, cribs — families are really on their own when they foster, so that is how it started,” Pearce said. “In our upstairs space, we had a Sunday School class that we have never used, but it was mostly focused on clothing and other items.”

Pearce said the house was somewhat modeled after the Joesph’s House of Russellville, which she said has been helpful in getting the Room 29:11 ministry going.

Robinett said it had been an answer to so many prayers and “I was moved to tears when I heard what the church had done for us.”

“We serve DHS as well as the families as a children’s closet and to give children a more home-like environment,” Robinett said. “When children are taken out of their homes, they usually have to sit in the DHS office, while they are making phone calls and finding a placement — it is a horrible, traumatic experience.

“We are not okay with kids sleeping on the floor or the couch. This house will provide clothing and other amenities such as bedrooms for children to go to sleep in the most home-like environment we can provide them.”

Robinett said they just ordered a kitchen nook hutch so the children can have dinner at a table, too.

“We are basically begging overcrowded homes to make room for this child because we are so short on foster homes,” Robinett said. “Often you hear about the negatives of fostering, but if people have the resources they need and support of the community, maybe we can have more foster families in Conway County.

Morgan Zimmerman from Crow Construction helps with the cabinets at Room 29:11. Crow Construction helped to build an enclosed carport that essentially became the outbuilding for Room 29:11. || Photo provided by Sirina Robinett

“Obviously, there is always going to be a challenge, but if the families feel supported, the hope is that it creates more foster families in our county.”

Pearce said they recently held a CALL meeting to try to encourage people who are considering fostering and adopting. She said they are always looking for new ways for people to get involved. One way volunteers can get involved is as a driver that can take foster children to dentists, doctors or court dates.

“We want to try to offer them as much support as possible,” Pearce said.

She said the house also acts as a host to visitations.

“Before, when parents had visitation, one of the places it would happen is in the adult Sunday School class, but this house will offer another place for supervised visits and offer a little more space,” Pearce said. “The goal is to reunite the children with their families in a natural, home-like environment.”

Pearce said they are hoping the house will be ready by July.

“It has been cleared out now,” Robinett said. “We had a lot of work to do with plumbing, air conditioning and the furnace, as well as replacing a few faucets and drains.

“But everything has been inspected and is good to go.”

She said the furnace still needs to be repaired — possibly replaced — but she expects for everything to be moved in by the last week of June. The children’s closet is up and running for immediate placement, as well as visitation.

“The goal is to be ready for back to school time because that is probably our busiest time,” Robinett said.

“We still need to put up wall fixtures and stuff like that, but we are going to make do for right now because we have taken care of the majority.”

“One thing that has been amazing is how all the churches and organizations have been involved,” Pearce said. “From extension homemakers, Farm Bureau — really anyone that has something to offer.”

Robinett said extension homemakers raised $200 from a bake sale and they did a 5K walk at Petit Jean Mountain that brought in $2,300.

“One of the local churches painted the inside for us — literally everything has been coming together because of volunteers,” Robinett said. “Honestly, that’s why it is taking a little bit longer because people are doing it at cost.

“They are doing a great service. I’m so grateful.”

“It has been a very diverse group of people,” she said. “It is neat to watch all of the connections coming from it.

“I just love it when we all come together.”

Ozark Mission Project Gets to Work in Pine Bluff

Ozark Mission Project Gets to Work in Pine Bluff

This year, the Ozark Mission Project traveled to different cities around the state to help out their neighbors by repainting homes, building wheelchair ramps, tending gardens, and other service projects.

OMP held camps throughout June and July, from Fayetteville to Texarkana, Jonesboro to El Dorado and everywhere in between.

Our Conference Communication team traveled to Pine Bluff to witness the work that a group of youth and adults from Lafayette, Louisiana were doing for a lady named Bernice Hayes in Pine Bluff.

You can watch the video below and see the amazing work of OMP. If you are reading the print version, visit to watch.

Historic River Flooding Devastates Communities Across Arkansas

Historic River Flooding Devastates Communities Across Arkansas

In late May 2019, the Arkansas River rose to historically high levels due to heavy rainfall and the release of swollen reservoirs upstream in neighboring Kansas and Oklahoma.

In many parts of the state, decades-old river records were broken, including a 1945 record set in Van Buren, and a Morrilton record from 1927.

The Arkansas River at Fort Smith crested at nearly 41 feet, almost 10 feet above flood stage, displacing families and businesses along the Arkansas River Valley. Nearly 500 homes were flooded in Fort Smith alone, and even more homes were affected in Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and further downstream in Pendleton, Arkansas.

The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church’s Disaster Response team worked with local emergency response officials to find people who were in need of help, and work to “muck out” the damaged portions of their homes.

In total, more than 250 volunteers have signed up to assist families and individuals with “mucking out” their homes. Mucking out is the process of tearing out carpeting, sheetrock and other parts of a home damaged by water that has entered a building.

Disaster Response volunteers in Fort Smith. From left to right, Les Oliver, Alan Yount, Gary Reigel, Jane Oliver, Judith Vining, Rob Vining, Shelley Lee, Roy Lee, Ken Savells, George Graham, and homeowner Keith Reese. Not pictured: Amy Bradshaw, Don Bradshaw, and Linda Ray.

Even though turnout has been good, Byron Mann, Arkansas Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, said they are needing additional volunteers to sign up for training days and help muck out the hundreds of homes still in need of clean up. To sign up to volunteer, visit

They are also hoping to continue raising money that will be used to assist people in rebuilding their lives once the cleanup process is complete. The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church has raised $15,000 in donations since late May. Mann hopes to continue receiving donations to reach their goal of $100,000.

Volunteers with the Arkansas Conference Disaster Response team “muck out” the home of Keith Reeves in Fort Smith. The carpet, as well as soggy portions of the sheet rock, must be torn out and thrown away before repairs can occur. || Photo by Christina Choh

“This is a long-term process and by the end of it, we hope to have touched hundreds of lives by assisting in the cleanup process,” Mann said.
To donate online, visit and select the first box, “Arkansas Disaster Relief,” to give to families affected by the Arkansas River flood.

Helena First UMC Celebrates 200 Years of Ministry in State

Helena First UMC Celebrates 200 Years of Ministry in State

In 2018, Helena First United Methodist Church celebrated 200 years of “worship, faith, and evangelizing.” This past June, they held a celebration ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the church’s founding in 1818.

According to an announcement sent out by the church, Helena First was founded in 1818 after William Harrison Bailey of Kentucky came to the Helena area and began holding prayer meetings in his home with other early settlers to the Arkansas territory.

Eventually, those prayer meetings became an organized congregation and was the first congregation of the Methodist Society west of the Mississippi River, marking the start of Methodism in Arkansas.

From left to right: Rev. Deborah Head, Rev. Melissa Maskell, Rev. Larry Dodgen, Bishop Gary Mueller, District Superintendent Mark Norman, Rev. Rockey Starnes, and Rev. Joe Head. || Photo provided by Helena First UMC

Helena First held a full weekend of events from June 7 – 9. There were sessions going over the history of the church, prayer breakfasts and dinners, an organ recital by Adam Savacool, a recreation of an old-time tent revival led by Southeast District Superintendent Mark Norman, and a formal worship service on Sunday night with a sermon delivered by Bishop Gary Mueller.

Bishop Mueller also dedicated and blessed a new addition to the church property; a historical marker that tells the history of Helena First United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Deborah Head, senior pastor of Helena First UMC, said she is grateful for Bishop Mueller and Southeast District Superintendent Rev. Mark Norman’s presence at the celebration.

“Helena First United Methodist Church was blessed to celebrate 200 years of Methodist ministry in Eastern Arkansas,” Head said. “Brother Mark preached a fiery Saturday evening sermon and on Sunday, Bishop Mueller brought the Word and Scripture and presented us with a challenge of staying faithful for our next 200 years. It was a wonderful weekend of celebration.”

For more on the history of Helena First UMC, visit the history page on their church website,