By Christie Johnson
Sitting on her front porch, Lillie Ruth Wade prayed over the members of Vineville United Methodist Church in Macon. She calls them “God’s Angels.” At 83 years old, there are many things Wade still does. It’s what she couldn’t do that led this group to her home in the city’s Pleasant Hill community.
In the last year, Vineville UMC has made rehabilitating Pleasant Hill their main mission through an outreach effort they are calling PleasantVille Neighbors. As part of that, they began working hand-in-hand to renovate houses in the area with Rebuilding Macon, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in the city. The non-profit organization helps low-income elderly and disabled homeowners fix up their houses.
The church has agreed to renovate one home a month. Nathan Watson coordinates the efforts for the congregation. “In Luke 10:29, an ‘expert in the law’ asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor’, which prompted Jesus to tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A neighbor is anyone who needs our help. In our case, it’s that definition plus Pleasant Hill is our geographic neighbor,” he says.
Homeowners go through a screening process with Rebuilding Macon, who then does a walk through with Watson to talk about the needed improvements. Then, between 15 and 20 volunteers head out to the homes prepared to do everything from fix broken glass, scrape paint and caulk. No experience is necessary, just a lot of heart.
“Jesus calls on us to serve others. There are many ways to do this, but having neighbors in Pleasant Hill who are so close and in so much need lends itself readily to a wonderful service project,” says Vineville volunteer Bill Adams. “Our church, and especially the volunteers, can minister to people close to us and thereby minister to ourselves.”
At Wade’s home, Vineville volunteers repaired hand rails on her front steps, installed a new screen door and gave her home a fresh coat of paint among other things.
“It [Pleasant Hill] is an impoverished neighborhood that can use assistance in many ways. The residents of the community are valuable to the fabric of the neighborhood and there are not many homeowners remaining in Pleasant Hill. I feel it is so important to support those home owners,” says volunteer Wimberly Treadwell. “Mrs. Wade is raising two great grandchildren … She had grandchildren come and help us. She told them to put on a t-shirt and get to work.”
Watson says he is so proud of his church for being so willing to jump in and help others. He quotes James 2:22 which says “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” Watson adds Rebuilding Macon is a way for members to express their faith through action. “I think we all feel a sense of accomplishment when we help someone or do something good. But, there is so much more to it than that. Our volunteers have the opportunity to show God’s love to someone,” he says.
Adams agrees, “How awesome it is to be able to carry on a mission trip and be so close to home. We are a blessed church with so much to offer in the way of resources, most of all the time and talents of our members. We are fortunate to have some outstanding leaders in our church to show us the way to help our neighbors in need. How gratifying it is to finish a project, see what we have accomplished, and have someone who is genuinely appreciative. I am proud of our church for pursuing the PleasantVille Neighbors Initiative so we could serve Jesus in this very meaningful way.”