PUMC Youth Shares Personal Account of Mission Work

published 2/10/2012

Name: Hannah Gipson

Age: 17

School: Prattville Christian Academy

Years Attended Prattville United Methodist Church: 17

What mission trips have you participated in with PUMC? Nashville 2009; Hinton NC 2010, 2011; Choir Tour 2010, 2011

What was your favorite trip and why? The mission trip to Nashville was by far my favorite. Through helping and serving the homeless, my eyes were opened to the many ways that God works in people’s lives. I had an awesome time and learned so much about God and His love for His people.

At what point in the trip was it evident God called you to be a part of the trip? It was evident to me God had called me to be on this mission trip when I met a young, homeless couple named Tammy and Pete. They shared with me their story of becoming homeless, and how God had been with them every step of the way. Through their story, I realized that God called me to be on this mission trip, not only for me to try to make an impact on these people, but because He knew that they would make a lasting impact on me.

What was the biggest challenge on the trip? The biggest challenge of this trip was stepping out of my comfort zone, and actually trying to get to know the homeless people we came in contact with.

How are PUMC Mission trips different from say school or family trips? Mission trips differ from just a school or family trip because they help build faith, character, and lasting relationships.

Why is it important to you to develop a sense of giving and caring at a young age? A young person that is caring and giving can impact and set a huge example for people more than adults sometimes can.

The Resurrection Run is a big fundraiser for youth missions. Tell the AWF Conference more about that. The Resurrection Run is the most important fundraiser for youth missions. It’s a 5K/10K race on March 3 through historic downtown Prattville, Alabama. All of the proceeds go to the youth missions programs. It’s an awesome, fun way to support the youth group. More details and registration can be found online at

What are some changes some people will see this year from previous years? People can definitely expect to see more organization due to the church’s experience with putting on the run. There will be electronically tabulated race results, and it will hopefully be larger in scale as people have come to know the Resurrection Run as a solid, well run event year after year.

How fast do you think Nick, your youth director, will run…..or will he finish at all? I’m sure he’ll finish… But it might take a few hours… or days.

I heard it poured last year during the run but was still a success! How did the youth group come together and work as a team to still make it a success? We got our rain jackets, umbrellas, set up tents, and worked together to do what we needed to do. A little rain never hurt anyone.

What words of advice would you give to those reading this throughout the conference in regards to supporting youth groups? The youth are the future of the church, so it is incredibly important for us to have support. You can support youth groups through your service, money and many other ways.

In ten years you hope to be…… graduated from college, teaching elementary school, and married with children.


"Next Year in Jerusalem"

published 2/9/2012

(Rev. Joe Bullington) - That’s the way the Passover Seder ends, and it’s appropriate for the Alabama-West Florida Conference; Bishop Paul Leeland invites the conference to join him in January of 2013 for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

It will be a life-changing experience for all who participate. You’ll never read the Bible in the same way again after you have walked in the places where God unfolded His drama of redemption. Its scenes will come alive after you have bowed at the manger in Bethlehem, worshipped on the Sea of Galilee, followed the Palm Sunday crowd down the Mount of Olives, knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, walked the Via Dolorosa, wept at Golgotha, and sung at the empty tomb.

And you can experience all this with people you know and love. Brochures are available on the conference website here, and also in the Episcopal Office. Pastors and lay leaders are invited to become Tour Hosts to invite their church members to join the pilgrimage. To become a Tour Host, contact Rev. Joe Bullington at Register by mail using the form on the brochure, by phone at 1-800-247-0017, or online at

Next year in Jerusalem!


AWF Lay Leader Plays Key Role in MLK Memorial

published 2/8/2012

As we celebrate Black History Month, probably the most notable leader in the Civil Rights Movement is now properly memorialized in our nation's capital thanks to one of our outstanding leaders in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Mr. Frank Jenkins, III, a member of Metropolitan United Methodist Church, where he serves on the administrative council as well as several conference committees, was appointed to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation’s board of directors upon its formation in 1998 and has served from inception to dedication as chairman of the audit committee. 

This memorial took over 28 years to accomplish and its history is worth noting. A small group of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated members developed the idea for the memorial in 1983 to honor their Alpha brother, Dr. Martin Luther King. A year later, they presented their idea to the General Convention of Alpha Phi Alpha and the Fraternity embraced the memorial as a national project. Sadly, the idea was not embraced by the American public for several years so the plan was tabled. 

Diligent Fraternity members continued behind-the-scenes work in the 1990s where the dream became a reality. Under the leadership of Alpha Phi Alpha's 29th General President, Milton Davis (a Tuskegee, Alabama attorney), the United States Congress passed, then President Bill Clinton signed legislation authorizing the Fraternity to establish a memorial in Washington DC dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Later in the decade it was established that the memorial would be located in the National Mall where other significant leaders of our country are memorialized such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and war veterans; a place for the brave few.

On May 28, 1998 the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Incorporated was founded. This organization was solely responsible for the planning, building and fundraising of the memorial. At this point, two Montgomery leaders were appointed to help guide the committee. Attorney Tyrone Means and Frank A. Jenkins III of Montgomery donated valuable time to lend their expertise to this committee. As mentioned, Jenkins, a CPA, served as chair of the audit committee and Means was legal counsel. Jenkins expressed his gratitude for this honor by saying, "On behalf of the board of directors of the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Incorporated, I thank all of our brothers and sisters from the United Methodist Churches and from around the world for the contributions to the completion of the Memorial."

General Motors generously initiated the fundraising campaign with a grant of $10 million in 2001. The 31st General President of Alpha Phi Alpha, Harry E. Johnson, Sr., implemented a new fundraising plan to raise $120 million.

906 design entries were submitted from 52 countries. ROMA Design Group of San Francisco, CA was granted the project. Their design incorporated four themes Dr. King embraces which were Justice, Hope, Democracy and Love. Countless approvals by the National Capital Planning Commission, the US Commission of Fine Arts and the National Park Service were required during the design process. A celebratory groundbreaking finally happened on November 13, 2006 with three presidents in attendance (then President George Bush, former President Bill Clinton and future President and then US Senator Barack Obama). Master Lei of China was announced as the sculptor on January 15, 2007. On June 5, 2007, the Foundation announced that the McKissack/Turner Construction/Tompkins Builders/Gilford Corporation Design-Build Joint Venture was selected as the contractor for the project.

In 2008, the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the Commission of Fine Arts granted full, final design approval for the project. The construction permit was signed by Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar on October 29, 2009. Construction finally began along the Tidal Basin in December of 2009; thirteen years after legislation approving the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was signed!

The actual development phases of the memorial from construction until completion—which took almost two years—were mobilization; infrastructure; art work and landscaping. What made the Memorial come to life were the donations from people from all backgrounds. Seven-figure checks to envelopes with one-dollar bills combined to form this phenomenal structure that represents the struggle for equal rights. The Memorial has raised $117,000,000 of the requested $120,000,000 as of October 16, 2011.

President Obama had the honor of speaking at the dedication of the Memorial on Sunday, October 16, 2011.

It was a small dream of six Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Members that took 28 years to accomplish. Nobody knew it would take this long. But Dr. King strongly believed in dreams, no matter how hard they were. He had one, too.

*Based on information from the August 28, 2011 Commemorative Program



Nellie Burge Announces New Executive Director

published 2/6/2012

The Board of Directors of the Nellie Burge Community Center proudly announces the appointment of Debbie Dobbins as the new Executive Director. Ms. Dobbins brings to this position 25 years experience with nonprofits and over twelve years in senior management. She directed an outreach office with the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, TX, and was the COO for the United Methodist Children’s Homes in Alabama. She holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington and Master of Education from Texas Tech University. Ms. Dobbins is experienced in program development, working with at-risk families and children, working with nonprofit boards and initiating and fostering partnerships with state and community agencies.

Ms. Dobbins will lead the initiative to open Mary Ellen’s Hearth at the Nellie Burge Community Center. Mary Ellen’s Hearth will be a residential program for homeless women and their children. Mary Ellen's Hearth offers hope, help and healing to homeless women and children throughout the River Region. It offers hope by providing life skills training and providing transitional housing. It also offers healing through Christian love and support. The goal of Mary Ellen’s Hearth is for 80% of the families to leave within two years...their dignity and self respect restored...prepared for a life of independence. For more information about this program, call (334) 264-4108 or visit us at

Working Women’s Home Association Grant Presentation L/R Scott Key--NBCC Board President, Winnie Stakely—WWHA Board President, Susan Patton, Board Member, Debbie Dobbins—NBCC Executive Director.



The Best Advice I Ever Received

published 1/27/2012

(Dr. Herb Sadler) - The best advice I ever got in my ministry came from the father of Bishop Mike Watson. I was a 25 year old recent seminary graduate and had just been appointed as Associate Pastor of First UMC, Dothan. Excell Watson was a wise man and great church leader (Mike was still in high school!). I asked Mr. Watson, "What are lay folks looking for in worship?" His reply was succinct and memorable. "Good preaching and good music." That's it.

I heard that advice 45 years ago and it's still true. Styles have changed some, but preaching that is understandable and helpful and music that is inspiring are still the key ingredients in worship that changes lives.

There is nothing a pastor can do that is more important in his/her effectiveness than to work at getting better at preaching. The Academy for Congregational Excellence has two offerings presently that are designed to help good preachers get even better, one in Dothan and one in Montgomery. They are designed to gather 10-12 clergy together one day a month for a year under the coaching of a proven, excellent preacher.

It is the intention of the Academy for Congregational Excellence (ACE) to begin preaching groups in other parts of the conference as well. If you have the passion to be an excellent preacher, let me know, so we can design a learning community for you and your clergy colleagues or check the events section in the conference newsletters for upcoming "Preaching Excellence" events.

The ACE Mission: Effective Leaders, Fruitful Churches.

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