When Rev. Kim Teehan, pastor of Cherokee and Margerum United Methodist Churches (Northwest District), got an email from the United Methodist Choctaw Mission in Philadelphia, Mississippi, on December 9 asking for donations of clothing and children’s books for the Choctaw people, she knew this was a request that needed a response. In April of 2011 Rev. Teehan was part of the North Alabama Conference contingent of churches that participated in a mission trip to the Choctaw Mission in Mississippi, and is a veteran of two other mission trips to the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma.
“There are so many myths and misconceptions about the Native Americans and their federal entitlements. Once you learn about their culture and their struggles, and experience the poverty that exists among the tribes, you understand that their needs are both complex and immediate,” Rev. Teehan said.
With just a few weeks until Christmas, Rev. Teehan presented a call for donations to the Cherokee and Margerum congregations. Since both churches have relatively small memberships, she was not expecting much. Then the donations and phone calls started flooding in. To her surprise, what initially began as a modest plan to use two cars to transport church donations to the mission turned into a tremendous outpouring from the community at-large.
“One of the businesses in town had heard that our church was collecting the donations, and before we knew it, the employees were asking if they could donate, too,” said Leslie Harrell, a member of Cherokee UMC.
Donations kept coming in from other area businesses and people in the local community not associated with either church. Donations included not only clothing items and children’s books, but also children’s bicycles, toys, stuffed animals, a variety of Walmart gift cards, and donations for gas to transport the items to the mission.
So many donations were received that the transportation issue had to be re-visited. A large cargo van and large SUV were filled to capacity. When the group arrived at the Choctaw Mission on December 23, the Rev. Jon Walters, Executive Director of the Choctaw Mission, expressed his surprise at the response.
“We were expecting a couple cars; I was amazed and grateful for the generosity of these two small churches and the surrounding community who ministered to the “least of these,” he said.
“I told Rev. Walters that this was a powerful example of God’s hand at work,” Rev. Teehan said. “We had a community come together to be the light of Christ to people they had never met, whose circumstances they really didn’t know, in order to share the Good News of God’s amazing love! It was incredible! Only God could have orchestrated such a plan!” she added.
And what better example of the true meaning of Christmas – God’s love in action!