Sweet Homes for Alabama

Let’s end substandard housing in Alabama and help Ms. Sanford make her home warm, safe, dry, and beautiful! It’s time for Alabama Rural Ministry‘s 10th Annual Sweet Homes for Alabama fundraiser! Formerly known as “Poverty Awareness Week” and “No More Shacks,” we are launching our Sweet Homes for Alabama fundraising campaign from September 1st through November 1st in order to raise funds and awareness about poverty and substandard housing in rural Alabama.

Because it is our 10th anniversary, we have set a huge goal! We are raising $100,000. This will help families in Alabama like Ms. Sanford restore their homes making them warm, safe, dry and beautiful! Executive Director and Founder, Lisa A. Pierce and others will live in a shack beginning October 4th and staying as late as October 10th! Local pastors, board members, and some students will be staying at the shack with Lisa for three-hour slots or overnight. Rain, shine, hot, or cold, they will be in the shacks in order to experience (on a much lesser scale) some of the challenges that come with these living conditions.

Come by the shack, learn about how ARM is working in the community, and make a donation so that we can restore the sweet homes of Alabama (and get Lisa out of the shack, of course!). Starting September 1, we will be accepting pledges and donations online through the “Donate Now” button on our Facebook page, through our website http://www.arm-al.org/, and mailed to our office at P.O. Box 2890 Auburn, Alabama 36831.

What if you are not in the Auburn area but still want to experience the shack or get your church directly involved?

Step 1:

Download the Sweet Homes Kit for Churches to check out all the ways your church can engage! 

Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll find in the kit:

  • Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Pages:It only takes 5-10 minutes to setup a personalized online giving page that you can share with your social media networks! Your church, Sunday School class, or youth group could setup a page and/or individuals could set up their own pages too!
  • Wheelbarrow of Change: Set up a wheelbarrow in with your youth, children, or visible place in your church. Encourage people to put change into anytime from September-October. Cash the change in and send ARM the proceeds.
  • Cardboard Box City: This is great for youth groups or families. Pick a weekend night and set up boxes to sleep in. Not quite substandard housing but it does connect us with helping to keep our families from becoming homeless. It is an intentional way to be uncomfortable. You can set up your wheelbarrow to collect money or use our donation page for online gifts.
  • Build your own shack: We have plans you can use and construct your own shack. It is designed for 2-3 people to stay in at one time. Create options for people to stay in the evening or over the weekend.

Step 2:

Click here to sign up your church for the Sweet Homes Campaign and let us know how you’ll be involved!

AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO PHYSICALLY COME TO MAKE AN IMPACT! Join the event on our Facebook page (make sure you like our organization’s Facebook page too), share it with all of your friends, and pass the donation link to others, encouraging them to make a small donation. Even $10 will go a long way!

Poverty education lunch workshops will be held on Wednesday Oct. 4th, Thursday, October 5th, and Monday, October 9th at 12:00. Room information at Auburn coming. All are welcome to come and join us as we learn about other organizations and the different ways they are serving with low-income families in our community and hands-on ways we can all get plugged in.

We would love for you to drop by and help us spread the word! We need your help so that families have Sweet Homes in Alabama!

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On the Road: Individual Rights and Selfless Service

I have been pondering a few things and wanted to invite you all into a possible conversation or thought process. In our heated political scheme which seems to become increasingly divisive, I have wondered at how we make decisions around the expression of individual rights. This has been exasperated by the events in Charlottesville and informs how we work through the ideologies that perpetuate racism, bigotry, or any other type of “ism” that makes one person less to make someone greater. I heard a politician say that in our context today it is about who’s rights trump another’s rights. If that is so, how do we choose the best way to act as a follower of Jesus? What happens when the rights of one person clash or oppose the rights of another? Are there contexts for when one expression may succumb to another expression? Are there ways to have win/win scenarios rather than win/lose outcomes? Furthermore, in our disagreements, how do we not fall into acts of violence? (Another topic)

Focusing upon the question of the expression of individual freedom and what happens when it clashes with someone else’s rights:

When I was growing up (mid 70’s), smoking was rampant. There was not nearly a place you could go where you were not subjected to cigarette smoke. Both my parents smoked for years. Smoking was allowed in most public spaces…except for churches, I guess. Airplanes, restaurants, football stadiums, hotels, movie theaters, bowling allies, and just about any other space were always filled with smoke. Smoking was an individual right and a lot of people smoked. But what about people who did not smoke but had to constantly be subjected to it? There simply were not a lot of places that did not ban smoking. What about those with asthma or other respiratory issues?

Over time, the conversation began to change. As more and more health warnings were issued and people started to express their desire for cleaner air, discussions shifted to those who had a right to breath clean air. Now there were two competing sets of individual rights: the right for a person to smoke and the right of a person to breathe clean air and not be subjected to unwanted smoke.  It took several years for the ideology shift. Today, most of us benefit from the decisions that made access to breathing cleaner air more important. Rights of smokers was limited with substantial parameters placed upon where one could smoke when in a public venue.

Here are my questions. How do we choose whose right is more important? We will not always have the politicians and judges making decisions so how will we choose? What is our process?

Is there a point or context where one person’s rights must be limited for another person’s rights to be expressed?

As followers of Jesus, how does the body of Scripture…not cherry picking one or two verses out of context…inform our decisions? What does the Old Testament, the Gospels, Paul, and other writers say?

To give a biblical situation, Paul faced a dilemma that he discusses in First Corinthians. It was whether a follower of Jesus should eat meat offered to idols. There was one group of people who were adamant that meat offered to idols was the equivalent of worshipping that idol and should not be consumed. Others believed it did not make a difference. If you prayed and gave God thanks for the meat, it did not matter. You were basically acknowledging the idol had no power or meaning. Paul tended to agree with the latter group and did not recognize the power in the idol. Food was consumed, digested, and passed through the body. It made no difference if sacrificed to idols. However, Paul, out of love and high value on unity and peace of his fellow brothers and sisters and for those new in the faith, said that if his eating meat sacrificed to idols was a stumbling block, he would put aside his individual freedom for the sake of the other. He desired there to be no stumbling block for a person and their relationship with Jesus. Chapter thirteen of Corinthians becomes a beautiful expression of what love looks like when we put the needs of others above ourselves. That was what a “stronger” believer did. It was always about putting someone’s needs above your own. It was about selfless service. And it was not just a “good idea”. Jesus expected and expects us to live by this command.

I wonder if this account gives us any guidance in the complexities we face. As a nation built upon the expression of individual freedom how do we become faithful to Scripture and align ourselves with Jesus when we look at our own liberties and when they may come into conflict with the expression of someone else’s. These same questions go the heart of our issues regarding racism and bigotry. I wonder if we all took the high road what might that begin to look like?

I would be interested in hearing how you work these out and if you have children, how you teach this to them.  What are the ways you use Scripture and especially Jesus’ two commands: Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself, to inform your decision making?

I would enjoy hearing your insights around this delicate yet important topic.

Grace and peace,


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#fools4Christ17: Week 7

Week 7 in Tuskegee

Youth mission camp in Tuskegee came to a close with 2 great home repair teams! A team from St. Mark UMC in Birmingham returned for their second summer. They worked very hard with Ms. Sarah in Tuskegee to re-plumb all the pipes in her mobile home. She now has running water! Our friends from St. Mark were joined by new friends from Lynnville UMC of Lynnville, TN. Two crews served throughout the week with Ms. Helen in Tuskegee, Mr. George in Loachapoka, and Ms. Alfreda in Tuskegee. A week after the team left, Ms. Alfreda called the ARM office to check-in and expressed her gratitude for being “treated like a person” by our mission teams and staff. It warmed our hearts to hear how she had been touched by God’s love through our friends from Lynnville!

Thank you St. Mark UMC and Lynnville UMC!

Week 7 in York

Our ministry in Sumter County closed out with our good friends from Muirs Chapel UMC of Greensboro, NC. Muirs Chapel has sent teams to serve with us for several years. We were so excited to have them back again. This team had 2 home repair crews and a day camp crew. The day campers had the pleasure of serving as chaperones for the annual day camp field trip, which was at the Birmingham Zoo this summer! Our ministry interns and mission teams were hosted for dinner by York Baptist Church, which is where Joe, our Director of Ministry Operations, grew up!

Thank you Muirs Chapel UMC!

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#fools4Christ17 Week 5

Week 5 in York

We were so excited to welcome our good friends from Collins UMC of Collins, MS, and our new friends from First UMC of Anniston, AL! The Collins crew extended Christ’s love with Sonshine Day Camp all week. We really appreciated how they brought the Child of God, Person of Worth (#COGPOW) to life through their Bible lessons, arts & crafts, songs, games, and all the time spent just being present with the kids! This was their 3rd summer in a row to serve with the Sonshine Camp, and many of the kids remembered them from last year!

The team from First UMC Anniston extended Christ’s love with four families in Sumter County. This team came ready to serve – they even brought their own tool trailer! The experience of their adult leaders combined with the willingness of their students to serve really made a huge impact as homes became warmer, safer, and drier. It was great to see how they got to know the families as they served!

Both teams and our staff were blessed by the hospitality of Livingston First Baptist Church who hosted us and our home repair families for a wonderful dinner and time of fellowship. Nicole Cronin, day camp counselor, and Heyinn Rho, construction coordinator, led the team in a #fools4christ devotion at dinner that focused on the story of Mary and Martha with Jesus. Mary’s boldness shows us how being a fool for Christ sometimes means letting go of social norms. While she was “supposed” to be helping her sister Martha as a host, she instead chose to be with Jesus as his disciple, which was also breaking the norm of male-only disciples. Many norms are good and helpful, but following Jesus like fools sometimes means we have to sacrifice the comfort and familiarity of doing what we already know to do in order to take a risk and try something new.

Thank you Collins and FUMC Anniston!

Week 5 in Tuskegee

This was a very special week in Tuskegee as we welcomed our friends from Trinity UMC Ft. Walton Beach, FL. It’s hard to believe but this was there ELEVENTH summer in a row to extend Christ’s love with us! We are so thankful for their commitment to ending substandard housing in rural AL, and so thankful for their faithfulness shown over these many years of service.

The Trinity team had 1 crew serving with the children at Sonshine Camp and 2 other crews serving with the home repair ministry. It was a very hot week and both of these home repair crews worked with families whose homes needed roof repair – one was even a metal roof! The middle picture shows a group building a wheelchair ramp with a family in the Loachapoka area.

The day camp crew did an outstanding job with the Child of God, Person of Worth theme and we’re so thankful for the way they express Christ’s love with the kids. As you can see from the top picture, they enjoyed a super fun water day on Thursday afternoon (Unfortunately the Tuskegee city pool is closed for maintenance).

On Tuesday, which was July 4, the team leaders surprised their students with a special outing to Montgomery for a Biscuits baseball game. Of course, their were fireworks after the game too! Our staff really enjoyed this fun time of fellowship with the team!

We can’t say thanks enough to our friends from Trinity UMC! You are such a blessing to our ministry in so many ways. We can’t wait to see you again next summer!

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#fools4Christ17 Week 4

After Tropical Storm Cindy moved on, we enjoyed a great – DRY! – week of extending the love of Christ to end substandard housing in rural Alabama! It’s hard to believe but this week marks the halfway point for youth mission camp 2017… time flies when you’re serving others!

Bellview UMC putting the finishing touches on Ms. Cowan’s safer and drier bathroom.

In Tuskegee, we were excited to welcome new friends from Bellview UMC of Pensacola, FL. Their team had 2 home repair crews – one serving with Ms. Cowan in Shorter and another with Ms. Reid in Notasulga. This was our first time to serve with Bellview and we look forward to many more opportunities to partner in ministry!

We also welcomed back our friends from Church at Cahaba Bend of Helena, AL. This team had 1 home repair crew and a day camp crew. The home repair crew served with Ms. Turk in Notasulga – making great progress on her roof repairs! The day camp crew brought our #cogpow day camp theme to life through Bible stories, music, and crafts. Plus, they got to help with Camp iCare, a 1 week camp developed by Auburn University that’s all about teaching leadership, financial literacy, and making a positive impact in your community! This was our 2nd summer to bring Camp iCare to Sonshine Day Camp and we’re so thankful for this program.

Every week has something unique… this week it was puppies 🙂 Two puppies were dropped off at the church. Our staff cared for them throughout the week. Thankfully, they found a new home with Jackie Doss, our LeadUP summer intern from Perdido Bay UMC serving with us throughout Week 4 in Tuskegee. Thanks Jackie!

First UMC Montgomery serving with Ms. Johnson

In Sumter County, we had a great week serving with our friends from First UMC Montgomery! This was the team’s first time serving at youth mission camp with us, but we have hosted teams for service days in Tuskegee in the past. Regardless, this team served well with our families and day camp kids. On the home repair side, Ms. Johnson of Emelle and Ms. Eades of Boyd were blessed to host these volunteers. The day camp crew showed Christ’s love throughout the week with our Sonshine day campers.

Again, every week is unique… A storm blew through on Wednesday evening just as we had began to cook dinner. As you might guess, the power went out and so did our ovens. Our Sumter County teams are hosted in York, AL, where there is only one option for fast food – Church’s Chicken. Thankfully, it was chicken finger night at ARM and Church’s was still open for cash purchases only. Joe Davis, a native of York and ARM’s Director of Ministry Operations, actually bought ALL the chicken at Church’s – a lifetime achievement for sure – in order to keep our team well fed! The power was restored just as dinner was served, and our Extend Night worship service brought a great discussion about how we understand the “hidden rules” among poverty, middle, and wealth classes.


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