Vineville UMC helps strengthen community, build neighbor’s home
By Kara Witherow, Editor
Shequita Manson’s new home is painted blue, in honor and memory of her 12-year-old daughter, Nophstaria “Star” Henley, who died May 25, 2018, of sickle-cell disease.
After her daughter’s death, Manson and her older daughter moved several times, bouncing from rental to rental, unable to find their “happy place.” But today, thanks in large part to Vineville United Methodist Church, they are finally home and happy.
Partnering with the Macon Area Habitat for Humanity and several local churches, Vineville UMC combined a $3,000 Peace with Justice grant with the congregation’s Easter offering to build a home for Manson, her daughter, and her mother in Macon’s historic Pleasant Hill neighborhood.
Even though most of the church’s congregation and staff don’t live in the neighborhood, Vineville UMC has a long and strong relationship with the Pleasant Hill community, said associate pastor Rev. Jon Brown.
Determined to strengthen relations between the church and its neighbors, the congregation has worked with other local churches and a non-profit group to renovate 14 homes in the neighborhood, which, according to a recent city survey, has 206 blighted units. Church members also volunteer as tutors at nearby L.H. Williams Elementary School each week, and fill backpacks full of food for students to take home on weekends.
“We want to do our best to be good neighbors,” Rev. Brown said.
Working with Habitat for Humanity to build Manson’s home was just one more way for the congregation to care for those in their community, he said, and to help restore and revitalize the neighborhood.
“Vineville has had a very long history with Pleasant Hill,” he said. “We wanted to continue that effort, to reduce blight in the community, and provide opportunities for affordable housing.”
The church will continue its housing ministry as they partner with other United Methodist congregations and the North Central District to build another house next door to Manson’s.
“This is one way we bear witness to the thing that we proclaim, the gospel of transformation. If we are to be the Church and are to bear the light of Christ, then we ought to offer it to those closest to us,” Brown said.
Manson, who grew up in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood, sees her home as God’s provision, and is thankful to those who helped build it.
“Even in the process of losing my daughter I never lost my faith,” she said. “I really feel like my house was something God designed because He knows what I have been through.”
The congregation wants to share the love of Christ with those living in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood by being good neighbors and helping meet their needs, Brown said.
“We seek to live into the incarnation model of ministry that Jesus Christ modeled for us,” Brown said. “We desire to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope that it offers to our neighbors right next door. We believe as John Wesley did that our love for neighbor is not just caring for someone’s spiritual well-being, but a ministry to the whole person.”