|As a part of FUMC’s Vision, an Urban Home Repair Ministry was established in August of 2014. Revive225 hosts volunteer groups from all over the US for one week, while sharing our southern hospitality with our new friends.|
BY MOLLY ANN WALKE
Cozied up by the soundboard on the third floor mezzanine, I switch between giggling and humming along as the jubilant sounds of a fiddle, guitar and accordion blend together to form the soundtrack to a perfect Louisiana Tuesday night. Students are mesmerized. They, too, laugh at their friends attempting the Cajun two-step—or if they’re brave enough, the waltz. Drew, Megan, Daniel and Kelli—better known as T’Monde—light up the room with their intense passion for not only the music they play, but also the rich culture and tradition it represents. They tell stories, crack jokes and educate our out-of-town guests about the way we do things in South Louisiana. It’s a highlight of the week, to say the least.
A large portion of Revive225’s success can be attributed to our focus on volunteers’ experience as a whole. We ensure that students make themselves at home upon their arrival on Sunday afternoon and continue to demonstrate that famous Southern hospitality until their vans pull out of the church parking lot the next Saturday morning to head home.
Since Louisiana cuisine is world-renowned, we cannot, in good conscience, host a team of volunteers without treating them to some of the classics. These authentic Cajun dishes are made in the FUMC kitchen by our amazing chef, Kevin Roberson. Students enjoy a traditional Monday night meal: red beans and rice with a side of cornbread. The rest of the week includes jambalaya and gumbo. Our favorite night, however, is our family crawfish boil. Volunteers, homeowners and their families gather at the levee for an unforgettable night of food and fun.
All of this hospitality cannot happen without the help of our amazing FUMC volunteers.
Members like Margaret Tyler organize the food team each week to serve meals. She and her kindhearted team serve our volunteers with smiles on their faces and make sure no one goes hungry. Amy Givens, youth director at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, could not get over the friendliness of Mrs. Margaret’s food team, which includes Cooky Coffee, Sandra Loy, Judy Foust, Toni Gilboy, Caroline Tyler and many others.
On a typical workday, students arrive at their sites around 8:30 in the morning. Led by our wise, dedicated site leaders like Rob Riley, they work through the unpredictable weather and the inevitable frustrations that come with home repair. We make sure they take lots of water breaks and even some time to form relationships with their homeowners.
After a long day of hard work and fellowship, we advise volunteers to do exactly what any good Louisianan would do at the end of the day: grab a snowball. Students stare wide-eyed at the menu, switching their flavor of choice over and over until they think they’ve finally got it nailed down. The more adventurous ones try the steaming hot boudin links, and we’re proud to say no one has ever disliked it! It may take a few days to get our out-of-towners to finally stop calling their treat a “snow cone,” but we eventually forgive them.
While stuffing our volunteers with food is quite entertaining and incredibly fun, the aspect of hospitality we most enjoy is forming relationships. Revive225 was born out of the needs of our community. We sit in the heart of downtown Baton Rouge, and we have neighbors that need our help. When we take on a project, we take the homeowners in as family and encourage our volunteers to do the same. Our mission is to continue these relationships far after we complete repairs on their homes.
Forming relationships with our volunteers is also an important aspect of Revive225. We do not want to be seen as simply staff members who are there to tell them what to do. We want to know the students’ stories. We want their experience to be as enjoyable as possible, and that means getting to know them. We have five groups returning this year from last year’s season of Revive, and we hope they continue to come back year after year.
When asked about her students’ experience at Revive225, Illinois State University Wesley intern Suzy Rose said, “The staff’s passion for Revive225 and the community is truly inspiring. Students talked about how, because of Revive, they were energized and reminded of the bigger world and of how loving and present our God is every day. It reminded me of why I love being in ministry. Seeing passion and talent played out makes my heart happy. Revive225 is doing a phenomenal job and impacting so many individuals’ lives.”
Kind words like these reaffirm our decision to invest in the lives of our homeowners, Revive volunteers and FUMC volunteers. Having so much help behind the scenes makes our job seem less like a job. We cannot thank our food team, food donors, monetary donors, prayer warriors, social media likers/sharers, site leaders and any other supporters enough for the work they do to make Revive run smoothly.
We often chalk all these acts of service up to “Southern hospitality,” but I think it’s more than that. I think these faithful servants have given a piece of themselves to this ministry out of pure love—the kind of love that is patient and kind, that never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. The beauty of Revive is that you don’t have to be able to swing a hammer to get involved. Revive225 simply runs on love, and we invite you to be a part of our family.
What others are saying:
“The [Revive225] staff were very relational and connected well with our group, staff worked hard alongside us and took care of our needs.” –Amy Givens, Youth Pastor, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Oklahoma City
“Our favorite part of Revive225 was the ministry with neighbors and hospitality of church staff.” –Mike Toluba, Pastor, Florida State University & Tallahassee Community College Wesley Foundation
“The staff’s passion for Revive225 and the community is truly inspiring. Students talked about how, because of Revive, they were energized and reminded of the bigger world and of how loving and present our God is every day. It reminded me of why I love being in ministry. Seeing passions and talents played out makes my heart happy. You guys are doing a phenomenal job. You are impacting so many individuals’ lives.” –Suzy Rose, Intern, Wesley Foundation at Illinois State University
Want to volunteer with Revive225?
- Send snacks for volunteers
- Bake cookies for homeowners
- Lead a worksite
- Demonstrate the two-step or waltz on culture night
- Serve food
- Boil crawfish
- Pray for Revive225
- Like/follow on social media
- Tell your friends about Revive225
- Make a donation (money, tools, etc)
Contact Alex Byo for more information on how to volunteer.