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At a recent Conference Leadership Team meeting, Arvilla Jungman opened with an adapted poem and a prayer. The topic was hope and change. Her poem and prayer were especially heartening following a virtual memorial service for Ms. Hope Howard at the Middletown United Methodist Church held earlier that morning. “Hope” is embodied by Hope Howard’s story. Hope’s obituary can be found here: https://www.fredericknewspost.com/obituaries/hope-howard/article_427f89e6-e113-52e0-baa9-1d35c2b8f3b2.html What is remarkable about Hope’s story is that, this is what the church should be, in every sense. Hope Howard was a fierce advocate for people with disabilities. She advocated for them daily with how she lived her love, her life. She was and is an inspirational role model for those with and without disabilities. Though fiercely independent, as Hope got older, she became less mobile, and her hearing and her vision waned. Church members took turns visiting her periodically, and over time they assisted her more and more. In the last year or two, Hope moved to Record Street home in Frederick. Church members continued to visit her there – despite COVID – taking all precautions not to endanger anyone living in the nursing home. Meanwhile, they helped Hope to prepare her own home for sale. Some church members felt her home should be leveled as, unbeknownst to them until considering putting it on the market, it had mold and mildew growing in the basement. Because Hope was in a wheelchair towards the end of her time at home, she had been unable to go to the basement. Visitors came to her living room and did not venture to the basement. In addition, there were critters living in the attic and basement – snakes, rats, and mice. While some church members felt her home should be leveled, others had a vision. A church family had never owned their own home, and their grown daughter lived with them. They wished to buy a home, but their daughter’s disability required a home that was handicap accessible. Hope’s home had a ramp, wide doorways, and the accessibility their daughter would need. The church family expressed an interest in buying Hope’s house and Hope wanted nothing more than to sell it to them. Members of the church then embarked on a long journey to remediate the mold and mildew, remove the snakes, rats, and mice, trim the trees, remove pesky roots, and prepare the home for its new residents. The family purchasing the home helped. It was Habitat for Humanity without being Habitat for Humanity. In recent weeks, her home sold, and it is now inhabited by her friends from the church, who are happily first-time homeowners. Hope passed away at the age of 94. Her memorial service can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTHQ59EM5-Y

Memorial services are a window into a life well-lived and so much can be learned from them. Hope’s memorial service highlights the connectional nature of the church, what it means to love, and what it means to be Light. This is what our church is and should be in the world – to our members and to our communities. This is social action. Changed lives is the present and the future of the church, “Hope.”

Maria Hase, social action coordinator
United Women in Faith
Desert Southwest Conference

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