By JOSEPH HARRIS, Director of Communications, Oklahoma Conference of UMC
In Tulsa, Restore Hope Ministries celebrated the opening of its new storage facility with a service of dedication and tours on April 20.
Director Jeff Jaynes spoke about “the miracle of the extension cord” that led to the building expansion for this United Methodist-related aid agency.
A winter storm struck in February 2011, on a Sunday that Tulsa-Asbury United Methodist Church was scheduled to collect food and deliver it to Restore Hope. But due to weather warnings, the church cancelled all programming that day, to discourage people from leaving their homes.
At Restore Hope, more than 10 feet of snow accumulated on the existing warehouse’s flat roof. It collapsed under the weight.
Asbury truly had made a Spirit-led decision, Rev. Jaynes said. Any volunteers unloading food could have been hit when the roof crumpled.
Restore Hope staff discovered the cave-in on the next day. They were surprised to find a heavy steel support beam had buckled but not fallen. Deeper in the damage, they were astonished. An extension cord was holding up that beam, preventing it from crashing down upon the agency’s only delivery van.
That slim cord saved potentially thousands of more dollars in repair costs — and helped launch “Raise the Roof,” a fundraising campaign to acquire new equipment and a new warehouse, Jaynes explained.
The campaign’s goal is $215,000. At the time of the dedication, $212,000 had been raised. Jaynes said the extension-cord “miracle” will be fulfilled soon.
Led by Bishop Robert Hayes Jr., a group officially cut the ribbon to open the Larry Johnson Warehouse, so named in honor of Restore Hope’s former, longtime director.
Rev. Johnson reflected that the ministry has come a long way since the days he began his service there. Not only has its location changed (formerly downtown), but also its name (formerly Tulsa District Cooperative Ministries).
Johnson also pointed out that its impact has grown, too.
Last year Restore Hope served more than 6,000 families and provided school supplies to 2,500 children. The agency assisted 440 families at risk of homelessness. Restore Hope has been credited with a 98 percent success rate in preventing homelessness; 70 percent is the national average.
Jaynes affirmed the unwavering commitment of volunteers and supportive churches. Needs continue to increase, he said, but workers such as retired minister Leon Harrell and Norman Haws represent the “fierce” belief of United Methodists in the importance and effectiveness of this ministry.
Across 18 years, Rev. Harrell has both worked on staff and volunteered. An idea shared by Haws, a 30-year volunteer, led to the agency’s annual Lenten Fast-A-Meal fundraising effort.
Bishop Hayes remarked, “You help recover sight for the blind and set the oppressed free. The ministry of Restore Hope is the mission of Jesus Christ.”