ARMs extend a helping hand

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2000

Features Editor

A scripture kept coming to the mind of the Rev. Richard Holmes of Brundidge United Methodist Church: As you do it to the least of these … you do it also unto me.

And, maybe that was the reason he got up in ARMs.

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Holmes was familiar with the Alabama Rural Mission (ARM) program, which was started about five years ago by a minister with the Wesley Foundation at

the University of West Alabama and two university students. However, he had never been a part of one of the local mission trips that are designed to lend a helping hand to the less fortunate, who do not have the financial means or expertise to help themselves.

Holmes knew about ARM and about the good things that were being done by those who were involved. He decided it was time for him to gain first-hand knowledge of the program.

So, he organized a work team from his church and they spent three days, July 26-28, in Sumter County doing repair work for residents there.

"Sumter County is the second poorest county in the state," Holmes said. "The poverty rate there is 48 percent and the needs are great. You might not think that there that many people who have so little, but there are."

Holmes said there were three other teams working in the area during the time the Brundidge United Methodist team was there.

"Each team had assignments and for us, and I’m sure for the other teams, it was a hard-working, joyful experience," he said.

"We’d go to bed bone tired and have to get up at 5:30 the next morning ready to go, but it was well worth the effort."

Holmes said the immediate reaction of the youth on his team was "I’ve got all this stuff and these people have got nothing."

"It was an eye-opening experience for our youth to see that there are people right here in our state who have so little," he said. "And, it was an experience for them to be in the land of ‘no cell phones.’ We were completely out of range."

Alex Sanders said he thought he would be going to work in homes of elderly people or those who are disabled. He was surprised to find that many of those who are in desperate need are younger people who have fallen on hard times.

"Those people deserve a decent place to live, too," he said. "One of the houses had holes in the floor and all kinds of creatures could come in. We tore out the old boards and put in a new floor. I’m sure they slept better that night."

Lucas Fraley and Chance Graham said they learned an important lesson through ARM.

While Lucas was up on a hot tin roof working, a young resident of the house sat inside and never offered to lend a helping hand.

Chance had a similar experience with the young man and also wondered why he was working and sweating for someone who didn’t seem to appreciate his efforts.

Both said they talked about situation and came to realize that it was not their job to find fault.

"We went to lend a hand and that’s what we did it," Lucas said.

"We weren’t supposed to think that someone was not worthy of our help. We learned the lesson we were supposed to learn."

Their pastor agreed with them.

"It was not our job to judge those people or to ask why they were in that situation or how they got there," Holmes said. "Our mission was to help them right where they are.

We don’t know what impact our work there will have. It might be more far reaching than a floor without holes in it. It might make a difference in the lives of those we reached out to help. ARM is a very positive program and it is one of the best local mission programs I have ever been a part of."

The ARM program will be centered in Auburn this year and assignments will be made from there for churches in the Alabama-West Conference of the United Methodist Church.

"ARM is not just for young people; it’s for adults, too," Holmes said. "We plan to have other teams participate in the program because there are valuable lessons to be learned through ARM. You’ll get a whole lot more out of it than you’ll ever put into it."

Holmes spoke from a hard-working, joyful experience.

In addition to Holmes, Sanders, Fraley and Graham, other team members were Kay Sanders and Chad Copeland, adult leaders, and Bill Laney, Dustin Griffin and Misty Ray.