By Melissa Lauber
“Better together.” That’s the foundational philosophy of HOPP, the Harvest Outreach People Project, that is drawing United Methodist churches in Wilmington, Delaware, together to resource them for becoming partners with people in their communities.
“We’re already connected, each church is in a different community and connected, like we’re part of a large electrical grid. HOPP will plug into that grid. Together, we’ll bring light,” said Travis Smith, Sr., HOPP’s executive director.
The goal, Smith said, is to work behind the scenes, to assist and empower local outreach committees, “connecting people with opportunities.” HOPP will collect and distribute large quantities of food to local churches so that their outreach committees can distribute it once a month to the people in need in their communities. HOPP will also provide social services, assistance with technology and opportunities for service.
In a ceremony on Sept. 22, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling blessed the ground at 330, E. 30th Street in Wilmington, where HOPP’s warehouse and logistical center will be housed.
In blessing the land for God’s people and God’s purpose, Bishop Easterling invited United Methodists from across the affiliation to support HOPP with their “prayers, presence and pledges.”
"At our churches, we pray about making a difference. We pray that transformation will come,” the bishop said. “This is evidence that transformation comes when we come outside the walls of our sanctuaries and engage and meet our community where they are.”
Easterling was joined by the 12 district superintendents from the Peninsula-Delaware and Baltimore-Washington Conferences and other conference leaders.
The Cabinets are hopeful that HOPP will inspire other faith communities to develop missional action plans that embrace vital discipleship and “move the church outside of the building in ways that will bring forth the Kingdom of God,” said the Rev. Joseph Archie, superintendent of the Delaware District.
The Rev. Jackie Ford, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, agreed. She lifted up Bishop Easterling’s on-going vision of 100 percent of congregations becoming 100 vital, which includes seeing all the people, living and loving like Jesus, deepening discipleship and multiplying impact.
“This partnership and collaboration among Delaware District United Methodist churches and other churches model the bishop’s vision and demonstrate how powerful and effective churches can be when they get outside the church walls and work together to meet the needs of the community,” Ford said.
HOPP began five years ago with a vision Smith had about churches regaining their place as the center of their communities.
He shared his vision and leaders from churches like Arise at Peninsula-McCabe, Asbury and Richardson Park UMCs, and these congregations and others joined Smith in bringing the vision to life.
In the last 12 months, HOPP has given out 329,000 pounds of food, 50,000 PPE products related to COVID, and 15,000 blankets through 27 United Methodist churches.
“When churches get outside their walls during these hot-drops, they start talking to people in the community, stories are shared and relationships are formed,” said the Rev. Tracy Mooney, pastor of Asbury UMC in New Castle, Delaware, and co-chair of HOPP. “That’s HOPP’s mission,” she said, “to connect people from place to place, hoping to restore dignity, health and opportunities within our communities.”
At the blessing of the ground, Queen Cora Coleman, the drummer for Beyonce and a spokesperson for sustainable shipping container building development, shared how HOPP will use shipping containers, which are a new form of sustainable and repurposed materials, to build its new facility. It is expected to be completed in the next few months.
The building will sit on land acquired by Peninsula-McCabe UMC. HOPP received a grant from the Longwood Foundation to build this first of three 5,000 square-foot buildings.
On Sept. 22, HOPP also announced a campaign to raise $2 million in two months. Bishop Easterling, who was one of the first donors to the new ministry, encouraged everyone to give.
What’s happening with the Harvest Outreach People’s Project, she said “is an embodied example of what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.”
To learn more, visit thehopp.org.