P.O. Box 626 108 3rd Ave E Oneonta, AL O: 205-625-5681 F: 205-625-6173
Lester Memorial UMC
Thursday, July 24, 2014
"The organized unit of United Methodist Women shall be a community of women whose PURPOSE is to know God and to experience freedom as a whole person through Jesus Christ; to develop creative, supportive fellowship; and to extend concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church."
The UMW is the largest denominational faith organization for women with around 800,000 members whose mission is fostering spiritual growth, developing leaders and advocating for justice. Members raise up to $20 million each year for programs and projects related to women, children and youth in the U. S. and in more than 100 countries around the world. For almost 150 years, we have collectively prayed, planned, organized and given to support missions around the world.
Our story began with individual women seeing a need. Alma Matthews, a Methodist missionary saw a need. Before Ellis Island was built to process newly arrived persons in the United States, immigrants were dropped off at a dock in lower Manhattan and had to make their way to Castle Garden, the immigration processing facility. Some didn't make it. Gangs would kidnap young women who were traveling alone and force them into prostitution. Other young women had their money or luggage stolen. Many were scammed and talked into "exchanging" their savings for a paltry sum of U.S. currency.
Alma Matthews would go to the docks and help women through the immigration process and then take them to an Immigrant Girls Home. Some women quickly traveled to meet relatives, while others stayed until they were able to make their own way. The home offered job skills and worship. Alma Matthews served as a missionary for the Women's Home Missionary Society and served young immigrant women for 38 years.
She founded the home in New York City around 1890 and helped thousands of young single women who arrived alone. By 1900 staff of the home was meeting 900 ships per year. Matthews would take blankets and clothes to Ellis Island and, in 1905, took Christmas presents to 5,000 detainees on the island. She acted out of a spirit of faith, hospitality, and love.
Matthews also addressed prejudices and fears surrounding  immigrants. When President McKinley was assassinated by the son of Polish immigrants, Matthews urged people not to use the incident as an excuse to turn away from immigrants. Instead, she said, we need to welcome them. Matthews mission efforts were part of national efforts by United Methodist Women predecessor organizations to address the needs of new immigrants. These efforts continue to day. While immigrants are coming from different countries, their need for rights, welcome and support are just as great.
In our local UMW we have supported a scholarship program for our Lester Memorial children. Emily Tish, director of the kindergarten at the time, saw a need. Some children who were in our daycare program could not afford both day care and kindergarten. She went to Rachel Bentley and UMW and asked for help. The donations from the Salad Luncheon go to support these scholarships each year.
Anna Goode recently spent 6 weeks on a mission trip in Senegal, Africa. While she was there she stayed in a UMW house that provided shelter for U.S. mission teams, refugees from other warring African countries, and local Senegalize who have been flooded out of their homes.
The UM Women's story is one of faith and love of women seeing a need and acting to meet that need.