UMT Valentines ministry touches hearts

UMT Valentines ministry touches hearts

When Christy Columbo and her granddaughter, Autumn, showed up at Sandra Shrewsbury’s house Valentine’s Day afternoon with three red roses and a heart-shaped box of candy, it was all the three could do to remember the importance of maintaining a safe distance.

Hugs would have to wait, and smiles would have to hide behind masks, but gratitude could not be held back.

“I thought the remembrance for those who had lost a spouse was wonderful,” said Shrewsbury, who lost her husband, Sam, just after Christmas. “It’s the first time I’ve heard of any group doing anything like this. As a recipient of this kindness, I felt remembered and loved.”

Autumn and her grandmother were among four teams of volunteers, including members of the United Methodist Temple youth group, who spent the afternoon letting the church’s widows and widowers know how much they’re loved, explained Michelle Browne, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries and Community Outreach.

For Joy Hill, whose husband, Fred, passed at the end of July last year, the gesture brought tears. Crying, she penned a thank-you note just moments after Daniel, Tammy, and Luke Spurgeon brought roses and candy to her door.

“One of the kindest gestures ever, these Valentine’s gifts from my church family meant so much to me today,” she wrote. “I miss Fred so much, and this kindness with a special card enclosed was such a blessing — a reminder to me and I’m sure to others who have lost their loved ones, that God’s timing is perfect and that a thoughtful gesture goes a long way.”

In all, the Valentine’s Day ministry reached 29 members of the church family who have suffered the loss of a spouse.

“I thought of Lillian Foti, whose husband had died about a week before, to those who have been widowed for decades,” Shrewsbury added. “I’ve talked to several, and they were just as appreciative as I was. I’m sure everyone was blessed: those who were on the receiving end and those who gave of their time to make this event so special.”

Those on the giving end were absolutely blessed, Browne said, explaining how members of the youth group were touched time and time again by stories of God’s faithfulness.

“It is great to hear how God has been faithful,” she said. “It’s encouraging, too, not just for the people we visited, but for the youth. … When we did this with my youth group in California, we would usually sit with them a while, hear their story, and just spend time with them, but with Covid, we had to do more of a drop-off. Still, we prayed outside and heard a little of their stories. And afterwards, the youth would say, ‘that was awesome,’ and ‘that was great.’ ”

Browne explained how youth members commented on the love stories they heard — one from a widow who met her husband on a Monday and married him on a Friday, just before he left for World War II; another from a widow whose husband had proposed on Valentine’s Day with a heart-shaped ring.

“She said she had really been struggling Saturday and felt like he (her husband) had literally sent the roses and candy to her,” Browne said, adding that the visits were meant for just that, to help people feel loved and not alone. 

Commenting on the UMT Facebook page, Mary Riner, who lost her husband, Tom, just after Thanksgiving, explained the roses she received were merely buds, at first. “ … As soon as I opened and placed (them) in water, one bud opened to full bloom. I’m saying my Tom was that bloom wishing me a happy day. God is good,” she wrote.

Browne said she plans on making connections and outreaches like this one a part of regular church life.

“Hopefully, when Covid is over, we can do this again, and spend some more time with them,” Browne said, “just sit and hear their stories about how God has been faithful.”