St. Mark United Methodist Church in Opelousas is engaging with its surrounding community in a truly significant way with its main outward mission—a community free clothing store.
“St. Mark has moved from serving God by doing general mission projects to specifically developing its main mission program—our Free Clothing Store,” said the Rev. Junius Egby, pastor.
The concept of the store, which opened in January of 2016, developed after multiple meetings in the Opelousas church to “discern God’s call for the church to mission.”
A mission committee was formed to explore the logistics for the free store project. At the same time the committee came together, Rev. Egby was appointed to the Acadiana District church. Because he was a resident of Opelousas already, Egby had his own home. This allowed the church to use the one-time parsonage as the new home for the Free Clothing Store.
The mayor of Opelousas, Reginald Tatum, along with other area public servants and citizens in the community joined the church for the store’s ribbon-cutting. “Many have come to get free, needed clothing. And others have continued to donate clothing to the church to serve that need. Residents from the community have expressed gratitude for this place where they can get desperately needed items when their money runs low--the Free Store was their place to turn,” said Egby.
St. Mark UMC and the store played a vital role in the wake of last year’s flooding that struck the area. “The church cooked meals, helped to shelter disaster response teams and donated many items to help people get back on their feet,” said Cheryl Milburn, a member of St. Mark UMC.
“Today, St. Mark is continuing to persevere in its efforts to be the ‘hands and feet’ of Christ. With the free clothing store, we are being true to our mission. While Sisters Cheryl Milburn, Sylvia Milburn, Louise Thomas and Becky Watson are the mission coordinators; all of the congregation can participate by volunteering time to work in it as well,” said Egby, who describes St. Mark UMC as a “traditional church with a contemporary pastor.”
This United Methodist pastor strives to bring a fresh touch to worship through “thematic sermons that remind us to see the need to be more inclusive of all.” Egby, who is a hip-hop “Gospel rapper” has actually performed rap in the church and has recorded music with area youth from the area.
Although St. Mark UMC is not a large church, the congregation is “making a difference for Christ in our community,” said Egby. “We are proof that big things still can happen in small places, and that dreams do come true.
To find out more about the Free Clothing Store ministry at St. Mark UMC in Opelousas, contact Rev. Junius Egby at (337) 948-8537.