Julie Broderson calls the homeless friends. As Pastor of Missions at Centenary United Methodist Church (UMC), she helps her congregation re-discover God’s mission for the world by seeing the less fortunate in the local and global communities.
“My job is not so much to be on the front lines of ministry, as to get church members comfortable with doing ministry themselves,” she said.
Her role is a kaleidoscope of many beautiful pieces that includes working with 15 global partners, refugee resettlement, homeless ministries, after-school mentoring, Habitat for Humanity, God’s Pantry and missionary training.
Not only does Julie encourage others to serve, she helps them discover where God’s call and their passion intersect. Using a program called SHAPE, she helps individuals explore their spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences.
“I help people peel back another layer of what God’s doing in their lives,” Julie said. “I want to help them hear God’s voice more clearly to obey Him in this season of life in that particular moment.”
To do that, Julie encourages folks to participate in various types of ministries. One of these is serving the local homeless population.
Thirteen years ago, Julie and Centenary created a homeless ministry model called Room in the Inn, based on Room in the Inn Nashville. Today 26 congregations provide shelter and food to 24 homeless men nightly from November to March.
This outreach is a citywide initiative and open to any Christian community. Each congregation brings the homeless men into their church, treats them like an honored guest, and feeds them family style. They are given breakfast and a sack lunch the following day before moving on to the next church.
“These guys became our friends,” Julie said. “We met people who were just like us, except that their addictions and challenges had made them lose their homes. This has become a much-loved ministry from November to March.”
Centenary UMC doesn’t just focus on local needs, but also global. Currently, they have 15 global relationships. The Centenary community has helped to re-settle four refugee families, their most recent being a Syrian family.
“When God puts a stranger in our midst, it’s our job to welcome them,” Julie said. I think that’s true for Christians wherever you are to create a spirit of welcome and reconciliation.”
Although some in the congregation have expressed fear in seeing faces different from their own, Julie believes that exhibiting a spirit of welcome shows a trust in God, but that a spirit of fear, fuels anger that reflects neither His character nor nature.
“Isn’t empathy one of the most powerful emotions?” Julie asked. “We can’t be empathetic if we don’t enter into conversations and ask them how they feel and get to know their hearts. Christ entered into our world as a way to understand what it means to live in a way that is authentically God. He did that through relationships and communication.”
These relationships aren’t one-way streets. The Syrian family that Centenary most recently adopted has been in the U.S. about six months. They recently had Julie and her husband over for lunch to reciprocate the growing friendship.
“Having an encounter with someone who is the ‘other’ helps me see my world in a powerful way,” she said. “I see things through their life experiences, and I am healthier and more compassionate as a result.”
Last year, Julie also worked with a group of Arabic speaking women in an outreach called The Gathering that met twice a month. Friendships formed as the women from Centenary helped their new friends learn the basics of American culture, such as grocery shopping and paying bills, as well as fun field trips.
Julie has been on more than 25 international mission trips. In 2008, she was appointed the lay leader for missions for the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and served in that capacity for several years. Each summer, she offers a mentored ministry class through Asbury Seminary. As part of the class, students get to interact with refugee families to learn what life is like through their eyes. She and her husband, Steve, live in Versailles and have two college age daughters.
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