Union United Methodist hopes eight is its most rewarding number yet.
In the past seven years, the small South Conway church has brought in nearly $128,000 to fund water wells in Africa as well as improve its own facilities for effective ministry environments.
“It’s amazing for a church the size of Union to continue to generate such large amounts of money through a single event,” said Union’s pastor, the Rev. James Grubb. “That is a testament to the passion God has placed on the hearts of the people of Union.”
The more than 200-year-old church, located on U.S. 701 South, hopes to add more to that figure as it plans for its eighth annual Union with the Congo Golf Tournament.
The tournament, set for Aug. 27 at Burning Ridge Golf Club, is the flagship fundraiser Union uses to provide clean water for drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning, waste disposal and agriculture to a people who don’t have access to it.
The tournament’s main funding is through sponsorships, and it has already secured several premier level sponsors.
Conway law firm, Singleton, Burroughs, Young & Sligh, P.A., is a regular sponsor that upped its support of the golf tournament this year.
“It is a privilege to sponsor this event,” said firm attorney Kathryn Sligh. “We often take access to clean water and the ability to worship for granted, yet it is a daily struggle for others.”
Along with being a business partner of the golf tournament, Sligh is also a member of Union United, having grown up in the church. She understands the benefits of the 50/50 split of funds raised by the tournament as bettering her local community as well as areas on the other side of the globe.
“The goal is to improve the lives of those in the Congo and in our hometown so that they may thirst no more.” Sligh said.
Coastal Asphalt, LLC is also a longtime golf tournament sponsor. This is its third year at the premier level.
“We are grateful to be able to give back to others out of what God has given us,” said Sherry Winburn, president of Coastal Asphalt. “I can’t imagine being without clean, fresh water. We take it for granted. We’re spoiled.”
Being civic-minded comes naturally for Winburn and the folks at Coastal Asphalt.
“It’s good for the community to see others reaching out,” she said. “That’s what it boils down to.”
The tournament is also a perfect opportunity to visit with folks.
“It’s a great get-together. It all becomes fun,” said Winburn, also a member of Union United. “Church is more than Sundays.”
Fellow Union-goer Lee Lewis agrees.
Not only is Lee Lewis Heating and Air Conditioning a four-year premier sponsor, the business also raises additional funds for the tournament from its business partners.
“I’m a firm believer that when you are blessed you need to give back,” he said.
Lewis has generous clients. When the business asks his suppliers to partner in helping fund wells in Africa they heed the call. This past year, Lewis’ suppliers adding several thousand dollars to the total monies collected.
While Lewis is an expert in generous giving to the golf tournament, he said he still needs work when it comes to the actual playing of the sport of golf.
“I’m the worst golfer,” he said, “but it’s fun to get together. We don’t go to win.”
No luck here
This past year’s tournament raised $7,100 for water wells, but the mission-minded folks at Union doubled their fundraising efforts.
The increase in the donation to $14,200 comes as a result of “Giving Tuesday,” a nationwide day designed to increase online charitable giving. It’s set for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to promote philanthropy, especially in the shopping aftermath of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
As part of Giving Tuesday, the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) matches the first $1 million in online gifts. Around the world, 778 projects and missionaries received more than 8,757 gifts through Giving Tuesday.
Golf tournament chair Keith Collins credits God for the continued success of the annual fundraiser.
“We believe this is a mission God has placed on our hearts as a church,” he said. “We have been faithful to that mission. God has blessed it and continues to bless it.”
According to Union’s partner in ministry, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), 2.5 billion people worldwide lack basic sanitation and 5,000 children die daily from waterborne diseases.
Clean, clear water is essential, not only for drinking, but also for establishing much-needed medical facilities.
Along with the wells dug near villages and schools, the latrines offer the people of the Congo privacy, dignity and safety.
How it began
When Union first came up with the idea of finding funding for church property upgrades during the 2008 Christmas season, its members decided that for every $1 raised, one dime would go to missions.
As the idea of that sank in, the small group grew more concerned they were looking too inward.
The folks quickly decided that 10 percent going to outside missions just wasn’t enough, so they made a commitment to go dollar for dollar. For every $1 raised for church repairs and renovations, Union would also give $1 toward world missions.
“The church realized it wanted to be about more than just itself,” Collins said.
The vision of doing missions both locally and globally caught on and spread quickly through the congregation. During that Christmas season, the members of Union donated $14,200. That’s $7,100 to build the first well in the Congo and another $7,100 to upgrade its own buildings -- all without fundraising or seeking outside donations.
Since 2008, UWTC has been able to fund the building of many water wells and latrines in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The other half of the fundraising monies has gone to upgrading Union’s children’s ministry facilities, renovating the sanctuary and implementing new technology.
The Union with the Congo Golf Tournament has a tee time of 8:15 a.m. and includes a full breakfast beginning around 7 a.m. This is not just coffee and doughnuts, but a full buffet of bacon, sausage, eggs, grits and more.
There will also be lots of door prizes and packages to look forward to as well as a delicious chicken bog lunch.
“We really try to make this event special and treat our players with great hospitality as they continue to support us year after year,” Collins said.
This is the fifth year the church has worked with Burning Ridge Golf Club and is grateful for the ongoing support of the mission work.
Union is currently accepting sponsors, players and door prizes.
Visit www.liveandlovelikejesus.com to register as a sponsor or team, to volunteer or to learn more.