Noted actor visits Manassas church

erik-newspaperAs reported in the February 10, 2014 issue of the Manassas Observer

From Staff Reports

Manassas campus of St. Thomas United Methodist Church premiered a new faith-based family-friendly film, “Uncommon,” on Jan. 30 and also hosted the film’s star, Erik Estrada, at the screening, which was free to the community.

Estrada is known for his leading role in the popular 1970s’ television series, ChiPs. Since then he has appeared in movies, television shows and reality programs.

The film “Uncommon” as described in a news release is a narrative that highlights the struggles of a group of high school students as they seek to write, produce, and perform their own theater production after the school theater, music, and dance departments are cut due to budget.

As the students struggle to find the right script, music, choreography, they get advice from and uncommon source: the Bible!

Volunteers at St. Thomas United Methodist make up 20,000 meal packets for Stop Hunger Now

As reported in the February 7, 2014 issue of the Bull Run Observer and the February 10, 2014 issue of the Manassas Observer

From Staff Reports

More than 100 volunteers gathered in the fellowship hall of St. Thomas United Methodist Church Jan. 12 and spent a little under two hours measuring, carrying, weighing, sealing and boxing up 20,000 nutritionally rich meal packets.

These will be distributed within the next six months to hungry and malnourished children and families through the world by an international hunger relief agency called Stop Hunger Now.

Since its inception 1998 by a United Methodist pastor, Ray Buchanan, the organization has coordinated the distribution of food and other lifesaving aid to children and families in countries all over the world.

Stop Hunger Now created its meal packing program in 2005. The program perfected the assembly processes that combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix including 21 essential vitamins and minerals into small meal packets. Each meal costs 25 cents. The food stores easily, has a shelf life of two years and transports quickly. Stop Hunger Now works with international partners that ship and distribute the meals in-country.

The packaging operation is mobile enough to go wherever volunteers are located, and can be adapted to accommodate as few as 25 and as many as 500 volunteers at a time. One SHN packing event can result in the packing of more than one million meals. The use of volunteers for product packaging has resulted in an extremely cost effective operation while, at the same time, increasing awareness of global hunger and food insecurity issues.

Stop Hunger Now provides more than 70 percent of its meal to support transformational development programs such as school feeding programs, vocational training programs, early childhood development programs, orphanages, and medical clinics.

Every year Stop Hunger Now reserves 10 percent of its projected meals to respond right away to crisis situations including natural disasters, conflict and famine.

This mail packing event was the second such mission project held at St. Thomas UMC within the past year. Regardless of one’s age or physical strength, if you want to participate, there is a meal packing tast that you can do. 

"Ponch" of CHiPS fame at St. Thomas in Manassas for movie premiere Sept. 16

As reported in the Bull Run Observer August 9, 2013 issue.

Actor Erik Estrada, who played Frank "Ponch" Poncherello; a popular star in the 1977-1983 CHiPS television series about California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers, will be in Manassas next month to screen a new movie about internet dangers for kids and sign autographs.

Estrada will visit St. Thomas United Methodist Church on Monday, Sept. 16, at 6 p.m. for the premiere of Finding Faith in which he stars. The full-length film is based on a true story of a family who found and rescued their 14-year-old daughter, Faith, who was accidentally lured by an internet predator. Estrada is the national celebrity spokesman for the Safe Surfin' Foundation, creators of the film.

The community is invited to attend the movie premier. Admission is free. The event's address is
St. Thomas United Methodist Church, 8899 Sudley Road, Manassas, VA 20110. For more information call 703-368-5161.

St. Thomas members pack meals for hungry


 As reported in the August 23, 2013 issue of the Bull Run Observer


These were among the about 80 people of all ages, including families, at St. Thomas United Methodist Church April 26 who worked for two hours after church to package 10,000 meals to be shipped to another country through the Stop Hunger Now organization. 

Stopping hunger is an important focus for St. Thomas United Methodist Church in Manassas. On Sunday, April 26, members gathered to package 10,000 meals to be shipped to another country.

David Forrest, the senior pastor, said Stop Hunger Now is a non-profit based in Raleigh, NC.

With help from churches and other organizations around the country, Stop Hunger Now provides nutritious meal packages that are shipped internationally. Under the leadership of his wife, Nancy Forrest, the church raised the money to make the packages.

They received the 50-pound bags of the ingredients and the supplies needed to mix and package the meals. The ingredients are mixed, poured into zip-lock bags and boxed up for shipping.

“Each meal is pretty cheap,” said Forrest. “[The mixture] looks a little like oatmeal but it’s mostly rice with high-protein and flavoring mix. You just add water and cook it.”

According to the Stop Hunger Now website, the package, which costs only 25 cents, contains rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix which includes 21 essential vitamins and minerals.

Forrest said the youth group had previously volunteered for this mission. “This time we had about 80 people of all ages, including families, who worked for two hours after church. Someone rang a gong each time we got to one thousand.”

They don’t find out where their boxes went until much later. In this case, Forrest learned in late July that theirs went to Zimbabwe.

Ten thousand packages sounds like a lot but, said Forrest, “It isn’t that much. It’s a drop in the bucket [toward what is needed].”

Asked why St. Thomas participates in this mission, Forrest responded, “There’s a lot in the Bible about feeding the hungry, especially in Matthew 25:35, but even in the Old Testament. We try to do that.”

St. Thomas United Methodist Church is located at 8899 Sudley Road, Manassas. Its Haymarket campus meets at Gravely Elementary School in Haymarket. Visit or call 703-361-5161.


Relief team from St. Thomas repairs roofs in NC area damaged by hurricane

As reported in the Bull Run Observer, August 9, 2013 issue.

Observer siaff

Cliff Farrar and Rick McMahon led a team from St. Thomas United Methodist Church for a third mission to Swan Quarter, North Carolina, in early May to help hurricane relief efforts.

Farrar said Swan Quarter, located on the Pamlico Sound, was hit badly by Hurricane Irene in 2011. After a hurricane, extreme coastal (tourist) areas get rebuilt right away but further-in, lower income areas, such as Swan Quarter, remain in need of help. The local Methodist district officials liked the St. Thomas team's roof repair work on the previous mission, so they assigned a roof for the team to repair or replace. Said Farrar, "They have a large number of people who need assistance. The district vets the clients, so we don't have to worry about FEMA or insurance funds, and we like it that way. Our priority is helping people with storm-related damage. With roofing, when you open it up, you get into other issues. Whatever we find, we try to repair."

Farrar said a St. Thomas relief team usually has 10 to 20 members; this one had 12, but it fluctuated because some came or left during the week. Some stayed at a rented-out bed and breakfast, which was their base for meals; others stayed in a nearby motel or at a disaster recovery center team members pay their own way (food, transportation and lodging) while their church and its members donate money for materials. St. Thomas also tries to reimburse the disaster recovery center for materials it supplies for the mission work. The team members have learned to take their own tools so that they'll have what they need, such as compressors and air guns. This time, the team could only work on one roof. "We didn't have as many people between the coming and going, and the pitch was steeper than what we were used to [so the work would be slower]," said Farrar.

Even though they didn't have the number of desired workers, it always seemed to work out. "We plan the work so that everything gets done. Last fall, on a Monday through Friday trip, the last nail went in on Friday night. On this trip, we had an hour's work left. We did it on Saturday morning."

McMahon said St. Thomas has done relief missions since Isabel struck in 2003 and a group traveled to Gloucester Point, Virginia, to help for a weekend. When three or four hurricanes hit Florida in 2005, church members started doing week-long hurricane relief trips. They have a core group of about 20 people who participate in the missions. This was their fourth trip to North Carolina, their third to Swan Quarter. They make sure they have all the proper tools for the job and the environment at each job.

"We continue to go to Swan Quarter because we saw a need and have established a relationship," said McMahon. "We knew they had plenty of need. There are a lot of low-Income or elderly people who can't do it themselves. We're their hands, arms and feet."

Speaking of this single roof repair, McMahon said, "This woman had been waiting over two years to have a crew come. She is a mother of two daughters. The oldest has two babies and is pregnant with a third but she's going to school. It's a very sweet family."

Why do McMahon, Farrar and the others continue to travel to areas such as Swan Quarter that don't offer the comforts of home?

"It's fun to see the smiles on their faces. We get a lot of satisfaction from that: Every time you go, it's a different situation to figure out. These missions have increased my skills. In five or six years, I've gone from doing minor repairs to where now I can probably build a house," said McMahon.

"We enjoy doing it, and it needs to be done," said Farrar. "We know when we go down there, these folks need help. In all three trips, the families were in the house, and we got to know them. That's what keeps some members going back. We establish relationships with some people we've helped in the past."

More information about St. Thomas United Methodist Church is available at 703-368-5161 or The church is located at 8899 Sudley Road in Manassas.






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