As we approach Tarrytown United Methodist Church’s birthday weekend, I’ve been reflecting on all the ways that my family has been impacted by the TUMC church family, and how they’ve taught my family what it means to serve and love our neighbors.
TUMC is definitely a family affair for the Strong-Thompson family. It began in 1974 when Jim and Mary Strong moved their young family to the Allandale neighborhood in central Austin. One of the first neighbors to welcome them was Toni and Vernon Perry. Since Vernon was the founding pastor at TUMC, he naturally invited the Strongs to attend the church. They did and have been hooked ever since. The three Strong daughters: Stacey, Jennifer, and Kati grew up at TUMC and were very active in the Children and Youth ministries. This is where they were initially introduced to the incredible amount of opportunities for mission and service that TUMC offers.
Stacey and I met in college in 1990, eventually became engaged and then married in 1994. Of course, the wedding was at TUMC. Dozens of longtime Strong family friends from our church family were in attendance and watched us pass through a military saber arch on that beautiful Saturday in February. After a four year stint in the Army, we returned to Austin for our new civilian careers.
It was a given that Stacey and I would attend TUMC, even though we were living in Round Rock. It was a long drive, but well worth it. We wanted to become involved early on and volunteered to be sponsors for the Youth Group. Stacey’s youngest sister, Kati, was actually a high school senior and an active member of that Youth Group. We did a lot of fun activities, but one of the most memorable was the Summer Senior High Mission Trip to work with Habitat for Humanity in Mississippi. It was an incredible experience to witness God’s love through the actions of those high schoolers, and Stacey and I learned a lot about our faith on that trip.
Our first daughter, Jordan, was born in 1999, but we continued on as youth sponsors for two more years, attending mission trips in the Rio Grande Valley for both Senior and Junior High. In 2001, our second daughter, Amanda, was born and so it was time to retire as youth sponsors and concentrate on raising our family. We joined the Aldersgate Sunday School Class and enrolled the girls into TUMC CDO as soon as there was an opening for them. We didn’t stay away from TUMC missions for long though. In 2003, I was the president of the Aldersgate Class when our classmate Matt Schirmer was tragically killed in a car wreck. There was a consensus in our class that we wanted to do something to memorialize Matt, and one year later our church family began hosting the McCurdy Madness Basketball Tournament, in Matt’s memory, that benefitted the McCurdy School. I ran that tournament for nine years, and we raised $35,000 for the school during that time frame.
By 2011, our daughter Jordan was in middle school and starting to attend mission trips herself. One of her first trips was to Heifer International in Arkansas. Ironically, just as Stacey and I had been sponsors for Kati’s mission trip 13 years ago, Jordan was joined on that trip by her uncle, Kati’s husband, Joey Thompson. Kati and Joey were also married at TUMC in 2002 and have been attending the church ever since then. (It is pure coincidence that Joey has the same last name as me.) They have all enjoyed being a part of the youth group together during the last six years and were joined by Amanda just as soon as she began middle school. There have been trips to Houston, San Antonio, Chicago, Heifer and McCurdy, and this summer both Jordan and Amanda went on the mission trip to Guatemala. Just as Stacey and I experienced 18 years prior, it was an incredible feeling for them to be amongst fellow Christians from the TUMC family while serving others and sharing God’s love.
The TUMC church family has certainly been an integral part of our family, but it may never have been had Toni and Vernon Perry not taken that walk across the street to invite my in-laws to become a part of it.
As we celebrate TUMC’s 70th birthday with all of you, my family is thankful for that walk across the street and all of the other blessings we have received from the TUMC family in the past and will certainly continue to receive in the future.