‘Faith and action’: Area couple leads 33 trips to help those in need
This year, the Stockton couple had 35 people on their team. They ranged in ages from 1 to 86 years old. Excluding the little children, those who went built some ramps for people who were either in wheelchairs or use walkers, put in a cement pad, built and installed outdoor steps, patched roofs, replaced a toilet, and put in new skirting on a mobile home.
The projects were similar to years past. Over the years they’ve built decks, cut up downed trees, painted inside and outside of houses, crawled under mobile homes to repair floors or plumbing, and more.
The Loomises are longtime members of Park Methodist Church in Sinclairville and Cassadaga. In fact, they’re one of the few couples that attend services in both communities every week.
Over the years they’ve helped with a number of ministries at the church, but the annual week-long West Virginia trip has been their baby.
They started it in 1990, through Tyrand Cooperative Ministries, Inc. Tyrand is a Christian-based ministry reaching out to the less fortunate people of the Tygart Valley in southern Randolph County. Their slogan is “Faith and action joined in love has come to mean living out our Christian discipleship in response to meeting the needs of others.”
Tyrand has a number of different ministries, including a food pantry, a summer day camp for children, a thrift store, and more. The one that the Loomises are involved in is the work camp/home repair ministry.
Tyrand is notified of homes with needed repairs. They have church groups come down across the East Coast and make the needed repairs, using Tyrand’s tools.
Groups that come down have at least one “foreman” who can oversee a group of workers, including teenagers, to head up the project. Some groups, like Park Church, may have four or five foremen, which permits multiple work projects.
The groups stay in their facility, with beds in one end for males and the other end for females. In between is a kitchen and dining room area.
In 1990, Harry was looking for an opportunity east of the Mississippi where he could take teenagers to do some hands on work. Tyrand, which is a mission project of the West Virginia United Methodist Church, was appealing because in West Virginia, 13 and 14 year olds could go out to a work site without their parents, and at that time Park Church had more middle school students than high schoolers.
And even though they could be home enjoying the holiday week, year after year they have come to West Virginia. “Everybody has a nudging that the Lord gives them. I’m not called to be a pastor, I’m not called to be a missionary, so to speak; I’m just doing my job as a Christian, bringing some kids into an area that maybe we can help,” Harry said.
Park Church also has a “backyard” ministry where they help local residents who have needs, but Harry said he likes West Virginia, in part because it gives the students an opportunity to work away from home.
Over the years, different people outside of Park Church have come as well. This year alone they had people from Bemus Point Methodist, Kiantone Congregational, Fluvanna Community Church and a couple from a Cattaraugus church, who came in part, to explore starting a ministry like this through their own church.
“We are a team that identifies as a Park Church team and the other churches come in and partner with us and we’re all one family throughout the week, but Park Church is the sponsor of the trip,” Harry said.
“Family” is a key word for the group. “We leave as a team but we return as a family,” Beth said.
Some of that comes from how the team spends its time. While people are out working on houses during the day, the evenings are spent back at Tyrand’s main building, playing board games and doing puzzles, along with bon fires outside. If time permits – and it usually does – Harry and Beth take the team to a nearby creek to go swimming, hiking, and to the local ice cream shop.
Before they leave in the morning, there’s always group devotions and prayers.
The team gets three hot meals a day back at the campsite prepared by some of the Park Church members. The only exception is if a team is traveling a far distance from their camp, they will pack them bagged lunches.
Beth is not as skilled as her husband when it comes to carpentry work, but she is definitely a key component with West Virginia. In January, she starts in earnest praying for the team and organizing fundraisers. “In the beginning this was Harry’s dream. I went along with it and then it became mine, too,” she said.
Beth takes care of the administration part, including insurance, emergency contacts and the like. For about 10 years she did all the cooking.
Beth knows serving West Virginia is important in many ways. “We are the hands and feet of God. If we don’t do it, how are they going to meet Him and see that He is real,” she said.
Rev. Jim Bailey, who was the pastor of Park Church when the Loomises started the ministry, said the West Virginia trip was their church’s first foray outside of the community. “I had wanted to do something for years, and Harry was one the one who really kick-started that and I’m very grateful that he did,” he said.
Over the years, Park Church has done service trips to other places, including Cuba, New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and Kentucky.
Rev. Bailey also praises Harry’s wife for all of her hard work as well. “Whether it’s dealing with meals or whatever, she knows what needs to be done, knows how it ought to be done and will make sure it gets done the right way,” he said.
After Rev Bailey retired, Rev. Joe Pascoe was appointed the pastor of Park Church in 2014. He was very excited about the West Virginia trip and its purpose. “My first impression was this is an amazing ministry opportunity and it’s a wonderful outreach,” he said.
Rev. Pascoe said the service trips fit in with their church’s beliefs. “We believe that every person is created in the image of God and are of sacred worth and people need help,” he said.
Like Rev. Bailey, Rev. Pascoe has gone a few times over the years, but not every year. He knows that the Loomises are more than capable. “They are humble people who love everyone,” he said.
Rev. Pascoe continued, “Beth becomes a grandma to everybody and Harry becomes a friend to everybody,” he said.
The Loomises have been leading the trip for 33 years. The only year they missed was 2020, because of the pandemic. Beth did stay back for two years, once because she just had carpal tunnel surgery and the other time was because there wasn’t room, so she gave up her spot.
But after this year’s trip, the Loomises are handing over the reigns to another young couple in their church. That doesn’t mean they won’t be involved; they’re just stepping away from leadership.
Beth said she’s very thankful for the couple who are taking over. “I’m really glad that we found someone to continue it, because it doesn’t always happen in ministry,” she said.