Church Answers The Call To Give Close To Home


Donations go into the Jack County Long Term Recovery fund go to help individuals who lost or sustained damage to their primary residences.

First UMC Whitewright nearing $10,000 in pledges for tornado recovery in Jack County

As we mark one year since a tornado devastated a large swath of Jack County, one small congregation is approaching its goal to raise $10,000 for recovery efforts. While the two communities are more than 120 miles apart, a sense of connection and commitment to neighbor sparked First UMC Whitewright’s generosity.

Church member Angie Eads remembers, “When the North Texas Conference first announced the Close to Home campaign and we talked about a goal of $5,000, we said to each other, ‘We think we can do better than that!’ ”

They set their goal at $10,000 and have been steadily raising funds since September 2022.

Jeannie Lyons has a personal connection to Jacksboro that motivates her financial giving. Her daughter, Rev. Samantha Parsons, was pastor of First UMC Jacksboro until she had to step down when long COVID impacted her life. Parsons and her husband were living in Lyons' RV in Jack County when the tornado hit and Parsons barely made it out alive. 

Said Lyons: "Craig, my son-in-law, works at Jacksboro High School. Thank God the principal at the high school let them out early as the storm came. Craig went and grabbed Sammie and the dog and the cat, and they got in the car and they seriously were only just down the road a minute when that tornado reduced my camper to a twisted pile of rubble.

"I still cry when I think of it because of how close I came to losing my child. She had been through so much already, having to give up the church there and recovering, then to have that house go away and all the aftermath of it. And my heart just went out not only to my child and my son and all, but to the whole community."

Through the Close to Home campaign, the North Texas Conference commits to continue walking alongside our neighbors in Jack County, providing tangible gifts to meet the needs of individuals who lost or sustained damage to their primary residences in the March 21, 2022, tornado. With locally based case managers, volunteer service groups and support infrastructure provided by the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the Jack County Long Term Recovery Committee (LTRC) is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of their neighbors on the ground and stretch every dollar given.

Rev. Dr. Chad Johnson, pastor of First UMC Jacksboro, illustrated how vital this support is. “Neighbors are telling us that they might just move away rather than find the money to rebuild their homes. With your support we’re able to look them in the eye and tell them, ‘You don’t have to leave your home. You don’t have to leave the community you’ve lived in for so long.’ Because of this financial support we can help them stay and rebuild.”  

First UMC Whitewright is a small church with a worshiping size of 35 to 40 people weekly, yet their impact is far greater than their numbers might suggest. “We’re just very mission oriented,” Eads said. “We’ve done lots of things for other disasters but when it hits this close, it feels like it’s in your backyard. We also hope that our act of doing a little more is a bit of a challenge to other churches to see what they can do. ” 

Rev. Jeremy Basset is the senior pastor at FUMC Whitewright and the NTC Disaster Response Coordinator.

The Jack County LTRC anticipates that the total recovery effort will cost nearly $2 million. Through Close to Home, the North Texas Conference hopes to bring at least one-quarter of that funding – $500,000 – to the table through gifts. That amounts to roughly $2,500 from each of the United Methodist churches in the North Texas Conference.

To learn about Close to Home and make a donation.

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2023