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Traffic light stops people before and after worship to give

A stoplight runs its cycle in the foyer of Spokane Valley United Methodist Church, flashing at members as they come to and go from worship.

It reminds them to stop, think of hungry people and donate to Church World Service (CWS) for global and local hunger relief.

M Bafus
Madelyn Bafus

Madelyn Bafus, the church’s former coordinator of children’s ministries, education and mission and service outreach, read in CWS resources for CROP Hunger Walks about a church that set up a stoplight to draw donations.

For a while, she used a non-functioning stoplight in the Christian education area. 

One day she learned from John Reynen, a member who worked for the City of Spokane Transportation Department, that the city was replacing its traffic lights and the church could buy one.

Carl Jenkens, another member, put the stoplight on a post with a clear plastic collection container and rewired the light so it operated when plugged into an outlet. 

The container will hold $120 of pennies given by young children.  Adults and older youth give dollar bills, checks and larger coins.  Madelyn regularly takes out the larger donations but leaves the pennies in it.

In 2007, the church raised $600 for CROP hunger projects.

“It’s a constant reminder of CROP,” she said, noting that even though the church previously recruited walkers every year.  The last four years, it has primarily given donations in the container.

The church’s and Madelyn’s outreach does not stop there.

More than a year ago, she left her job with the church and became a caseworker with Interfaith Hospitality of Spokane, one of four local recipients of 25 percent of CROP Hunger Walk Funds raised in Spokane.  It organizes churches to host homeless children and their families for a week in their buildings, and helps families find housing, employment and services.

Madelyn, who has a teaching degree, first began in children’s ministry, but soon picked up on mission and service, she said, because “it’s where my heart is.”

When she was coordinator of mission and service, she offered different outlets and backed them up with Christian education. 

“I hoped people would gravitate to where their hearts are,” she said.  “We have many opportunities to be Jesus’ hands and feet.”

Madelyn listed some of the ways Spokane Valley United Methodist Church’s more than 400 members serve people in the community and around the globe:

• Different members assist with different hunger efforts—preparing or serving Crosswalk or St. Ann’s meals, as well as helping at the food bank.

“At Crosswalk, we are the ‘roast church,’ and at St. Ann’s, we are the tuna noodle casserole group, because that’s what we always take,” said Madelyn, who still serves on the mission and service team.

For 15 years, the youth and the mission and service outreach team have helped every 12 weeks to serve the Sunday Lunch at St. Ann’s Catholic Church.

• The church helped start a food bank that is now at Valley Partners, formerly Spokane Valley Center, which the church also helped start.

• Spokane Valley UMC helped start and housed Valley Meals on Wheels about 30 years ago.  That program, which also receives CROP Walk funds, delivers meals to home-bound elderly and disabled people from its office at 321 S. Dishman-Mica Rd.  Church members still volunteer to drive.

“When my children were young and I drove to deliver Meals on Wheels, I took them with me.  Now my son, Chris, who is in his 30s, wants me to take his daughter, Chloe,” she said.

• In addition, it is a support church when St. Mary’s Catholic Church hosts homeless families through Interfaith Hospitality.

• Two years ago through World Relief, the church sponsored a refugee family from Liberia.  Many years ago, they sponsored two Vietnamese families.

The commitment to outreach is visible in the foyer by the office:

• A basket holds clothing gifts for CASA—Court Appointed Special Advocates—a ministry of one group in the church.

• United Methodist Women collect toiletries for Hope House, a women’s shelter in Spokane.

• Photos of Appoline and Helen, two orphan children in the Congo, sit on a table. The church has adopted them, writing letters and sending funds so they can go to school.  Church children, who have heard the story of their parents being killed, often write letters, too.

In addition, reports on mission programs are often shared at the seniors’ monthly soup-and-salad lunches, the 55-Plus Luncheon.  About 72 come regularly from Good Samaritan retirement center, the neighborhood and the church.  In 1999, the lunches started with three tables.  Now enough come to fill 10 tables.

“We started the lunch, aware that the end of the month is a hard time financially for seniors,” said Madelyn.  “It also gives them a social outlet.”

Madelyn, who grew up Lutheran in Walla Walla, earned a teaching degree at Washington State University in 1970.  She and her husband, Jerry, became United Methodist soon after they married.  She taught fourth grade for three years in Walla Walla, before they moved to Spokane Valley in 1979.

While her three children were growing up, she was active in the grade school and junior high parent teacher organizations, did some substitute teaching, led Camp Fire for 17 years and taught Sunday school.

Seven years working at a pawn shop and meeting marginalized people heightened her commitment to mission.

For many years when she led the church youth group, the church walked in CROP Hunger Walks as a way to involve their youth.  Some youth served at the water stations instead of walking.

“We walked to raise funds to be in solidarity with hungry people worldwide,” she said.

Madelyn often used Church World Service resources and projects to help the children and youth see how pennies can add up to make a difference.

Madelyn’s motivation is Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “When I was hungry, you fed me; homeless, you sheltered me,” and finally, “when you do something to the least, you do it to me.”

“Mission has always been part of my life,” she said.  “Christ asks us to reach out.”

Words of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, also inspire her:  “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Madelyn believes in sharing faith in practice, acting in Christ’s love, sharing faith words if an appropriate opportunity arises.

She realizes that “each person is a child of God” and that “people in need and in crisis are human beings God loves.”

Working at the Interfaith Hospitality office at 2521 E. Sprague, Madelyn does intake interviews with homeless families, identifies needs and helps them find housing, employment and necessities.  She networks with churches, agencies and programs such as the Homeless Coalition and Feed Spokane.

Madelyn said volunteers help in many ways:  Some set up beds for families; some cook; some visit; some wash bedding, and some help at the day center.

“It’s mind boggling what we as churches can do when we work together,” she added.

Madelyn enjoys helping children by helping parents find stability:  “Maybe they will remember that those who helped them in a crisis were in churches.”

Church members see and fill various needs, such as providing a car, a sewing machine or a job for another.  Their generosity shows people in crisis that they have worth and that people in the churches understand the barriers and struggles they face, she said.

For information, call 747-5487 or email

Copyright © 2008 - The Fig Tree - By Mary Stamp