Seek the Peace and Prosperity of the City
By Earnestine Varnado*
My journey into Church and Community ministry began (without my knowledge), when I was a young teen. I enjoyed going to the local school on Sunday after church to help register community residents for oral Polio vaccinations. I thought it was an honor to be asked by my teachers to assist with this community activity. I always thought I was third, well really fourth (my elderly great aunt lived with us) in command at home until my three orphan cousins came to live with us. Then I was the oldest sibling.
The St. Andrew’s Mission free medical clinic building in McComb, Mississippi, where Church and Community Worker and deaconess Earnestine Varnado works as Parish Nurse. Photo: St. Andrew’s Mission
I graduated from high school and received a scholarship to Alcorn A&M College (now Alcorn State University) and majored in chemistry, with the idea that I could work and then get a master’s degree in Sociology later. After attending Alcorn, I developed an interest in nursing and our local hospital was just being built. I was accepted into the first nursing class in 1971. I worked at the local hospital for six years and went to work at the McComb Children’s Clinic for the next 18 years. My duties included staff nurse, making rounds with the pediatrician, and instructing mothers about infant care at home.
I served as a Home Health Nurse and thought this is what I’d always wanted. Then I saw an advertisement in our local paper for a 12-hour per week opening for a part-time Parish Nurse at a local church mission. When we heard “parish,” we thought of Louisiana. I applied and was hired. The part-time status lasted four months, but I was already doing 40+ hours. The pastor/director called and asked if I would consider a full-time position, as funds had become available through a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant. I prayed, accepted—and it has been a joy.
That project (Project Forward), now with St. Andrew’s Mission, was accepted as a United Methodist Project with General Board of Global Ministries and I was commissioned as a Church and Community Worker in 1998. Later, in 2006, I was consecrated and commissioned as a deaconess.
Earnestine Varnado (center) joins other United Methodist Women in worship during their Assembly in St. Louis. Photo: Mike DuBose/UMNS
I serve at St. Andrew’s Mission as Parish Nurse and helped with the opening of the first Free-Health Clinic in our area. We have eight volunteer physicians, a nurse, and a receptionist, presently. I coordinate community health fairs (at schools, churches, malls), blood drives, screenings at our activity center, and as instructor for First-id/CPR, parenting, anger management, and Bible studies.
St. Andrew’s Mission has three thrift stores and a partnership with a fourth. It supports a food ministry that serves hot, balanced meals twice weekly and provides food subsidies to the elderly and handicapped. An activity center serves people 45 years and older. Other ministries include a free health clinic, Mission House for homeless men, and the most recent addition—the Job Incubator, with space and support for small business owners.
Throughout all these years, my mission statement, chosen in 1998, is still relevant to where I’m called: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to where you’re called. Pray for it. If it prospers, you too shall prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
*Earnestine Varnado is a United Methodist deaconess and missionary serving as a Church and Community Worker (Advance #982905) with St. Andrew’s Mission, located in McComb, Mississippi.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Fall 2017 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.