(Longview News-Journal) — Today, Ozell Miller is able to do things he hasn’t been capable of in six years — access his shower and leave his home.
A stroke six years ago left Miller, a lifelong Gladewater resident, paralyzed from his head to his feet on the left side of his body. He was unable to raise his leg to step into his bathtub or to walk down the steps of his home and go outside.
After a visit from the U.M. Army this past week, Miller now has an accessible shower that allows him to walk in and that provides him with a bench to sit on. A ramp near his front door allows him to use his wheelchair to go outside.
“Praise the Lord,” his wife, Lillian Miller, said Thursday as tears swelled in her eyes. “I’ve been praying many years for this. I’ve been asking the Lord to just send somebody by, somebody who could help.”
In its 35th year, U.M. Army is a program of the United Methodist Church that provides Christ-centered work camps that allow youth and adults to serve people in need and to grow spiritually, according to the church.
“This allows us to show our love of Jesus Christ and to give hope to people who may feel there is not a lot of hope left,” said Shawn Hornsby, youth pastor of First United Methodist Church of West Monroe, La. “It also gives young people an opportunity to serve others. In a culture that pushes kids to make life all about them, this teaches them that there is more to life.”
Ninety-two people from First United Methodist Church of West Monroe, La., McGuire United Methodist Church of West Monroe, Deer Park United Methodist Church and Bay Harbor United Methodist Church of League City came to Gladewater this past week through the U.M. Army to work on 20 area projects.
“This helps you be more appreciative, and it allows you to be a witness of God,” said Aaron Stegemoeller, 16, of League City.
Stegemoeller’s family has been involved in the U.M. Army for years. This was his second year to participate.
“It is very fulfilling to see the progress we make and the impact we have on others,” he said.
Teams spent the past week, hammering, building, painting, sawing, mowing, renovating — doing whatever was needed — to help those people in the area in the area who are physically or economically disadvantaged. Before coming to Gladewater, the group contacted First United Methodist Church of Gladewater and spoke with city and chamber officials to identify projects.
Their work included placing wheelchair ramps on houses allowing the inhabitants to access the outdoors, renovating the bathroom at the Millers’ home and building a deck and replacing a swing set at Restoring Joy Ministries, a women and children’s shelter in Gladewater.
“It’s been fun. It’s very busy and it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s very rewarding,” said Abbie Aulds of West Monroe.
Before her experience with the U.M. Army, Aulds did not know how to use a saw or many power tools.
“It was easy to learn how to use them, and I like it. It makes you feel powerful,” Aulds said. “But this experience really teaches you how lucky you are.”
Beyond hammering and painting, students and adults took time to get to know the clients, Hornsby said. They packed extra lunches each day to share with the clients as they worked on their homes and tried to get to know them.
“My God says everyone is worth loving. So we come and we love on them,” Hornsby said. “This is an opportunity to show we can for one another.”