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Sharing love and Jesus at De Smet UMC

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:15-16, CEB

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Marylys Larsen, standing center, visits with some of the students that come to De Smet UMC after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Photos by Doreen Gosmire.

You will find Marlys Larsen hanging out with 8-15 elementary and middle school students on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during the school year. They gather in the church basement, less than half a block from the school.

"We have a variety of kids that show up. It isn't about getting people to church or serving our members. It is about showing care and love, like Jesus, for our families in the community," said Larsen, who leads the afterschool program at the United Methodist Church in De Smet, South Dakota.

"Childcare is difficult for families. A couple of families asked if there could be something for their children after school. I started offering something and have been doing it for a few years now," said Marlys, a member of the congregation since she got married and moved to the community.

When the children arrive, they drop their backpacks and coats, and grab a snack. The snacks are simple: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, cookies, and juice. Sometimes, people in the congregation provide snacks; other times, Marlys grabs something at the store.

"They are hungry at the end of a long school day, and they look forward to whatever we offer," said Marlys.

After snack, those who attend work on homework, do a craft, play games or puzzles, or read.

"Sometimes, a couple of middle school students attend. They can help some of the younger students with reading and homework," Marlys explains.

Larsen works at the school during the day. "I know the kids because I see them at school. It is great to connect with them here," she said. "I can communicate with their teachers about homework and other things."

Students call her Mrs. Larsen because of that connection. They find comfort in seeing a familiar face in school and after school.

"I like coming here because I know Mrs. Larsen," said one of the participants. "It is fun. I get to do some of my schoolwork and be with friends."

Marlys' love of children and her church goes beyond Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. She also helps with Illuminate, the Wednesday children's ministry.

"There are few of the same kids on Wednesdays, but we have a lot more children and adults on Wednesdays," shares Marlys.

She is also part of the Fresh Expressions team. Fresh Expressions allows church leaders and pastors to use both traditional services and innovative forms of church to live out Christ's mission. One does not replace the other but instead creates a mutual benefit for both—a mixture of what we know as the church today.

Activate Day April 2

The Fresh Expressions team in De Smet is exploring Mornings with a Mission. Once a month, they serve coffee and breakfast items to anyone in the community that shows up. 

"We're just kind of experimenting with this," said Marlys. "We haven't had a lot of people show up, so we may have to change some things. I like it because it allows me to connect with Pastor Tia [Felberg] and others."

When asked why she leads the afterschool program, helps with Illuminate, and is part of the Fresh Expressions team, Marlys replied, "I find comfort in my church and God. I want to share the love that I have with others. Maybe they will get to know a little bit about Jesus."  

Attend Fresh Expressions Activate Day on April 20 with a team. Did you miss the Fresh Expressions Activate Day on Dec. 2 and are you seeking to take a deeper dive into creating a Fresh Expression? Join us to continue the momentum at Activate Day on April 20, 9 a.m. to noon. Read more Fresh Expression stories


Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church 605.996.6552 1331 University Ave. Mitchell SD 57301-0460 US 43.69689310 -98.03291320 122 W. Franklin Avenue Ste 400 Minneapolis MN 55404 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 W University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000