When 88-year-old World War II veteran Kenneth Knudson, a resident and business owner of Horton, Kan., was jailed the day after Christmas in 2013 for repairs he could not afford to complete on his building. The story went viral. This is not the kind of headline news on Fox 4 News you wish for your city. However, the story caught the attention of Marcus Lemonis, host of The Profit on CNBC, who called the mayor of Horton with a desire to pay for the repairs on the man’s building. The mayor appreciated Lemonis’ gesture, but let him know that he had a whole city of approximately 1,700 that needed to be revitalized.
The rest is history. Lemonis came to tour Horton and the surrounding area. Mayor Lentz, Lemonis and the city commission held a town hall meeting Jan. 22, 2014. See the meeting on YouTube. Lemonis estimated it will take approximately 1.5 million dollars to revitalize the business area to attract new businesses and stated his willingness to donate $150,000 of his own money to assist in that process and to use his contacts to raise the remaining amount. Horton’s challenge from Lemonis was to assure him that the city was willing to create a plan with a purpose, provide people to support it, and invest sweat equity into making it happen.
With the goal of cleaning up the town, people from the city of Horton have worked every weekend since Saturday, Jan. 25, to clear wooded areas around the city limits. The improvement is evident to people traveling into Horton from every direction. From clearing overgrown lots of trash and brush to washing windows and painting, businesses have spruced up their buildings inside and out. See photos on Facebook of Horton high school students working last weekend.
The implications for a revitalized city apply to the church as well. Here at Horton United Methodist Church we see opportunities to reach out in Christ’s love as we too, become a part of an exciting process. In the midst of the revitalization, hearts and lives are being transformed. Teams are sent out to clean up yards, homes and businesses by raking, pulling weeds and bulldozing brush. Chain saws cut down trees and branches, and paint brushes bring fresh color everywhere. City crews have large equipment to move it all out. A great movement is happening in the world of Horton, Kansas.
Many of the poverty and blighted areas in Horton are the result of injustice. People who are elderly, disabled and with health issues have not been able to keep up their homes and have been too proud to ask for help. Many have absentee landlords who are often not fair in their treatment of tenants. An opportunity has been presented to remedy the situation.
Christ’s love is present. In fact, I'd go so far as to say, this is the first time in nearly four years that I have witnessed the love of Christ this actively present in our midst! United Methodists from across the Topeka district have responded to help on two different weekends. All have said, "We'll be back! This is a great project and we want to support it." So far we’ve had a youth group from Valley Falls UMC, mission teams from Meriden UMC, Countryside UMC in Topeka, Hiawatha UMC, Atchison UMC and Horton UMC.
Hope is present in Horton, Kansas as never before. People are stepping up, but we can always use more “Hands On” to get the job done. I know of no better way to spread the love of Christ than through the United Methodist Church connectional system. Thank you to those who have already shared great love by your presence. The residents of Horton enjoy hearing your stories. You’ll enjoy hearing ours. The faith-sharing has been phenomenal.
If you have a mission group or youth group interested in an exciting opportunity for service, connect with Reinvent Horton now. Pick up the phone and call Horton United Methodist Church at 785-486-2349 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a mission, a plan to make it happen, and people who care.
"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8
Story submitted by the Rev. Caren Loper, pastor at Horton United Methodist Church. The first photo was taken April 26, 2014, when about 100 people were working for Reinvent Horton and Hands on the Great Plains. The sunrise photo was taken at Mission Lake during the sunrise service Horton UMC held on Easter morning for more than 80 worshipers. The photo is meant to symbolize the new day that is dawning in Horton.