Student's housing need prompts United Methodists across country to open doors


Matthew Gabriel found housing for school, thanks to the United Methodist connection. Submitted photo

By Casey Northcutt Watson
When a young man needed housing, his parents called on the Church.
Memphis, Tenn., resident Matthew Gabriel recently found himself in a bind. The 27-year-old was working on his doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, and he had planned to work a five-week internship at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colo., starting Jan. 5.
On Jan. 1, his housing arrangement fell apart.
“I wasn't devastated, but I was certainly on panic mode,” he said.
Matthew began to scrounge for places to stay, even arranging to spend nights on strangers’ couches through a website that connects tourists with people willing to host them. He said he planned to wing it until he could find a more permanent place to stay.
Then, his parents had an idea and decided to test the United Methodist motto: Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. Rev. Bradley Gabriel and Rev. Linda Gabriel are United Methodist pastors appointed to St. Mark's UMC and Emmanuel UMC, respectively, located in Memphis, Tenn.
Linda Gabriel emailed Rev. Dr. Melanie Rosa, district superintendent of the Mile High/Pikes Peak District of the Rocky Mountain Conference—the district encompassing Lakewood, Colo. And, she sent a message to Rev. Dr. Betty Bradford, pastor of Lakewood UMC. Bradley Gabriel said his wife described their son as a trustworthy, honorable Eagle Scout in an unfortunate situation, and she asked Rosa and Bradford for help.
Within a short period of time, both women replied with open invitations. Bradford said four families in her congregation would love to host Matthew. And, Rosa offered the use of her own basement.
“We saw a chance to help him, make a new friend, and put some vitality back into our home,” Rosa said.
Matthew, for his part, was grateful and slightly amazed at this outpouring of generosity.
“It was really wonderful suddenly realizing how much love circulates throughout the faith, whether at home in the South or all the way out here in the West,” he said.
Bradley Gabriel said his son accepted Rosa’s offer because it came in first, but the young man has gone to a couple services at Lakewood UMC and thanked the people there. Church members even took him to lunch and showed him around town. The pastor knows his son is in good hands.
“What a delight to send even your adult children off to a strange land and know that there is Church there,” he said. “There’s community. There are people who are willing to say, ‘Sure. Come be here.’”
And because of those people, Matthew Gabriel never went a day without housing.