Barry Kidwell – Director of Mustard Tree Ministries
What does one say in a short paragraph to express who one is?
Having a restored relationship with God is the most important aspect of my life, and to offer that same restoration to the people that God allows me to encounter throughout this journey on earth is my chief goal in life. My real faith journey started when I had a Sunday School teacher who challenged our class to read the Bible, asking one question as we read: “If I were to really live out what this Bible teaches, how would that affect my life?” Ask me about that someday.
At 21 years of age I accepted an offer from the Cleveland District Superintendent to assume the pastorate of 3 churches in Meigs County, Tennessee. I was pastor of these churches for 10 years, and also worked various farms as I finished my college and seminary educations. During this time, I met my wife, Diana, at Lee University. We graduated on May 7 of 1983 and got married on May 14. We are parents to 3 children, David, Kathleen, and Zak.
I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in December of 1988 and was transferred to the Charleston/Valley Head Circuit in June of 1989. I became an Elder in Full Connection in June of 1991. We moved to pastor Soddy UMC in June of 1992. We served there for six years, establishing a food pantry and remodeling as our need for more worship space was necessary. We were transferred to St. John UMC in June of 1998 where I was the Minister of Outreach for six years.
In June of 2004, we were called to Forrest Avenue UMC. This is where Mustard Tree Ministry (please note it is tree, not seed, for a reason) became a reality. Forrest Avenue was closed sometime around June of 2010. We worshiped under the Walnut Street Bridge for a while on Sunday mornings.
Our Wednesday outreach ministry preparation moved to Brainerd UMC kitchen. Our Thursday evening fellowship meal and Bible study moved to First Baptist Church fellowship hall, and our now Sunday evening worship began at First-Centenary UMC. I was appointed as Director of Urban Ministries at Signal Crest UMC. We acquired a lease of Hartnell Farm in Hixson. I encourage you to ask me how we use it and how you can help. MTM also has been granted use of 16.7 acres that was once the Light House UMC. We are planning a community of tiny houses on this property. Again, ask me what all is going on there and how you can be involved!
My family loves the outdoors, hiking, fishing and rafting/canoeing. I especially love to duck and deer hunt. My kids love the beach, I love the mountains; and we all love Puerto Rico, my wife’s homeplace, even though as a family we have only been there once. Diana is a Big Orange fan, the rest of us are LSU Tigers!
And one last thing, we all love missions, especially to the forgotten people of Eastern Europe (the Roma). Please ask me about this ministry also. I look forward to our getting to know each other, as we offer God’s restoration and transformation together to those we are led to. –– Barry Kidwell
Madeline Oleis – Assistant Director
Madeline is the new assistant director of Mustard Tree Ministries and is currently a graduate student for UTC’s Master of Social Work program. From a young age she has always had a passion for working and helping others. She has experience working with several non-profit organizations in Chattanooga such as Maclellan Shelter For Families, Chattanooga Community Kitchen, Chattanooga Room in the Inn, United Way of Greater Chattanooga, and Ronald McDonald House of Greater Chattanooga.
Kathleen Ramirez – Agricultural Director
Kathleen has always had a passion for helping others. She graduated from Hiwassee College with a degree in Social Science and continued her studies at Middle Tennessee State University. Her areas of study were Equestrian Management, Agriculture, and Animal Science. Kathleen has also served a missionary to Central America and some small European countries and hopes one day to teach poor communities how to be self-sustaining through agriculture.
Board of Trustees
Churches & Business Sponsors
Apison United Methodist Church
Atheists Helping the Homeless
Brainerd United Methodist Church
Burks United Methodist Church
Cadence Coffee Co.
Chattanooga Area Food Bank
Christ United Methodist Church
Chattanooga Community Kitchen
First Baptist Church of Chattanooga
First-Centenary United Methodist Church
Habitat for Humanity Chattanooga
Nicos Salon Downtown
Signal Crest United Methodist Church