N.C. volunteers bless Arkansas community
    August 1 2008 by By Carla Wynn Davis, CBF Communications

    CBF photo by Carla Wynn Davis

    Kate Hall teaches a swimming lesson to a Helena-West Helena child during the All Church Challenge July 12-24 in Phillips County, Ark.

    HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. – His name is Frank, and he hadn’t been near the water since he almost drowned 40 years ago.

    He bought an above-ground pool for his grandchildren who love to swim, but the potential danger haunted him because Frank knew if something happened, he couldn’t rescue them. 

    That’s what brought him to the Helena-West Helena municipal pool for swimming lessons, where church members had to help him walk into the shallow end of the pool. By the end of the lesson as the rest of the adult swimmers and teachers gathered for the closing prayer circle, Frank – so deathly afraid of water – made it out of the shallow end.

    “When I turned around, I saw Frank in the circle standing in the mid-section of the pool,” said Kate Hall, the swim camp director and a member of Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh. “He told the volunteer, ‘I have to go under this rope and join that prayer circle because I have to thank God for what he’s enabled me to do tonight.’”

    The more than 230 children, teens and adults who took to the pool during swim camp were only part of the All Church Challenge, a two-week missions blitz in Phillips County, Ark., where Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Ben and Leonora Newell have served since 2002. The ministry is part of Together for Hope, the Fellowship’s rural poverty initiative in 20 of the poorest U.S. counties.

    More than 250 Fellowship Baptists representing 21 churches traveled to Phillips County to serve July 12-24. Many have come before – some year after year.

    “As they make a long-term commitment, their ministry deepens,” Leonora said.

    Helena residents appreciate the four-year commitment of Kate Hall, who started the swim camp, so much that they dedicated the pool pavilion in her honor and in honor of Earnest Womack, local pool director, the pool in which Hall and other volunteers have helped so many overcome their fears.

    First Baptist Church in Elkin has sent teams for three years. Member Betty Pittman spent the week traveling on the Stories on Wheels bus to Elaine, Ark., where they held a children’s camp that included basketball, games and a Bible story.

    “We’re planting the seed, believing – even though you can’t see – that the seed will sprout,” she said.

    Individuals keep coming back, too, like Van Jones, of St. John’s Baptist Church in Raleigh, who has stayed both weeks for three years.

    “I’ve planted roots in a mission project,” he said. “This is worthwhile. I see a lot of change in the community. I might not live here, but I make a lot of friends.”

    And that’s one of the goals of the All Church Challenge – for local residents to get involved in and energized by the work.  During the first week, Leonora nearly canceled preschool camp because she didn’t have enough workers, but local resident Jean Williams stepped in and said she’d find enough workers from the community. Local residents showed up, and the camp ran as planned.

    Fellowship Baptists came from as far away as Virginia and Texas and for different reasons. B.F. Waddell, 87, came to help finish the new pool pavilion. On the way to Helena and back to North Carolina, where he is a member of McGill Baptist Church in Concord, he stopped to see two friends from his service in World War II. One he hadn’t seen in 50 years. 

    Laurenn Singleton, Sarah Neaves and Lakenn Reynolds – members of a state reserve champion swimming team – came to Helena from Elkin, to teach swimming lessons.

     “Everyone seems really excited, and they really want to learn,” Reynolds said. “I’m hoping we … make a difference.”

     Mark Ivey and his new wife were married June 28 and chose to spend a week in Helena instead of a week honeymooning at the beach. Because they’ve come to the All Church Challenge for several years and love the local people, it was an easy choice.

     “One week here and you know you affected some people’s lives forever,” he said.

    All these Fellowship Baptists and more spent two weeks “sharing the gospel in all types of ways,” Ben said. They catalogued books for the community center library, hosted a children’s camp, helped in the community gardens, taught water aerobics and visited local residents in the nursing home. They also helped with construction like installing new siding at the home of Charley and Winifred Wells, who saved money all year long to buy the materials.

    At the end of the two weeks nearly 400 people gathered to celebrate and see children perform the new songs they learned and to honor the efforts of local leaders.

    As Ben Newell looked over the crowd, seeing the smiles and hearing all the laughter and conversation, he knew the last two weeks had made a difference.


    8/1/2008 8:31:00 AM by By Carla Wynn Davis, CBF Communications | with 0 comments

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