Gaston County center offers couples dream wedding
    February 11 2014 by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder

    For Troy White and Crystal Adkins, the tears would not stop as they were married Jan. 18 at the Dream Center of Gaston County.
     
    It had been a tough road just to get to that point. They had been living together 15 years, and in that time, they’d had five children. Both had recently lost their jobs. That’s a big enough challenge, but their oldest child, son Dateireus, had also been diagnosed with leukemia on two different occasions.
     
    A younger sister donated bone marrow for a transplant last year, and he is still dealing with some of its after effects.
     
    The couple had always intended to get married, but every time they started making plans, some medical emergency seemed to intervene and stop them cold. It was then that Troy read an article in the Gaston Gazette about the Dream Center’s Free Wedding Day.
     
    “One day, I looked in the paper and I said, ‘Look, hold up! There it is right there!’” Troy said in a video produced by Bethlehem Church in Gastonia, home of the Dream Center. “I read it twice to make sure that it was free. [Crystal] called, and they said we were one of the first ones.”
    Wedding02-11-14-1.jpg

    Contributed photo
    Lolita is escorted down the aisle to marry Daryl Roseboro at the Dream Center of Gaston County. Nine couples, including Tyra and Howard Martin, left, and the Roseboros were married Jan. 18. The nine marriages took place over a nine-hour period. 

     
    For this couple and eight others, there would be no more delays in getting married. “We’ve wanted to do it for a long time,” Crystal added. “It’ll make our kids proud. They’re very excited.”
     
    The Free Wedding Day provided nine couples with just that – a free wedding, complete with invitations, professional photography, bridal bouquet and wedding planner. Dickie Spargo, senior pastor at Bethlehem, saw Troy and Crystal’s reactions when the big day finally came, and knew immediately that all the effort had been worth it.
     
    “They did not have the money for this, and they were the first people to call,” Spargo said. “Dude, it’s a sweet little story. I’m telling you. I do a lot of weddings, but she was up there crying the whole wedding. He walked down that aisle bawling. It was the real deal. [For] this couple, it was something they wanted to do.”
     
    For Bethlehem and the Dream Center, located at the church’s west campus in a particularly impoverished part of Gaston County, out-of-the-box outreach isn’t anything out of the ordinary. In December “Undie Sunday” resulted in a donation of 3,400 pairs of socks and underwear to children in need at a local elementary school.
     
    Another Bethlehem ministry, “Coats for Queens” is an outreach in Jackson Heights, N.Y., part of the Queens district. Now called “Coats for the City,” it impacts the most ethnically diverse zip code in the United States. Bethlehem gives financial assistance to North American Mission Board church planter Boto Joseph, pastor of House of Worship Church in Queens.
     
    Spargo said the ministry was born out of a vision trip with North Carolina Baptists. “Pastor Boto has been to our church many times and has preached for me, and I have spoken at their church as well. We are meeting in February to work with a church plant in Boston, and Pastor Boto will meet us there as well.”
     
    The idea for Free Wedding Day came about when Spargo saw a magazine article about a similar effort at a church in New York, and when the newspaper article appeared in November, Bethlehem’s phone lines “lit up like a Christmas” with calls from couples hoping to take part.
     
    There were requirements.
     
    The first was that one of Bethlehem’s pastors would perform the ceremony, and second, the church would have a say in music that was played. Finally, each couple went through six hours of marriage coaching.
     
    “To be very honest with you, I struggled a little bit because all of them were already living together,” Spargo admitted.
     
    “But, you know, man … one couple had nine children. There are different people that have different beliefs, and sometimes I struggle with what’s the right thing to do. It’s a difficult issue, but at the end of the day, man, to be honest, I thought if it was my child and they’d been together with somebody for 15 years, I would say, ‘You need to get married.’ Marriage rates are declining in America because people are shacking up, man.”
     
    The goal was not just to get names on marriage licenses. It was something more than that. “The goal was to get them connected in at church, and that’s one of the things that we’ve seen,” Spargo said. “We’ve been able to reach these families that we obviously were not able to reach before, and get them into the life of our church. We’re going to [invite] them into a small group. We’ve got their numbers. We’ve built a relationship with them. We told them we wanted to check in to see what we can do to help them stay married.”
     
    Spargo had one other caveat, and he didn’t hesitate to share it. “I told them, ‘This is the last time we’re going to do a wedding for you, man. You’d better make this one work, baby,” he said with a laugh. Starting at 9 a.m., weddings were celebrated every hour on the hour until 6 p.m. – nine ceremonies, nine hours. Spargo and fellow Bethlehem pastors Mark Gillming, Frank Hoyle, Matt Vanderbilt and Wavey Williams took turns officiating.
     
    “The key thing is that our goal with this was to point these couples toward Christ,” said Spargo, who hopes to do a similar event next year. “That was the ultimate goal. It wasn’t just to offer them a free wedding. But the free wedding was kind of the opportunity to speak in their life about a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
     
    Spargo said almost a thousand people came to the weddings – many of them unchurched. “They came to these weddings and heard about Christ, too.”
     
    Bethlehem church will have a “Cinderella Day” in late spring. They will give away modest prom dresses for girls who otherwise could not afford a dress. Shoes and accessories will be available, along with an offer to help the girls with their hair and nails.  Last year the girls and their families started lining up hours before the doors opened. Spargo said, “It is an opportunity to talk to the girls about Christ. We reached some families through Cinderella Day last year.”
     
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Bethlehem Baptist would like to help churches replicate these outreach events. They will gladly share a template that will help churches creatively reach their communities for Christ. Contact (704) 823-1600 or visit bethlehembc.com.)
    2/11/2014 11:47:04 AM by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments
    Filed under: N.C. ministry, weddings




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