Lakewood hosts bustling international churches
    November 29 2010 by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder

    Regardless of what the future might hold for Lakewood Baptist in Durham, its impact on the community will be felt for years to come.

    Rather than resign itself to quietly fading away, Lakewood has thrown open its doors to not only one but two other congregations that bring the facility alive with activity several days a week.

    What’s more, the new groups are decidedly international. Grace Mission Community Church is comprised of not only first- and second-generation Koreans, but also has attendees from Singapore, China and Australia. And its interim pastor, Biju Chacko, is from India.

    Members of Gospel Baptist, the third group that meets at Lakewood, come from Burma.

    Three different congregations, who meet in the same building in Durham, came together to host Vacation Bible School. While the congregations do meet separately they plan on joining together for holiday events and continue to work together in the future.

    “It’s just a wonderful situation,” says Ralph Harrell, the 81-year-old interim pastor of Lakewood. “It’s kinda like what I think heaven’s going to be, all of us mixed together … Any time during the week, you come around here, and it’s a bustling place.”

    While the logistics of moving congregations in and out on a regular basis can get hectic, the groups also work and worship together. They plan to celebrate together at Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and they’ve also had joint choirs.

    The very best example of the congregations working together, however, was this year’s Vacation Bible School. Lakewood is an old congregation of perhaps two dozen, while Grace is made up mostly of undergraduates studying at Duke, Carolina, N.C. State and Meredith. Neither group has many children, but that didn’t stop them from reaching out to the community’s youngsters.

    About three weeks out, 30 volunteers hit the streets to talk with local families, pre-register children and pass out door hangers. When VBS commenced 107 children attended in addition to 40 staff members. Each child received a book bag filled with school supplies and a Bible.

    While Grace took the lead in the program for the most part, 100 percent of Lakewood’s members helped by marking Bibles with the plan of salvation, baking cookies and cup cakes, making donations or helping with school supplies. After the end of VBS, follow-ups were made and the church now has about 30 children attending Sunday School each week.

    Three people have joined Lakewood since VBS, including two by profession of faith. There’s also a food pantry where those in the community can receive help every Sunday. When the church meets to eat, they invite others in as well.

    “The congregation is very aware of the locale that they’re placed in,” says Chacko, Grace’s interim pastor who is also on the pastoral services staff at Duke University. “These are university students pursuing higher education, but there’s such a desire to look around the community and see where people are and what their needs are.

    “(Those in the community) are constantly drawn towards us. The leadership and the congregants are very aware as they drive in, as they walk around, there’s this need around the church. They’re saying, ‘We cannot ignore this. We have to respond and be the salt and light that Christ has called us to be in the community.’”

    So well have the relationships worked, plans are under way for Lakewood to deed its property to Grace Mission Community Church at some point. There’s no rush on either side, as both are in a state of transition. Harrell plans to retire and the very real possibility is that rather than two or three different congregations, Lakewood and Grace could become one unit, comprised of young, old and in between.

    “I have felt at the end of the year, we will probably need to make some change,” Harrell admits.

    “But some of the members that we have going now say they want to continue to work with these different groups. We wish it could become one church, and it might be. If the Lord leads in that direction, I hope that they will follow.”

    For Chacko and the Grace membership, the relationship with Lakewood has provided it with something very close to a perfect working relationship.

    “Grace Church is very, very grateful to Lakewood for letting us use the facility,” he said.

    “The conversation is very much on the table, and we have asked for some more time to respond. We don’t feel that we are under any pressure to give them a response. They’ve been very understanding of the situation Grace Church is going through right now. So, right now, no decision has been made.”
    11/29/2010 7:13:00 AM by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder | with 2 comments

Carol Dawson
As a member and Deacon of Lakewood Baptist, I would like to add that we (the members of Lakewood) feel especially honored and blessed to have a part in this outreach into the community. Lakewood has truly become a community church for all people.
12/2/2010 3:01:05 PM

Joe Babb
Morningside Baptist Church in Asheville is doing a similar thing with it's facility. Each Lord's Day there are three congregations who meet there. For more than a year, a small group from the Disciples of Christ and a larger group of Romanian Evangelicals share our building. We have had joint services together, including a baptismal service. Translators are used to bring the messages and when hymns are sung several languages raise the praise as one. The spiritual atmosphere is electrafying to those who have never experienced such Pentacos like atmosphere. As one might expect, there associated with such a venture are small issses to face; but the Lord has blessed us with such a strong determination we have overcome them in a spirit of love. The long term goal is for each of us to prosper for the glory of Jesus who has brought us together. Such bold ministries will strengthen the Kingdom and I urge others to follow the example, if for no other reason, a sense of stewardship of the facilities that go unused for weeks and months at a time. God bless you all.
11/30/2010 9:31:57 AM

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