A man of worth celebrates 50 years at Ivy Hill
    September 20 2010 by Teresa Buckner, Special to the Recorder

    Worth Emory believes Jesus never really stopped being a carpenter.

    “The Bible doesn’t say, but I just have an idea that if Jesus went to Mary and Martha’s house and they needed something fixed, He fixed it,” Emory said.  “I just believe that was the kind of thing Jesus did.”

    A carpenter himself, Emory has thought a lot about the ways Jesus may have used his carpentry skills, as he “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

    Recently, Emory celebrated his 50th anniversary as pastor of Ivy Hill Baptist Church in northern Buncombe County. 

    It is rare for a pastor to be in active ministry for 50 years, and exceedingly rare that his entire ministry would take place at one church.

    Also remarkable is the fact that Emory has led this small country church in northern Buncombe County, with Sunday attendance of about 80, to reach out in ministry across the world. Ivy Hill has sent teams of builders to erect dozens of churches and homes in several states, Venezuela and Honduras. 

    And usually at the helm of the team is Emory, hammer in hand, working alongside Christians from around the world wanting a building in which to live or worship.

    “Jesus wasn’t just concerned about the spiritual, He was concerned about the whole of mankind,” Emory said. 

    “He cares about everything about us. And when He told His followers to go to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth, He wasn’t just talking to them, He was talking to me too.”

    That belief feeds an insatiable desire to help people, and for Emory, helping people is not just a matter for words, but of actions.

    “I’m a firm believer that sometimes before you can really tell people about Jesus you’ve got to do something for them to let them know you care about them. If somebody’s hungry and you go and say, ‘Now, Jesus loves you,’ and don’t feed them, what good is that?” he said

    Emory gives his wife, Marie, much of the credit for allowing him to pursue his love of missions. 

    “She’s been as big a part of this as I have,” he said. “I tell people quite often she has carried more of the load than I have. She took care of the family more, since I was gone so much on mission trips and preaching revivals.”  

    Buncombe County native
    Emory’s deep, slow drawl marks him as a Buncombe county native. His church is about a mile from the house in which he was born — the ninth of 10 children.

    Emory married Marie Whitt in 1956, and announced his calling to preach in the same year. He preached his first sermon at North Black Mountain Baptist Church in Barnardsville in November 1956.

    After an Army stint, the Emory family returned to the Ivy Hill community in 1959. 

    Worth did carpentry work as a youth, and in fact, he helped build the current Ivy Hill Church. He began doing carpentry to support his family, and he preached at several area churches. Then in 1960, the pastor of Ivy Hill Church resigned and the church called Emory for a one-year trial.

    Mars Hill photo

    Worth Emory has been pastor at Ivy Hill Baptist Church in northern Buncombe County for 50 years.

    He passed.

    He knew he wanted to encourage the church to be more involved in missions and he felt impressed to buy small world banks for every family in the church. The next Sunday, he preached on giving to missions, and he passed out the banks, asking each family to put money in the bank every time they thought of missions. When they brought the banks back together, they had raised quite a bit of money. 

    “That sold that church on missions,” he said, “and we’ve been a giving ever since.”

    Unable to go to seminary, he read voraciously to educate himself, often taking recommendations about reading material from religion professors at nearby Mars Hill College.

    He also took seminary extension courses through the French Broad Baptist Association, earning a diploma in pastoral ministry and numerous certificates of completion.

    Then in 1971, Emory volunteered to go with a group of Baptist men to build a church in Twin Falls, Idaho. Little did he know it was to be the start of a chain of events that would make his carpentry skills an integral part of his ministry as he participated in or led teams every couple of years.

    In 1980 Emory went to build a church in a small village in Honduras called Santa Cruz. There, Emory experienced the culture shock that Americans often encounter in Central American countries.  

    Culture shock
    “When I went into Santa Cruz on that first trip, the water was so polluted we couldn’t even wash in it,” he said. “There wasn’t a building in the village that had anything but a dirt floor, and some of the children had swelled bellies where they didn’t get enough to eat.”

    Emory and his team built a church during the visit and later returned to install a tile floor.

    “Somehow that building just gave those people hope,” he said. “That first time we went back, everything looked a little better.” 

    Ivy Hill started sponsoring church members to participate in building teams to Honduras yearly. Each time the team stayed in the city of Choleteca and ventured into the nearby villages for building projects. For the first 20 years, the teams built churches in the surrounding villages. Nine years ago, Ivy Hill began organizing and leading trips to build houses for especially needy families.

    Soon after the Ivy Hill groups started coming, Southern Baptist missionaries came to the area and dug wells, further raising the standard of living for the people around Choleteca.

    With each trip, the Ivy Hill team members started jamming their luggage full of extra clothing that they could leave with the people in the village where they worked. In addition to raising money for the buildings, the church began sending additional funds which were used to buy corn, beans and rice in bulk to be distributed to people in need. People from the church also began coming to hold a Bible School for the children during the building project.

    “I’ve watched a village be transformed,” he said. “They have a nice school house now, a good deep well with good water, a lot of the houses have floors now, and you very seldom see the children looking undernourished.”

    At 76, Emory is remarkably fit, but a recent quadruple bypass made his doctor wary of the heat and hard work involved in a Honduran trip.

    About 200 people came to Ivy Hill Church for Emory’s Aug. 1 anniversary celebration. As the congregation filed outside after church to head to the fellowship hall, Emory noticed that someone had parked a car on the grass. At first he believed that the presence of numerous visitors had necessitated parking on the grass — until he saw the big gold bow on top. 

    As a bi-vocational pastor, Emory had made a habit of buying used cars. In celebration of his 50th anniversary, the church had purchased a brand new Nissan Altima for its pastor who had taught them so much about giving to others.  

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Buckner is media relations coordinator at Mars Hill College.)
    9/20/2010 9:02:00 AM by Teresa Buckner, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

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