N.C. 'Volunteers of the Year' honored for service
May 16 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

N.C. 'Volunteers of the Year' honored for service | Friday, May 16, 2003

Friday, May 16, 2003

N.C. 'Volunteers of the Year' honored for service

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

North Carolina Baptists believe in missions as a practical art - not only a cause that deserves financial support, but a job that demands hands-on involvement. Through the coordination of partnership missions, disaster relief and other efforts, N.C. Baptist Men have raised volunteer missions to a fine art.

Last November, the Biblical Recorder invited nominations for recognition as "N.C. Missions Volunteers of the Year." The Baptist State Convention is home to many committed volunteers who are worthy of recognition, and a number of nominations were received. From those nominations, the Recorder has chosen to highlight four couples whose service has been exemplary.

All four share a common characteristic: they are devoting the best of their retirement years in volunteer service to God and to humanity. We present them in alphabetical order.

Jack and Virginia Cox When Jack and Virginia Cox retired together from the High Point City School system in 1985, they determined to spend the rest of their active days on mission, using their gifts and abilities to serve God and others. Since then, they participated, separately or together, in more than 30 mission trips in North Carolina and to destinations including Tennessee, West Virginia, Jamaica, Honduras, Brazil, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, China, Japan, and Hong Kong.

While Jack is generally involved in construction projects, Virginia takes special delight in utilizing her skills as a librarian. She's catalogued books or taught library skills in church and school settings from Alaska to the Czech Republic to American Samoa.

The Coxes are active members of First Baptist Church in High Point, where both serve as deacons and in other capacities.

To celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in 2002, the Coxes embarked on four mission trips including construction work at Caswell, low-cost home renovation in Smyrna, Tenn., teaching Bible School and preaching in Jamaica, and teaching library skills in Pago Pago.

Why do they invest so much in mission efforts? For the Coxes, the answer is simple: "We wanted our lives to count more for God and others... We feel the reason for our being on this earth is to serve others."

George and Mary Ann Crouch George and Mary Ann Crouch work both together and apart as they devote many hours of volunteer mission work each year. They are both actively involved members at Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte.

George is a retired businessman who enjoys working with the church men's group on mission projects such as building ramps for the elderly, assisting with bicycle repairs and Christmas projects for the after-school program. He has helped with the construction of four Habitat for Humanity houses, and served the past three years as president of N.C. Baptist Men. In March 2003, he was recognized by the organization as "Layman of the Year."

Mary Ann coordinates the Jackson Park Tutoring program, a mission outreach that involves scores of men and women from Providence and Carmel Baptist churches. She enlists tutors, substitutes when needed, and assists with training and evaluation sessions. She also works with families of the children, and finds other volunteers who can assist them with specific needs such as food and supplies.

Together, George and Mary Ann have served as Baptist Men volunteers in Togo, Mali, Ivory Coast, Zaire, Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique, Kosovo, Armenia, Israel, India, Malaysia, Jamaica, Haiti and Honduras.

"Part of my Christian commitment was that we should be involved in missions," Mary Ann said. "My mother was sort of the 'town missionary,' always working to help others."

The Crouches are also motivated by their ability to do mission work together, and their interest only grows.

"The more you do it, the more involved you become, the more excited you become that you are making a difference," Mary Ann said, "seeing how God can work to change lives."

Miller and Peggy Garrison Miller Garrison realized that he could be a missionary when he heard a guest speaker at church say that someone with welding skills was needed to help with an irrigation project in Brazil. That year, he spent his vacation on a mission trip. "He was so changed," Peggy said, "I wanted to go, too." The next year they helped to build a missionary residence in Alaska, and they've been hooked ever since.

Miller is skilled with his hands and he particularly enjoys construction work, but he and Peggy also volunteer with the feeding unit for disaster relief projects.

The Garrisons, who are members of First Baptist Church in Stanley, have assisted with disaster relief efforts in Florida, Kentucky, Illinois and North Carolina, and worked on other projects in New York City, Montana, and Alaska.

Miller has assisted with construction projects in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Honduras, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Armenia, North Korea and Ukraine, which Peggy says Miller has visited "about 20 times."

The Garrisons don't limit their volunteering to the more glamorous long-distance projects, but are particularly active in North Carolina, assisting with construction projects at South Mountain Camp, Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Caswell, the Greater Gaston Baptist Association, and church projects in Pittsboro, Hickory, Yadkinville, Lucia and other N.C. locations.

As far as Miller is concerned, "I just feel like this is what God has called me to do."

J.E. and Betsy Skinner Williamston is "home" for J.E. and Betsy Skinner, but finding them there is often a challenge. The question is always "Where is J.E.?," said Mike Scott, minister of education and youth at Williamston Memorial Baptist Church, where the Skinners are active members.

When J.E. retired from the N.C. Department of Transportation after 37 years, he simply switched from a full-time employee and part-time volunteer to become a full-time volunteer. Betsy still works for the Department of Transportation, Scott says, in large part to help finance the mission work that involves them both.

As a coordinator with N.C. Baptist Men's ongoing disaster relief efforts, J.E. regularly drives more than an hour to work in the Grifton area.

That's when he's in the country.

The Skinners have participated in mission trips to Ukraine, Kosovo, Kenya, Mozambique, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Israel and Gaza, where they have assisted with construction projects, water purification, relief efforts and evangelism.

J.E. is often one of the first responders in relief situations. He traveled to New York City on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001 to assist with relief efforts there. More recently, he worked to help Tar Heels deal with the aftermath of a damaging ice storm, and worked 24 hours straight after the pharmaceutical plant explosion in Kinston.

As this article was being written, the Skinners were on mission in Honduras. Later this year, they have a trip planned to Kenya, and Betsy will also work in Alaska.

J.E. always encourages others to participate in volunteer missions, trusting God to provide the necessary funds, according to Scott. His famous quote, Scott says, is "God took away my wants and supplies my needs."

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5/16/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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