'Church outside the walls' in Asheboro
October 17 2003 by Craig Byrd , Special to the Recorder

'Church outside the walls' in Asheboro | Friday, Oct. 17, 2003
  • Engineer Larry Cahoon and his wife, Patti, offer their home, hearts, fishing expertise and Sunday morning breakfasts to a more than a handful of young boys.
  • The creative impulses of Jorge Sebastian - once suspected of painting graffiti on apartment walls - now are concentrated on anti-drug messages and religious themes.
  • Harshaw Grove Baptist Church, an African-American congregation is doing missions in the New Randelman Housing Authority - even though some residents in the predominately white facility are openly hostile to people of color.
  • A group of MHMA youth attended Camp Caraway. Two made professions of faith; three rededicated their lives to Christ; and two surrendered to full-time Christian service.
  • Wendy Chriscoe, a successful computer software saleswoman, "lives for" water balloon fights and Bible studies with scores of children usually described as "at risk."
  • Elma Silva, a young widow who came to MHMA desperate for help, is now a volunteer worker helping to translate a Sunday night Bible study into English and visiting newcomers to invite them to MHMA programs in her neighborhood. She is an active member of Asheboro First Baptist with her four children, three of whom were baptized at the church.

    "Jesus told us and showed us that it's all about relationships," said Anne Willis, director and the only salaried MHMA employee. "This is intentionally and insistently sharing the love of God with hurting people who likely would never visit our sanctuaries unless we reach out first. MHMA is church outside the walls."

    The "outside" metaphor is borrowed from John Rogers, pastor of First Baptist and the person who dreamed the first dreams and prayed the first prayers that led to MHMA. "It's too easy for a congregation to get caught in taking care of itself," he said. "It's the spiritual equivalent of a man worried about high cholesterol spending all his time pondering what may be going on inside his arteries when his cholesterol readings would improve dramatically if he would get up, get outside and get moving."

    In 1997 Rogers' growing concern for those outside First Baptist Church's walls was focused during a "March Against Drugs" organized by Carmen Liberatore, longtime manager of Coleridge Road Apartments. As he had his private prayer-walk-within-the march, Liberatore introduced herself and began telling him of her own long-term prayer that "God would send someone to help these people - someone who loved them enough to live with them."

    Rogers replied that God had let him know that He wanted First Baptist involved at Coleridge Road Apartments.

    The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina seconded the motion with a two-year grant to provide a $12,000 annual salary and housing expenses. The plan was to get an inexperienced but committed intern.

    Instead, a veteran foreign missionary and childcare worker, Paula Settle, agreed to get the program started. She moved into a one-bedroom apartment at Coleridge Road Apartments and into the lives of the residents.

    "Those were starvation wages but Paula believed in the program so much and loves people so deeply she took it on and got it established," Rogers said. "She did a tremendous job those two years."

    When Settle took a position with the Raleigh Baptist Association in 2001, the church decided it was time to dream bigger and pray harder, and make the MHMA job a staff position. The search committee was mesmerized by Anne Willis' application. So was Rogers but he "knew there was no way she would come to Asheboro, not with her credentials."

    The recent Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate had been an International Mission Board journeyman in China, and had been involved in a sports evangelism project in Sinaloa, Mexico, in addition to working for Mission Arlington, the multihousing ministry prototype operated by First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

    She had a zeal for evangelism and a heart for the people MHMA was created to serve.

    "The night we interviewed her became a holy moment," Rogers said. "We all stood in a circle and each committee member expressed his or her reasons for feeling God was calling Anne to join us. Everyone was holding hands and crying."

    For her part, Willis could only wonder, "what kind of church committee is this - these people are really concerned."

    Building on a core of church volunteers but also involving other area churches (some non-Baptists), MHMA expanded to projects at five other apartment projects in Willis' first seven months as director.

    In her spare time she led a training session for other churches interested in multihousing ministry, set up a fund raising program and launched a "Girls in Sport Festival" that attracted 200 participants the first year. That program got high school tennis coach, Tommy Lewis, a member of Southern Hills Baptist Church, and former professional tennis player Kent Kinnear involved.

    "We are officially endorsed and highly recommended by the city police chief and the county sheriff as an effective means to fight the influx of crime and drugs," Willis said. "Adults who have seen how we love their kids are asking for Bible studies."

    One of Willis' favorite programs is Teen Time, a weekly program that has attracted nearly 30 teenagers from two apartment projects. "Basically we do something fun and then a Bible study about issues that are current and relevant in their lives, like the need for sexual purity, the dangers of negative peer pressure, and the fact that God loves them totally but has a plan for their lives," she said. "They can cut loose but they also have to be respectful."

    Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina recently donated $1,000 to MHMA.

    It's fulfilling work but it is hard work. The time demands on volunteers are long, and the noise and energy can stretch the nerves taunt.

    "God has some of His best people doing His will in these apartments," Willis said. "I can tell story after story of lives changed for eternity - and not just among the residents, but among the volunteers."

    First Baptist Church of Asheboro and its MHMA associates are on the move outside their walls. Their spiritual cholesterol is falling as fast as the crime rates around the apartments they serve.

  • Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

    'Church outside the walls' in Asheboro

    By Craig Byrd Special to the Recorder

    ASHEBORO - It's an all-too-real place where families are fragile, money is scarce but drugs are readily available. A place where if 911 isn't on your speed dial you must not have a phone and where racism is a thriving triple play pitting blacks against browns against whites against browns against blacks against whites.

    Welcome to the world of Multihousing Ministry of Asheboro (MHMA), a program founded and chiefly sponsored by First Baptist Church of Asheboro. It is where:

    10/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Craig Byrd , Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments
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