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Local churches respond to international needs

 

Just out of college, Tommy Williams read a Sunday school lesson about Russian soldiers tricking children in order to “prove” there was no God.

Keith Brickell, at far left, talks with a Russian citizen who has just received a Bible. Brickell is pastor of Bellevue Church in Macon that was recently recognized as the Georgia Acts 1:8 church of the year.

“The soldiers would tell the children to pray to God for candy and when they opened their eyes there was none. Then they would tell them to pray to the Communist party and they would put candy in front of them while their eyes were closed. When the children saw the candy, the soldiers would say, ‘See, when you pray to God nothing happens, but when you pray to the Communists you get candy,’” Williams said.

The story broke his heart for Russia.

Years later he felt God telling him to go to Russia. It seemed an impossible dream.

“You might as well tell this country boy to go to the moon,” he said. But two days later his wife gave him a brochure about a Russian ministry that passed out Bibles encouraging him to go.

“My first trip was in 1994. We gave out 100,000 Bibles in about an hour,” Williams said.

Tommy Williams, at right, greets a group of Russian citizens during one of his annual trips. Williams leads teams at least once a year to provide humanitarian aid and pass out Bibles in the city of Ekaterinburg.

Two years later Williams attended the Atlanta Olympics where he met the deputy mayor of Ekaterinburg, Russia. Williams told him he wanted to pass out Bibles in his city.

“He told me they didn’t care about God, but if we’d help them with the hospitals and orphans we could bring in Bibles,” Williams said.

In 1997 Williams arrived with a group that brought $200,000 of prescription drugs and hundreds of Bibles. Since then Williams has been traveling to Russia at least once a year – sometimes twice – to bring supplies and Bibles.

“God has opened so many doors. We were the first foreigners they let in their hospitals. We went this year with 600 gift bags and they took us to distribute them to children in orphanages and in hospitals. They treat us like royalty,” said Williams, now 60.

Williams’ commitment and passion for the ministry has spilled over into his church, Bellevue Church in Macon, which received the Acts 1:8 Church of the Year award for its mission work. The award was given by GBC Mission Volunteers at the convention’s annual meeting.

Members of the congregation of about 200 travel with Williams and also raise money to support the projects.

“We had to quit bringing in medicine because it was so difficult with customs. But now we buy shoes and jackets for the children. We also always bring Bibles. This year we’ve purchased more than 17,500 Bibles in addition to children’s Bible story books,” he said.

Bellevue Church in Macon uses its annual fall festival as a community outreach.

Williams is the reason the church is involved in overseas missions, said Bellevue pastor Keith Brickell. But that involvement has also helped show church members that ministry is everywhere.

“We have a mission director, Jan Toney, that keeps us in line with (local) missions,” Brickell said. “We do a lot of things that aren’t big, but they make a difference.”

Church members work with a local crisis pregnancy center, youth work at a local mission outreach and the church sponsors a food ministry that helps about 100 families every month.

“There are opportunities everywhere for ministry. You just have to open your eyes and see where you can be involved. That’s what this church does. That’s why they won the award,” Brickell said.


Mission Volunteers at GBC can help your church find ministries locally and worldwide. For information, contact Mike Gravette at mgravette@gabaptist.org or (770) 936-5344 or 1 (800) RING-GBC. Mission Volunteers is funded through your gifts to the Cooperative Program.

You and your church can send Cooperative Program gifts to:
Dr. J. Robert White
Executive Director
Georgia Baptist Convention
2930 Flowers Road, South
Atlanta, GA 30341-5562