Published August 12, 2004
In years past, members of the student ministry at First Baptist Church here have traveled to Mexico, Ireland, Africa, the British Isles, Haiti, Denmark and the Amazon jungle, in the process logging more than 55,000 miles.
This summer, though, youth minister Tim Samples had different ideas about student involvement in missions.
“Last year we were on a trip in Belle Glade, Fla. working in a low-income housing area when God gave me the thought: ‘Why can’t we do the stuff in our own community that we do in other places?’” he said.
With First Baptist having just moved into a new building, Samples felt the time was right in connecting with the local community. That’s why over the course of five days students slept, ate, and worshiped at the church and during the day ministered at different locations.
“I thought this trip would be harder than Mexico because you’d see people you knew and have to live it at school,” said Katie Waters, 18. “I’m not a bad person, but I don’t act the same way at school as on missions.”
“As the week progressed, I realized that I could do things in my hometown,” said the senior at Cartersville High. “Now, every day is a missions opportunity.”
The opportunities to serve also surprised Justin Garrett, 16. “Getting into the second or third day, I saw how there were many places nearby needing help,” he said.
“I think it’s going to make me more involved personally in being a volunteer in the community.”
Throughout Bartow County, students assisted residents and beneficiaries of the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, Maple Ridge Nursing Home, the Salvation Army and the Boys and Girls Club. The group also helped feed local residents through the Friendship Table, a ministry of First Presbyterian Church in Cartersville.
In addition, the group split up for a day as guys went to Hickory Log Vocational School, a home for mentally handicapped men, while girls assisted The Tranquility House, a shelter for battered women, and the Women’s Resource Center, which deals with crisis in pregnancies.
Living a missionary lifestyle
“Everything we did tied into the greater picture of what we’re wanting to communicate with our students – to have a missionary lifestyle,” said Samples.
He went on to relate how previously the organization through which the church arranged the trips, Adventures in Missions in Gainesville, required signup five months prior for extensive training.
“In going local, part of the mindset we wanted to destroy was the ‘savior complex’ where students may pat themselves on the back for helping a poor little kid in another country,” said Samples. “It’s not vocal, but more of a subliminal thing that results in self-righteousness.”
At Hickory Log Vocational School, students helped do odd jobs around the premises. Later, they were joined by residents in washing vans used by the center.
“I’ve never seen a big group of kids work together so well,” remarked Hickory Log manager Teresa Frederick. “Groups usually are friendly, but unsure of how to approach the residents. However, this bunch acted like they knew our guys and got along with them really well.”
Enola Hall, activities director at the nursing home, also had high praise for the students, noting how “the residents haven’t stopped talking about the kids.”
Resident Martha Chatham, 58, agreed.
“They were a wonderful group I really enjoyed being around,” she said.
Also, in a lesson of frugality, students were given $4 for lunch one day. Individuals went in together to buy lunches and ended up with a surplus of $50, which was later donated to different shelters.
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