Published February 20, 2015
HAHIRA — In more than two decades as pastor of Hahira First Baptist Church, David Gordon has gotten a feel for the people there. About a year ago he realized that although missions was a part of the church, it was more or less something “dabbled” with.
That changed in a big way last fall when the congregation, along with other local churches, spearheaded a Community Day outreach effort in the surrounding area. As many as 900 people were helped through ways such as the giveaway of clothing and household items such as appliances, baby beds, and toys. Free medical and dental care was available, too.
In addition, free food was provided at nearby Hahira United Methodist Church, bounce houses entertained children while parents shopped, gospel music filled the air, and Bibles were presented along with the gospel. Gordon reported eight professions of faith at the end of the day.
“It was amazing that a family could come and get everything they needed,” he said.
First Baptist has had members on missions stateside in Wyoming and internationally in Ukraine. The local missions push has brought its own benefits, though.
“The change in our people has been transformational,” stated Gordon. “They get fired up to partner with other churches in helping at a soup kitchen. Our community missions director is constantly filled with ideas for reaching our [area], and doing a wonderful job in organizing our church to bring Christ to people in need.”
A focus on compassion
Chad Daugherty, 33, developed a missions committee at the church two months ago to better coordinate efforts both locally and beyond. Not originally from Hahira, he served in the military for a number of years before settling in the area. Currently he works in the financial aid department of Georgia Military College and teaches at the school’s branch campus in Valdosta.
Daugherty traces the church’s push for community missions to a Disciple Now for students last year at New Light Baptist Church in Adel.
“I was a small group leader and the focus was on compassion,” he said. “I felt we could take that to a local level. God laid community and compassion on my heart from [that weekend].”
Daugherty pointed out how the Oct. 17 Hahira Community Day helped break down doors. Figuratively, at least.
“People who had always just passed by our church building for years, now saw us and got to know us. [The outreach] spoke volumes about showing Christ-like love to others,” he said. “It also let us know about the needs of our community, as many people came needing winter clothes and blankets. It’s all about serving people, and we’re better aware of their needs now.”
Local roots to national push
The Community Day emphasis is part of the North American Mission Board’s Send Cities initiative, but has its roots in the efforts of Redland Baptist Church, Valdosta and Pastor Jay Watkins. In 2009 a Community Day for Valdosta attracted some 15,000 needy families.
Last summer around 16 members of Hahira First Baptist took part in Community Day for the SBC annual meeting. A partnership with Fire and Light Community Church in suburban Baltimore came out that. On March 8 Mark Swann, Fire and Light’s pastor, will preach at Hahira First Baptist. Also, a group of First Baptist members are going to Jackson Hole, WY in June to help with a Community Day hosted by a church plant.
Gordon said the steps taken by First Baptist in the last year are just the beginning.
“We’re a work in progress,” he admitted. “It’s wonderful to discover how God can use you to make a difference and bring Him glory. We anticipate God growing us through all of this, especially to our community.”
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