E-Mail Story


News Letter Sign up

On the move: Local churches reaching out to those in need

July 10, 2018

1 Image

With the sordid profusion of fake news, horrific school shootings, unbridled bullying and a host of other heinous acts, one might believe the world – pardon the mid-1800s expression – was traveling a path to hell in a hand basket.


Yet, as often takes place, egregious events make the headlines while others go unnoticed. Rather than a downward spiral path, many are traversing a different one, a journey for the common good of others, one that involves sharing, compassion, care and enormous hand baskets of love.


In fact, many of the churches right here in Statesboro and beyond have “left the building to be the hands and feet of Jesus.” Their selfless acts to serve others in obedience to God’s commission are taking them across the street and across the world.


Georgia Southern student and Trinity Presbyterian Church youth intern Gunther Griffin just returned from Cherokee, North Carolina, where he and a team of five adults and 11 youth hosted Vacation Bible School for kids in that area and carried out two service projects.


One group dug and prepared a foundation for a church plant expansion, and another group repaired floor damage and painted the home of a Mission to the World staff member.


Griffin said he was encouraged to overhear youth from his church having gospel conversations with some of the children during Vacation Bible School.


“VBS gave them a great opportunity to verbalize their faith and get them thinking about what they really believe,” he said. “And the service projects let them pour out to others in a tangible way.”


Griffin said one of the accompanying youth had never been on a mission trip nor taken part in strenuous physical labor.


“It gave her a chance to grow and push herself out of her comfort zone. She gave herself a couple of first-time blisters in the process,” he added.


Griffin said they felt especially successful in building relationships with the ones they were serving when the team was invited to go with the children to a pool in the Indian village.


Cliff Proctor, Brooklet Primitive Baptist Church, recently returned from a 10-day mission trip to Ukraine, where he and the Director of Discipling Ministries International, Elder Pat McCoy, visited poverty-stricken kids in small villages and church plants that were forced to close their original churches when war broke out in the Lugansk region in 2014. Many of the churches moved more than 500 miles to start new ones.


Proctor said he was especially touched by Oksana and Volodia, a couple who run a daycare for neglected children.


“Forty kids sharing space in one room of their tiny home,” said Proctor. “They share what food they can afford, and they share songs and scriptures and the love of Jesus Christ.”


Three churches are leading mission trips to the Dominican Republic over the summer. Kim Bland, Spanish teacher at Bulloch Academy during the school year, leads several trips to the DR over the summer through her own ministry, Dominican Republic Missions Project and will be leaving with some from Pittman Park United Methodist Church in a couple of days.


Bland works through and with the Dominican bishop who resides in the DR and is part of the Dominican Evangelical Church.


“We Americans sometimes forget to ask what a country’s needs are,” said Bland. “It’s not our job to come in and make our country, their country. It’s not our job to impose our needs on them.”


Bland gets assignments from the in-country bishop, and those assignments range from pouring concrete floors and other construction projects, leading Vacation Bible School or teaching crafts to women who can then make an income by selling their goods.


“The pastors there have to have other jobs to support their families,” said Bland. “Most of our projects focus on building or repairing parsonages for the pastor. We raise funds and build homes for them in order to lift the financial burden of the church.


“But it’s not about the money; it’s about the relationships. That’s where God is seen, through the relationships we build. For the Dominicans, to know that people will leave their comforts and their ‘rich’ country to serve them means more than the building we’re constructing.”


Bland, who is considered an individual volunteer under the United Methodist Volunteers and Missions, said she can’t imagine life without leading mission trips. “I’d love to do even more.”


Fred Richter will take his 15th trip to the DR for ministry and Mary Marwitz will journey there for the first time. Richter and Marwitz, representing Trinity Episcopal Church, will join with a church from Valdosta to complete projects in El Pedregal, a small village next to the tourist town of Jarabacoa.


“Each year is a little different,” said Richter, “and this year will mostly be repair work for a large playground that we built years ago for a daycare at a church school we built. We’ll also host VBS for the kids.”


Richter said that without the school, the village children would not receive an education due to transportation issues. Of the 100 kids in the school, Richter and fellow team members raise scholarships for a large portion of those kids.


Just like Bland’s teams, the teams Richter travels with also teach the women crafts like knitting and quilt-making and supplied dozens of sewing machines over the years.


Connection Church, under the direction of Care Pastor David Shirley, will take a team to the small mountain village of Barahona, DR from July 22-28. According to Shirley, the purpose of the mission trip is to build water wells, assist with medical and dental needs, complete construction projects, host children’s ministry events and lead discipleship training.


Dave Parker, Statesboro First Baptist Church missions pastor, said that FBC has plans for several teams this summer. Two women’s Sunday school classes will go on two Saturdays to Tybee Island to The Fresh Air Home, a home that serves as a summer camp for children of Savannah and surrounding areas that come from a single parent home, a family that is in financial crisis, one dealing with an illness or other family issues.


“Fresh Air Home is for a child who could benefit from time at camp but the parent cannot afford this luxury,” said Susan Allen, FBC minister to children. Allen will lead a family mission trip to Fresh Air for a day that will include water slides, cold treats and lots of fun games.


“We’re giving every camper a kid’s study Bible this year,” said Allen, who has taken groups to Fresh Air in the past.


Mark Gallo, FBC student minister, will take a group of teenagers and chaperones to New York City over the summer to assist with a church plant in the area.


In late July, Parker and members of his team will work in East Atlanta with Tapestry Church, in a project that’s being called “Inside 285.” A rough estimate quotes that almost one million people live inside the I-285 loop, with many of those unchurched and a large group of homeless individuals and poverty-stricken families.


Team members will assist school teachers in the area and will refurbish and clean school buildings, walkways and yards for the opening of the school year.


Speaking of the varied trips, Parker said, “In all of these cases, there is an element of caring for people who are obviously hurting. They have dreams that maybe they feel are too big to dream. Though we can’t be the answer to all of their questions nor all of their hurt, we can give them that caring, cold cup of water that Jesus said his followers would do in his name.”


Statesboro Primitive Baptist Church will also put hands and feet into action to serve at Fresh Air Home Children’s Camp.


“We are so thankful that Fresh Air Home allows us to come spend the day with them,” said Youth Director Jenny Tankersley. The youth and families who attend have led VBS in the past and this year will lead a Sunday morning worship service, followed by a time of fun fellowship of games and activities. “The kids love it and we are blessed to be there with them.”


Statesboro First United Methodist Church middle and high school students completed their service weekend in May and branched out across Statesboro, representing Christ’s love to others.


Some students visited local nursing homes to sing songs and lead bingo games. Some students cleaned at Open Hearts Community Mission homeless shelter. Other students served Fostering Bulloch by laying gravel and washing vehicles at Seven-Mile Farm, while others packed backpacks for Backpack Buddy recipients.


And other students helped with a major remodeling project at Wesley Foundation that included painting and removing old carpet. Becca Brown, director of student ministries, said, “It’s great to see students serving by their own will and own heart. It’s so easy to see Jesus through them, because that’s the last thing you’d expect teenagers to want to do over a weekend.”


Dave Stewart, Global Outreach pastor for Compassion Christian Church, said that members of the Statesboro campus will join Compassion members from other campuses in Savannah and Effingham to take part in more than a dozen short-term mission trips over the summer that will touch five of the seven continents.


“We’re going to every continent but Australia and Antarctica,” he said. “We like to say, ‘Choose compassion; see what happens.’ Choose compassion because that’s the heart of Jesus. ‘See what happens’ is the exciting part, because that sometimes leads to blessings we didn’t even anticipate. We believe that God is blessing us here. And what he’s blessing here is worth taking there: local, in the U.S. and internationally.”


Across the street, to the next county, on the other side of the interstate, to the next state over, past the Mason-Dixon Line or to another continent – the population of Statesboro and Bulloch County are doing their part to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. And those accompanying hand baskets are filled to overflowing with VBS supplies, construction tools, knitting needles and a generous and endless supply of genuine love and care.


E-Mail Story

News Letter Sign up

Bookmark and Share
« Previous Story | Next Story »

COMMENTS encourages readers to interact with one another. We will not edit your comments, but we reserve the right to delete any inappropriate responses. To report offensive or inappropriate comments, contact our editor. The comments below are from readers of and do not necessarily represent the views of Publication or Morris Multimedia.

You must be logged in to post comments.  [LOGIN]

You must be logged in to post comments.  [LOGIN]