Families go on mission

As Abbie Gray wobbled, arms flailing to stay balanced on a thin board, she yelled for help from her teammates.

“Here, here, here; where’s the board?” Gray said.

Gray and newfound friends at Family Connection in Saginaw stepped up to the challenge the center’s ropes course posed. In the process, they learned teamwork and trust.

Gray traveled to Shelby County last week with 15 other church members from Mississippi to take part in Families On Mission. The North American Mission Board program sends families on missions throughout the country.

Belinda Ratcliff made the trek with her husband and two daughters. She said the program offered them a family–friendly way to do mission work.

“The work was close to home and it has taught us all that you don’t have to go far to find someone in need,” Ratcliff said. “It opens our eyes to the fact that when we go home there are those who need us.”

Some of the missions, like Family Connection, put the families face to face with individuals who need someone to listen, someone to befriend them and someone to care.

“It was great to have the youth come in and connect with our youth,” said Family Connection Program Director Kevin Keane. “I think it is important for them to see that positive influence.”

Families helped with construction at the DAY program in Alabaster, where they made room for GED classes, and installed shelves at the First Baptist Church of Alabaster.

Volunteers also led backyard Bible studies in Pelham and a Hispanic Bible study at Heardmont Park. About 120 volunteers participated in the weeklong events throughout the county.

Dr. Hugh Richardson, director of missions for the Shelby Baptist Association, said a church plant in Montevallo sparked SBA’s interest in the program.

The pastor saw an article about the work families provided in other states last year and realized his church could really use the help.

“It’s helped a lot of our churches to tackle projects they never would have taken on before,” Richardson said. “They helped give our churches a jumpstart on the bigger projects they hope to carry on into the future.”

Richardson pointed out Pastor Joe Sizemore of Northside Baptist Church in Calera, and said Sizemore felt a desire for his church to reach out to more people in their community. With the help of visiting churches, they provided meals for kids living in HUD homes in Calera. The meals allowed the church to make new connections.

Richardson said the enthusiasm of the out-of-state volunteers drew local church members to give of their time as well.

“I can’t even tell you how many kids and adults from Shelby County have stepped up and walked alongside these volunteers,” Richardson said.

Richardson said SBA plans to participate again next year.