MATOAKA — From creating Bible School decorations to staffing the snack table, a group of Georgian mission workers said they were called to help churches and communities in southern West Virginia

With the help of Bluefield College, providing housing and meals, 169 volunteers from the Hephzibah and Kilpatrick Baptist Associations of east-central Georgia stepped up to help other Baptist organizations locally.

This isn’t the first time they’ve spent part of their summer in the Appalachians. In fact, the association’s president, Mason Davis, said that it is becoming a tradition.

“This is our fourth year up here,” Davis said. “We are working for the Mountain Baptists.”

Davis brought the volunteer missionaries who donated their own time and funds in order to help out in southern West Virginia.

“They are all volunteers that have paid their way to be up here,” Davis said.

From their mission post at Bluefield College, the volunteers traveled to and worked with the Central Baptist church in Bluefield, Bridge Community Baptist Church in Matoaka, Nemours Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church in War. The group was also involved with two churches in the Beckley area.

The group of missionaries, Davis said, were organized in 20 different “teams.”

“We have a cooking team at each Bible School. We have three construction teams working on churches and private residences, a puppet team, a Bible story team and a special presentation involving butterflies,” Davis said.

Also included in the “teams” are three prayer-walking evangelical teams and two evangelistic block-party teams.

“They show the love of Jesus Christ as the opportunity presents itself,” Davis said. “We don’t force evangelism on anyone.”

Davis’s group first became involved with the Mountain State Baptist Association during a meeting six years ago.

“I met Don Deel, the director of mission for the Mountain State Baptist Association,” Davis said. “We developed a friendship.”

He said Deel set the group up with the churches in the area and introduced them to the community.

Many of the missionaries felt very fortunate to be introduced to the churches and the communities in southern West Virginia as they have developed friendships and have grown spiritually themselves through the event.

“This trip for the past two years has been one of the most life-changing experiences that I’ve ever had,” said Jessica Gay, one of the volunteers from Georgia working at the Bridge Community Baptist Church. “God has stretched me beyond my abilities and has been faithful to prove that if I can’t do it, He can.”

Sandra Poss, another Georgia missionary working in Matoaka, said that she too has been changed.

“This is my fourth year, and I was here the first year when the church came,” Poss said. “It was just an enjoyable experience from the start. Just building those relationships and seeing those people again is wonderful.”

Jerry Rice, pastor of The Bridge Community Baptist Church, said he’s very grateful for the volunteers’ help and support.

“This bible school that Mr. Davis has brought up here has been the highlight for the community, especially for the children, of the year,” Rice said. “It’s been very, very rewarding.”

Rice said that he was also impressed with the volunteer missionaries.

“[The missionaries] are so well-trained,” Rice said. “When they come, I myself become a bystander.”

There is no question, Davis said, that the volunteer missionary group has gained respect, as well as new members. Davis said that enables him to keep coming back every year.

“I came up here with 33 people the first year, and it has grown from that to 169 in four years,” Davis said. “I have all hopes that we’ll be up here next year.”

Davis was very also very grateful to Bluefield College.

“We could not bring a mission team of this size if it were not for Bluefield College,” Davis said. “It is the hospitality and cooperation of Bluefield College that makes it possible to bring a mission team of this size to southern West Virginia.”

— Contact Brandon Dye at bdye@ptonline.net.

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