Sandy Branch Baptist Church in Bear Creek may not be the largest congregation in the state, but this group of believers in Chatham County is committed to making a difference for the Kingdom in their rural community.
“The mission field is right here; we have to go to it,” said Marc Sanders, Sandy Branch pastor. “There’s no reason why even this small church can’t be doing something to impact the community.”
Sanders is leading the congregation of 110 people to shift the focus from self to serving others, and to being more aware of the opportunities God provides to share the gospel. One way they are seeking to make a difference is through serving their local schools.
“We have a lot of teachers in our church, and my wife is a teacher. The need has always been there,” he said.
Sandy Branch began by giving Chatham Central High School teachers a welcome packet after the summer break and offering to help alleviate some of their work with extra-curricular activities.
The church started providing what principal Mitchell Stensland called “we appreciate you” activities, such as sponsoring pre-game meals for home football games and providing a meal for graduating seniors before their baccalaureate service.
They also host 5th Quarter, which is held at the church after each home football game.
“Marc realized the amount of time teachers were putting in holding events after football games to give the students a place to go. … He offered to have his church sponsor those activities to alleviate the school staff from doing those kinds of duties,” Stensland said.
“The teachers were volunteering their time in addition to everything else they do.”_ÑŒAt times the 5th Quarter events draw nearly half the student body of Chatham Central. Stensland shared that the partnership his school enjoys with Sandy Branch is part of his overall goal to see the entire community engaged in the life of the school.
“It’s important for the students to see that the community supports the school, and it is important for the adults to be involved in the lives of the children. What Sandy Branch does is part of the puzzle, a critical part, that makes up a successful school,” he said.
More recently, Sandy Branch began an effort to help reduce hunger, as about half of the students in Chatham County receive lunch free or at a reduced price.
Sandy Branch started a feeding program at two schools and assists with a program at a third school. They help feed about 45 children each week by sending backpacks of food home with the children on Friday afternoons. The Sandy Branch youth group helps prepare the food bags each week, and Sanders said church members donated food, as well as their time, to help with the feeding programs.
“Serving in our community has pushed us to do missions elsewhere,” Sanders said.
Sandy Branch adopted a school in the coalfields region of Kentucky, and last year during Easter delivered about 1,000 shoeboxes (similar to Operation Christmas Child).
The church has also prepared care packages for teachers, provided school supplies and helped provide a new computer program for the school.
During Christmas, Sandy Branch adopted children from the school and provided gifts for students in need.
“Our children are an unreached people group,” Sanders said. “More and more we see the need to reach children with the gospel.”
Sandy Branch is also partnering with other churches to make a difference. In 2012, they assisted a new church plant in Asheboro with their Vacation Bible School. Area churches are also joining them in their outreach to the school in Kentucky.
This year, Sandy Branch is hoping to expand its shoebox ministry with the help of other churches and is partnering with First Baptist Church in Coeburn, Va., to provide prom dresses for young ladies in the coalfields region of Virginia.
“A little can go a long way,” Sanders said. “All we have to do is look to see where we can serve.”
To find out more about helping with the shoebox or other ministries, call (919) 837-5331.