When 300 expected volunteers grew to more than 1,100, Matthews was the recipient of an even more wonderful gift than imagined.
“I’ve never seen such a commitment of the time and monetary resources and people,” said Mayor R. Lee Myers, who has been mayor for 18 years. “It’s an absolute gift from above for people to come and give back to their community.”
In the beginning stages, Carmel Baptist Church planned to work on two or three projects but as the volunteer list grew so did the planning.
On Sept. 27, more than 1,100 Carmel members worked at eight parks and an elementary school on landscaping, installing playground equipment, painting shelters and installing benches.
Called Matthews Matters, the church members’ outpouring of support showed they believed it.
That “willingness to give back, willingness to partner” is what makes Matthews a great place, said Myers of the town of 25,000.
Don Bouldin, Carmel’s global outreach pastor, said the event was inspired by David Jeremiah’s church (Shadow Mountain Community Church) in California. What started as something the church wanted to do in the next month turned into seven-eight months of planning.
“It was really a mammoth deal,” Bouldin said. “It was a life-changing experience. It was one of those days that was a turning point for a lot of people.”
One key lesson from that day was proving to their church members that missions can be done at home.
When Myers first got a call from Bouldin he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“As he started to explain to me what their vision was I was speechless, which if you ask anybody is very unusual for me,” Myers said. “The only thing more unbelievable was on Saturday morning when I was there … topped by dinner that night.”
Carmel provided the supplies and volunteer labor. Members brought machinery and tools, and the church paid for most of the supplies, with the exception of the school project.
Bouldin said Myers asked him why the church would want to do this.
“We believe that when you love Jesus, that causes you to want to love others and to minister to them,” Bouldin remembers telling the mayor.
Another key was getting whole families involved. Bouldin said they wanted the mission to be family-friendly.
The day started with breakfast with the mayor and city council and concluded with a celebration dinner. The projects “made a tremendous impact on the city,” Bouldin said. “One of the councilman said he’d never seen anything like it or (heard of anything like it). They were particularly pleased.”
The church averages between 2,200 and 2,400 people on Sundays. Getting half of them to turn out for this outreach event was surprising to Carmel church staff and to the Town of Matthews.
Heart for missions
“Carmel is very good to respond to mission opportunities that they can visualize,” Bouldin said. “They got really excited that families could work together.”
Bouldin said they recruited throughout all classes in the church. The pastor, Wayne Poplin, preached a series of messages about service.
Bouldin’s Sunday School class of newlyweds worked together on a project. Children worked with their parents. At one point during the day, Bouldin found himself working with three people over the age of 70.
Carmel is a “very, very active church,” Bouldin said.
Members took 24 trips to the Gulf Coast this year to work with a partner church. They regularly work with about 20 organizations in the area to help the community. Another 24 trips were taken to places like Kenya, Ecuador, Ukraine, Caribbean and Europe.
This year the church donated $900,000 to missions, Bouldin said.
“It’s not the kind of thing where we just send money,” he said. “Carmel is really highly committed to the Cooperative Program. We do a ton of missions.”