HELENA, Ark. – His name is Frank, and he hadn’t been near the water since he
almost drowned 40 years ago.
bought an above-ground pool for his grandchildren who love to swim, but the
potential danger haunted him because Frank knew if something happened, he
couldn’t rescue them.
what brought him to the Helena-West Helena municipal pool for swimming lessons,
where church members had to help him walk into the shallow end of the pool. By
the end of the lesson as the rest of the adult swimmers and teachers gathered
for the closing prayer circle, Frank – so deathly afraid of water – made it out
of the shallow end.
I turned around, I saw Frank in the circle standing in the mid-section of the
pool,” said Kate Hall, the swim camp director and a member of Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh. “He told the volunteer, ‘I have to go under this
rope and join that prayer circle because I have to thank God for what he’s
enabled me to do tonight.’”
more than 230 children, teens and adults who took to the pool during swim camp
were only part of the All Church Challenge, a two-week missions blitz in
Phillips County, Ark., where Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Ben
and Leonora Newell have served since 2002. The ministry is part of Together for
Hope, the Fellowship’s rural poverty initiative in 20 of the poorest U.S.
than 250 Fellowship Baptists representing 21 churches traveled to Phillips
County to serve July 12-24. Many have come before – some year after year.
they make a long-term commitment, their ministry deepens,” Leonora said.
residents appreciate the four-year commitment of Kate Hall, who started the
swim camp, so much that they dedicated the pool pavilion in her honor and in
honor of Earnest Womack, local pool director, the pool in which Hall and other
volunteers have helped so many overcome their fears.
First Baptist Church in Elkin has sent teams for three years. Member Betty Pittman
spent the week traveling on the Stories on Wheels bus to Elaine, Ark., where
they held a children’s camp that included basketball, games and a Bible story.
planting the seed, believing – even though you can’t see – that the seed will
sprout,” she said.
keep coming back, too, like Van Jones, of St. John’s Baptist Church in Raleigh,
who has stayed both weeks for three years.
planted roots in a mission project,” he said. “This is worthwhile. I see a lot
of change in the community. I might not live here, but I make a lot of
that’s one of the goals of the All Church Challenge – for local residents to
get involved in and energized by the work. During the first week, Leonora
nearly canceled preschool camp because she didn’t have enough workers, but
local resident Jean Williams stepped in and said she’d find enough workers from
the community. Local residents showed up, and the camp ran as planned.
Baptists came from as far away as Virginia and Texas and for different reasons.
B.F. Waddell, 87, came to help finish the new pool pavilion. On the way to
Helena and back to North Carolina, where he is a member of McGill Baptist Church in Concord, he stopped to see two friends from his service in World War
II. One he hadn’t seen in 50 years.
Singleton, Sarah Neaves and Lakenn Reynolds – members of a state reserve
champion swimming team – came to Helena from Elkin, to teach swimming lessons.
seems really excited, and they really want to learn,” Reynolds said. “I’m
hoping we … make a difference.”
Ivey and his new wife were married June 28 and chose to spend a week in Helena
instead of a week honeymooning at the beach. Because they’ve come to the All
Church Challenge for several years and love the local people, it was an easy
week here and you know you affected some people’s lives forever,” he said.
these Fellowship Baptists and more spent two weeks “sharing the gospel in all
types of ways,” Ben said. They catalogued books for the community center
library, hosted a children’s camp, helped in the community gardens, taught
water aerobics and visited local residents in the nursing home. They also
helped with construction like installing new siding at the home of Charley and
Winifred Wells, who saved money all year long to buy the materials.
the end of the two weeks nearly 400 people gathered to celebrate and see
children perform the new songs they learned and to honor the efforts of local
Ben Newell looked over the crowd, seeing the smiles and hearing all the
laughter and conversation, he knew the last two weeks had made a difference.