Writing on the walls of Wyoming church
Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor
August 21, 2008

Writing on the walls of Wyoming church

Writing on the walls of Wyoming church
Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor
August 21, 2008

Contributed photo

Ryan Rhodes, left, and Lewis East work on the church.

Mission teams often give Bibles to those they help. A church in Wyoming got a copy of the New Testament written on the material of its new building.

Wayne Smith is the head of Experiencing God through Missions (EGTM), which organized the trip over the last two weeks of July. Volunteers from 15 churches in western North Carolina and one in Georgia participated.

Norma Melton, the director of church and community ministries for the Buncombe Baptist Association, said the project was a partnership between EGTM and the association.

The church was built in 8-foot sections in a barn in North Carolina, and then transported to Wyoming where it was put together in July. Volunteers wrote Bible verses on the wall studs and vinyl sidings.

“That church has the entire New Testament written on it,” Melton said.

Smith said writing verses on project materials has become a “trademark” of EGTM.

“We do that because … the Bible says, ‘My word will not return void,’” he said.

The idea originated about eight years ago when members at Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville, where Smith is a member, wrote Bible verses on materials used in the church building program.

“It started from there,” Smith said.

Volunteers wearing gloves because it was cold wrote verses on the Wyoming church material during the winter, he said. Some took boards home to write verses on them.

“The church is the central point for evangelism that we do,” Smith said. “They see writing as a part of that.”

This year was the second straight year members of Buncombe Baptist Association churches went to Wyoming. Smith said the idea to go first arose during an associational meeting in 2006 when Craig Bailey, the director of missions, mentioned that only 10 percent of people in Wyoming were Christians.

“I said, ‘What can we do out there?’” Smith said.

In 2007, volunteers put a new roof on a church. This year, about 130 people put together the 2,000-square-foot building for Opal Baptist Church, which had been meeting in the pastor’s home.

The church is in the town of Opal, which has a population of a little more than 100 and is located in southwestern Wyoming. The closest Baptist church is about 30 miles away and the nearest church with more than 100 members is 70 miles away, Smith said.

Smith said God worked wonderfully throughout the project. The material and even the transportation of the church were donated.

But the mission trip wasn’t just about building the church, he said. Volunteers also prayer-walked thousands of miles, held Vacation Bible School and led faith-sharing seminars. Some helped chaplains minister at “man-camps,” buildings with mostly beds and bathrooms that have popped up to handle the influx of workers in oil and natural gas fields.

“It’s spiritually dark, but people are very open to hear the gospel,” Smith said.

During the trip, Ken Whittington updated a web site with photos, stories and videos about the events, according to Smith.

“People back home said, ‘We could stay connected with y’all,’” Smith said.

In all, more than 400 people participated in this year’s projects, including those who helped raise money.

“It’s touched a lot of people here in western North Carolina,” Smith said. “This was a God-thing from day one.”

In 2009, the group plans to build two more churches, including one for a Hispanic congregation.

“Next year, the Lord’s called us to do even more,” Smith said.

Volunteers will also give a four-pack of light bulbs to 50,000 people. The packages will include information about the Wyoming Baptist state convention.

Other volunteers plan to prayer-walk the entire state.

“We’re going to do everything we can with evangelism,” Smith said.