A small Baptist church in southwest Georgia made a big impression on Franklin County last week.
About 50 people from the First Baptist Church of Dawson, Georgia, a congregation of about 175 families in the farm community just north of Albany, were here from June 8-15 for a “SPLASH the Forgotten Coast” mission trip, designed to minister to people in Franklin County alongside churches in the community.
The SPLASH, an acronym for “Showing People Love and Sharing Him,” brought parents and children to engage in a series of activities that ranged from serving breakfast to working oystermen to repairing the Apalachicola Youth Center.
“It was a family-type mission trip, babies and everybody,” said Pastor Jay Thomason.
Thomason and Youth Minister Chance Belk helped lead the trip, which was housed at the St George Island Christian Retreat Center for the week.
The volunteers worked closely with Lee and Amy Howell, directors of the retreat center, to put together the pieces of the trip.
“It’s been a tough area, with all the oystermen, we heard about was going on,” said Thomason. “It was about doing random projects that we can tell people that God loves them.”
The fishing pier at the retreat center was in close proximity to where oystermen are handling the shelling project in the bay. So, on two mornings, the families prepared bags of non-perishable food items, like granola bars, that could be offered to the oystermen for breakfast.
“They would pull up to the dock and they were very appreciative,” said Thomason. “It was something we could do to help the kids get involved in. They were out with their parents helping them.”
Another project the Georgia families was the sharing of disaster relief kits, which are five-gallon buckets filled with such necessities as personal toiletry items, flashlight batteries and cleaning supplies.
Thomason said they worked with Joe Taylor, director of Franklins Promise, to line up Apalachicola families to receive the disaster relief buckets. He said Apalachicola volunteer Gladys Gatlin “helped us go around to the places and she helped bridge the gap for us when people asked ‘Who are these people?’ That opened the door for us.”
In addition to the buckets, the Georgia volunteers presented the households with peanuts roasted and cooked from the Terrell County area, known for peanuts as well as corn, cotton and soybeans.
“We also gave them a Bible, if they wanted to receive it, and we offered to have prayer with them,” said Thomason. “Some of the programs they went on are federally funded so they couldn’t evangelize.”
In Eastpoint those knowledgeable about home construction went to work on the mobile home of Dodie Chase. “Fire had melted the vinyl siding and this home didn’t have any siding on it,” said Thomason. “They put a new roof over the house and put siding around the house.”
At the Apalachicola Youth Center, which is the former Apalachicola High School gymnasium, a crew came in and built a snack counter, and completed a series of other improvements to the site, which became renowned as “The Matchbox” when the Sharks made their run to Class A state basketball Final Four in Lakeland.
It was not all work for the Georgia visitors, to took some time to enjoy a little vacation with their ministry,
“We had fun in the afternoons and enjoyed the beach,” said Thomason. “We all went out to eat one night. We tried to have fun with families.”
The pastor said a key to the trip’s success was that each member of the group played a different role, suitable to them, to assist in the overall effort. “Some ladies came and did child care in the morning, they just watched the kids for us,” said Thomason. “There was another group that cooked for us. It was all around a big team effort.”