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Beulah Church member sheds locks for missions gaincomment (0)

July 30, 2009

By Jeremy Henderson

It was hot, wet, muddy and full of tarantulas and mosquitoes, but Michael Martin wants to go back as soon as possible.

Martin was one of five members of Beulah Baptist Church, Valley, who traveled to the jungles of Peru June 4–11.

The group was led by Youth Pastor Rusty Arnett, who developed a passion for Latin American missions last year after accompanying Reggie Quimby, director of the office of global missions for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, on a similar trip to Honduras.

It was the East Liberty Baptist Association church’s first missions trip abroad.

“We had no money, no budget or anything,” Arnett said. “We had to finance this thing on our own.”

The trip cost nearly $2,000 per person.

When Martin, known for the 13-inch mane of blond ringlets he had cultivated for more than five years, heard the figure, the 19-year-old decided to get a haircut.

“I knew a lot of the older men in the church told me they would pay me to cut it,” Martin said. “I thought it’d be a great idea for a fund-raiser.”

He was right.

Last fall, Beulah Baptist members paid to lop off his hair.

“I would say Buddy Cofield,” Martin said when asked who enjoyed the scissors the most. “He took the first whack at it.”

The hair — six thick, 10-inch braids of it — went to Locks of Love, a charity providing wigs and hairpieces for cancer patients. 

The money — $1,027 — went to the missions trip.

“It was the first time I’d seen any kind of Third World or that much poverty,” Martin said. “I thought Iquitos would be a much nicer city than it was … but it was pretty bad.”

After a day in Iquitos — the largest city in the Peruvian jungle — the missions team took a two-hour boat ride down the Amazon River to the village of Las Palmeras, where team members told Bible stories and led worship.

“When we got there, the Lord changed the plans,” Arnett said. “We also wound up helping to collect materials for a roof for a church in order to bring some unity between a Pentecostal pastor and a Baptist pastor.”

The pastors’ congregations share a building but the relationship between the two men was one of suspicion and competition rather than Christian cooperation, according to Arnett.

“I think our efforts helping them with their church went a long way,” he said.

“We told them it doesn’t matter what denomination you are as long as you follow the same theological principles. … They were worshiping together by the end (of our trip).”

The trip was originally scheduled through June 13. It was cut two days short when indigenous tribes went on strike against the government.

“On that third day in the jungle, we had walked from our tents to the place we were meeting for church every day,” Arnett said. “We had never heard a radio or anything, but on that last day, somebody had a battery-powered radio on. Our translator heard (the news). … We were told we basically needed to get out of there because they were going to close transportation to and from.”

For Martin, the coincidence of walking within earshot of the radio at that exact moment was a sign of God’s blessing on the trip.

“The thing is we were 10–15 minutes late ... that morning,” he said.

“How we picked up a radio station in the middle of the Amazon rain forest and just when we were walking by with a translator at the perfect time to be able to receive that message … it was God taking care of us.”

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