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Madison church shares Christ with world through storecomment (0)

September 14, 2006

By Leigh Pritchett

Larry McWhorter interrupts his conversation to ring up a customer’s purchase.
“Have a nice day,” he says as the customer departs.
Another patron asks a price, and McWhorter replies, “$2 for both of them.”
Today there are paying customers, whose money goes toward missions endeavors of Wall Highway Baptist Church, Madison, in Madison Baptist Association. On any given day, though, the people who come into the store may be experiencing a crisis and may leave with the gift of free clothing or furniture.
“[The Wall Highway Baptist Community Thrift Store] has become a huge outreach ministry to people in need physically,” said Lee Singley, pastor of Wall Highway Baptist.
In its 15 months of existence, the store — located on U.S. 72 West near Madison — has helped more than 25 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina and another six or seven families who were victims of house fires, said McWhorter, director of the church’s thrift store ministry and chairman of deacons.
The store goes hand in hand with the church’s food pantry and benevolence ministry. McWhorter emphasized that the thrift store “is a ministry, not a business” with the money generated helping to send 30 youth on a missions trip to the Bahamas and 10 men to Mississippi to offer assistance after Katrina and allowing the church to offer about 20 scholarships for children and youth to attend its summer camps.
In addition, the proceeds pay the store’s rent and utilities, as well as the salaries of its two full-time employees.
The store environment fosters opportunities to tell of the saving grace that Jesus Christ offers. 
“Everyone here … is available to witness to anyone who comes in,” said McWhorter, noting that at least three professions of faith have resulted from the ministry.
Five or six families — whose first contact with Wall Highway Baptist came through the thrift store — have joined the church, he said.
How this thrift store came into being is a story within itself.
McWhorter explained that the store was an idea expressed in a brainstorming session at a pastors conference he attended with Singley and some others from the church.
About two weeks later, the group was contacted by a thrift store owner who was closing a location. 
He offered fixtures and inventory to get started, so the store opened just weeks after that brainstorming session.
“It was unbelievable how it sort of dropped in our lap, so to speak,” Singley noted.
Initially the church committed some money to open the store but was later reimbursed as the store has become self-sufficient.
Members of the community and Wall Highway Baptist are benefactors, donating clothing, household furnishings and other items to the store. The store’s nonprofit status means all contributions are tax-deductible.
About 10 volunteers help the two employees man the store, which is open Monday–Saturday. Young people who receive financial assistance through the ministry are encouraged to volunteer at the store as well.

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