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Churches unite to fight poverty issues in Lowndes Co.comment (0)

November 10, 2011

By Lindsey Robinson

When Lisa Rose, director of church and community ministries for Montgomery Baptist Association, moved back to Alabama — specifically Montgomery — after being in missions for more than 16 years in New York, she thought she was returning to the progressive heart of the civil rights movement.

Instead she felt that she’d been thrown back to a darker era of poverty and prejudice.

In Lowndes County, 31 percent of the population lives below the poverty level and Rose has felt the racial tension.

“While I have seen some Christians sit in the pew and do nothing about the issues that this county faces, I am extremely grateful for those churches in Lowndes County who have stepped up and are living out the gospel,” she said. And a handful of Lowndes County churches are stepping out to battle generational poverty, denominational separation and lingering racism.

On Oct. 22, more than 100 white and black Christians from Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Catholic and nondenominational churches gathered for Operation Inasmuch, a “one-day missions blitz” of construction projects for 14 homes of elderly black residents in communities like Hayneville, Letohatchee and Mosses.

“It’s an opportunity to break down some denominational and racial barriers so the body of Christ can really be seen the way it should be,” said Sylvester Hardy, pastor of Jonathan’s House of Prayer in Hayneville.

But the work didn’t end that day — the event kicked off The Olive Tree Ministry, an interdenominational nonprofit organization designed to show Christ’s love and fight generational poverty. The ministry will begin a tutoring program in early 2012 and work from there to see where God leads it in reaching the county for Christ.

“We’re going to show the love of Jesus and the love of the Father in our community. And we’re expecting nothing in return,” said Darrell Paulk, pastor of Hayneville Baptist Church in Montgomery Association.

They started by repairing pipes, stairs, walls and ceilings; providing insulation; building wheelchair ramps; painting; and running water lines to homes during Operation Inasmuch. The projects were jointly funded by the churches.

Of course, not all of the volunteers were involved in construction. A team of volunteers brought lunch and cold drinks to workers at each site, while another team took care of small children while their parents and older siblings worked.

Volunteers contacted local senior centers to find elderly homeowners who desperately needed home repairs, especially before winter.

“A lot of them don’t have water because their pipes busted last winter and there’s nobody to fix them,” Operation Inasmuch coordinator Audrey Marlette said.

In 84-year-old Mary Murphy’s home, a broken pipe caused water damage that left a hole the size of a twin bed in a back room.

“I’m blessed to get this work done,” said Murphy, who is largely confined to her bed.

One of her 14 children, Mary Edwards, was among the volunteers at her home.

“Eventually she’s going to have to move anyway, but we’re going to keep her here as long as we can,” Edwards said.

Banks Washington, 70, has lived in his mobile home for 15 years. A solitary wall socket is the only source of electricity and a spigot in the front yard the source of water.

“It means a great deal. It means a whole lot,” Washington said of the repairs. “It’ll stop the winter air from coming in. I’ll have running water.”  

Bill Morgan, a member of Hayneville Baptist, worked at Washington’s home.

“Nobody should live like this,” Morgan said of the home, which needed repairs on the skirting to provide some insulation.

Paulk’s 13-year-old son Brayden worked alongside him at Washington’s home. “I’m here to help people who need the love of Christ and feel like they’ve been left behind,” Brayden said.

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