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Pell City church continues unique outreachcomment (0)

February 14, 2002

By Leigh Pritchett

Time and again, the Bible tells how Jesus first met the needs of people and then told them about His eternal, saving grace.

This ministry model is being followed by Eden Westside Baptist Church, Pell City, with its latest ministry addition, CARE.

CARE stands for Community Awareness Resource Education. The new ministry is being manned by volunteers and housed in a building on the church's campus. The CARE office, which opened Jan. 2, will be staffed 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Tuesday – Friday.

As part of Eden Westwood’s commitment to outreach, it has developed a comprehensive ministries program known as Breakout Ministries, and CARE falls under its umbrella. The church’s outreach ministries philosophy  reaches outside the walls of the church by connecting people in need to resources available in the community.

Jacky Connell, senior pastor at the church, said the goal of CARE is multi- fold. “One of the priorities is to get people onto the church campus. Then we want to love them, pray with them, give them a tract and direct them to appropriate resources for assistance,” he said. 

Debbie Asay, a member of Eden Westside and one of the board members of Breakout Ministries, said the church began to lay the groundwork for CARE in August 2000. In the months that followed, the church, under the leadership of Connell, conducted a community assessment to find out which agencies offered what types of services.

“We found more agencies than we ever dreamed,” said Asay.

From that research, a database was developed. This database is now being used to direct people in need to agencies that can help them.

For example, if someone needs groceries, a volunteer could enter the word “food” in the database and get a listing of agencies that could give assistance, explained Asay.

While those in need are at the CARE office, volunteers will be able to pray with them, witness to them and offer them tracts.

To see such a program in action, Asay said board members visited High Point Baptist Church, Mobile, as well as churches in Leesburg, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn., which are operating similar programs.

She said the experience of working to establish the CARE ministry has certainly been an enlightening one for her. “It has been very eye-opening to discover the tremendous amount of need there is among people in the community,” Asay said.

Asay pointed out that Eden Westside Baptist isn’t trying to duplicate the work of outside agencies.

“We’re here to direct people, not fill that need,” she said.

An advisory board, made up of members of two outside agencies, meets once a month and helps keep CARE in touch with needs in the community.

The CARE ministry has become part of a growing list of outreach programs the church is providing.

Among those are a clothes closet, a food pantry, two apartment ministries, Celebrate Life (for ARC of St. Clair, an organization that serves adults with disabilities), outreach to doctors and nurses of St. Clair County, shut-in visitation by nurses and nursing home outreach.

The church is also involved with Power Lunch for business leaders, a radio and television ministry, a reading program at a nearby school, senior citizens’ lunch, a special needs worship service, hospital visitation and Whitestone Fellowship Groups for those addressing alcohol or drug problems or destructive behavior.

“We hope to have a whole campus of these ministries on the 56 acres the church owns,” said Asay.

The church’s goal, through Breakout Ministries, is to fill in the gaps for the community. “We were meant, as Christians, to go outside the walls of the church, not just concentrate on the people inside the building,” Asay said.

 “To overlook those outside the church is to miss opportunities to let people know they are loved and cared for,” she explained.

“Reaching out affords us the chance to draw people into the church, to disciple and help them grow, so they, in turn, can go out and minister to others,” she concluded.

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