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Blindness does not deter these missions volunteers

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (BP)–Not being able to see might keep some folks from doing missions work, but it didn’t seem to bother members of the Tennessee Baptist Fellowship of the Blind.

A new twist for the group’s July 14-16 annual meeting at CarsonSprings Baptist Conference Center, was participation in a mission project.

“They wanted to be involved in a ministry,” said Beverly Smothers of the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s evangelism/missions strategies group. Thus, leaders of Appalachian Outreach, a ministry of Carson-Newman College that receives funding from the Tennessee convention’s missions offering, helped to design a ministry project specifically for the blind volunteers.

Appalachian Outreach is included in Appalachian Regional Ministry, a multi-state effort at meeting ministry and evangelism needs in the region.

The group worked at Samaritan House, a homeless shelter in Jefferson City, Tenn., which currently houses 12 homeless people who can stay at the facility for up to 45 days while looking for a job and housing.

“It’s a Christian environment and we work hard to make it a home for families and not just a shelter,” said Jean-Ann Washam, Samaritan House’s director.

Members of the blind fellowship helped the facility by dividing laundry detergent and breading mixes into smaller bags.

The opportunity for the blind to minister to others is important, leaders of the organization agreed.

“Blind people traditionally are used to having things given to them,” said Charles Couey, the Tennessee convention’s consultant for the blind and a member of Radnor Baptist Church, Nashville. “I felt it was critical for our group to become involved in missions and outreach — doing for others,” said Couey, who is blind.

Sharon Bragg, a member of Glenwood Baptist Church, Nashville, and program chairman for the fellowship, agreed.

“A lot of time our group has people giving to them or helping to meet needs such as transportation,” Bragg said. “We needed to give back spiritually.”

In the organization’s 17-year history, this was the first time such a project was attempted, she said.

“We thought it would create more interest and help our group grow — and it did,” Bragg said, noting that 36 people attended the weekend event.

People who have handicaps sometimes tend to feel inadequate, Bragg reflected, and society and family encourage that to some extent because everyone wants to “do things for you.”

Being able to participate in a missions project and do something for others is a way “to improve that self-concept and self-esteem,” she said.

The group’s efforts did not go unnoticed.

Randy Moser, director of church ministries at Radnor Baptist Church, transported about 14 members to the meeting, remarked, “It’s amazing that though they cannot see physically, they can see spiritually the needs of others.”

Angie Tullidge, weekend manager of the Samaritan House and a member of First Baptist Church, Dandridge, noted the group was making a difference just by rebagging detergent and breading mix into smaller bags.

“This is a very time-consuming task. It’s great to have so many hands working on it,” she said. “They did a great job.”

Tullidge also shared that the group inspired one of the homeless shelter’s residents who is blind. “It has encouraged her to see this group at work. It’s also encouraging to the other residents who see the willingness of so many to come and help. We have a house full of good Samaritans today,” she said.

Having a physically handicapped group was something new for the Samaritan House. “I see this as a new opportunity,” Tullidge said, “and hope to see more such groups.”

Washam, who helped plan the project for the blind fellowship, agreed. “I think it sets a wonderful example,” she said. “These people are getting out of their comfort zones and are eager to help any way they can.”
(BP) photos to be posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org.

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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