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Church changes community one family at a time

BREMERTON, Wash. (BP)–Kitsap Lake Baptist Church is changing the world, one family at a time.

The commitment to be a change agent starts in the local community, which numbers about 75,000 residents in a town southeast of Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula. The local community includes sailors and their families at the nearby Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Bangor Submarine Base.

The church’s commitment to missions and ministry extends throughout the world — 12 percent of Kitsap Lake’s offerings are given to the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ method of equitable distribution of mission dollars for maximum impact around the world.

For 49 years Kitsap Lake has reached out to meet physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the people in its community. The methods change as lay leaders — and needs — come and go. With a third of the congregation military, and a mix of high tech, teachers, and shipyard workers, the congregation tends to turn over about a third of its membership every two years.

To Conrad Dodd, a Bremerton, Wash. native and pastor of the church since 1993, evolving change is one of Kitsap Lake’s strengths.

“Military families step in and take leadership roles, and then move on to their next duty station,” Dodd said. “Hopefully the next church benefits from what they did here and the growth they experienced as a part of our church.

“The church doesn’t have a problem with change,” the pastor continued. “We have a steady flow of new ideas. The trade-off [for all the change] is that it has made us a much healthier church.”

More important to Dodd and the congregation than change of church methodology is change within the community.

“We are moving more and more to develop the growth of the community on the basis of need-based ministries,” Dodd said. “The Lord makes a need known to us and out of that we find open doors of opportunity to share Christ with the people.”

A fellowship time and Bible study for Japanese-speaking wives of American sailors is one example.

World Changers is another. Kitsap Lake youth participated in a World Changers construction missions project in Beaumont, Calif. in 1996 and came home so excited they talked the Olympic Baptist Association into requesting a World Changers project for Bremerton.

Three successful years of World Changers are now history; 75 homes have been repaired and a World Changers site has also sprouted nearby Tacoma, Wash. in Puget Sound Baptist Association.

In a week-long World Changers’ project, sponsored by the North American Mission Board and a local Baptist association, Southern Baptist churches partner with a city to repair/remodel/clean up homes and neighborhoods for those unable to do the work themselves. Southern Baptist junior and senior high youth provide physical labor and hand tools; the city provides work assignments and materials.

“World Changers has given us very meaningful contact not only with the residents we do the work for, but also with the city of Bremerton,” the pastor said. “The city has given phenomenal support and cooperation, and should be commended for their absolute cooperation. The mayor and city council members have even visited the worksites.”

When World Changers returns for the fourth consecutive year next summer, they anticipate renovating their 100th home in Bremerton; it will be the town’s centennial year.

“It’s hard to gauge just how far-reaching are the effects of World Changers to a church,” Dodd said. “It’s a tremendous confidence booster [for the World Changers participant] and gives them far greater compassion for the physical needs of people.

“It has given our entire church a broader view for the gospel and a greater sense of compassion for people,” the pastor continued. “Getting involved in World Changers broadened our view of ministry.”

Kitsap Lake Bremerton conducts four fund-raisers a year, including a massive church-wide garage sale, for World Changers and its other mission projects. Members host at least four of the 20 or more churches that send youth from across the nation to participate in the Bremerton World Changers site. Adults from the church serve as crew chiefs, materials runners between sites, and various other support tasks to the youth on mission.

This last summer, Kitsap Lake Bremerton junior high youth participated in Bremerton World Changers projects; the senior high youth were involved in Montreal, Canada World Changers.

“World Changers builds their faith,” said Youth Director Claudette Tulp.

“It brings them into a closer relationship with God. At youth camp this summer — World Changers is the way they give, and youth camp the way they receive — they were telling other kids about the importance of a quiet time.” They learned about quiet time with God from participating in World Changers, Tulp added.

But World Changers is only one of many mission projects for Kitsap Lake. Members bring in supplies weekly for the church’s food closet. “We have some people who are regular customers,” the pastor said. In October, a major thrust is made to collect provisions for the local food bank. The church also provides payment assistance for rent and utilities.

“The church per capita probably does more for benevolence than any other church in the community,” Pastor Dodd said. “It’s pretty sacrificial at that point.”

The church even shares its pastor with the community. Dodd is a chaplain with the Bremerton Police Department, and opens City Council meetings with prayer once a month. When the city gathered after the Sept. 11 attack on America, Dodd was asked to lead the service.

In addition to full-time service in the church and community, Dodd is a chaplain with the U.S. Army Reserve. Now in his 19th year of military service, he holds the rank of major. This gives him ready access to the naval yard and sub base, despite heightened security restrictions.

Sailors and their families are under more stress than ever, knowing their job is to protect America, the pastor said. The trickle-down effect puts additional strain on marriages and parenting, and the church is responding.

Kitsap Lake Church has just organized a military family support group. It’s growing one family at a time, by word of mouth since access to base housing is even more restricted than normal. But one family at a time is where the church excels.

“To the church’s credit we spend more time reaching out to others than to each other through fellowship,” Dodd said. “The people of this church, they’ve always been very forward-thinking when it comes to the use of our building, worship, and ministry. For more than 15 years the church has been willing to make changes long before they were considered ‘cutting edge.'”

Kitsap Lake Bremerton’s commitment to CP missions is a natural extension of what it does locally, the pastor said.

“We have a responsibility to the entire world, not just the city of Bremerton,” Dodd said. “I want our church to grow larger because for me bigger simply means resources to bring the whole ministry of Jesus Christ to our community. Through the Cooperative Program, we’re all bigger.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: WORLD CHANGERS and REMEMBERING.