CEREDO, W.Va. (BP)–With a passion reflective of the Cooperative Program, pastor Rodney Hale yearns to plant a church in the vicinity of Wayne County, W.Va., his immediate mission field.
“We’d love to be able to start a church,” said Hale, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ceredo. “It would be easier to do that with sister churches. It’s the same principle of the Cooperative Program.”
He sees in the model the benefits of a “threefold cord,” not easily broken, as Old Testament writer Solomon points out in Ecclesiastes 4:12.
First Baptist, a strong Cooperative Program supporter, gave 16 percent of its undesignated receipts for missions and ministry initiatives in West Virginia and across the nation and world.
In Wayne County, Hale estimates that 77 percent of the people are unchurched. “The devil has blinded the lost, because the lost will not and cannot be saved unless somebody is willing to pray for them.” Toward seeking a breakthrough, First Baptist has viewed possible building sites in the county and has prayerwalked through the area.
“But church planting is slow work,” Hale said.
Hale believes a new church would be more successful in reaching the 40- to 50-year-old age group, compared to his graying congregation, and possibly Hispanics who live in the predominantly white community.
First Baptist, with Sunday attendance at about 200, has ventured into missions through by building pews for a church in Mexico, utilizing the woodworking skills of several members. The church made 25 pews that could be shipped and assembled on site in Mexico.
Locally, the congregation operates a mission home, housing missionaries on stateside assignment as well as residents experiencing various emergencies. The church’s men’s ministry helps the needy and widows, maintaining homes by checking furnaces, winterizing and completing other tasks. The women’s Crafters for Christ reaches out to the less fortunate in such ways as distributing food baskets at Christmas. The church’s youth minister to the elderly in particular, helping retirement home residents with errands, chores, house cleaning and gardening.
First Baptist Ceredo’s Shoes for Kids ministry, led by senior adults, donates shoes, socks and New Testaments or evangelistic tracts to school children in the tri-state region composed of Huntington, Ashland, Ky., and Ironton, Ohio.
Hale led the church in a unique fundraising event for widows, spurred by news reports of Huntington having a high obesity rate. In his “weight-loss ministry,” Hale went on a diet and challenged church members to make a financial pledge for every pound he lost. One summer and 50 pounds later, donations totaled nearly $3,500, enough to give some 10 widows subsidies from November to March to help with medicine, grocery and utilities.
“It’s basically reaching people for Christ. Sometimes we’re not able to go,” Hale said, “but we’re still able to be part of God’s Kingdom-building.”
Diana Chandler is a freelance writer and member of Irish Channel Christian Fellowship in New Orleans.