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Church spreads ‘Joy to the World’ & looks to year-round ministry

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–A crisp Sunday afternoon with unseasonably warm temperatures was the backdrop for a Christmas gift Dawson Memorial Baptist Church presented to the greater Birmingham, Ala., area.

Some 660 Dawson members shared the gospel Dec. 2 in three communities through “Joy to the World” evangelistic parties with free food, music, face painting, children’s games and a host of other activities.

“It was the church going beyond its walls,” said Dawson pastor Gary Fenton. “What we did was to try and create the kind of ministry that we would give to each other and take it to a group of people who were not part of our church family.”

One of the events was held just a few blocks from Dawson in the parking lot of Friendship Baptist Church, an African American church in the Rosedale area. Friendship pastor Roosevelt Howard said there was “a spirit of oneness, of solidarity” at the event, which was attended by some 400 people — with 105 families taking advantage of the free family pictures offered. Among other activities, 44 people had their blood pressures checked.

Howard said he hopes the event will bring more area residents into church.

“What we did, we planted the seed,” he said. “We are going to leave it up to the Lord now in this particular setting.

“Good results will come from it, but we won’t know all of it for a while,” Howard added. “Some of the people may wind up going to other churches. Even if our church doesn’t grow a whole lot, as long as people are getting saved and growing spiritually, that is what is important.”

Jennefer Tolbert, an active member of Dawson’s single ministry, was among those involved with the party at the Elyton Village Housing Community near Birmingham’s Legion Field. Dawson members helped children make cookies, coached them at the ring toss and other games and helped with arts and crafts while the church’s handbell choir played nearby.

Tolbert helped children make stars covered in glitter with Bible verses printed on the back. She said the event offered Dawson members a chance to share the love God has shown to them in their lives.

“Just the opportunity to give back something made it special,” she said.

Tolbert said going into an area where homes had broken windows, doors that were boarded and other signs of neglect dispels the belief that urban decay exists only in larger cities.

“That’s how much we take for granted the plight of people in our own backyard,” Tolbert said. “We were so fortunate to be able to share God’s love with them for a few hours.”

And how did the residents of the Elyton Community feel about the event?

“I felt an exuberance in the air,” said Willine Body, president of the local community organization. “It was very good for the community.

“I knew that God’s hand was in it,” Body added. “I had a vision of what heaven is going to be like; we had all cultures, races and ages, and barriers were broken down.”

The third event was held in the Sayre community some 25 miles northwest of Dawson. Just before 2 p.m., two busloads of Dawson members pulled up in front of Middle Oak Tree, a church where services have been held in a tent since 1997 when Del Reid began as pastor there.

“Here you find people living on the edge,” Reid said. “A lot of people are primarily living on faith and they are receptive to the Holy Spirit. They are open about coming forward for prayer.”

Reid said the efforts by Dawson members in providing entertainment, activities, food and music were a blessing to his congregation and those living in the area. “There was a feeling of oneness with the other group from Dawson,” he said.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever done an event at Dawson that touched the spirit of this church like this did,” Fenton said. “It was a missions revival.”

Tom Thompson, coordinator of ministry involvement at Dawson, said the event was the beginning of a continuing missions emphasis in the communities.

Thompson said since the event, Dawson members have donated clothing to families in the communities and are seeking other ways to help.

“We’re structuring and organizing ministry teams to oversee that continuing ministry at each one of those three sites,” Thompson said. “Each of the sites has significant needs that our people can meet.”

Fenton said the work begun with “Joy to the World” will be part of a continuing ministry effort.

“We’re going to find a way to do something like this on a regular basis, not just as a one-time event,” he said. “We want it to be woven into the fabric of this church.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: REACHING OUT.

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  • Greg Heyman