Illinois churches host students displaced by pandemic
By Meredith Flynn/Illinois Baptist
LITCHFIELD, Ill. (BP) – Pastor Jason Plumer walks around the tables in his church’s fellowship hall, stopping every few seconds to talk to small groups of students eating an after-school snack of cereal or carrot sticks. His church’s after-school program, Tending the Vine, runs four afternoons a week for kids who need a place go after school dismisses in the early afternoon.
First Baptist Litchfield is one of many Illinois churches across the state that have adapted back-to-school ministry to assist families with remote learning. In Jacksonville, Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church opened their building to students from Illinois College. And Reborn Community Church is hosting remote learners in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood.
In Litchfield, as the last students walk through the doors and gather their snacks, Plumer calls the group to order and walks to a white board at the front of the room.
Students raise their hands and call out their observations about the sentence written there. It’s about Noah and God’s provision for his family. This is “God and Grammar,” the introductory activity at First Baptist Litchfield’s after-school program for 30 kids in their community.
His church has a big building with internet access, so Plumer asked, “Why don’t we open our building up and provide a safe place for these kids to get their homework done?”
FBC Litchfield had been in talks with a local school to start a mentoring program last spring. The COVID-19 pandemic halted those plans, but the church stayed in touch, helping with a summer lunch program. When the semester started with remote and hybrid learning, the church opened its doors, hosting around 50 students and mobilizing volunteers to help with schoolwork.
Georgia churches help bridge broadband gap
By Scott Barkley/The Christian Index
JACKSON, Ga. (BP) – Harvey Ellis noticed the family with five school-age children in the parking lot of the Sunoco gas station on High Falls Road. It was mid-August and the Monroe County School System had delayed the start of in-person instruction three weeks due to COVID-19. In order to help students learning remotely, buses equipped with Wi-Fi had been dispatched throughout the area.
Ellis, chairman of deacons at nearby First Baptist Church of High Falls, had recently suggested to Pastor Scott Chewning and others the need to upgrade the church’s Wi-Fi capabilities for such needs. Chuck Wheeler, another member with a technology background, agreed. The addition of another router would prove to be beneficial for the 15 middle and high school students who turned the church’s facilities into a temporary school for three weeks.
“The students were split among Monroe County Middle School and Mary Persons High School,” Chewning said. “We were concerned about the children in our community. We know many cannot afford the internet or simply don’t have access. Some can get it, but it lacks the quality needed for streaming.”
A map by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs shows Monroe County to be among those lacking broadband access, with 52 percent of the area deemed “unserved.” To meet that need, Chewning credited other churches in joining the effort alongside First Baptist, such as Maynard Baptist and Pastor Matt Bishop.