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Snowed in, missions team dug in to minister to stranded travelers

HENDERSON, N.C. (BP)–Boarding their vans in the Washington, D.C., area, a missions team from South Carolina thought their work was over, but God had other ideas for ministry amidst a snowstorm down the road.

The 17 adults and eight youth from Westside Baptist Church, Simpsonville, S.C., had gone to Alexandria, Va., to lead a pro-life program at Plymouth Haven Baptist Church Jan. 22-23 and participate in a pro-life march in Washington.

“Through drama, mime, music and message, the program offered by the Westside team delivers a pro-life message to all ages,” said pastor Sonny Foraker. “We teach young kids about having respect for all life. Youth learn about making a commitment of sexual abstinence. And adults hear a pro-life missionary share about sidewalk counseling.”

After the rally, the team departed for Simpsonville. But as they headed south, it began to snow and sleet. Driving soon became treacherous, and the group pulled over to pray for their safety. With near white-out conditions, they were forced to find a hotel near Henderson, N.C., to wait out the storm.

“When we got up the next morning,” Foraker recounted, “we found 20 inches of snow and drifts as high as the door handles on our vans. ‘Uh, oh,’ we thought, ‘we’re going to be here awhile.’

“But why should we sit around and mope?” Foraker encouraged team members. “Let’s be active in giving a testimony for God.”

That morning during a continental breakfast at the hotel, a man suffered a seizure. An OR nurse and an ER nurse from the Westside group rushed to give medical aid since no emergency vehicle could reach the hotel.

“The man’s wife had tears in her eyes as team members held her hand and prayed,” Foraker said. “He turned out to be the hotel manager.”

As the crisis passed, the group discovered another dilemma. People were hungry and none of the restaurant cooks had arrived. The grateful manager told the team they could use whatever they needed in the restaurant. The group then called all the guests and told them hot meals would be served at no charge. “We collected donations to help with the hotel’s expenses,” Foraker added.

“Our youth set up the dining room and a food line. We served soup and sandwiches for lunch and chicken cordon bleu for dinner. We fixed meals for 110 people, and even used a blender to puree some food for four-month-old twins,” he said.

The group also held a worship service. A man from the bar commented, “I’m not a religious man, but you have affected my life by the kindness you have shown.”

An ABC radio reporter was among those snowbound, and he interviewed several team members. The broadcast aired on about 3,000 stations, and folks far away heard about the Westside group’s good deeds. As the group was leaving two days later, several members went to express appreciation to the manager. “No, no. I need to thank you. My wife and I are now believers,” he replied.

“We took a stand in Washington, D.C., with thousands of people against abortion,” said team member Lisa Watkins*, “but I believe we made the most impact by cooking, serving and cleaning for only the few in Henderson.”

Her sister Danielle added, “It was amazing to see God’s hand working in each detail of the trip, and to find myself in the center of his unique plan. Not only did I have the chance to minister to others, but also to get to know my Savior better.”
*Name changed for security reasons.

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  • Todd Deaton