By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CHATTANOOGA — It seemed like another busy Wednesday night at Spring Creek Road Baptist Church here on Sept. 10. The church bus and van picked up about 40 people, mainly students, from several neighborhoods near the church. Everyone ate supper at the church and then students went to Royal Ambassadors, Girls in Action, Acteens, and tutoring while adults went to prayer meeting.
Just before everyone left to go home, Shari Stone, volunteer children’s ministry coordinator, received a call from the parent of a bus rider.
Fire trucks were in front of the Superior Creek Lodge so they should wait to bring home the folks who live there, said the parent.
The group returned to the church’s gym.
It wasn’t long, maybe 30 minutes later, when Stone received another phone call telling her that the reason the fire trucks were there was that the city was inspecting the lodge and officials had just condemned part of the lodge. The residents were being evicted but the kids could come home, reported James Julian, pastor.
The next morning, Julian and church member Blake Daffron arrived at the lodge to help in this crisis for the families. Superior Creek Lodge had about 1,000 residents, the pastor noted.
The two men talked to the residents they knew, trying to offer the little comfort they could. Everyone soon learned the entire lodge had been condemned.
He and Daffron talked to a few more residents, but soon started making plans.
“We knew we were going to help,” said Julian. “We have a gym that is very unused.”
By 11:30 a.m. Julian had informed his church of the need for an emergency shelter and enlisted help from Hamilton County Baptist Association, based in Chattanooga. He also had called Joy Leonard of Relevant Hope, a ministry to homeless people which partners with Spring Creek Road. The ministry usually used the church’s gym on Thursday nights to prepare a meal to distribute. They would have to slightly adjust their plans to accommodate the shelter.
By 2 p.m. on that day, about 40 cots with sheets and pillows were set up in the church gym and ready for folks, reported Julian.
Soon the shower trailer of New Salem Baptist Church, Soddy Daisy, was delivered and set up by John and Anita Chadwick with help from Tom Hughes.
Thankfully, several agencies in Chattanooga also quickly responded to help the homeless families, arranging for short-term stays in motels for the families of the lodge.
For the next four days, the church’s emergency shelter operated, providing lodging and meals. Meals were also delivered to families who moved to motels. Many of those families didn’t have a way to prepare meals and didn’t have transportation to the church, explained Julian.
A total of 14 meals were served to about 200 people while about 15 people stayed at the church Sept. 11-14, reported Julian.
Of course, church members did a lot, but were helped by so many others, explained Julian. Spring Creek Road draws about 120 each Sunday morning.
But in the beginning, the church had to take some risks in all of this, noted Julian. “We have to pinch pennies when we can, but we knew that God was calling us to do this and we knew God would provide,” he explained.
Individuals, including former members, arrived with food such as sandwiches and brought gift cards to help families. Volunteers of Relevant Hope adjusted their plans and helped. Some volunteers came from Alabama and Georgia which is not far for this tri-state area. Also a group of teachers and the principal from an area public school came to help prepare and serve one meal.
Additionally, a church in the area of another denomination sent money with a note explaining that the congregation wished it could also send volunteers but many of the congregation were older so they couldn’t serve.
“As we saw God providing we knew He was rewarding our faithfulness and blessing our faithfulness,” said Julian.
One great outcome is that Spring Creek Road is assisting five families to find more permanent housing.
Another amazing outcome involved Lynn Dobbs of the church. She is the wife of Mike Dobbs, minister of music.
She along with several other church members provide tutoring on Wednesday nights to some of the students of the bus ministry. Her main two students lived at the lodge so Dobbs realized that their family might move from the area and she would never see them again.
Dobbs, a teacher in a public school in Trenton, Ga., prayed for the children. They hadn’t even been able to say good-bye.
In a week or so Dobbs was shocked to see the two children at the school where she teaches. Their father had obtained a job in Trenton and the family had relocated there and in the neighborhood of the school where Dobbs teaches. The parents didn’t know where Dobbs lived and taught, reported Julian. “God orchestrated it,” he stated.
Another good outcome is that four families who were helped during the emergency shelter have continued attending the church. Of course, those who stayed in the shelter over the weekend attended church services as part of shelter arrangements, explained Julian.
Spring Creek Road Baptist started ministering to the lodge residents and to residents of several trailer parks near their church about five years ago.
“This is what the church is to be about,” stated Julian. “We are not the church at 1312 Spring Creek Road, … we are the church ministering out of 1312 Spring Creek Road into the community. …
“It was really amazing to see the body of Christ come together in a time of need.”