By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CINCINNATI & DAYTON, Ohio — When some Ohio Baptists offered to do something to reciprocate for all that the Tennessee Baptist missions team had done for them recently, suggesting that they could come to Tennessee on a missions trip, a Tennessee Baptist said, “Go north and return the favor. Go find another place and do what we did here.”
That is some of the sentiment heard by Ohio Baptist leaders as a very busy summer of work by Tennessee missions teams concludes and the Tennessee/Greater Cincinnati & Dayton, Ohio, Baptist Partnership passes its half-way mark.
The five-year partnership began in 2012.
“The Tennessee partnership has been one of our strongest partnerships,” said David Coppedge, director of missions, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. “It’s really been good for us.”
Steve Stiglich, director of missions, facetiously referred to an “invasion” of Tennessee Baptists to his association across the past five weeks.
“Thank you Tennessee. Your contribution to the Greater Dayton Association of Baptists and the Buckeye State and most importantly to the kingdom work of the Lord is greatly appreciated,” said Stiglich.
From the Tennessee perspective, the partnership is going well, said Kim Margrave, volunteer missions specialist, Tennessee Baptist Convention. “I continue to be amazed at the interest in Cincinnati and Dayton. I believe it is their proximity.”
The association based in Cincinnati saw about 300 Tennessee Baptists serve here this summer on 10 church and association teams and have seen 37 Tennessee Baptist teams serve here over the entire partnership.
Also, currently 31 Tennessee churches or associations are helping church planters in the Cincinnati area through the Send Cincinnati emphasis of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The “send” city emphasis was launched by NAMB the same year as the TBC started the partnership. Baptist leaders in the city saw it as an answer to prayer, said Dennis Holmes of the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. Tennessee churches wishing to participate in this “send” emphasis are referred by NAMB and Margrave to the appropriate leader. It can be as simple as praying for a church planter, explained Holmes.
Further north on Interstate 75 are the Dayton area and Greater Dayton Association of Baptists.
Over five weeks recently 278 Tennessee volunteers from two associations and five churches served 15 churches or entities. Across the entire partnership the association has benefited from a total of 15 teams including about 300 volunteers.
Dayton, Ohio, pastor
“A beautiful transformation” occurred as his church members served with Tennessee Baptists for a week, said James Risner, pastor, Brantwood Baptist Church in Dayton.
A team of 43 from First Baptist Church, Andersonville, arrived. They not only involved the older people of the aging congregation, but the Dayton congregation learned that the Tennessee church did not have hundreds of members but only about 100 people attending Sunday morning activities, said Risner.
Brantwood Baptist draws about 50 each Sunday morning, he explained.
The Ohioans saw older adults doing manual labor at the church such as working on a roof and the children on the team who made a contribution.
At the end of the week the Ohioans “had a renewed spirit to do VBS on our own” after seeing the team lead Vacation Bible School, said the Ohio pastor. The church also was considering doing more outreach and spending some of its savings on missions.
The team “blew my people away,” said Risner. They were left saying, “You’re legit; you’re real.”
A major miracle also occurred, reported the pastor, as a conflict between neighbors of the church, one involving a church leader, was mended by the Tennessee Baptists.
“Love overcame,” said Risner. “It was lavish what they did for us.”
The Andersonville team also worked with two other Baptist churches in the area. When they learned the pastor of the black congregation they worked with would be traveling near them on his way to a conference at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center, they invited him to visit them and to preach at their Sunday evening service which he did.
To prepare for the influx of volunteers, the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association built a shower trailer but not without the help of Tennessee Baptists, said Oliver Hawkins of the association staff. Tennessee Baptist Foundation and LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville, each gave about $7,500 toward it and Charles Verner of First Baptist Church, McKenzie, completed the plumbing on it while a team from the church was there. Then when a team from First Baptist Church, Greeneville, was in Cincinnati last year with P-2, a program of LifeWay Christian Resources to involve missions teams with church planters, some of their men also worked on it. Both churches sent teams to the Cincinnati area again this year, said Hawkins.
Another church making an impact was First Baptist, Mc-Kenzie, which helped Lakota Hills Baptist Church, West Chester, Cincinnati, hold a basketball camp this summer.
“It was a great success. They had a big attendance and they learned it was a great way to get people into the church,” Hawkins said.
Wilmington, Ohio, pastor
Matt Black, pastor of a church in Wilmington, Ohio, was helped by 64 members of First Baptist Church, Oneida.
“We’re still in the “Ah-h-h” phase,” said Black of his experience. “They blessed our socks off.” While the Tennesseans were in Wilmington, “we held onto God and we let Him run.”
The Wilmington congregation is “very small” and includes only four men. The Tennesseans did all kinds of things including renovation of the church facility, renovation of a Women’s Center, helping another Baptist church, and leading VBS.
“We were going to have it but it was going to be a struggle,” said Black of VBS. Last year they had 13 participants and this year 31.
People in the community became involved in all of the efforts, he added. A neighbor of the church who is not a church member gave some money toward the work being done. Also the mayor was thankful that the team stayed in a hotel in the city which really helped the community economically.
Cincinnati, Ohio, churches
First Baptist Church, Lenoir City, began helping Steve Stanton, church planter, start Velocity Church, Cincinnati, in 2012, reported Oliver Hawkins of the Greater Cincinnati Baptist Association.
“It’s been great for them,” he noted. As a result, Jeff Bowden, discipleship/missions pastor, First, Lenoir City, is featured on a NAMB video which can be seen at namb.net/video/something-new/.
Also Weakley County Baptist Association, based in Dresden, and Riverside Baptist Association, based in Livingston, both served again this year in the Cincinnati area. Weakley County brought 46 and Riverside brought 38 volunteers. A total of 39 people made professions of faith as a result of their efforts.
Beavercreek, Ohio, pastor
John Heading, pastor of a church in Beavercreek, Ohio, near Dayton, said his church was helped by First Baptist Church, Adamsville, and First Baptist Church, Saint Bethlehem, in Clarksville.
His church had held a basketball camp last year in a park and drew about 45 kids. With the help of the Tennessee Baptists the church doubled that in a school. Amazingly, he noted, he had never met about 80 percent of the kids who participated.
A big draw to the camps is that they are free as opposed to similar camps in the area which charge about $160 per camper, he noted.
This year the Tennessee Baptists also helped the Ohio church hold several block parties which once again drew many people he did not know, even to a block party in his neighborhood, said Heading. This year his church learned they could hold them on neighborhood streets which was more effective than in parks.
The Tennessee Baptists paid for everything they did, said Heading.
Finally, the volunteers provided invaluable help with a clothing ministry of the church as they worked hours sorting clothes.
The church has gained about four families because of the ministries of the Tennessee Baptists, said Heading.
Finally, the pastor said he was impressed by so many of the Tennesseans, especially Cathy Sims, who led the First Baptist Church, Saint Bethlehem, team. She served despite the fact that her husband passed away recently and she has some health problems.
“It was very productive. … We want them to come back anytime.”
Englewood, Ohio, pastor and layman
Layman Steve Madewell of First Baptist Church, Englewood, worked with the Tennessee Baptist teams helping his church because his pastor, Lee Young, is bivocational and works during the day.
Teams from Stone Baptist Association, based in Cookeville, worked at the church and several other churches two different weeks.
Stone Association sent 49 volunteers including members of families with children from five churches one week and then 12 from two more churches. Joe Wiles, director of missions, led the first team and Rick Burnett, pastor, Crossroads Community Church, Baxter, led the other team.
They did renovation, canvassing for a sports camp, held block parties, and helped move items from one Baptist center to another.
Anna Lee Wiles, wife of Joe, said the children on a team helped draw kids to the sports camps. The team included people ages 3-71.
“It was amazing,” she said.
Some of the kids at the sports camp came to Sunday School at one church they worked with looking for the Tennessee kids, the Tennesseans learned.
For First, Englewood, the good experiences with Tennessee Baptists will draw the church to be more active in the association, said Young, who is interim pastor of the Ohio church. Madewell noted that the church really needed the renovation completed through the labor of the Tennesseans. The time together was “enjoyable. … What a wonderful group of people. We see a change in our church finally. … God bless all of these people,” he stated.
Young and Madewell were especially astounded by the fact that one of the Tennessee men stayed behind to help Madewell one day after the rest of the team left. He wanted to finish some painting.
The Tennessee Baptists also wouldn’t let the Ohio church pay for supplies, said Young.
One result of the week was that people living in nearby apartments visited the church commenting on the activity. Another result was that church members started thinking about outreach, noted Madewell. A lady of the church commented after her Sunday School classroom was painted that she wondered what she could do now to bring more kids into the class, he said.
Dayton, Ohio, pastor
David Bonnell, pastor of Eastview Baptist Mission, Dayton, said his small inner-city church was helped and encouraged by First, Saint Bethlehem, Clarksville; and First, Adamsville, teams.
The team members did a lot of renovation work in the 100-year-old church, including repairing a water-damaged wall and removing a boiler from the basement. Amazingly, the church made $230 from the 2,100 lbs. of scrap metal from the boiler, he added.
The Saint Bethlehem team brought 370 lbs. of canned goods for the church’s food ministry. Members of the church distribute food to about 100 families every week.
Tennesseans also helped lead a block party and Backyard Bible Clubs there. Though few students attended the clubs, at least one student made a profession of faith, reported Greg Brasher, minister to students/associate pastor, First Baptist Church, Adamsville.
Finally they personally cared for the people in the community, Bonnell said. Two Tennessee ladies gave 34 people hair cuts. Also, one Tennessean visited with a man who came to the church for two hours.
“They were a great encouragement to our church,” said Bonnell.
Kim Margrave of the TBC staff and all of the Ohio Baptist leaders said they were pleased to see the partnership developing past being “project-driven” to “relationship-driven” and past being a one-time thing or yearly thing to an on-going relationship.
“Rather than an event on a calendar, it’s something they are doing together,” she added.
For more information on the partnership, contact Margrave at email@example.com or 615-812-0886.
See articles on the partnership and possible expanded partnership on pages 7 and 14 and in future issues.