The project to work with impoverished families in low-income neighborhoods began as a vision of the youth group and its leaders. Though the associational youth ministries program organized the project, about half of those who participated were adults.
A group of 17-including 14 youth and three adults-from Bethel Baptist Church spent a full week on the project. Another group of 25, mostly adults, from Love Grove Baptist Church followed and participated in the project on the weekend.
During the mission, the group from Bethel worked with people in a low-income housing project and with senior citizens in a nursing home.
They focused on the nursing home in the mornings-singing and helping seniors who were physically unable to play alone to participate in bingo, said Andrews. In the afternoon, they worked in the housing projects doing crafts; face painting; handing out soap, deodorant and other personal items as well as Bibles; and teaching about the love of Jesus Christ.
The group from Love Grove focused on block parties in the Cox Creek Mobile Home Park area. They cooked hot dogs, gave out watermelons, soap deodorant, and Bibles to the residents. They then led a praise and worship service.
Various businesses and individuals donated the materials that were passed out to the residents, Andrews said. New Beginnings Fellowship in Elizabethtown provided the Bibles.
"This was the first project of this type that our group has organized and participated in," said Andrews. "And our youth were really inspired by the work. Their eyes were opened to how people in less fortunate circumstances live.
"Some of the families we visited didn't even have beds to sleep on-they slept on the floor-and some had little if any food in the cabinets," he explained. "Many of our youth were appalled at the conditions they encountered. And I believe it is very important for our young people to learn firsthand about how our less fortunate people live.
"You can tell people a thousand times about how many people around them live, yet they don't really comprehend the extent and affect of poverty until they're exposed to it firsthand."
"It has a deep and lasting impact on them. Our kids found a family who had no beds and little furniture of any kind," said Andrews. "After observing how those folks lived, they resolved to sit on the floor for the remainder of the trip, just to give themselves a little understanding of what it must be like for that family.
"They even pooled their resources-collected money among themselves-to buy groceries for families who had little if anything to eat in their house," he explained.
Andrews started the Bladen Baptist Youth Outreach shortly after he was asked by Association Director of Missions Reverend Bruce Cannon to become Associational Youth Director. He said the youth came up with the name of the group.
"The whole purpose of what we're trying to do in projects such as this is to get our youth to work together in our community for Christ," said Andrews. "And we believe that exposing them to folks who live in impoverished circumstances will give them a deeper and more personal understanding of what mission work really is.
"In other words, our purpose is to teach our youth to be doers of the word, not just hearers, as we're directed to do in James 1:22," he added.
"One youth told me it is a lot more fun to do what the work says than to just read about it," said Andrews. "I think we, as adults, need to do a little more of that ourselves."
Andrews said he hopes to eventually be able to get every church in the association involved in this important work.
The group plans a similar mission to project in the Elizabethtown area sometime within a month.
Anyone wishing to be a part of this outreach may contact Andrews at 863-4953 or Cannon at 862-3496.