Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 17, 2013

Mark Maynard: Mission field can be your backyard: 07/18/13

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — Who ever thinks of their own backyard as a mission field?

Most of the time, we are so absorbed in our own day-to-day problems that we don’t recognize what’s right in front of us.

The Hopewell Baptist Church from Monroe, N.C., has been working in some of Ashland’s needy neighborhoods all week. They have reached out and lent a hand. They have volunteered to do yard work, put up gutters, build a handrail and show God’s love to the community.

Neighbors have been thrilled, some even stunned, that someone from 500 miles away who they didn’t even know would care enough to make their life a little easier.

The good folks from Hopewell have been a blessing from God, some have said.

“It’s a godsend,” said Janine Castle, who has lived in a small house on 31st Street since 1994.

It was two former residents, Heather and Phillip Morris, who initiated the idea to make Ashland a mission field for Hopewell Baptist Church.

Hopewell did it the right way, learning about Ashland before they came to do the work. They checked with city government about what could or should be done, learned about the area’s non-profits and how they could be of assistance, partnered with churches. Larry Furr, who helped organize the mission venture, said he knew as much about Ashland as he did his own hometown.

Forty-two of them came to Ashland, taking their vacations and bringing their own tools and equipment so as not to be a burden to anyone who was living here. If a lawnmower broke, it was their lawnmower.

The Morrises are both from the area. Heather graduated from Paul Blazer in 1993 and her husband from Boyd County the same year. The moved to North Carolina not long after graduation and admitted to doing the party scene a few years. But once they joined Hopewell, they found hope. They traveled back and forth from North Carolina to Ashland over the past two decades and saw a deterioration that made them sad. Heather determined herself to do something about it and it wasn’t long until a Kentucky mission team was formed at the church.

“I know the damage that drugs can do in people’s lives,” she said. “I could see how my own family was being affected. It broke my heart.”

They came to attack issues facing many small Kentucky towns these days — drug abuse, prescription pill abuse and even prostitution. They also shared with the children in the neighborhood, provided some meals, showed them that somebody cared. People were grateful, even thankful. Some even told them it was the first time anybody had reached out to them.

For many of the group from North Carolina, this is their first “mission” adventure.  But after getting a taste of it, they’re already making plans to make a difference somewhere else next year. One missionary even said, “I wonder if we should be doing this in our own community? There’s a need.”

Most of the time, we think of missions as going to a foreign land where poverty is commonplace and, certainly, there is a need in these Third World countries.

But this church from North Carolina rolled up its sleeves and showed us in Ashland that mission work can start right at home. There is a need here, too. They’ve seen it and answered the call.

We are fortunate to live in a giving community but there are always needs that can go unmet and friends who are hurting. Make that neighbor or that friend your mission field. Don’t wait for somebody else to do something.

We live in a world of people who are hurting. Your “mission” may be right across the street.