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New Bethel Baptist Church in Cuthbert finds innovative ways to serve its mission, locally and abroad

CUTHBERT — David and Gay Crowdis stated they consider it’s not the scale of a church’s congregation that issues, however slightly what that congregation does to serve its mission, no matter its measurement.

David is the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church at 989 Eleven Bridges Road in Cuthbert. His spouse stated the church is “off the beaten path” close to the border of Randolph and Calhoun counties, which every have fewer than 7,000 residents. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the tiny church had a congregation of about 50 folks. However, like many different Southern rural church buildings, it struggles with a shrinking inhabitants.

Rural church buildings throughout the Southeast are in decline as rural populations shrink. There’s additionally a decline in Christianity throughout the United States. A research by the Pew Research Center prompt that by 2070, lower than half of the nation’s inhabitants could also be Christian. There can also be a scarcity of pastors in these rural areas.

Jim Weaver is the Bethel Baptist Association mission strategist. He helps pastors and church buildings all through southwest Georgia, together with New Bethel Baptist. He stated 5 of the affiliation’s church buildings are with out pastors. Some of them, like Morgan Baptist Church, are actively looking for a pastor and discovering success. Morgan’s church has acquired about 50 functions.

Others, he stated, could also be having a tougher time due to points comparable to housing and a scarcity of alternatives current in these areas.

For these church buildings to survive, Weaver stated they’ve to adapt.

“The church is a living organism, and every living organism has to grow,” he stated. “It’s not created to become stagnant, or it will die.”

Some church buildings share a pastor, who preaches a service at one church and heads to the following as soon as that sermon is completed.

Others, like New Bethel, developed inventive ways to preserve their mission robust.

These days, David preaches to a small, growing old crowd on Sundays at New Bethel. However, he stated its members do extra mission work now than they ever have and much more than some bigger church buildings.

“The Bible says when two or more are gathered in my name, I’ll be there,” David stated. “So size doesn’t matter to us. It’s not about us. It’s about what God’s doing.”

In 2022, the church began a Mission Mall, a thrift retailer made up of donated clothes, kitchen and eating ware, toys, books, films and every thing in between. They use the proceeds from the thrift retailer to assist people and organizations throughout the surrounding communities. This 12 months, they raised sufficient cash to assist a Mississippi nonprofit in constructing tiny houses in Honduras.

Gay stated she bought the thought to begin the thrift retailer throughout the annual Highway 82 Spring Clean Yard Sale. She offered a number of gadgets and made greater than $200. She stated she doesn’t even know what occurred subsequent, however after sharing her thought with a number of people, donations began coming in.

Gay stated the church hasn’t spent a dime on any of the gadgets in its store.

In its first 12 months, she stated, the shop made about $6,000. In its second, she stated she believes they made wherever between $8,000 and $10,000.

They promote gadgets for about $1 every — a bit extra for clothes with tags or uncommon collectibles, however nothing is greater than $10.

“I imagine people think our No. 1 goal is to sell things, but it’s really not,” she stated. “It’s to help people.”

In two years, the store has expanded in measurement, and the church has tailored with it. Its small congregation not makes use of Sunday faculty lecture rooms or grownup instructing lecture rooms, so, they’ve turned these vacant rooms right into a toy room, a “Honduras room” and a menswear room.

Their closets are bursting with donated gadgets. Gay stated she’s in the store nearly each day organizing and sorting.

Money gained on the Mission Mall serves a lot of folks and organizations all through southwest Georgia. It helps quite a lot of church buildings via the Bethel Baptist Association. They donate garments to Rahab’s Haven in Albany, a middle for trafficking victims, and Rehoboth Ranch in Calhoun County, a rehab heart for males. They present financial donations to the Calhoun County Family Connections. At Christmas, they assist organizations just like the Millennium Center, a drug rehab facility in Cuthbert, and ASPIRE in Arlington. They donate ragged sheets and blankets to a close-by canine rescue operation.

In two years, the church has additionally turn out to be the native “go-to” for folks in want. They’ve helped people who find themselves hungry, homeless or have misplaced their jobs. They purchase struggling faculty college students computer systems and different faculty provides. They purchased a model new bicycle for a person in Arlington who depends on a motorcycle to work. They bought a model new backyard tiller for people at Rehoboth Ranch.

“God just has a way,” Gay stated. “If there’s a need, somehow we’ll hear about it.”

She stated the work has reignited the older members of the church’s congregation, who’re restricted in what they will do bodily.

“This makes them happy because they feel like they’re still giving back,” she stated. “They feel that their church is very active. And, it is.”

The Crowdises additionally obtain assist from group members outdoors their congregation, together with frequent buyers, neighbors and a highschool pupil who’s finishing group service hours.

“That’s how we’ve managed physically,” Gay stated.

The Mission Mall has been so profitable in serving Randolph, Calhoun and surrounding counties that the Crowdises are utilizing cash raised to assist mission work abroad. The couple has been visiting Honduras in partnership with the Forgotten Children Ministry, which helps folks and kids in Honduras who’re residing in poverty.

The two put collectively suitcases of provides, toys and clothes to carry with them after they journey to Tegucigalpa, the nation’s capital, every year.

One means the ministry helps this inhabitants helps to construct tiny houses that price about $3,000 to full. The Crowdises determined they wished to construct a home and raised the cash to construct one in November. Word unfold, and fundraising grew all through the group.

“Between November and the end of February, this little community — the Bethel Baptist Association — raised enough money to build five houses in Honduras,” Gay stated. “It’s been like a ripple effect. I get chill bumps just thinking about it.”

So Gay set a objective. She is hoping to increase sufficient to construct a sixth home, via funds from the Mission Mall, by the tip of May. She turns 72 throughout the month, and she stated it’s her birthday want.

She stated the New Bethel congregation does every thing in good religion. While the congregation is small, its work extends a lot farther than its companies. She stated attending is how churchgoers are “fed.

“But, it’s not just about attending,” she stated. “It’s about how you go out the door and serve after you’ve been fed.”

The Mission Mall is open often all through the week. Find out about gadgets and hours on Facebook at facebook.com/gcrowdis.

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