Virginia Baptists Serve on Mission at Bluefield College (June 2009)
More than 100 members of Baptist churches from across Virginia and Tennessee spent part of their summer on the campus of Bluefield College. The congregants were not in Bluefield for a camp, conference or retreat, but instead to serve on mission to support their Virginia Baptist partner.
June 3, 2009
The Baptist missionaries from eastern Tennessee to southwest Virginia to the eastern shore with skills from carpentry to cooking worked five consecutive weeks in May and June to renovate four cottages on the Bluefield College campus to create valuable married student housing.
The cottages -- former military houses transferred by train to the BC campus in 1945 as government surplus after World War II -- were to be temporary facilities for guests and married students. But, since they have provided essential residential space for student couples for more than 60 years, the college decided to keep the buildings on campus. To do that, the school knew it needed to significantly restore the structures.
"After 60 years of usage," said BC president, Dr. David Olive, "plus knowing our need for the cottages to meet the demand for married student housing for the foreseeable future, we began over a year ago envisioning how we could partner with Virginia Baptists to assist us in getting these much-needed improvements done."
BC's own students and staff began the work, installing new windows and doors in preparation for the first mission team's arrival. That first group from Monte Vista Baptist Church in Maryville, Tennessee, the church where Dr. Olive grew up, continued the work on the cottage exteriors, installing new vinyl siding.
The latter mission groups from 15 Baptist churches across Virginia restored the interiors of the cottages, including flooring, plumbing and electrical. The more than 100 volunteers who committed their time and energy to the project from Virginia Baptist churches came from New Bethesda, Hillcrest, Cool Spring, Atlee Community, Sharon, Black Creek, Hardy Central (Richmond), Honaker, Port Norfolk, Portsmouth, Pleasant View, Patrick County, Black Creek, Mechanicsville, and Ridge (Richmond).
"This project is another example of Bluefield College's desire to build stronger partnerships with churches from the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV)," said BC president, Dr. David Olive, "and it's just one of the many ways Virginia Baptist churches are active partners with one another in the BGAV's Kingdom Advance."
Prior to and during the renovation project, a number of additional Bluefield College supporters stepped forward to offer financial contributions to go along with the "sweat equity." Among those who purchased or provided significant funds or gifts for construction materials, appliances, meals, and other necessary items for the renovations were the Cruise Foundation, the First Baptist Church of Richmond Foundation, the Dover Baptist Association, and alumnus Leroy Williams of Mechanicsville, Virginia.
"We have never had such a volunteer and alumni-driven effort in the history of the college, said BC's Ruth Blankenship, vice president for advancement. "This was such an historical and transformational effort, not only in the physical work that took place, but also in the change in attitude of our alumni and friends in their efforts to make a difference for the college."
Last year, Fredericksburg Baptist Church began the process of restoring BC's five cottages with funding to renovate the first of the five. That renovation effort included new vinyl siding, windows, doors and guttering for the first cottage.
Bluefield College, a Christ-centered liberal arts college in southwest Virginia, has been in covenant with the Baptist General Association of Virginia since its existence in 1922. The college offers a challenging academic experience within a diverse Christian environment that integrates liberal arts with career-oriented studies and service to God and the global community.