Two hundred thirty youth from 13 Baptist churches across Virginia converged on the campus of Bluefield College, July 24-30, to make a difference in the lives of families in southwest Virginia through a faith-based community service project called Impact Virginia.
Sponsored by the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, Impact Virginia is a one-week mission opportunity for youth in grades 7-12 that focuses on home repair for low-income families and spiritual growth for teens and the people they serve. While the youth participating in southwest Virginia spent the early mornings and evenings each day in devotion and worship at Bluefield College, they spent the bulk of their daily time in the community, renovating 15 homes in Tazewell County.
“It’s hard work, but I enjoy it,” said Tyler Layburn, a teen volunteer from Ferry Farm Baptist Church in Stafford, Virginia. “I just like to help people. Making them happy makes me happy. It’s nice to be useful and to meet new people and to learn their stories.”
The youth met and helped low-income families from 15 different homes in Tazewell, Falls Mills, Cedar Bluff, Pounding Mill, Pocahontas, and Boissevain. They worked from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, Monday through Friday, stopping only for lunch, provided by local churches who joined the cause.
“It’s a great way to help people, and it’s something you can do in an area near us, instead of halfway across the world,” said Justine Purdy, a teen from Virginia Hills Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. “Some people go overseas on mission, and that’s great, but people need help right in our own neighborhoods, too. It’s great to get to help people and to get to know them, too.”
The Impact teams built entrance ramps, roofs and steps, and rebuilt floors porches and foundations to improve homes of those in need. They replaced doors, painted various structures, and repaired steps, handrails and ceilings.
“I had looked all over for someone to do work for me, so I was relieved and thrilled to death when they (Bluefield College) picked me,” said homeowner Mildred Cornett of Falls Mills, Virginia. “These new steps will really help me. Now I can go out my front door. These kids have been so sweet. They sacrificed their time, and I don’t know many people that would do that, especially young people.”
The youth also constructed retaining walls and installed pipes, insulation, drywall, shingles, windows, vinyl siding, gutters and sinks. All in all, they invested an estimated $20,000 of labor into southwest Virginia, combined with more than $10,000 in materials provided to Bluefield College by local contractors, home improvement centers, and other donors.
“It is remarkable to think about the impact we’ve been able to have in this community over the past three years,” said BC’s David Taylor, campus minister and vice president for student services, about the college’s participation in Impact Virginia since 2009. “During this time, we have made more than 40 dwellings in southwest Virginia warmer, safer and dryer for needy homeowners. We couldn’t make this kind of difference in people’s lives without these youth and without the support of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, our local churches and others who contributed to the cause.”
Using Bluefield College as mission central, the Impact teams ate breakfast and dinner on campus and participated in daily devotions and worship prior to and at the end of each service day. Part of the Bluefield College mission is to be “in service to God and the community,” Taylor said. Collaborating with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board to bring Impact Virginia to Bluefield is just one way the school can fulfill that mission.
“At Bluefield, we believe passionately in service above self and strive hard to prepare compassionate students to impact their world,” said Taylor. “Impact Virginia is an opportunity to not only serve others, but also to grow in Christian faith.”
In addition to Impact Virginia, the college hosted other mission and ministry projects and groups on campus this summer to restore homes, support local church ministries and share the love of the Christian faith in Greater Bluefield, including the Urban Appalachian Project; Fellowship Ambassadors from Sumter, South Carolina; Hephzibah and Kilpatrick Baptist Associations from Georgia; Mt. Hermon Baptist Church from Bluefield, West Virginia; Pine Crest Baptist Church from Cordele, Georgia; and Idlewood Baptist Church from Charlotte, North Carolina.