Nearly one hundred youth from Baptist churches across Virginia spent a week on the campus of Bluefield College this summer to make a difference in the lives of low-income families in southwest Virginia through a faith-based community service program called Impact Virginia.
Sponsored by the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), the summer service initiative is designed to provide home repair for low-income families while also offering opportunities for spiritual growth for participating teens.
“I think Impact’s value is that in addition to helping people by ensuring they are safe, warm and dry, students are learning to see opportunities to share God’s love wherever they go,” said Glenn Maddox, a missions mobilizer for the BGAV. “The desire to serve goes beyond one week and becomes a lifestyle.”
This year’s youth in Bluefield worked on eight different homes, seven in Tazewell County, Virginia, and one in Mercer County, West Virginia, replacing roofs, building handicap ramps, restoring decks, rebuilding porches, and installing vinyl siding.
“We began our week Sunday night by meeting our teams and getting the whole overview of what we would be doing,” said Libby Bew, an Impact Virginia volunteer from Arbor Baptist Church in Amelia, Virginia, who was part of a group that earned the nickname Rowdy Roofers. “On Monday, we started our building project, which when you are beginning, it is always hard.”
Despite the challenges, the youth made significant improvements and additions to homes in Greater Bluefield – enhancements that likely would not have been made without the efforts of the students and their desire to serve.
“Loving thy neighbor takes on hands and feet with Impact Virginia,” said BC campus pastor Dr. Henry Clary, “and as BGAV youth are on mission here to build and to repair, they are at the same time helping low-income families with needed home repairs that they would never be able to afford on their own.”
The youth represented nine different churches affiliated with the Baptist General Association of Virginia, including Arbor Baptist Church; Sandy Ridge Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, Virginia; Poroporone Baptist Church in Shacklefords, Virginia; West Main Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia; Mount View Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Virginia; Biltmore Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Virginia; Chesterfield Community Church in Chesterfield, Virginia; Calvary Baptist Church in Floyd, Virginia; and Mechanicsville Baptist Church in Gordonsville, Virginia.
Chasmine Thomas from Chesterfield Community Church said she learned a lot of valuable life lessons through her participation in Impact. She said the program helped her develop self-confidence and become more open. She said it also made her realize the importance of serving others.
“I volunteer for Impact because I like to help people and make them feel good,” said Thomas. “With this program, we are able to show Jesus’ love and spread the word of the Gospel. Seeing how I can change someone else’s life by doing little things just shows how appreciative people can be about those things.”
A proud partner of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, Bluefield College has served as a host site for Impact Virginia since 2009, helping facilitate the restoration of countless homes throughout southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia. On the BC campus, the youth enjoy breakfast and dinner and daily devotions and worship prior to and at the end of each service day. And, considering the fact that part of the Bluefield College mission is to “develop transformational servant leaders,” collaborating with the BGAV to bring Impact Virginia to Bluefield is just one way the school can fulfill that mission.
“Our long-term relationship with Bluefield, especially in light of the Together for Hope project we’re working toward with CBFVA (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia) and WMUV (Women’s Missionary Union of Virginia) is so exciting,” added Maddox, “because it offers our churches a chance to develop their own long-term relationships with the community around Bluefield.”