VILONIA — Teamed with First Baptist Church of Liberty City, Texas, the youth at Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia, spent four days, last week, serving as missionaries in the Vilonia community.
Youth ministers Marty Nix of Vilonia and Tim Coop of Texas headed up the mission taking out teams totaling about 60 workers per day, not only "telling folks about the gospel but also showing it to them."
The teams were equipped with shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, chainsaws, hammers and paintbrushes. With the sun bearing down on them, they picked up the small debris spewed by the F-4 tornado that devastated Vilonia on April 27. They also helped residents with fence repairs, garage repairs and painting. Backyards were turned into vacation Bible schools. Gift boxes were also handed out to children who were found in the neighborhoods where they were working.
Coop referred to the 33 Texas church members as the disaster recovery team. After working full days, the team was housed at the Vilonia church at night sleeping on cots and on sleeping bags. They didn’t seem to mind. Coop said this is not that team’s first mission. In 2013, they helped during recovery efforts in West, Texas after an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility north of Waco where more than 15 people were killed and more than 160 were injured.
"We got an idea there what to expect when we came here," Coop said. "Really, we weren’t surprised at all."
To end the work day on Tuesday, the mission groups provided a free community meal that was served from tents set up on the empty slab at Kieth’s Service Station. The Vilonia mission group also donated $1,000 to Kieth McCord, owner of Kieth’s Service Station, who lost his business due to the tornado and to members of the Museum of Veterans and Military History that was downed due to the tornado.
In the presentation, teenager Seth Ball said "Mr. Kieth has done so much for the community." If there is a need, Ball said, McCord is generally the first on the scene. Regarding the museum, teenager Amanda Finch said, "The museum means a lot to us and to everyone. We love the museum being here."
Youth from both churches said they were getting more out of the mission than they were giving. Tears ran down the cheeks of Texas teenager Jordan Exline as she talked about her experiences in Vilonia meeting with tornado victims. She said she was honored to be helping in Vilonia.
"Sometimes we get so consumed in our little lives that we don’t notice other people’s hurts and needs," Exline said. "We just wanted the people of Arkansas and Vilonia to know that we love them and that God loves them."
Teenager Haley Burt of Beryl Baptist, said interacting with tornado victims has caused her to have "joy in my heart."
"You can just see in their eyes, they are grateful for the smallest things," Burt said. She tells about riding her four-wheeler in the immediate aftermath to her neighbors to check on them. One house, she said, looked like it was in a jungle with nine uprooted trees. The next day, church members were in the neighborhoods removing "big trees you can’t get your arms around" that were blocking houses and roadways.
Working in the neighborhoods and helping residents, Nix said, is just one of the ways the Beryl Church members are "going outside the walls of the church" to show their love and share their faith.