“I’ve never experienced this amount of love from this many people,” says Layton Pritchett, one of the members of the youth group from Gilliam Springs Baptist Church in Arab, Alabama, who came out to Clarkston for a week of serving and reaching out to the community. With a rainy start to their week, the group from Gilliam Springs had no choice but to learn firsthand the first rule of missions–flexibility. In the mornings, rather than prayer walking, the group went prayer driving in the rain. They participated in many other activities including prayer walking later in the week, visiting houses of refugees, putting on Backyard Bible Clubs, teaching ESL, painting the faces of refugee children in the community, doing community service projects, and playing soccer with some of the men of the community. The group also got the chance to visit the Swaminarayan Hindu Temple, the largest temple of its kind outside of India. Following the visit to the Hindu Temple, Sarah Holaway stated, “You don’t have to travel to reach different religions and races. Reaching these people is not a frightening thing; it’s a good thing. It really burdens your heart for the rest of the world.”
By the end of the week, these students as well as their leaders had grown leaps and bounds beyond what they believed they would. A change in each of their lives was visible as they voiced their eagerness to return to the people with whom they had developed strong relationships. Looking back on her week, Caylee Beth Mayo said, “I didn’t expect the kids to be so loving and the parents to be so welcoming.” Coming from a small town, many of these students admitted to having been rather sheltered before coming to Clarkston, but they were able to return to their small town with a greater understanding of what much of the world is like. “I learned not to judge people because you never know who they really are,” said Tyler Ponder while reflecting on his week.
RTN is grateful to have had the chance to work with these students and adults from Gilliam Springs Baptist Church. They truly made a difference for the Kingdom of God during their week in Clarkston. Many relationships were built by these students, and RTN plans to follow up and visit each contact that was made by this wonderful group of students. RTN also hopes to build on the soccer ministry that this church started. Gilliam Springs was a joy to work with, and RTN looks forward to working with them again in the future.