BurkeChangers in the News Herald

Jason Koon Staff Writer
More than 180 teenagers and adult volunteers from more than 15 churches around Burke County banded together for the week to minister to local residents.
The Catawba River Baptist Association (CRBA), a network of 66 Burke County churches, organized the second annual Burke Changers missions camp June 6-8. The local camp started in 2021 to fill the void left when World Changers, a national faith-based missions camp, folded in 2020, in part due to economic hardships surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. World Changers had hosted mission camps in Burke County from 2016-19, bringing nearly 300 students from across the southeast to the area each summer.
To fill this void, CRBA leaders scrambled to hold a similar event in 2021 which drew 115 students. According to Robby Smith, director of missions for the association, the event this year has grown to include more churches, more students and two extra service projects.
To help organize the work, the association has once again enlisted the help of Foothills Service Project. Started in 1997, by the late R.L Icard, Foothills Service Project builds approximately 200 access ramps a year for Burke County residents over the age of 60, according to Executive Director Scotty Donnelly.

Donnelly and Project Coordinator Andrew Whisenant worked all last week contacting homeowners, measuring and organizing supplies to get ready for the groups.

“We’ve already picked out the projects and (Andrew) makes a rough drawing of it so we can make a materials list,” said Donnelly. “Then we go through and make detailed drawings of each project so the crew chiefs know exactly what they’re building.”

In addition to building access ramps, Smith said the groups also helped with yard work and painting and they spent time walking through neighborhoods praying for and offering to pray with residents.
“We’re praying for the people behind those doors,” Smith said. “We still believe prayer is one of the most powerful tools we have to help people.”
Smith said the goal for the week was to be a blessing to as many people as possible.

“We’re trying to be the best churches for the community,” Smith said. “We want to be a group of churches that want to help make our community better. That’s why we’re out, not only sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, but putting hands to those prayers. We’re trying to meet needs.”
Each evening, the missions camp concluded with a special event for students and community members. On Monday, the students enjoyed a night of skating and pizza. On Tuesday, students hosted five community block parties in different location throughout the county. According to Smith, the block parties were open to everyone in the community and featured inflatables, live music, free canvas tote bags and two bicycle giveaways at each of the following locations:

  • Mount Home Baptist Church, 2272 Mount Home Road, Morganton.
  • Fisher Mobile Home Park, 5125 Crawley Dale St., Morganton; hosted by Burkemont Baptist.
  • Walker Road Baptist Church, 100 Walker Road, Morganton.
  • Valdese Housing Authority, 1402 Lydia Ave., Valdese; hosted by East Valdese Baptist Church.
  • The Historic Courthouse Square in Morganton; hosted by Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church.
On Wednesday, El Bethel Baptist Church hosted a barbecue dinner and closing worship service giving the students and adult volunteers an opportunity to look back over the three days of ministry. Eddy Bunton, student ministries pastor for Burkemont Baptist Church and one of the event’s organizers, said people who received help and their neighbors were invited to join them on Wednesday.
“We’re celebrating something we call ‘Wow moments,’” Bunton said. “Every day, on their sites, students are going to be looking for what we call a ‘wow moment’ which is where we’ve watched God do something through our crew, in our neighborhood or on our project. It’s anything noteworthy we can give God credit for.”
This highlights one of the major reasons event organizers and participating churches said they wanted to stay in Burke County instead of taking mission trips to other communities.
“The whole idea is to get tools in students’ hands so they can learn how to serve and hopefully grow with that through their lives, and also give them an eye to not just go away to serve somewhere, but to realize that there are people in our own neighborhoods,” Bunton said.

He said a ministry like this also gives leaders an opportunity to include every student who is interested.
“When you do something locally, you’re not having to worry about housing or how you’re going to feed everyone,” he said. “Because it’s not a travel trip and it’s not a huge expense, it lowers that baseline so there’s no one excluded.”
Whisenant hopes the projects helped the students see that everyone has something they can offer.
“Sometimes students don’t know that they have a talent until somebody gives them a drill or a hammer to do something with it,” Whisenant said. “And they say, ‘wow, this is actually fun, I can do something to help.’”

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