Colquitt County - When Hurricane Katrina ripped apart the gulf coast last year, tens of thousands of people volunteered to help clean it up. One group made such an impact on the people they helped, that Gulfport, Mississippi residents wanted to repay the favor. This week, they're in Colquitt County restoring a church that dates back to the Civil War.
It's just a small country church in the community of Greenfield. Average attendance on a Sunday morning, about 40. "It was kind of cute but it was old. The seats had cracks in them, wherever you would sit it would pinch you. It looked like it hadn't been painted in a while and just needed a little help," says Presley Wesson.
Help that the members just couldn't provide. The church budget is almost non-existent. So about 20 youth from First United Methodist Church in Gulfport, Mississippi decided to step in. 15-year old Wesson says it's what others have done for her that encouraged the teen to do for others. She says, "It makes me feel really good. We've had so many people come down and, of course, we'll need people forever, coming down to the coast. And so it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good to know we're giving a little bit back to them."
Pastor Murray Barfield is blown away by their work. He says, "I am impressed. Here it is Tuesday and they're already painting and padded the pews and built new alters and fixed some boards in our pulpit area. I'm just amazed."
Amazed with the amount of work, and play. Somehow just as much paint ends up in ears, on legs, and faces, as it does on the wall. Ben Leiker says, "If we work without having a little fun, maybe it won't be as good of work, so if we can put a little light mood into it, it will be fun." Fun with a central purpose, to honor God while serving others. Leiker says, "Coming here to this church and working feels like, I'm kind of repaying the favor and I feel like anything that I can do and beyond is worth it."
Worth the long hours, the sweat, and even the time it will take to get all that paint off. Worth it to be part of a blessing. Barfield says, "Out of all the churches in Colquitt County, they decided to bless us."
The restoration project was supposed to be a surprise for members of New Life Tabernacle Baptist Church. They weren't supposed to know about it until they arrived on Sunday. Now, the surprise will be how the finished product looks once all the work is complete.
Just like the Gulfport church members, the preacher at New life Tabernacle had his own bad experience with a hurricane. Last July when Hurricane Dennis struck, Murray Barfield's office was flooded. He spent days cleaning it out. Bacteria seeped into his body and he was hospitalized.
The muscles in his legs began deteriorating and he had to quit his job as a firefighter. He even had to stop preaching for a while. He says, "Ended up eight months, little over eight months, almost a year being sick. I can tell you up front, I don't like to mess with hurricanes."
Barfield still walks with a cane and has to sit while delivering sermons. He'll undergo surgery on both legs in a couple of weeks to pinpoint and hopefully fix the problem.