-Good Old South Carolina-

Just had a take a little time to brag on my home state a little bit. There have been a lot of students coming in to New Orleans from all over the country to work with the MissionLab program, and South Carolina has had her fair share of representation. Marilyn Stewart, a contributing writer for the Times Picayune (local New Orleans newspaper, and the largest newspaper in Louisiana), wrote an article about two of the churches from the Palmetto State that have made a huge impact on the city. Just wanted to share it with you:

Youth Find New Orleans The Right Place To Be

By Marilyn Stewart

Two South Carolina youth teams, in New Orleans recently, discovered the open doors and open hearts that Baptists there describe when they say, “It’s a great time to be a Southern Baptist in New Orleans.”

The slogan carried on the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans website refers to the new trust and acceptance Southern Baptists are experiencing in the city as a result of volunteers’ work there since Katrina.

West Hartsville Baptist Church students were welcomed into a Catholic sponsored residence for troubled teens to lead a week-long Bible school. Antioch Baptist Church of Edgefield teens found a listening ear as they shared God’s promises of comfort with a contractor who had recently lost a loved one.

Both teams partnered with MissionLab, a ministry of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that provides hands-on ministry experience by linking church groups to established ministry relationships, including food banks, community centers, senior-adult assisted living facilities, AIDS residences, child-care centers, a correctional unit, a homeless ministry and others.

The ministry options allow a church to custom-fit their mission trip to their team’s size, age and strengths. More than 175 students from 7 South Carolina churches have worked with MissionLab this summer.

The West Hartsville team, the first this year to work at the residential treatment center operated by the Association of Catholic Charities, taught from a curriculum developed by the adult sponsors.

“We didn’t know exactly what we were coming into, so we prayed hard that God would open doors,” sponsor Cathy Hurd said. “And this week has been one of the best opportunities to share Christ that we have ever had.”

West Hartsville also hung sheetrock in a heavily-damaged Lower Ninth Ward home. Team members prayed with the homeowner on the street in front of her home after hearing her story and learning she had lost a friend in the storm.

“The students are seeing that anyone is reachable,” sponsor Anne Braddock said. “The gospel is for everybody, no matter who you are or where you come from.”

The teams’ other ministry projects made a contribution to the rebuilding city.

Antioch’s team cleared brush along a section of the 22 miles of shoreline at the 1300-acre City Park, one of the largest in the nation. Pre-Katrina, the park was home to four golf courses, an amusement park, a botanical garden and a staff of 260. Today, a skeletal staff of 80 depends on volunteers to maintain the grounds.

“This park is beloved by the city,” said Jim Morrison, City Park Volunteer Manager. “We are indebted to MissionLab and all the churches that come through. They give hope to the people.”

Lisa Turner, Antioch sponsor, said Morrison described the park as a place of respite for those without money for vacations and trips away. Similarly, the team helped a homeowner without resources to rebuild.

“She had fallen through the cracks,” Turner said. “She had too much money to qualify for assistance but not enough to rebuild.” The students’ work there opened the door to share their faith with a worker.

Hannah Sterling, MissionLab Ministry Site Coordinator, said that their service to church groups is paid back in full as teams pave the way for those ministering in New Orleans 365 days a year.

“The teams and the work they do gives us an open door to organizations where we are building relationships,” Sterling said. “First, as friends and ultimately, to show them what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

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