Church practices what it preaches

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 11, 2002

It’s one thing to hear Biblical teachings on a re-occurring basis, and it’s another to put Christianity in action. The latter is what members of Suffolk’s West End Baptist Church say they were doing on Saturday when painting the house of one of its disabled church members.

&uot;We believe in being `doers of the word, not just hearers,’&uot; said West End Mission Director William &uot;Bill&uot; Ashley, referencing the Biblical adage.

If the church had not have stepped in, Willie Colby, 42, would face a $600 city fine, and paying around $3,500 to get the job done. The problem was that Colby didn’t have the physical ability or that kind of money to meet the city’s demands.

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When church members became abreast of the problem, its youth group and mission put their heads together to start the project on Linden Avenue.

It was not an easy undertaking.

The two-story Victorian home was in bad shape, admitted Colby. Ashley confirmed that the house required a lot of hard labor, but it was worth it to enhance the living conditions of one of its members.

About a month ago, city inspectors started &uot;getting on my back,&uot; said Colby, about inoperable vehicles in his yard, and the appearance of his house. Chipped sky blue paint plagued the frame, but Saturday brought a brighter day with a fresh coat of primer and white paint. Ashley said the mission’s independent budget paid for all the supplies.

When Colby appeared in court last week on the violations, the judge gave him an extension to get the work done. He returns to court on Sept. 5.

Youth director Judy Saunders explained that several members of the church requested that they take on the painting project. She added that the church’s youths jumped at the opportunity.

&uot;We are really excited to be a part of this,&uot; said Saunders. &uot;There were children saying that they wanted to do something for others. This is a true test to their faith and it shows that their heart is in the right place. Anyone can give money, but it’s something else to give time.&uot;

Fifteen members of the congregation, including its pastor, the Rev. T. Floyd &uot;Skip&uot; Irby, committed to the Saturday project. Other members also came out other days to contribute time. Ashley said the work should be completed after a few more hours of work this week.

Colby, on his knees scraping the porch, described members of the West End Baptist Church as &uot;the most loving people I have ever met,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t know how I would do this without them. I am doing what I can to my house while they help me.&uot;

Since birth, Colby has suffered from a &uot;portwine stain,&uot; which causes circulation problems throughout his body. A substantial portion of his skin is visibly deep red, affecting 73 percent of his body, explained Colby. The redness stems from a concentration of more blood vessels in some areas, which stagnate his body’s ability to heal.

Colby is now recovering from recent surgeries, including the removal of a growth from his head, and another attempting to stimulate circulation to his ankles. On Saturday, a bandage wrapping covered a three-layer deep opening in his ankle, which has been slow to heal due to restricted blood flow. Colby primarily relies on a motorized scooter to get around.

After losing his son to an accidental shooting in 1993, the death of his mother in 2001 and enduring a divorce, Colby said, &uot;I lost my whole family, but I gained a church family. These guys are awesome.&uot;

West End Baptist Church participates in variety of other community projects. A coordinated vacation Bible School effort this summer between the church, Oxford Methodist and Suffolk Presbyterian generated more than $1,600 that was donated to the Genieve Shelter for Battered Women.

West End also regularly feeds the hungry in the community, contributes to Lynchburg-based Habitat for Humanity Inc. and the Suffolk chapter. Ashley is also proud of the church’s ability to send a Sunday School teacher to the Nansemond Point Nursing Home weekly for its outreach ministry.

Approximately 35 residents attend the class weekly, said Ashley.

&uot;West End is involved in a lot of different things to help the community,&uot; said Ashley.