Church members reach out

Published 8:48 pm Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dozens of members of two downtown churches spread out across the city Saturday on a mission of hope.

It was the second year of Operation Inasmuch for West End Baptist Church and Suffolk Presbyterian Church. They started doing the ministries last year in lieu of conducting vacation Bible school.

“We really are enjoying this more than VBS,” said Lou Ventura, one of the organizers of the event. “At VBS, we were just ministering to ourselves. We felt we needed to really help the community.”

Jack Leach, left, and Jack Stoughton help repair Peggy Luter’s front porch on First Avenue on Saturday. The project was part of Operation Inasmuch, done by two downtown churches.

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The weekend-long event began Friday, when the two churches met at West End and the Rev. Rebecca Lesley of Suffolk Presbyterian delivered the message. Teams ironed out final details for the next day over a potluck dinner.

On Saturday, six teams went off on their missions of compassion.

A hygiene kit team assembled hygiene kits and donated them to the Western Tidewater Free Clinic. A sewing team delivered pillows, walker bags and lap blankets they had handmade to a nursing home. A yard sale team sold donated items for 25 cents each at Suffolk Presbyterian Church. A construction team completed a three-day project to repair and paint a front porch on First Avenue. A cemetery team began mapping the graves at Oak Lawn Cemetery, the long-neglected resting place of some of Suffolk’s most prominent black citizens from the late 1800s.

And finally, a prayer team visited each of the other sites to pray with volunteers.

“It’s a way for us to get into the community,” Ventura said. “This was a successful thing last year, so we decided to do it again.”

At the yard sale, anyone who needed items they couldn’t afford was allowed to just take them.

On First Avenue, Peggy Luter watched as a team of volunteers repaired her front porch.

“These people are wonderful,” said Luter, a member of West End who also contributed as part of the sewing team. “I appreciate these people. I told them I would like to be up there hammering.”

Part of the wood on her porch had been rotting, she said. The team decided the best course of action was to replace the entire porch. They also offered to come back and stain the wood, she said.

“This is just a very small way that our churches can express our ministry into the community,” church member Jack Stoughton said during a break from repairing the porch. “It’s a great ministry.”

On Sunday, the two churches planned to meet for worship at Suffolk Presbyterian, with Dr. Chester Brown, interim pastor of West End, delivering the message.