What faith can build: Rockford Community Church gets help from afar
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
Believers from across the country convened on small town Rockford over the past several days to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Rockford Community Church, which will celebrate its third anniversary in December, recently purchased a church building on Old Knoxville Highway. It had been used over the years by Rockford Baptist and New Life Outreach. When Rockford Community Church took it over, they saw some updates that needed to be done, like installing handicap-accessible bathrooms and renovating the kitchen. A tough job for a congregation of about 40.
But that group of believers swelled to much higher numbers over the past several days as fellow Christians traveled from as far away as New York, Texas and Mississippi. They came to the aid of strangers, paying their own way down here and their expenses during the stay.
The first group to arrive was Campers on Mission. It wasn’t hard to see their presence as seven or eight RVs stayed parked in the RCC parking lot last week.
Then a group from New York arrived on Sunday to attend church and roll up their sleeves on Monday. They were met by a group from the town of West, Texas. These two groups were staying through Thursday, leaving Friday morning. One of the visitors said there were no hotel rooms for them on Friday on account of the University of Tennessee versus Alabama football game.
Deb Woodward is one of the volunteers from New York. She said the coordinator for this project, Rockford Community Church member David Murrell made contact with them through Murrell’s cousin.
“We have been here before,” Woodward explained. “We visited this church back in June or July. They told us they were going to have this mission week in October so here we are.”
A humbling experience
Ernie Sands, pastor of Rockford Community Church, has led this congregation for the past 13 months. Sands and his congregation did some initial groundwork on the renovation projects before their visitors arrived. He said being witness to this gift from complete strangers is humbling.
“We have had 23 people coming from out of state,” Sands said. “It overwhelms me that people who don’t even know us came down all the way here to help us.”
Murrell has been instrumental in coordinating all of the out-of-state traffic. He lives in Cookeville and drives to attend RCC each week in Rockford. He was formerly a pastor himself, having led the congregations at Springview Baptist and Central Point Baptist, among others. He grew up in Townsend.
The history of this small church has its own interesting details. Sands said a few families began meeting at one of their homes each week, but quickly outgrew that space. They then started meeting at the building they have now purchased, but that was when they had to share the space with another church. “Services were held at 3 p.m. on Sundays and mid-week services were on Thursday,” Sands said.
RCC then left for a time and met at another church, Praise Temple, until they were finally offered the option to purchase the current building.
The church has a sanctuary, classroom space, new bathrooms and updated kitchen, thanks to the groups who traveled here. At some point, the congregation might outgrow this space, Sands said.
“We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future,” the pastor said. Should they need to expand down the road, that will be dealt with then.
As Murrell looked around at all of the activity taking place, he was pleased with the results of this volunteerism and indeed grateful. He said there seems to be more of this spirit taking place.
“Volunteerism is about doing something for somebody else whether it’s 5,000 miles away or 500,” he said.
Murrell said this is his mission in life. He no longer pastors, but does still preach.
There is another amazing side to this story as Sands pointed out. RCC actually stayed together as a church family when it didn’t even have a pastor. That lasted for about two years, he said. They had an interim for a short time.
“People could have given up and gone somewhere else or they could have rushed to get a pastor, but they didn’t,” Sands said. “They waited on the Lord.”
Now that the out-of-state helpers have returned home, it will be up to the congregation in Rockford to complete the renovation projects. They can do that and worship at the same time.