NC Churches Serve Local Schools While Students, Teachers Return to Classroom • Bible Recorder

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A volunteer from Parkview Baptist Church in Morehead City, North Carolina, helps children choose a new back-to-school backpack as part of the regional “Stuff the Bus” event on August 10.

As children begin to return to class across the state, North Carolina Baptist churches are helping families, teachers and schools prepare for a new school year while sharing the love of Christ.

From adopting a local school to organizing school supply drives and distributions throughout the region, North Carolina Baptist churches meet the needs and care for their communities in a variety of ways.

“Fill the Bus”

On a recent weekday, families lined up in the parking lot of Parkview Baptist Church in Morehead City, North Carolina, as early as 4 a.m. to pick up a free backpack and other school supplies as part of of a community-wide giveaway event known as “Stuff the Bus.”

Parkview Baptist Church hosts the annual distribution, which is a partnership between Parkview, a local Methodist church, local businesses, civic organizations and the school system.

Pastor Parkview John Carwell said event volunteers distributed 547 backpacks to families in need, and more backpacks and supplies are expected to be distributed before the start of the school year.

Carswell helped start Stuff the Bus 10 years ago when he was then the youth pastor of Parkview to fill a need in the community.

“We would hear stories of students arriving at the start of the school year with nothing,” Carswell said. “So we knew there was a huge need, and no one was meeting that need in our community.”

In addition to school supplies, “Stuff the Bus” provides new shoes for students who need them as well as haircuts from local barbers and hairstylists who donate their time.

Carswell says he views events like “Stuff the Bus” as a way to meet physical and spiritual needs.

“We are called to love our neighbors,” Carswell said. “We are supposed to take Jesus outside the walls of the church.”

Carswell added that the event provides many opportunities for him and his church volunteers to share the gospel with those who attend.

“I had a great conversation with a lady about how God has shown us mercy and grace,” Carswell said. “And it’s an opportunity for us to share with them what God has shared with us.”

Gather people for missions

Patrick Fuller, executive director of the Raleigh Baptist Association, worked to start a similar school supply drive and distribution this year. He contacted the churches of the association at the beginning of the summer to solicit school supplies or financial support.

The response was overwhelming.

Donations poured in, church volunteers from across the association collected backpacks full of school supplies from the association’s offices. Over the past month, local church mission teams have reached out to the community to share Christ and distribute backpacks full of supplies.

Through Aug. 11, Fuller says missionary teams have distributed nearly 5,000 backpacks and seen at least 19 people know about Christ. Professions of faith came from students, parents and at least one teacher.

“It brought a lot of people together,” Fuller said. “It taught us that we can serve missions together, even though we may worship differently or be in a different type of church. We can always keep our focus on Jesus.

Fuller said the outreach not only helped ease the burden on families in need, but it also helped teachers and school administrators. Fuller said a school administrator cried in her arms over the outpouring of love demonstrated by the donations of school supplies.

“It helps meet the physical needs of kids who find themselves in difficult situations, and it’s a good testament to the school and staff,” Fuller said. “It relieves pressure on teachers and administration, and it gives churches an opportunity to share Christ.”

To love and serve a local school

Pastor Ray Brickhouse led Oak Forest Baptist Church in Fletcher, North Carolina to adopt a nearby elementary school, located approximately two miles from the church.

Before the end of last school year, Brickhouse and other church members served breakfast to teachers and school staff one morning during the school’s Teacher Appreciation Week.

“They were so grateful and maybe even surprised that we were doing something like this,” Brickhouse said.

And it opened doors for other avenues of ministry.

Over the summer, Brickhouse and other church leaders discussed ways to continue blessing the school. They approached the school to donate needed supplies to students and teachers before the start of a new school year.

“We just wanted to show them our appreciation for being in our community and kinda love them,” Brickhouse said. “We are looking at this for the long term.”

Brickhouse plans to donate school supplies to the school before classes start. For Brickhouse and the church, it’s an opportunity to raise awareness.

“Our people bought into that,” Brickhouse said. “These people love Jesus, they love their community and it shows.”

Brickhouse said schools are a natural starting point for churches looking to engage their community.

“If we ask our community what they need, they’ll tell us,” Brickhouse said. “Then we need to find a way to fill that need. What better way to do that than through the local school.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chad Austin is the editor of the Bible Recorder.)

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