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Mission trip forges strong bonds among local churches

ROCKWELL — A Winston-Salem church with Rowan County connections strengthened bonds last week when it sent young members on a mission trip to the area.

About 15 middle school students from Shady Grove United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem spent last week in Rockwell working with local ministries and running a vacation Bible school.

“For a lot of them, this is their first mission experience,” said Leigh Bartoli, associate pastor at Shady Grove.

It’s an opportunity that came about thanks to Shady Grove Pastor Tom Mabry and Rockwell United Methodist Pastor Charlie Curtis. Mabry is a native of Faith, a former banker in Salisbury and a graduate of Hood Theological Seminary.

“He’s got that Salisbury-Faith background,” Curtis said.

Mabry also mentored Curtis when he was a new pastor. So when Shady Grove started looking for a place to go for an in-state mission trip, Rowan County placed high on the list.

Last week, the group trooped to Rockwell with a full schedule of activities. During the day, the group of middle schoolers split off into three groups and helped local ministries.

One group went to Nazareth Children’s Home and helped build a game pit, taught cooking lessons, led devotions and ran a tie-dye day. Another group went to Pfeiffer University, worked to stain a handicap ramp and helped out at Rowan Helping Ministries. The last group worked with Cooperative Christian Ministries in Kannapolis, painting the interior of a house.

“And this is all in three days that they did all that,” Curtis said.

During the evenings, the group helped at a vacation Bible school.

The program was a partnership among four local churches — Ursinus United Church of Christ, St. James Lutheran Church, Rockwell United Methodist Church and Grace Lowerstone Church.

Curtis said the group really hit it off with the roughly 50 children attending vacation Bible school. He said it was a good experience for everyone.

“The amazing thing to me was how the middle schoolers bonded with the kids,” he said. “These middle school kids really loved on those kids.”

Bartoli said the trip left her charges with good memories and lessons that will last a lifetime.

“We had a wonderful experience in Rowan County last week. … We were very touched by the experience,” she said.

At the end of the week, local churches collected money to pay for antibiotics for children in Haiti.

“So we did things not only for our county, but also for away missions,” Curtis said.

Going forward, Curtis hopes Rockwell United Methodist will be able to partner further with Shady Grove — perhaps even joining the church on overseas missions to Haiti or Costa Rica.

Vacation Bible school attendees also collected peanut butter to donate to Rowan Helping Ministries and children’s underwear to donate to Rowan County One Church One Child.

Curtis said the trip was a good example of churches working together to improve a community.

“I think that’s what I got out of it, that we’re not alone in this thing,” he said. “Sometimes we feel like our troubles are too big that we can’t solve them. But I hope God is big enough that we can solve these things – we can solve illiteracy, we can solve addiction. … We can make the world a better place.”

Curtis is also pastor of Liberty United Methodist Church.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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