JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Youth pastor Grant Westbrook gets dumped into a dunking tank by Jessi Green, 17, at First Assembly of God church Saturday. The event was organized to raise money for missionary work.
JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Youth pastor Grant Westbrook gets dumped into a dunking tank by Jessi Green, 17, at First Assembly of God church Saturday. The event was organized to raise money for missionary work.

The Dart: First Assembly of God is on the edge

Published 12:27am Monday, June 24, 2013

NATCHEZ — As Emily Hootsell reared her arm back to throw a yellow ball at a small circular target, Grant Westbrook’s anxiety heightened.

JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Stephanie Westbrook gives a look of terror as she waits to be dumped into a tank of water at First Assembly of God church Saturday. The event was organized to raise money for missionary work.
JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Stephanie Westbrook gives a look of terror as she waits to be dumped into a tank of water at First Assembly of God church Saturday. The event was organized to raise money for missionary work.

Sitting just a few inches away from a large tank of water, Westbrook exhaled a sigh of relief as Hootsell’s first throw missed the target — keeping him dry for a few more minutes.

“I’m not even worried about getting in, it’s just the waiting,” Westbrook shouted from the seat of a dunking booth in the parking lot of First Assembly of God parking lot. “No worries, she’s got no arm.”

When The Dart landed on Liberty Road Saturday afternoon, members of the church’s youth group not only were attempting to dunk Westbrook, the youth pastor. They were raising money for two members of their church who are moving to the Republic of Macedonia on a mission trip.

“Not only are you getting a chance to dunk me, but you’re also supporting missions,” Westbrook told the dozen youth group members waiting in line to throw a ball. “Let’s see what you got.”

Hootsell, 14, didn’t need much more motivation than that as her second throw nailed the center of the metal target triggering the seat to collapse and sending Westbrook into the tank of water.

“I was the first one to dunk him,” Hootsell said with a smile on her face. “It felt good.”

Westbrook shot up out of the tank and wiped the water away from his eyes while giving Hootsell a thumbs-up for the successful throw.

“Nice throw,” he said as he reset the seat and sat back down. “Who’s next?”

JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Corey Adams, right, congratulates Emily Hootsell, 14, after she successfully dumped youth pastor Grant Westbrook into a dunking tank at First Assembly of God church Saturday. The event was organized to raise money for missionary work.
JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Corey Adams, right, congratulates Emily Hootsell, 14, after she successfully dumped youth pastor Grant Westbrook into a dunking tank at First Assembly of God church Saturday. The event was organized to raise money for missionary work.

As more youth group members stepped up and took on the challenge, the amount the group raised for the mission trip increased.

The fundraising efforts, Westbrook said, were for Speed the Light, which is a program through the National Youth Ministries department that provides needed equipment to missionaries across the nation and world.

“This money will be going toward the missionaries’ vehicle once they get there,” Westbrook said. “We’re trying to do anything we can to help them.”

JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT —Youth pastor Grant Westbrook watches as a ball just misses the target to dump him into a tank of water at First Assembly of God church Saturday. The event was organized to raise money for missionary work.
JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT —Youth pastor Grant Westbrook watches as a ball just misses the target to dump him into a tank of water at First Assembly of God church Saturday. The event was organized to raise money for missionary work.

Youth group members paid $5 for three attempts to dunk Westbrook, but some needed a few more than three.

Tyler Baity, 13, finally dunked Westbrook after a few practice throws.

“Playing baseball definitely helped my throwing,” Baity said. “It was very exciting to dunk Pastor Grant.”

Before the dunking booth fundraiser, youth group members also cooled off in the hot summer sun with a water-balloon fight.

“It took us about 11 minutes to throw 2,000 water balloons,” Westbrook said. “I was praying that it would take at least 3 minutes, so it went past my expectations.”