Faith, fund-raising pay off debts

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 28, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Sometimes it is remarkable what faith – and a little fund-raising – can do.

When Bethel Church took out a $90,000 mortgage in 1994 on its current property on Airport Road just outside Vidalia, it was scheduled to pay it off over 15 years.

But with pledges from church members and other supporters, giving anywhere from $10 to $1,000 each, the church paid off that mortgage in seven years last month.

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To celebrate, the church will hold a special service at 6:30 p.m. Sunday featuring music, testimony – and the burning of the mortgage – and the public is invited, said the Rev. Troy Thomas.

Churches taking part in the service will include Abundant Life Church, Word of Faith Christian Center, First Assembly of God of Natchez, Church of the Firstborn of Newellton and Rising Sun Full Gospel Church.

&uot;It’s good to come here (to the church) and shout and rejoice, but we don’t want to stop there – we want to impact the community,&uot; Thomas said.

With at least $700 of the $800 a month the church will save by not having to pay the mortgage note, it has hired one of its own members, Robert Green, to serve as a full-time youth pastor.

&uot;We’ve got to take care of our youth,&uot; Thomas said, adding that Green will speak as part of Sunday night’s service.

The church has already come a long way in the past several years.

First, it moved from its old location near the banks of the Mississippi River to a seven-acre property on Airport Road in 1995.

&uot;We had three ladies and a couple of children in our membership then. Now we average about 200 people per Sunday,&uot; representing a variety of ages and races, Thomas said.

Then the church established a school for children in kindergarten through eighth grade and adults earning their General Educational Development (GED) diplomas.

The school now has nine pupils, but eventually Thomas hopes to increase attendance and expand through 12th grade.

Next, the church wants to renovate its old building for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

&uot;We’ll be accepting donations for that, too,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;The detox center in Ferriday closed years ago, so we need something like that in this area.&uot;