The bear ministry at Lollar’s Grove Baptist Church will provide 2,500 bears this year to be used in shoeboxes for the Operation Christmas Child ministry through Samaritan’s Purse International. With Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week held each year the week before Thanksgiving, volunteers have been working hard to finalize and pack the bears. Ministry volunteers will take the bears on their trip to the Southeast Regional Collection Center in Atlanta, Ga. The week after Thanksgiving, local volunteers will use the bears to help fill Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that may not be completely full.
“It is always a good thing when believers in Christ get together to do ministry work,” said Lollar’s Grove Pastor Willy Weddle. “And they have a lot of fun! You can only imagine what a joy it is for a child who finds one of these bears in their shoebox.”
The bear ministry meets January through November on the first Thursday following the second Sunday of every month at 9 a.m. in the Family Life Center of Lollar’s Grove Baptist Church. Volunteers make about 200 bears each time they get together. There is a cutting station that prepares the pattern for the sewing station. At the sewing station, volunteers have brought their sewing machines from home and they work together to get the bears ready for the button station. Volunteers sew buttons for the eyes of the bears. Then the stuffers get to work.
In some cases, volunteers have prepared extra bears and stuffers at Golden Living Center Nursing Home in Eupora, Miss., have helped make bears for the ministry, including JoAnn Ballard who has stuffed over 200 bears.
After bears are stuffed, they go back to the sewing station for finishing.
One of the things everyone has said about this ministry is they enjoy the fellowship of the group and the pure joy of working together to make children around the world happy at Christmas, while sharing the love of Christ through Operation Christmas Child.
“I would love to see the children’s faces when they get one of these bears,” said Juanita McIlwain, volunteer from First Baptist Church of Mathiston.
“It is so exciting to be part of a group of people from throughout the county who work together to stuff these bears that will go all over the world to let a child know that, not only we love them, but Christ loves them,” said Kathy Bailey, volunteer from First Baptist Church of Eupora.
And there is no doubt that this group has a good time every time they get together. Just walking in the door, there is the smell of great food, and the sounds of lots of talking and laughter.
Willene Hollis of Mantee Baptist Church said she also loves the fellowship with “all these Christian ladies.”
And Ann Earnest of First Baptist Church of Mathiston said since her husband passed away, she likes to stay busy —mainly with church work. She said this ministry is an opportunity not only to work for a good cause, but to see a lot of good people and have someone to eat with! She said she enjoys getting together and having fun each month.
“We all really enjoy getting together to work on this project,” said Elizabeth Fulgham, volunteer from Lollar’s Grove Baptist Church. “It is a joy to work together, doing something that will go to help someone else in this important ministry.”
One of the unique aspects of this ministry has been that it is not limited to one church group. Volunteers from throughout Webster County, and a few surrounding counties, participate in the monthly meeting at Lollar’s Grove. Rev. Weddle said this is a ministry that has been going strong at Lollar’s Grove for several years and hopes it will continue to grow.
“It is a great ministry that brings people together from throughout the county who work hard and have a great time,” Weddle said.
The group does not meet in December, because most of them volunteer to work a few days at the Southeast Regional Collection Center in Atlanta, Ga.
But the fun begins again in January. Volunteers throughout the area are invited to bring a potluck dish and join the fun. For more information about the bear ministry, contact Rev. Weddle or any member of Lollar’s Grove Baptist Church.
See this story in the November 19, 2014 edition of The Webster Progress Times at http://websterprogresstimes.com/2014/11/20/bear-ministry-makes-impact-for-occ/.
See these photos in the Sunday, December 7, 2014 edition of The Columbus Dispatch at http://www.cdispatch.com/lifestyles/article.asp?aid=38541&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook.