There’s a church on the corner of Central Avenue and Barbara Street in Barboursville. It’s not very big in size, but it has a big heart. Abundant Hope Baptist Church is a shining example of a small congregation making an impact in the community they serve by doing what they can to address the needs of the less fortunate in the area. They accomplish this through their operation of the House of Hope.
“It all started back in November of 2016,” said church member Michelle Harris, who now volunteers at the House of Hope across the street from their church. “Families were always coming to our Sunday and Wednesday services asking for help with gas, groceries and clothing. We just couldn’t turn them away. We were leasing the house across the street mainly for our younger members on Sundays and Wednesdays. That November, church members decided to convert the house into a food and clothing shelter for families in need, and it became an overnight success. It was the right thing to do because we didn’t have any more storage space in the church basement.”
This small church even raises a garden full of vegetables in season directly behind the House of Hope for the sole purpose of donating everything they raise. And the shelter itself is now full of organized clothing on hangers and hand-built shelving containing shoes and household items that have all been donated. With the approaching holiday season, non-perishable food items are even in more need. Clean usable toys are also always welcome.
“There are between 10 and 15 church members who come when they can to help,” Harris said. “We’re open every third Saturday of the month from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Any family in dire need can call me anytime if an emergency arises, and I will open the door for them. My number is 304-989-1473, if you’d like to donate and you’re in doubt what our current needs are just give me a call first, please.”
Harris says she averages about 10 hours each week organizing clothing and food items. She’s always open to donations of food, household cleaning supplies, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant for both men and women, school supplies, canned goods, peanut butter, jelly, mac and cheese, cereal and ramen noodles. Those items are difficult to keep on the shelf. Of course, they will always accept monetary donations.
“Peanut butter, jelly and items that can quickly be converted to after-school snacks are always popular,” Harris said. “Many families with single parents are working when their children come home; that’s when quick simple snacks are handy.”
Harris said on the Saturdays they are open there is a steady flow of nonstop visitors. She mentioned they treat everyone the same; if the need they express isn’t real, then that’s something they must account for when they leave this world. When they come to church expressing a need, they are encouraged to stay for church — and most do. After service, they go across the street to the donation center, where they can select what they need. They never hand out cash.
“For such a small church, we stay pretty busy in supporting our community,” Harris said. “It addition to operating the House of Hope, we also get involved each year with a group of young people called ‘World Changers’ who come each summer to the Tri-State. During the week, they are here in our community doing home repairs, building handicap ramps and general home maintenance. Our church feeds about 20 of them for an entire week. On the Sunday they are here, they come to our service, and the church members prepare a hot lunch for them after. This lunch continues the entire week with homemade, freshly prepared hot nutritious meals by members of our congregation.”
Sunday school begins sharply at 9:30 a.m. followed by church at 10:45 a.m. There’s an evening service Sunday and Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Visitors are always welcome, and services are led by Rev. Paul Harris.
So that’s about it: The little church with fewer than 100 members that’s involved up to their hearts in the community doing God’s work. It’s just a simple story about a handful of people who saw a need and decided to do more than just talk about it.
In part, Matthew 25 verses 35-40 reads: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”
That’s the credo of the little church on the corner in Barboursville, a church with a lot of heart.
Clyde Beal seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email email@example.com.