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Riverbend Baptist Church didn't travel far in mission project

Families could get food, haircuts, health checks

POSTED: December 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Stylist Gail Beasley, left, of Gainesville gives Gainesville Middle School eighth-grader David Markwith, 14, a haircut during the annual Hope for the Harvest at Riverside Military Academy Sunday. Haircuts were one of the free services offered at the event, which is put on by Riverbend Baptist Church.

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Riverbend Baptist Church left its property but not the country, let alone the city, for a mission project Sunday.

Some 150 members served meals, gave haircuts and conducted blood-pressure checks to needy families and others as part of the church’s fourth annual Hope for the Harvest at Riverside Military Academy on Riverside Drive.

"We send a lot of teams on foreign mission trips, and while we’re there, we’ll do medical work, we’ll do different types of things," said Riverbend’s senior pastor, the Rev. Matt Wethington. "And we thought, why can’t we do a mission trip right here at home in our backyard?"

Riverbend has held the free event the past three years at its property at 1715 Cleveland Highway, Gainesville.

"Our goal was to get out in the community and ... see how this turns out, and Riverside was gracious enough to allow us to use this facility," Wethington said.

Event volunteers helped with parking and shuttling visitors from a parking lot to the event site, a parking area behind Riverside’s football stadium.

There, visitors signed in at registration tables before moving on to grab a hamburger or hot dog and sit at dining tables, then visit covered areas providing health and beauty services.

On their way back to the shuttle, they could pick up bags of food and a copy of the New Testament as provided by members of The Gideons International.

"We recognize there’s a lot of need in our community, and our goal is that our church would be the hands and feet of Jesus," Wethington said. "Jesus always met the physical needs as well as the spiritual needs and that’s our goal — to meet both."

James Thornton and his granddaughter, Kayla Chatman, both of Gainesville, appreciated the church’s hospitality.

"The people are friendly. I was able to talk to the pastor — I was glad to meet him — and he invited us to church," Thornton said. "I might take him up on it."

Thornton said a co-worker who attends Riverbend told him about the event.

"It’s a blessing that God blessed us with such a pretty day," he said, looking up at the blue skies.

As of 1 p.m., an hour into the four-hour event, about 65 families had passed through the registration tables.

Wethington said the church was preparing to feed about 1,000 people.

A couple of businesses, along with church members, provided the food.



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