The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Stonefort General Baptist embarks on new mission building

  • The Stonefort General Baptist Church is embarking on a building project with the entire community in mind as beneficiaries of the results of their efforts.
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  • The Stonefort General Baptist Church is embarking on a building project with the entire community in mind as beneficiaries of the results of their efforts.
    The church will begin above ground construction of their new mission building on June 7. The foundation has been poured and a group called The Carpenters for Christ will arrive in the first week of June to complete the structure. How will this help the citizens of our area? Very simply put, it will allow the church to greatly expand it's public food pantry and it will also provide an additional emergency shelter in the event of a natural disaster or weather related emergency.
    “We know that there is a lot of need in the community,” said Jeff Owens, Pastor of Stonefort Baptist for the last 29 years. “We will be able to have a really big food pantry and help more people then ever.”
    The idea for a mission hall arose for the congregation several years ago, about the time that a new addition to the church building was constructed.
    “We knew that the next step would be to build a mission hall,” Owens said. “We decided to do the most that we could do with the new building.”
    The church plans to help the community in several very important ways. In addition to allowing a large increase in the food pantry service that the church already provides to the public, the new mission hall will has been designed to serve as an emergency shelter for the citizens of the area.
    “We looked at the Harrisburg tornado and that prompted us to modify the design of the new hall,” Owens said.
    The new hall will be able to seat at seat 350 people and to provide sleeping space for nearly 200 in the event of a natural disaster. In conjunction with the existing church and fellowship hall building, more the 300 people could receive shelter, food and, perhaps most importantly, bathing facilities.
    “Both bathrooms in the new hall will include a shower,” Owens said. “We feel that could be very important to peoples comfort and peace of mind in a prolonged emergency.”
    And helping people outside of their immediate congregation is one of the things Stonefort General Baptist Church is all about. The existing food pantry provides assistance to individuals and families that is becoming more and more important in these times of cut-backs by uncaring government agencies. A food pantries assistance to a family often means the difference of enough food on the table or not enough to eat. With the increase in space that will be available in the new hall, the pantry will greatly increase it's size and services. Owens stated that through members of the congregation and their relatives, the church has access to a large number of companies and organizations dedicated to providing food for the needy.
    Page 2 of 2 - Also, the construction of the new building to be able to feed and shelter large numbers of people in emergencies is another example of the church's caring, altruistic beliefs.
    “If someone comes to me and asks for help, I turn to the congregation. They don't ask who or why or who are they related to or are they members of our church or what color they are; they start reaching into their pockets and their own pantries to help,” Owens stated, the pride and appreciation he felt for his congregation evident in his words.
    The construction crew, The Carpenters for Christ, are men of belief who donate their time and own money to allow work crews to provide a construction crew for one church building project each year as part of their own missionary work program.
    “These men pay on the order of nearly $150 each to provide for their own food during the time they are at a work site,” Owens said. “There will be some 60 to 80 of these guys who will arrive with everything they need, from food and tools to bedrolls, get settled in their quarters and spend the next week completing our new hall.”
    The Carpenters for Christ will be stay at Camp Oxford, a camp that Stonefort Baptist Church shares with about 15 churches in the Ohio Association of General Baptists.
    “In fact, several years ago, this group came here and did the upgrades and improvements in the camp,” Owens stated. “It's nice to see them get to enjoy their work. We are just really excited about having these wonderful men here, they are a great group of guys.”
    In the near future, Owens stated that the church hopes to purchase an electrical generator to provide power for heating and food preparation in emergencies and — in the slightly longer term future — hopes to try to start offering a monthly or perhaps even weekly free meal to the needy in our area.
    The Stonefort General Baptist is Jeff Owens’ first church and his demeanor and words show how much he enjoys being here.
    “God led me here first,” Owens said. “I would have gone on, if He lead me somewhere else, but He didn’t,” adding with a quiet smile, “I could not be happier anywhere else, this is a great congregation and a wonderful place to have made my home.”
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