They were such a diverse crew. Some came from the nearby Sandhills of Anderson Creek and Fayetteville, while others hailed from as far away as Virginia, Maryland, and Texas. Ranging in age from 18 to 55, male and female, including two members of the Haliwa-Saponi Native American tribe, they represented a theological rainbow of Christian traditions. Yet they were perfectly united and focused when they came to Sanford from North Carolina Wesleyan College as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer work team on March 14.
Why Sanford? N.C. Wesleyan chaplain Dr. Barry Page Drum was already familiar with the area, having founded The Rock United Methodist Church (now known as Solid Rock UMC) in nearby Johnsonville in the late 1990’s, and began serving Emmanuel Congregational Christian Church in Sanford as an interim pastor in 2012. “I have always known the people of Sanford, Lee County, and the region to be warm-hearted and hospitable,” said Drum. “I knew it would be a great place to take a mission team.” The natural association with Emmanuel and friends from Northview Christian Church and Connect Church led to a cooperative agreement which provided excellent food and lodging for the 11-member work team over the entire weekend.
Why Wesleyan? John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church and the college’s namesake, became known for hands-on ministry such as feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and ministering to the sick and incarcerated. Habitat for Humanity’s focus on providing affordable shelter is not only consistent with Wesley’s vision, but also with the goals of the Refuge Campus Ministry at NCWC, which sponsored the trip. “Over the years, Refuge students have ministered in prisons, hospitals, public and private schools, churches, and with the Habitat affiliate in Rocky Mount. This was a natural fit,” said Drum.
Under the direction of Lee County Habitat’s construction supervisor Dan Morris, the group worked Friday on a Hudson Avenue home in Sanford, helping clean and refurbish it for the next owner. Saturday was spent in “constructive demolition,” tearing down walls at a renovation site in downtown Jonesboro which will eventually become the offices for Habitat of Lee County. On Sunday, the crew gave thanks to God and worshipped with the congregations of Connect Church (which shares a building on Wilkins Ave. with Emmanuel Church and is led by Pastor Thadd McElreath), Northview Christian Church (pastored by Dr. Mike Johnson) and Emmanuel Church, expressing gratitude for their generous support. All parties involved agreed that the Habitat weekend was marked by harmony and hospitality. Supportive church members and volunteers have already begun asking, “When can we do this again?”
“I’ve been in the ministry for 30 years and I can’t think of a time when I’ve been any more proud of a group of students or church members than I was last weekend. And all of the people at Lee County Habitat were terrific, as well. It was a weekend to remember!” said Drum. Marilyn Bader, a member at Emmanuel, tearfully remarked, “Spending time with these fine young people this weekend gave me hope for the future of America.”